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Everybody loves Mom’s potato salad

July 13, 2010
By Wendy Monro

We have been attending pot lucks, block parties, dinner parties, and picnics this summer. I love get-togethers which revolve around food. It is always so much fun eating, drinking and socializing with people. Franz Kafka once said, "so long as you have food in your mouth, you have solved all questions for the time being."

Last weekend we went to a block party at my parents' house for the 4th of July, only we had the party on the 3rd. This was a great idea because Saturday is a better day to drink that much wine. We had the best time and stayed in the cul de sac until 3 a.m. mingling with the neighbors. Is it still considered mingling after 2 a.m.? There were tons of food at the party: salads, pasta, chicken, dips, crackers, cheeses, etc. One neighbor even set up a Bloody Mary bar, which I thought was such a clever idea. She added horseradish and a piece of okra to her Bloody Mary recipe and it tasted delicious. I never thought about okra in a Bloody Mary.

Of all of the scrumptious food we were offered that evening, the dish that stood out amongst all of these delectable treats was my mom's potato salad. She is going to get a very large head with all of the compliments I have been giving to her cooking lately. She makes the best potato salad in the world. It is really a meal in itself with all of the goodies she puts into it. I have loved this salad since I was a little girl. Admittedly, when I was younger, I would pull out the onions and olives. Now, I don't pull anything out of it. Every ingredient is delightful. Every mouthful is bliss.

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Everyone seems to have their own special version of potato salad and the versatility of this dish allows people to be very creative. In the 16th century, potatoes were introduced to Europe by Spanish explorers. Then, European settlers introduced Americans to potato salad recipes using local ingredients. Therefore, there are many regional potato salad variations all over the United States. In and around New Ulm, I was exposed to German potato salad which I had never before tried. Lots of people really love the German potato salad. This is usually served warm and has a dressing made with vinegar and includes bacon. It also has a sweet taste. I prefer a less sweet recipe served chilled, like my mom's; but, that could be because this is the recipe I grew up loving.

In the beginning of the 20th century, people often used French dressing to congeal their potato salad. It wasn't until the 1940s that people began using mayonnaise instead of French dressing to make this American style potato salad dish.

The earliest known mention of potato salad in print comes from the Edgewater Beach Hotel Salad Book, by Arnold Shircliffe which reads, "Early potato salad: John Gerrard in 1597 writes about potatoes and their virtues and said that 'they are sometimes boiled and sopped in wine, by others boiled with prunes, and likewise others dress them (after roasting them in the ashes) in oil, vinegar and salt, every man according to his own taste. However they be dressed, they comfort, nourish and strengthen the body.' " Yes, I have to say, this a comfort food that also nourishes the body and tastes oh so good too. Although it is a simple country style and affordable food, it still goes great with wine, apparently even back in 1597. Well, wine does go with most things...always has, always will.

Fact Box

Mom's American Potato Salad

10 large russet potatoes

8 eggs

1 C. mayonnaise (more or less according to how creamy you like it)

1/4 C. Dijon mustard (more or less according to how mustardy you like it)

1 onion, chopped finely

3 pickles, chopped finely

1 jar roasted red peppers, chopped finely

1 12 oz. can sliced black olives

3 celery stalks, chopped finely

1 Tbsp. fresh thyme, pull off the leaves only

1 Tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped finely

1 Tbsp. fresh dill, chopped finely

Salt and pepper to taste

1/4 tsp. paprika

Peel and dice the potatoes into bite sized pieces (about 1/4 inch) and place in a pot of cold water. Place the pot on the stove and bring to a boil. Boil until the potatoes are easily pierced with a fork but not so much that they fall apart. This will take about 12-15 minutes. Strain the potatoes and place in a large bowl. In another pot bring water to a boil. Add the eggs and boil for fifteen minutes. Peel and slice the eggs and set aside. In the large bowl with the potatoes, add mayonnaise, mustard, onion, pickles, roasted red peppers, olives, celery, thyme, parsley, and dill. Mix well. Taste and check consistency to see if you want more mustard and mayonnaise. It is really a personal preference as to how much mayo and mustard to add. Sprinkle on salt and pepper to your liking. Add in most of the egg slices and gently stir those in. Place the rest of the egg slices on top and sprinkle with paprika to make it look pretty.

Luckily, my mom has a habit of making way too much food. When it comes to her potato salad this is a really great thing. It would be so sad not to have it the next day with lunch. I had it for breakfast and lunch the next day...and the next. So did everyone else in the house and there was none left to take home with me. Oh well, too much of a good thing is not advisable. That is what I have been told.

Although you may already have your own treasured family potato salad recipe, give this one a try and see what you think.

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