Picnics, potlucks and potato salad in particular
Summer is the time for outdoor meals and from years of experience, potato salad seems to be one of those fundamental dishes that shows up at most food-centric events. Proof of that conjecture is supported with a reference to the “emotional ties of potato salad” in the book, 14,000 Things to Be Happy About. And my gut instinct tells me that most folks typically prepare their mother’s potato salad recipe with a claim that it’s the best.
I can attest to that claim when I saw what appeared to be my mother’s potato salad at this year’s Easter potluck dinner. Even though I didn’t think anyone could duplicate the “look” of her potato salad, it was quite a surprise to learn that my niece also loved her Gram’s recipe and used it to make the dish exactly like my mom did.
Another surprise was learning that the Spanish explorers are credited with introducing potato salad in the 16th century. The early version was made by boiling potatoes in wine or a mixture of vinegar and spices. The more American type of potato salad is rooted in German cuisine and came here with European settlers. Hot potato salad, usually made with bacon, onion and vinegar dressing, was so closely associated with German immigrants that it was called German Potato Salad. Adding mayo to potato salad recipes followed the onset of bottled commercial mayonnaise in the early 1900s. It wasn’t until the introduction of iconic American mayo brands in the 1920s and 1930s such as Hellman’s, Best Foods and Miracle Whip that mayo-based salads became popular.
Now for the best part: the countless varieties of potato salad featuring local or regional styles to international flavors too numerous to mention. Some of the more unusual ingredients in recipes are Asian lemon grass, Italian prosciutto and purple Peruvian potatoes. A couple that caught my attention was Arugula Pesto Salad and a patriotic-themed Red White and Blue Potato Salad. Regardless of the recipe, they all share a few things in common: potato salad is usually easy to prepare and is always a big hit at potlucks and picnics. Now I’m going to put this research to some good use and try a new potato salad recipe. Maybe you’ll be inspired to do the same.