When we were little, my sister and I accompanied my mother to the grocery store every week. I genuinely loved going to Graul’s—it was one of my favorite rituals. A local family-owned grocery store in Maryland, Graul’s was the backdrop for many of my childhood memories.
Hands down, my favorite part of Graul’s was their deli department. They made the best salads. Chicken salad, potato salad, egg salad . . . pretty much anything that ended with “salad” was delicious. I can still remember the plastic containers we’d bring home from the store. I loved those containers; they promised the best lunches, something other than peanut butter and jelly. Not that I minded PB&J, for the record, it’s just that an egg salad or a chicken salad sandwich was special. Mom would even cut off the crusts.
One of the main ingredients in comfort food is memory. We’re transported back in time to a happy moment from our past. Good comfort food can remind us of where we come from and what’s truly important. Are there foods from your childhood that, when you eat them now, bring you back?
For me, it’s the curry chicken salad at Cafe Clementine on West Broadway. When I eat it I can hear the sound of my mother peeling the lids off of those Graul’s containers. All of a sudden I’m back in my childhood home, sitting there at the kitchen table eating a deli salad sandwich on two pieces of white bread (with the crusts cut off). Clementine’s curry chicken salad is an elevated take on a Graul’s classic; curry is a flavor I would never have liked as a kid. That’s the fun of revisiting our favorite foods: we get to add a little bit of who we are and what we love now to who we were and what we loved then. It gives us a deeper appreciation for the person we’ve become.
Thanks to Cafe Clementine, I was inspired to recreate those special lunches from my childhood. This recipe for Curry Chicken Waldorf Salad makes me so happy. It’s kind of a hodge-podge of different deli salads all rolled into one. In addition to memory, the other main ingredient in this recipe is mayonnaise. I know what you’re thinking, and here’s what I have to say about that: the only thing that’ll kill you faster than mayonnaise is worrying about mayonnaise. And, of all the things you could worry about these days, mayonnaise should be at the bottom of your list.
Life is short. Eat a little mayonnaise.
The other thing I love about this recipe is that it uses the leftover East Roast Chicken I make on a weekly basis. I pull every last bit of meat off the bones and store it in the fridge so I can make a salad out of it the next day.
Curry Chicken Waldorf Salad
3 cups leftover Easy Roast Chicken, torn into big chunks
1 cup celery, sliced
2 apples, peeled and cubed
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
1/2 cup mayonnaise (deal with it)
1 tsp curry powder
1 tsp salt*
1/4 tsp pepper
Squeeze the lemon over the cubed apples to prevent browning. Mix everything together and you’re good to go!
*This salad has a good bit of salt, which I love (especially in a deli salad)! But if you’re particular about salt, I might start with 1/2 teaspoon and then taste it and see what you think. You can always add more, but you can’t take it out.
If you love curry, you’re going to love this salad. I don’t even eat it as a sandwich; I prefer to put it on top of some greens, like arugula or kale. In fact, I’ve gotten in the habit of leaving a big bowl of kale in my fridge which I’ve already washed and massaged in lemon juice. The lemon adds amazing flavor and it also breaks down a little of the woodiness.
I hope this recipe inspires you to revisit and reinvent your childhood favorites. Cooking comfort food is more than about simply enjoying the fruits of your efforts. It’s about making space in your life for something special; to remember that life is special—that you are special. This recipe was an invitation for me to return to what matters. I hope you enjoy it! Give it a try and let me know what you think in the comments below.