Milestones, family and the ultimate potato salad

by Forager on April 26, 2010

I have a milestone coming up. I’m about to transcend my twenties and face a new decade. I’ve had plenty of preparation leading up to the event though. Most of my good friends have already turned thirty over the last few years so I’ve been celebrating the milestone for others for so long I’ve felt 30 for the last few years.

Even with the mental preparation, as the big day draws near I find myself getting more nervous and exulting in small pleasures – like ticking that “age 25 – 29” bracket in applications and letting out a triumphant whoop as though I’m somehow victorious over the evil three-o. Within a few days I will migrate to a different demographic and will magically morph into the target of bogus early signs anti-aging products with fictitious miracle ingredients that anger biochemistry professors around the world, and grey hair colourants (the Co-pilot gleefully points out every white hair that appears, and like an Animal Planet monkey grooming scene he enthusiastically identifies each offending strand and produces it as evidence of my age).

But there are always opportunities within every dark corner. This major milestone represented a unique opportunity to bring my family and the Co-pilot’s family together.

It’s not the first time our families have met, but the one and only time they have met was disastrous. Six years ago, when the Co-pilot and I had been together for two years, the Co-pilot’s family requested to meet mine. This was an absolutely normal request, the Co-pilot and his family knew everything about me and being normal, social people wanted to meet my family.

Ah, but the problem is – my family aren’t really what you’d call “normal“. My parents are very traditional Chinese folk and strictly speaking, the respective families of a couple shouldn’t meet unless marriage is being discussed. As that wasn’t the case, they couldn’t fathom why our families should possibly want to meet. Oh, that and my parents don’t speak much English and are extremely awkward and anti-social. That’s not a Chinese hallmark. That’s just a unique characteristic of my parents.

Still, I stubbornly persisted and insisted they meet the Co-pilot’s family. And begrudgingly, they relented. They met over a lovely afternoon tea setting in the Co-pilot’s family home. Despite driving about an hour to get there, the meeting lasted a mere 20 minutes and in hindsight, that was a good thing. My parents said very little, smiled awkwardly, answered questions they were asked, then about 10 minutes into the meeting, like toddlers they started tugging on my sleeve and whispering “Can we go now?”. This continued, none too discreetly, for another excruciatingly painful 10 minutes before I gave in much to everyone’s relief and bundled them out the door and into the car.

Not surprisingly, no-one has mentioned anything about organising another family meeting in the six years since then.

But time has a funny way of suppressing memories and clouding your better judgment. And I reasoned that my 30th was the ultimate trump card I needed to bring our families together again, this time introducing my brother and his family too. Surprisingly, my parents agreed without much resistance – it was so easy actually that I found it disturbing and started to expect the worst.

To ensure the day went as smoothly as possible, we opted for a simple picnic in Ballast Point Park, Balmain. A new park with stunning, sweeping views over Sydney Harbour. I’d organised a deli platter of delicious cold cuts, cheese, olives and antipasto from PR Ranieri, our favourite deli in Five Dock; bbq chooks; sandwich ingredients, snacks and drinks. The Co-pilot’s mum kindly offered to help make a few salads too – a green salad and a tomato, bocconcini and basil salad. The only thing left for us to do was make the Co-pilot’s famous potato salad. It’s deliciously moreish, tangy and easy to make.

The Co-pilot's potato salad

The Co-pilot's potato salad

The Co-pilot’s ultimate potato salad

Salad ingredients (serves 10):

  • 7 desiree potatoes, peeled and chopped into bitesize chunks (about 5cm blocks)
  • 3 sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped into bitesize chunks
  • 5 rashers of bacon, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup of parsley, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup of dill, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tbsp cornichons, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tbsp kalamata olives, pitted and coarsely chopped
  • 1 tbsp of capers, rinsed, drained and coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 red onion, finely diced

Dressing ingredients:

