When I was a student at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, university administrators still believed in cultivating the palates as well as the minds of their charges. Talented chefs worked with dietitians to design menus that were nutritious and interesting, and teams of skilled cooks turned the plans into gourmet dinners.
Actually, this was an ideal not always achieved. Like many a student I too can remember Mystery Soup and, worse yet, Mystery Gravy. In general, however, each dining hall had some specialties that were worth waiting for. Elizabeth Waters was the premier girls’ dormitory with a reputation for fine food that explained why many male students cultivated friendships with Elizabeth Hall residents who could invite them to Sunday dinner.
When the new chef at Van Hise Hall (where I was nourished) came into his own, cultivating these friendships became easier because many Liz Hall residents were interested in the gourmet meals he offered us on Sundays. It was there, for instance, that I first enjoyed Duck a l’Orange and where I learned that a steak really did not need a pat of butter on top if you had Béarnaise sauce instead.
But I digress. In 1965 the residents of Elizabeth Waters published a cookbook, Liz Specials. Jerri was assistant head resident at the dormitory then and received a copy which, though a bit worn, is still a treasured resource. One of our favorite recipes from the book is among the simplest. If you have a rule that you refuse to make a dressing with more than six ingredients you are in luck.
1 cup mayonnaise or whipped salad dressing
1/3 cup chili sauce
1/4 cup sweet pickles
2 hard boiled eggs
1 tsp. grated onion
1/2 tsp. salt
Cut the pickles very fine. Peel and chop the eggs medium (1/4 – 1/3 inch pieces). Grate the onion. Put all the ingredients into a mixing bowl and mix well with a fork. Let stand at least 30 minutes before serving.
NOTE: Leftover hard-boiled Easter Eggs are perfect for this dressing. Since the eggs are already cooked, in five minutes you will have a delicious thousand island dressing. It keeps well for weeks in the fridge and tastes a lot better than “store bought.” And if there is a little pink or green or blue food coloring on the whites, it won’t hurt a thing.