Who knew Chicken Salad could make or break you? Just a simple dish with a few ingredients can tell everything about you, whether you want it told or not - now everyone knows who you are. And down here it matters. Those books "Chicken Soup for the Soul" don't know anything. Chicken Salad in the south shows your true upbringing. Yes, something so simple, so uncomplicated can truly complicate your life.
I have been at the family home when some one has died and food is being brought in and heard those fateful words (always in hushed tones), "Oh, I had no idea. Look, Jean uses dark meat in her chicken salad." A social fate worse than death. And, then there are those who think they are better than the rest and try to impress. They will hear comments such as, "Mary, are these grapes in your chicken salad?" pregnant pause "I never thought about grapes in chicken salad." Translation being, "No one in God's name would put grapes in their chicken salad." One will hear the same remarks upon the discovery of pecans, almonds, cherries, or cranberries. You just don't mess with it. White meat without question and the only optional ingredients are pickles and there are strong feelings on either side of that debate. However, either way is accepted.
If you are a decent southern woman (or man these days) and were brought up in a "good" family you learned to make chicken salad correctly. It is an unstated art. No one says it has to be done this way. You just understand that there is no reason to do it any other way. Now, truth be said (and I could be burned at the stake for this) there are wonderful recipes utilizing chicken meat, mayonnaise, and foreign ingredients (ie cherries, grapes, various nuts, etc.) that I make and serve regularly. But I can assure you, I would never show up at a family reunion with one of these bastardized dishes or bring one to a grieving family . I may be willing to venture to the dark side but I know when to come home. My Mama reared me better.