Deviled Eggs and Sonoma Chicken Salad
Besides juice boxes, diet sodas, baby carrots, crackers and chips, the following two recipes compose our family’s idea of perfect beach food. I make tuna sandwiches in a pinch, but the Deviled Eggs and Sonoma Chicken Salad are as ritualistic as washing beach towels and bathing suits over, and over, and over, and over…
1 dozen eggs
2-3 tbsp. mayonnaise (Best Foods or Hellman’s)
½ tsp. dry mustard
½ tsp. Old Bay SeasoningTM
Dash of cayenne
Salt and Pepper to taste
Paprika for dusting
In a pot of cold water, place eggs. Bring to a boil over high heat. Cover and turn off heat, leave covered for fifteen minutes.
After eggs are cooled in water, peel and discard shells.
Slice all eggs in half and place cooked yolks in bowl.
Mash yolks with a potato masher, or just a fork.
Add mayonnaise, mustard, Old Bay, cayenne, salt and pepper. Mix well.
Scoop mixture into open egg halves. Sprinkle paprika on top of eggs.
Keep eggs refrigerated until ready to serve. When taking to beach, pack as close to cooling mechanisms as possible in picnic basket, cooler, etc. If they are in a Tupperware, put it on ice, and keep in the shade of a big beach umbrella. These usually disappear quickly, so you won’t need to worry about spoiling.
SONOMA CHICKEN SALAD
I came up with this recipe after tasting a sample at a store. I begged the vendor to share the recipe with me or at least supply me with truckloads of it, but they told me they were done producing it for the season. This is a salad for all seasons, so I devised a version of it myself. It has made me popular.
3 or 4 cans chunk chicken (light meat preferably)
q cup sour cream
1 cup mayonnaise (Best Foods or Hellman’s)
2 tbsp. honey
1 tbsp. poppy seeds
1 pinch salt
1 pinch freshly ground pepper
1 package seedless red grapes, all sliced in half
4 stalks celery, diced
½ – 1 cup chopped pecans
Make base of salad: mix together sour cream, mayonnaise, honey, poppy seeda, salt and pepper. Set aside.
With a fork, break apart the chicken, add grapes, celery and pecans, mix well.
Add to base of salad, stir all ingredients together. Keep chilled until ready to serve.
Today is our first official beach day of the year. My children are practically coming out of their car seats waiting to get a primo parking space in the beach parking lot so they can grab their sand toys and run for the shore. I tell them to pray to the parking gods and they obey.
I pull into a space in the parking lot closest to the sea wall and I tell them their obedient behavior has brought us good parking karma. At this age, if it gets them in the waves and under the sun, they’ll believe anything. Still mystified why I brought a seven year old, a four year old and a seven month old to the beach sans hubby, I unload the beach chair (it goes over my shoulders like a backpack, you can get them at Costco), the cooler in one hand, the beach bag around my neck, and the infant carrier with my eighteen pound bundle and we walk towards the Pacific horizon. Phfew, we’re here. And the kids even carried the sand toys and towels without complaint!
As we toss off our flip-flops in the sand and walk towards my girlfriends and their kids (I just follow the voice of my girlfriend, Seni who shouts at her son “Dante! Don’t eat the sand!”) I notice the lifeguards are out in full force (My, what a nice new Jeep you have). And just as I glance out to the water to get the pulse of the temperamental, early-summer ocean, the voice of the Lifeguard God says over his loud speaker (I need one of those for my house), “Please stay in front of the lifeguard tower. We have a strong rip current today.” Well, we picked a great day to go to the beach! Not only do I have a baby in tow, but also two very energetic and free-spirited children who have no idea what undertows and rip currents are. I drop the loads of beach gear and decide my kids need a crash course in Undertows 101, and how to avoid getting pulled out to sea.
After giving my kids the lecture I got at camp some thirty years ago, I put the baby into the Bjorn and stay about fifty feet back from where they are playing in the waves. I take a lay of the land to check for any faces I saw on the Megan’s Law website (okay, yes, I do this wherever I go). Somewhere I hear a radio playing “Because of You” by Kelly Clarkson, something about being safe and not getting hurt. I notice a lot of college kids drinking beer from those new plastic beer bottles. The water is so damn cold my kids can barely stand to go in it, but they have discovered that sitting in the shallow surf is kind of fun, and I freak. “You do that one more time and we are going home!” From what I remember, that is an easy way to get pulled out into the pounding surf; did they not listen to my lecture? Goodness no, my inner child says, they were politely pretending to listen until I stopped talking so they could return to playing. I’m just standing at the shore threatening my kids as they cavort.
I flashback to a day at the beach when I was the child, and my mother screamed at me from three hundred yards away, “STAY AWAY FROM THAT DRAIN PIPE SAMI!!” All of the other kids glared at me and I had no choice but to acknowledge my overprotective mother. I swore I would never do that to my kids, such embarrassment. So I’ve become my mother and it is evident in front of all the natives and tourists on the beach this day. Here I am, eating my words and Salsa Verde Doritos as my baby tries to pry them from my fingers.