  • 10 tbsp whole egg mayonnaise
  • 10ml of white wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp horseradish cream
  • 2 tbsp wholegrain Dijon mustard
  • salt and pepper to taste


  1. Boil the potatoes in plenty of salted water for 3 minutes before adding the sweet potatoes. Boil for a further 17 minutes. Drain and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile fry the bacon until crisp and drain on paper towels
  3. Combine the potato, sweet potato, bacon and remaining salad ingredients.
  4. Mix the dressing ingredients together well to combine and dress salad. Voila!
Compiling the potato salad

Compiling the potato salad

Mixing the potato salad

Mixing it up

Potato salads ready to go

Potato salads ready to go

This potato salad is a crowd pleaser, and if there are leftovers, it makes the best cold snack! With salads made, we were prepared for the trial ahead.

On the day of the picnic, the sun was shining, a gentle breeze blew in from the harbour and everyone was in good spirits. The Co-pilot’s family were lovely as always; my brother and sister-in-law were cheerful and chatty as per usual and my parents tried their best to be friendly and social (a novel concept). But the stars of the show and the saviours whenever awkward silences descended were my adorable niece and nephew, Summer and Kobi. Only 3.5 and 2 years old respectively, they entertained everyone with their endless amounts of energy, smiles, infectious giggles and demand for attention. No one even noticed that my parents only spoke about 5 times and only spoke when asked a question. But what is the real lesson to be learnt here today? Always ensure there are kids at family gatherings. Kids deflect attention away from social dysfunction.

The family gathering

The family gathering

All things considered, it was a successful day – no-one walked out, there weren’t arguments, and other than the kids, no-one even cried.  Everyone even noted how it was a pleasant and peaceful day and what a great setting it was. The beginnings of a small bridge are being built between our two families. Nonetheless, the Co-pilot and I breathed a joint sigh of immense relief when it was over. Perhaps now it won’t be six years between meetings.

So I found an upside to (almost) turning 30.

And there are more posts on the celebrations to come…

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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

1 mademoiselle délicieuse April 26, 2010 at 4:26 pm

Haha, I can relate to this on so many levels. These are the reasons why my parents know none of my friends or their parents, unless they’re Cantonese-speaking themselves. This is why I never attended birthday parties of school friends as a child – because my parents didn’t know them *sigh* Vicious, vicious cycle.

And happy birthday on the upcoming big 3-0! You’ll feel like a new woman – I can guarantee it =)
.-= mademoiselle délicieuse´s last blog ..Twelve, 15 Jan 2010 =-.

2 Betty @ The Hungry Girl April 26, 2010 at 10:35 pm

Happy Birthday for Wednesday :) Hope you have a great day and glad the picnic was a success :)
.-= Betty @ The Hungry Girl´s last blog ..Anzac Biscuits =-.

3 Sara (Belly Rumbles) April 27, 2010 at 10:31 am

Turning 30 is nothing, you then anticipate turning 40, I can tell you that you then find that really isn’t a big deal either. Nothing fell off over night and surprisingly you don’t feel any different, go figure ;p

My 30th ended up with me walking out of the restaurant in tears as my father and father in law set about verbally killing each other. Well done on a a wonderful day. Co-pilots potato salad looks awesome.

Happy birthday for this week and relish the new decade of your life you are entering, it’s all surprisingly good :)
.-= Sara (Belly Rumbles)´s last blog ..ANZAC Biscuits =-.

4 OohLookBel April 27, 2010 at 11:06 am

Oh, I can so relate to the big divide between your families. With us, if you aren’t a blood relative, then there’s little hope of getting along with the older generation. Glad you had a good day, though, and best wishes for your birthday. :)
.-= OohLookBel´s last blog ..Anzac Biscuit Sundae with salted caramel sauce =-.

5 Gourmantic April 27, 2010 at 5:35 pm

30 is just a number that improves with time, and sounds better than 29! Besides, the 30s are the better decade :) Good to hear it the gathering went well.

