Thursday, March 7, 2013

Fearless Females: March 7 The Recipe

In celebration of Women’s History Month, Lisa Alzo of The Accidental Genealogist has presented 31 prompts to honor the “fearless females” in our family trees.

Today’s prompt:  Share a favorite recipe from your mother or grandmother’s kitchen. Why is this dish your favorite? If you don’t have one that’s been passed down, describe a favorite holiday or other meal you shared with your family.

Earlier this week I mentioned Momma’s potato salad and its minor role in winning my father’s devotion.  Prophetically, Debi Austen of Who Knew? suggested I post the recipe.  And as luck would have it, today’s Fearless Female prompt is all about the recipe.

My sister and I laugh when we say we’re potato salad snobs.  But we’re serious.  You won’t see us picking up a tub of potato salad from Sam’s Club to take to a covered-dish dinner.  Homemade is the only way to go.  The recipe is my grandmother’s, but where she got it, I don’t know.  Maybe her mother made it this way too. 

Like many good recipes passed down from mother to daughter to granddaughter, the directions are fraught with ambiguities like “salt to taste,” “3 big serving spoons full,” “bunch of pickles.”  When my sister and I created a family cookbook for our kids, we tried to present those eyeballed measurements in a standard form.  So here you go:

8 potatoes (or more if they’re small – I usually fill the dutch oven)
1 onion chopped
chopped sweet pickles (gherkins or sandwich chips) – as much as you like but please, NO RELISH
2 tsp celery seed
1-2 tsp salt
homemade potato salad dressing

  1. Boil potatoes in their skins about 30 minutes.  Fork them to test for doneness.
  2. Pour off the water and let potatoes cool awhile so that you can handle them.
  3. Peel potatoes while they are still warm.
  4. Chop into bite-size chunks.  Sprinkle with salt.
  5. Add chopped pickles and onions.
  6. Stir dressing into the potatoes. 

Dressing:  (basic recipe but sometimes I make 1.5 or 2 times this amount depending on the number of potatoes)
1 cup mayonnaise
2 tsp prepared mustard
1/3 cup sugar
¼ cup cider vinegar

  1. Pour ingredients into a bowl ALPHABETICALLY.  Vinegar is always last to prevent curdling.
  2. Whip quickly with a spoon or whisk.  Taste the dressing.  If it is not sour, add more vinegar.  The potatoes will neutralize the sour taste.
  3. Mix dressing with the potatoes, onions, and pickles.  Stir gently to distribute all ingredients.
  4. Last add the celery seed.

**The secret of the great flavor is adding the dressing while the potatoes are still hot enough to absorb the dressing.

And of course, our potato salad always tastes best when served in one of Grandma’s bowls.

Jewel Tea and Yellow Pyrex bowls belonging to Lucille Rucker Davis
Designated potato salad bowls

© 2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.


  1. You are making me hungry. DO you ship? :)

  2. I love potato salad but rarely make it because it's so much work. (I know—lazy much, Dana?) Your recipe sounds fantastic and might be just the thing to get me peeling potatoes this weekend. Thanks. ☺

    By the way, I love those old bowls. My grandma had one similar to the one on the left.

    1. You're right - potato salad is some work. I don't mind the chopping, it's peeling a hot potato that wears me out.

  3. Hahaha, I love that I played right into your hand. My husband's family has a "tuna casserole" bowl that has been fought over - the food is definitely different if it is served from a different bowl. This recipe looks really, really good!

    1. It's funny how a loved recipe becomes associated with a specific bowl.

  4. Sounds delicious and I bet quite an aphrodisiac judging by how you dad fell in love with your mom thanks to this famous dish!

  5. You gave out the recipe, now you will create new potato salad snobs. It is the truth though, if I see any little red things in potato salad brought by others or egg chunks, I move on. Well, I move on anyway if you or I didn't make it. Yes, number one snob right here.