Since the crash course in rip currents and undertows didn’t work, I decide to use the fear factor on these ambitious tikes. I look behind me at my girlfriends sitting the beach chairs and they give me a nod, a silent approval to scare our children into submission. “You know what, you guys, last night I was watching the news and I saw the news helicopter filming sharks right offshore. Big ones.” This is not a lie. They were probably just big leopard sharks, completely harmless, but whatever works, you know? Maybe I am going a little overboard on the swimmer beware thing. Just as I am starting to feel guilty about using fear as a parenting strategy, Mr. Lifeguard walks up to me and asks me if the group of kids chasing the waves belong to me “Yes, some of them,” I say. “Well, I’m a bit overprotective, so I’d prefer to have them stay a bit closer to the Lifeguard tower”. Yes! The affirmation I was looking for. If a lifeguard admits to being overprotective, it’s definitely suitable beach protocol for a mom to be. Mr. Lifeguard has a quick chat with our sandy babes, and tells them that the sea is very strong today. They listen to him much better than they listen to me (must be the bright red swim trunks and shiny whistle around his neck, he looks so official). Mr. Lifeguard departs. He wishes us a fun day at the beach. Okay, let’s recap. There are super strong rip currents, there are sharks past the shallows, and drunken college kids being pulled from the surf. A fun day at the beach? When my kids are in their car seats, body parts intact and cheeks sun-kissed, then I will agree it was fun, as we made it through unscathed.
To my amazement, the kids stay in front of the lifeguard tower. They take Mr. Lifeguard’s warnings seriously. Maybe, just maybe, I can relax now. This is the place I came to relax or find answers before I had kids; maybe I can feel that way again. I used to be one of those college kids here at the beach, living for myself, eating Hawaiian Shaved Ice, studying for finals. The scents of chlorine from the pools of the nearby resorts, of hot dogs on outdoor grills, and the sound of children giggling as they play Frisbee define the beach now, as they did then, in my twenties, my teens, as early as I can remember. Not much has changed, except me. What concerned my mother thirty years ago resounds within me now. The undertows, the predators, the dangers of life beyond the safety net of home are ever-present. Sure enough, there will always be forces of Mother Nature, and human nature that can rip my children from my arms, no matter where we are. And can I do anything about it beyond lectures and the vigilant mommy-watch? No, not a damn thing. Even this paradise called the beach comes with dangers, just like the park, the school, the store. But this is still an idyllic scene, and I absorb it all, because we’ll never be here, in early June 2006 again.
The waves crash, then they calm, and then they gather up their strength, and crash again. The kids play, oblivious to the dangers around them. “Hey Mama, you said that sharks stay way offshore where the tuna swim”. Oh, so now my son’s a marine biologist! Did I say that about sharks and tuna? Probably. Either that or he heard it during Shark Week on the Discovery Channel, which is my favorite week of the year. I am just amazed by what lurks under the surface of that beautiful blue sea. Peaceful one minute, torrent the next. Similar to my children. Similar to my life!
Now in a rational state of readiness, I smile at the kids who run back up to base camp to bury each other in the sand. I give my kids a smile of reassurance to let them know that that I’m here, unobtrusive to their age-appropriate rambunctiousness, and I love them. I’ve got an overprotective gene, hang up, or whatever, and as long as I balance it with practicality while still encouraging their curious nature, it’ll be okay. My daughter is the one getting buried in the sand and she is so happy to get the attention of the older kids. I grab my tuna fish sandwich and a Coke and I sit in the chair I brought. I’ve got plenty of bottled water to wash sand out of their eyes, plenty of sunscreen to keep them from getting burned, in fact, between my girlfriends and I we probably have everything we need to handle whatever crisis arises (but we could still use Mr. Lifeguard’s loud speaker). That same song is playing again, the words eerily appropriate, “I learned not to stray too far from the sidewalk,” The sidewalk. The shore. Life in general. I do not want to raise kids afraid of their own shadow, afraid to bask in the sunlight, or so worried about the power of an awesome wave that they never try to ride one. I want my kids to be aware of the risks, but willing to take steps toward independence, even if it means going further from the shore and away from me – as long as I am within minimum safe distance should they get in too deep.
Finally, a new song starts on that radio that is playing nearby. Still in the Bjorn, the baby squeals every time she sees a seagull. She is just discovering beach life. I haven’t spotted any shark fins. The lifeguards haven’t issued any rip current warnings in a while. My kids pause sand burying and castle building for a deviled egg break. “Thanks for making my favorite beach food, Mama!” Anything I can do, baby. Anything to make your day at the beach spectacular. I’ll be here if you need me.
Samantha is a self-taught chef. She worked in the Catering and Special Events industry for seven years before becoming a stay at home, now a work at home, Mom.
She appeared on NBC's ivillage Live.
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