“other than the kids, no-one even cried” – had me laughing out loud!
.-= Gourmantic´s last blog ..Pousse Rapière: The Apéritif from Gascony =-.

6 Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella April 27, 2010 at 7:23 pm

Happy upcoming 30th Trina! I hope it’s going to be a biggie! :)
.-= Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella´s last blog ..Zebra Cheesecake =-.

7 chocolatesuze April 28, 2010 at 12:39 am

happy birthday dude! i loved that story of your families meeting for the first time haha so cute!

8 betty April 28, 2010 at 9:44 am

wow big three zero congrats (you still look 25 hehe)
that potato salad looks great and that was a very nice read as well
.-= betty´s last blog ..Red Velvet babycakes with cream cheese frosting =-.

9 Oggie Bad April 29, 2010 at 12:34 am

I had the privilege of tasting the Co-pilot’s salad … and may I say (just quietly) it’s fckn amazing!!! If I could cook I’d make it every week, but I was born a kitchen-disaster and thank god for having Trina as a friend :)

10 Leona April 29, 2010 at 12:04 pm

Hey TRINA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
OMG wowww new site new nameeee new branding.. I LOVE IT looks very pro indeed! HAPPY BIRTHDAYYYYY you still look young thats all that matters age is really just a number.
.-= Leona´s last blog ..Toko Restaurant & Bar, Surry Hills =-.

11 Forager May 3, 2010 at 3:08 pm

Hey Madamoiselle Delicieuse – Omigod. You sounds like you had my childhood. I wasn’t allowed to attend my best friend’s 13th birthday party which was held in the day, at her house, because my parents didn’t trust her. We’ve got to meet up and share stories one day!

Hey Betty – Thanks! You’re so sweet!

Hey Sara – Sounds like you’re all too familiar with these family issues. Your 30th does sound more dramatic than mine. You win. *shudder*

Hey Bel – Thanks for the wishes and yes, the importance attributed to being “in” with the family seems to be more widespread than I thought! We’re all in the same boat!

Hey Gourmantic – Yes, now that I’m a few days over 30 I’m starting to believe that things aren’t going to change dramatically overnight. It might well be the best decade. In fact, I’m now looking forward to it :)

Hey Lorraine – Thanks! It was as low key as I could manage it. No massive parties, just food shared with loved ones.

Hey Chocolatesuze – Lemme guess, your in-laws fell in love with each other and are best friends right?

Hey Betty – Aww thanks! You sure know how to flatter. Especially since I’ve been taunted with cries of “old lady” all week!

Hey Oggie – I’ll feed you anytime :)

Hey Leona – Thanks babe! I promise I’ll be around to console you when you hit this milestone as all these well wishes certainly assure me it’s all going to be ok…

12 Tangled Noodle May 4, 2010 at 12:37 pm

Well, it sounds as if the second meeting of the families went quite well! The children may have been the key to harmony but the Co-Pilot’s potato salad must have played a role in keep everyone happy and sated. It looks and sounds wonderful!

As for the parents meeting, my mother and father met my in-laws just days before the wedding – no time to get on each others’ nerves and scuttle the arrangements! 😎
.-= Tangled Noodle´s last blog ..A Sip and a Salad =-.

13 Conor @ HoldtheBeef May 5, 2010 at 12:32 am

Congratulations on a successful potentially-horribly-painful-yet-totally-not occasion! You know, I think if you didn’t have the kids to happily distract everyone from any awkward moments, that potato salad would have done the trick on its own :)
.-= Conor @ HoldtheBeef´s last blog ..Gently rapping at the pantry door =-.

14 Forager May 9, 2010 at 8:58 pm

Hey Tangled Noodle – Really? Your families only met days before the wedding? A smart move I think! How are they now?

Hey Conor – You’ve summed it up so well. I still can’t believe it went as well as it did!

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