Christine’s Pasta Salad

When my family traveled to Rhode Island to visit my mom’s cousins one food item stood out among the plentiful amounts food on hand: the pasta salad.  Why?  Well I have to take you back to my childhood.  Growing up in the 1980s in the Portuguese enclave of Newark, New Jersey my culinary palate was limited to Portuguese food.  Mind you I am not complaining since it was a rich selection of protein and vegetables prepared in traditional Portuguese fashion.  This meant that something as simple as a pasta salad was never on the menu.  We were surrounded by Portuguese so backyard barbecues and parties did not include typical “American” fare.  My cousin’s in Rhode Island were a bit more eclectic even though they also lived in a Portuguese community.  We would travel to Rhode Island for Thanksgiving or for long summer weekends and just sit around eating and catching up.  My family would bring suckling pig, rabbit, codfish, sardines to prepare and my cousins would supply the rest .  Never was I as happy as spending time with my cousins from Rhode Island.  They were wonderful weekends spent catching up, eating and just relaxing.  Tragically Christine passed away a few years back shortly after her daughter Joy had also succumbed to illness. Losing both of them so close together was such a profound emotional event.  Gone were their warm smiles, playful antics and uplifting spirit.  Joy in particular was hard for me since we were so close in age and had developed such a strong connection in childhood that losing her was like losing a sister.  One of the dishes my cousin Christine made was this delicious pasta salad.  I never really tasted pasta salad before.  We only ever used pasta in a stew as an extender to the dish.  Mayonnaise was something we put on a sandwich.   So for a kid from Newark, New Jersey, brought up on Portuguese food,  this was akin to someone tasting something exotic like sushi for the first time.  Well during a recent visit to Rhode Island in 2016 I was jolted back in time when the pasta salad made an appearance during lunch.  Her surviving daughters Melanie and Brenda had written down the recipe and upon tasting it I was transported back to those wonderful weekends we had.  Every time I prepare this dish I think of her and Joy.