I recently stopped by Calvin's Market at Bocage to interview owner Calvin Lindsly for an upcoming story on independent grocers for the Baton Rouge Business Report. As we stood at the front of the store talking about the supermarket's distinct identity and its staying power in a competitive market, four of five customers in the check out queues were leaving with tubs of Calvin's signature chicken salad.
“I make 400-450 pounds of that stuff a day,” Lindsly told me. Indeed, the characteristically smooth dish has been one of the store's defining features, even before longtime employee Lindsly bought it 16 years ago. Blended fine and highly spreadable, this is a moist, unadulterated version that goes down like pabulum and has been extolled by generations of shoppers.
Among summer's emblematic foods, chicken salad ranks right up there with watermelon and barbecue. It's cool and creamy. It pairs well with fresh fruit and crunchy veggies. It's the foundation of Sunday lunches, girlie showers and beach trips. Attended by a sleeve of Saltine crackers, it's the perfect over-the-sink late night snack. Its characteristic binder of mayo makes it rich and fatty, but it still manages a 'light' reputation. Calories be damned, it's nice to find a container waiting in the 'fridge after a long, hot day.
Lindsly told me that while his chicken salad is popular because of its enduring simplicity, plenty of customers use it as a base, and snazz it up with their own ingredients. They add cranberries, walnuts, hunks of celery, curry powder, fresh tarragon or basil. They stuff it in avocados or tomatoes. They serve it on discs of sliced, toasted baguette or make po'boys. “One guy tells me he adds more mayo—if you can believe that—and sweet pickles,” says Lindsly. “I'd like to start a cookbook that asks 'what do you do with my chicken salad.'”
He likes it with potato chips.
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