Monday, May 30, 2016

Addy's Potato Salad

A Memorial Day weekend staple, but perhaps not quite as 1860's as American Girl would have you believe.

Memorial Day weekend means a lot of things to a lot of people: cookouts, trips to the beach, eating out at their favorite fried fish stand, sales, a much needed day off from work, free shipping, parades, and 100% most importantly, honoring those who gave their lives while serving their country. Although I enjoy all of the less serious parts of this holiday, it's the last bit that's got the most weight for me. I spend a lot of time learning about America's military history and honestly know too many sad stories about young men and women (or older men and women) who gave everything to keep their friends, families and country safe. This year, I definitely wanted to take some time to talk about this holiday and why we celebrate it when we celebrate it, because I think the origin story is pretty interesting and not very well known.

Of course, I wasn't going to give you a history lesson without breaking out a dish to try! I bet most of you who had get togethers this weekend had some version of potato salad on your menu, so it seemed like a totally fitting selection. This recipe for potato salad comes directly from Addy's Cook Book, which means you'd think it's verified to be something she and her family definitely would have eaten, right? As it turns out, this might be an example of AG needing to do their homework a little more.

So, what makes this an Addy themed post, and why wouldn't she and her family have actually eaten this version of potato salad in 1865?


You've all heard me complain about how the United States doesn't really have its own version of ANZAC Day, by which I mean the US doesn't celebrate a day in history that marks a specific battle as a tribute to our armed forces. ANZAC Day marks the start of the Gallipoli landings during World War I, but we don't have national holidays for Yorktown, Lexington and Concord, Gettysburg, Pearl Harbor, D-Day, or even VE or VJ Day. Some states make a bigger fuss over specific anniversaries - Patriot's Day in Massachusetts is supposed to mark the battles of Lexington and Concord, not just the Boston Marathon - but on the whole, we don't really have a direct parallel to ANZAC Day.

Part of the reason for that is our big holiday marking those killed or missing in action during armed conflict first showed up after the Civil War in honor of those killed during the war. It was specifically designed not to honor a specific battle or anniversary in fear of offending one side or the other of the conflict, which is fair enough. Reconstruction after the war was a messy enough process without people getting offended about when our national day of remembrance was celebrated.

Our modern Memorial Day traces its roots back to a couple different traditions. Interestingly from Addy's perspective, one of the first recorded Memorial Day celebrations was organized by Black Americans and took place in Charleston, South Carolina. This was done in honor of about 250 former slaves turned Union soldiers who were taken prisoner, died while being held by the Confederacy and were buried in unmarked graves in Charleston. For the first several years after the end of the war, quasi official days to pay tribute to the deceased soldiers were common in the South, and the first Memorial Day in the north was celebrated in May of 1868. Customs varied between states and cities, but generally featured parades, memorial services and laying flowers on the graves of fallen soldiers. It was also valued as an opportunity to remind people of the evils of the South or perpetuating the myth of the Lost Cause in the South, which fortunately started to die down with time and distance from the event.

This was no doubt helped along by people extending the holiday's meaning to honoring all fallen servicemen and women, from conflicts before and after the Civil War.

Originally called Decoration Day - a moniker that would stick until after World War II, even though Memorial Day was used occasionally since 1882 - the holiday became a more national thing starting in 1868, traditionally held on May 30, regardless of what day of the week the 30th fell on. This was changed in 1968, when it and a few other holidays swapped to our current format of always being on a particular Monday of the month. In Memorial Day's case, it's the last month in May.


As the holiday has always been an excuse for people to get together and pay tribute to the past, it's not surprising that food's been such a staple of our Memorial Day traditions. One of the standard parts of any cookout or summer get together I've ever been to is a potato salad, and since there's a recipe for it in Addy's Cook Book, I figured hey, a perfect time to make a dish I've seen a million times, but have never considered making... or even trying. I'm not sure why I've avoided eating potato salad most of my life, but somehow, I'd lived a potato salad free life until I tried out this recipe.

Weird, right? It's not like I don't like potatoes.

It turns out potato salads are a pretty old fashioned dish, with written recipes going back to at least the mid 1800's, so at first glance, it looks like this is totally Kosher to include in any Addy themed cook book. The book even mentions that Addy would have liked helping Mrs. Golden make this for church socials and other get togethers. But, if you do a little more digging, you find out that the potato salad Addy would have enjoyed wouldn't be our cold, creamy potato salad.

