(This first ran February 27, 2011, in The Times and The News-Star.)

Good chicken salad is like pornography. I can’t really define it, but I know it when I see it.

We live among a people bent on throwing wrenches into what should be the most simple things. Pee wee ball. Music awards shows. The high school prom. Chicken salad. Instead of just playing, singing, dancing or eating, we end up injecting  everything with steroids, putting it under strobe lights, and driving people crazy.

In the words of my man Jimmy Buffett, these are the people our parents warned us about, the kind of complicated folk who mess up one-car funerals. And it’s not because they’re stupid. Instead it’s because they want to add seven more cars, two taxis and a tow truck — just because. Too much time on their hands. Big problem.

No where is the disease more rampant than in your foodstuffs. I offer, for your consideration and contemplation, chicken salad. So simple, yet so misunderstood. It falls into a troublesome category of food that can be either really good or really bad. Usually it turns bad when people try to glorify it and lift it above its reason for being. Think of a jacked-up VW with chrome and mud flaps. Some things just aren’t meant to be.

My friend Ma Parker came back from lunch this week lit up like a Christmas tree. The reason was music to my ears. “I just had,” she said, “some really, really good chicken salad.”

Sweet. It’s hard to come by in these modern times, so hard that, when you find it, you actually have to seek out a friend and comment, spread the love.

Chicken salad need not be complicated. I am no pro but I think chicken, a little mayo and hint of mustard, some ground pepper, a smidge of lemon juice, and you’re ready to roll.

Remember when you were little and you got sick and had to go to the doctor, and your mom always tried to do a little extra something special for you to get you over the hump? Mine bought me a chicken salad sandwich at a pharmacy that had a grill in the same town that had a doctor. Spoiled me for life. David’s Pharmacy in Mullins, S.C. They had a sandwich press deal and it would toast the bread with your “chick sal” stuff already inside and it came out crisp and heavenly. The word I’m looking for is succulent. So succulent. It was almost worth getting sick just to get one.

So I had David’s when I got sick and every other day I had my momma’s understated chick sal in a clear Tupperware bowl in the icebox at the house. You just snatched a bit, put it on a piece of white bread, fresh and lush, folded it over and went back to your bicycle. Sweet.

But today … cranberries and grapes and nuts in chicken salad? Apples? Seriously? Would you put pork butt roast in your jello mold?

I’m on a campaign to get celery, whose popularity defies logic, out of tuna fish sandwiches and chicken salad and I know my work is cut out for me there, but grapes? Nuts? Really? I love trail mix. But not in chicken salad.

Where we error is when we think “adding stuff” makes things better. Not always.