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A Bite of Family History

(post, Kathleen Bauer)


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My mother was not a great cook, but did a decent job of feeding her family of five staples like Spanish rice, tuna casserole and goulash. Her own mother was a terrible cook, and growing up in North Powder, Oregon, a teeny Eastern Oregon town of 400, hadn't provided much in the way of adventurous dining. She did occasionally venture into unknown territory, which brought exotic foods like tacos, made with store-bought packets of Taco Mix and greasy fried tortillas, to our dinner table.

There were recipes of hers I made sure to copy down before I left home. Her pineapple carrot cake, favorite holiday cookie recipes and, probably her pi├Ęce de resistance, a fabulous all-American summer favorite, potato salad.

The other day I needed to contribute a side dish for my brother's birthday dinner, and had mentioned bringing a rocking quinoa salad that Susana had made, or maybe Luan's terrific farro salad with pecorino and cherry tomatoes. But when I brought up Mom's potato salad, his eyes lit up and the deal was sealed.

Now, everyone has their own definitive version of potato salad, with accompanying debates about the merits of mayo versus salad dressing, celery or not. My mother's called for russets (no Yukon golds for her, mister), pickle juice as the dressing's secret ingredient and it had a slightly pink tinge from what we refer to as God's own condiment, ketchup.

And there's nothing that reminds me of her more than when I dig into a pile of this.

Mom's Potato Salad

Dressing:
2 c. mayonnaise
1/2 c. ketchup
2 tsp. worchestershire
2 tsp. basil
1/8 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. celery salt
1/2 tsp. thyme
1/3 c. pickle juice
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper

Salad:
8 med. russet potatoes
1 yellow onion
10 eggs
6 med. pickles

Put unpeeled potatoes in a large saucepan or Dutch oven and cover with water. Place on stove and bring to a boil. Cook until potatoes are tender but not mushy. Drain and cool (can be made ahead).

While potatoes cook, make dressing. Put all ingredients in a bowl and stir to combine.

Slice cooled potatoes into 1" square and 1/8" wide pieces (or bite-sized). Chop onion and pickles fine. Chop eggs. Put in a large bowl, pour dressing over top and fold it in (don't stir or the potatoes will break up too much) until thoroughly combined. Place bowl in refrigerator and let sit for a couple of hours so flavors have a change to mingle.