by Brian L. Lichorowic
It is spring race time in the Piedmont. There are point-to-point races steeplechase, polo matches, and several other small competitions in just about every community. Parties, picnics, tailgating and hangovers with a horse race or two thrown in from time to time. There are dazzling hats, spiffy suits and the occasional digital picture that can ruin a potential fine political career.
I exult that the ceremonial splendor of the tailgating table, for when done right, is truly elegant — many replete with fresh linens, silver service, candelabras and fresh spring flowers and the sporadic creepy stuffed fox as a centerpiece. These rail side soirees are the place to be on a gorgeous spring race day. Even at an outdoor venue such as Wolf Trap, picnics are set up that can match any holiday table.
I really savor the bounty that people put out. Old family recipe fried chicken, the Piedmonts’ best honey baked hams, tenderloin of beef, crisp crudite and there’s always a dish or two of a specialty — homemade macaroni and cheese or someone’s famous deviled eggs. I like it all.
The only discord I’ve found is the inevitable plastic container of large grocery chain pasta salad whose main ingredients include five gallons of commercial mayonnaise with some emulsified celery and carrots, and if you’re lucky, an onion. Cruelly mixed together with overcooked rubbery pasta. I mean OK, it’s three bucks for five pounds of the slop but do we realize what we’re eating? Is there anything in American table that better resembles the term “Gruel”?
Concocting an enjoyable pasta salad for your outdoor picnic or race day fare is unmatched. It is simple to make and everybody, including kids, usually likes them. Most importantly, it’s miles away from those commercial things that can hardly be called a salad.
It’s a simple goal to find and make a few pasta salads that are low in fat, high in nutrition and rich in flavor. Served cold, they are great for race day tailgating and appetizing. The main idea is to use as much fresh stuff as you can find and to cook the pasta properly, al dente.
As always, try and use the freshest ingredients available. Your local farmer’s markets and local vendors are a great start.