In the 1860's, it was far more common to have hot potato salad dressed with vinegar, parsley, and other fresh ingredients. We know these salads as German potato salads, because they got their origin in - you guessed it - Germany. Although other versions of potato salad existed with French dressing drizzled over them in Addy's time, mayonnaise didn't become a major ingredient until the 1940's. The version you've got in Addy's cookbook would definitely be more at home on the table of the McIntires or the Larkins than the Walkers.

Still, having never made a potato salad before, I decided I would give this one a shot anyway. I guess it is kind of a fun that some version of it remains popular with us, even if Addy's would have been a little different.

The recipe in the cookbook is your standard, extremely basic potato salad. Or so I'm told. Like I said, I've never actually eaten this before.

You cook six medium sized potatoes, let them cool down, and then chop them up into small pieces. Two chopped up hard boiled gets get added to this, along with a whopping cup of mayo, a teaspoon of dry mustard, 1/2 of a teaspoon of salt and 1/4 of a teaspoon of pepper. Nice and easy, right?


After everything's all mixed together, you put it in your serving bowl and sprinkle paprika over the top!


I used smoked paprika because it was the first thing I found in the spice cabinet, and apparently it gave this a nice extra level of flavor compared to other potato salads! Plus it looked nice in the bowl.


I liked this. It was tasty, had a good variety of flavors going in it, and a nice texture. I'm not sure it's become my new favorite thing to have at cookouts, but I get why it's so popular. I was assured for my savvier taste testers that this was a good potato salad recipe as well, so it's not just my inexperience that's making me think this was a solid go to recipe if you're ever looking for potato salad in a hurry.

Er, well, not exactly a hurry, since the potatoes do take a while to cook and then cool down, but otherwise, this was pretty easy to do. If you've got a young chef who can operate without adult assistance, this is definitely an easy recipe for them to tackle on their own, and if you've got one that requires more adult assistance, you can easily cook the eggs and potatoes, chop them up, and have them take it from there. Definitely a good recipe to have in a cookbook aimed at young kids!

So, even though this isn't exactly what Addy and her family enjoyed on Memorial Day, hopefully this is something you and yours might get a kick out of. And I hope you learned something interesting about the holiday, and took some time today to think about the people who sacrificed their lives to give us a better future.

Happy Memorial Day!

14 comments:

  1. Great post! It would be so cool if you could find a recipe for the authentic warm potato salad and try that!

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    1. I'd definitely like to, German potato salad is super tasty! I've seen some good 1860's recipes floating around, too.

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  2. To be honest, I mostly clicked on this to see if there was milk in the recipe. Over Easter, my aunt made a potato salad with milk in it, which my family had never heard of before. We have a pretty dialed in recipe for potato salad that's actual a mix of two of my grandmothers' recipes. Anyways, I told my friend about it, and she was shocked that we DON'T put milk in our potato salad. So, I looked at this to see if there was milk in it, and I'm really glad there isn't. It's just not right. (And 3/5 of my family is allergic to milk, so...)

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    1. Huh, that's so weird! I've never heard of using milk in your potato salad before, although again, not the potato salad expert here. xD I wonder if it's a family thing for your friend or a regional thing I've just never heard of.

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  3. Just based on the title I was ready to be horrified by thinking about such a mayonnaise-based food in a era without reliable refrigeration, so I'm a little relieved to hear that that's an element that was only introduced in the 40s!

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    1. I know right! That definitely crossed my mind when I saw this in the cookbook. Guess you'd have to eat it fast back then, haha.

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  4. Great recipe! I just found your blog, and I love it! I will have o check it out more often! Keep up the good work!

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    1. Opps! It was going to say "Great recipe! I just found your blog, and I love it! I will have to check it out more often! Keep up the good work!" There was an o instead of a to!

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    2. No worries, we all have our moments with typos! Glad you're enjoying the blog. Feel free to stop by whenever. :D

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    3. Okay! Thanks! I have add your blog to make "Blog I Love" page!

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  5. I haven't eaten potato salad since my stepgrandma died because of the mayo intolerance. She always used--how's this for a kick--mustard. It was delicious and safe and I never had to question it. At my FIL's memorial service they offered potato salad and just glopped the mayo in. Then someone got offended that I didn't eat it and my husband had to be like "...Neth will be sick to her stomach if she eats it." Then someone got offended. I can't stand the people that get offended by other people's allergies. Anyways, mini rant, mustard based potato salad.

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    1. Wow, that is ridiculous behavior. Like anyone chooses to not be able to process certain foods correctly, jeez. Mustard potato salad sounds really awesome, though! I'd definitely like to give that a try. :9

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  6. As always, the history lesson was greatly appreciated. I knew some of the details, but definitely learned a few more fun facts. Thanks!

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