The All-American Spud: The Cookbook Junkie Returns


Do you have a favorite recipe for potato salad? A preference of mustard over mayo? Please share to: Gini Rainey at

The Cookbook Junkie Returns!

By Gini Rainey

The 4th of July is right around the corner and what do most of us like to do on that All-American holiday? Why, we gather all our friends together for a great day of picnicking, barbequing, celebrating, and having a really great time together! Now, I don’t know about you, but one of the staples of many of our picnics just happens to be potato salad! While talking with one of my friends recently, we decided that everyone seems to have a different take on how to prepare it. So that’s how the topic for this edition of the Cookbook Junkie came about!

While doing some research on the topic in my “the library,” it became relatively clear that the many variations on the potato salad theme is regional. I grew up in Minnesota and my mom’s recipe was simple and basic. Of course, she began with fork-tender boiled potatoes – the common denominator of all potato salads. Then she peeled them, diced them, added the boiled eggs, diced celery, and onions, a Miracle Whip® based dressing, salt, and pepper. Growing up in an area that was rampant with Germans and Scandinavians, I would have thought her go-to recipe would have been for hot potato salad.

So, to share some of the regional variations on this picnic staple I’ve come across, the Winning Recipes from Minnesota with Love cookbook that was published in 1992 calls for chopped bell pepper, pickled sweet yellow pepper rings, a little bit of mustard, sugar, celery salt instead of celery, and a one-one ratio for the potatoes and hard-boiled eggs. The secret ingredient posed by the “Sugar Beach” cookbook from the Junior League of Ft. Walton Beach, Florida, in their recipe, is an envelope of Hidden Valley® dressing mix, along with cider vinegar and mustard.

The White House Cookbook, compiled over the years from White House stewards beginning with Hugo Ziemann who served under Grover Cleveland, shares this simple recipe from 1894 “Chop cold boiled potatoes fine, with enough raw onions to season nicely; make a dressing as for lettuce salad, and pour over it.” In the updated edition, with a healthier spin and published in 1996, fat-free mayonnaise and nonfat yogurt is used, along with the usual ingredients, adding in prepared mustard, chives, cucumber, and an extra bonus of horseradish.

Not surprisingly, Wonderful Good Cooking from Amish Country Kitchens includes the recipe for Hot Potato Salad.  It calls for bacon and sugar, which seem to be the common denominator in all the Hot Potato Salad recipes I’ve looked at. In Savoring the Seasons a cookbook from New Bern, NC, its recipe for German Potato Salad calls for an inordinate amount of sugar with 1 ½ cups for 12 medium potatoes.  However, in Marianna Olszewska Heberle’s German Cooking, the recipe for Potato Salad is an exception to variations I’ve seen. It’s served cold, with Dijon mustard, fresh dill, and sour cream in the dressing, but no sugar or bacon. She offers a variation that includes diced apple and ham, while Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook calls for the addition of parsley and pimiento.

Talk About Good by the Service League of Lafayette, Louisiana, includes chopped bell pepper, lemon juice, French dressing, and catsup in their recipe.  They also mash the hard-boiled egg yolks and mix into the dressing. Simply Simpatico from the Junior League of Albuquerque, NM, had two recipes, one using Dijon mustard, garlic, white wine, chopped parsley, and broken walnuts. While the other, labeled Southwestern Potato Salad adds chili powder, seasoned salt, hot pepper sauce, canned corn, shredded carrot, and pitted ripe olives! Yes, there are potatoes in it, but hardly a featured player!

I have a feeling, from my research, that the west coast doesn’t do much potato salading. I found one recipe in Florence Henderson’s cookbook A Little Cooking, A Little Talking, and A Whole Lot of Fun, but it’s shared by Mel Tillis, who calls Nashville home. His recipe is fairly true to the basic one, but it includes large diced sweet pickles, pimientos, and mustard.

The Martha Stewart Cookbook-Collected Recipes for Every Day features, not only the recipe for Potato Salad Vinaigrette, which uses unpeeled red, new potatoes, white wine, Dijon Mustard, and chopped dill pickles, but one called Roquefort Potato Salad that includes dry vermouth, Tobasco® sauce, basil, cumin, and grainy mustard, along with unpeeled red, new potatoes. In her Martha’s American Food cookbook, she includes the recipe for Classic Potato Salad that features chopped scallions and cornichons.

Bringing it home to East Texas, Tyler’s Junior League cookbook Cooking Through Rose-Colored Glasses adds sliced radishes and snipped parsley to their variation, while East Texas Oil Museum’s Best Cooks of the East Texas Oil Patch uses cut up dill or sour pickles and specifies Miracle Whip®  salad dressing to be used. They also suggest to “Put it in a bowl and sprinkle with paprika. This makes it look pretty.”

Personally, our family is a fan of Mustard Potato Salad, which I probably learned to make by watching my MIL cook.  So, when I make it, I peel and cube 6 medium russet potatoes and boil them till they are fork tender. I also hard-boil 3-4 eggs and chop them when cool. Then I semi-mash the potatoes and add the eggs, 1 diced medium onion, 1 diced large dill pickle, 3 tablespoons of prepared mustard, ¾ teaspoon of celery salt, ½ teaspoon of black pepper, and 1½ cups of Miracle Whip® salad dressing and mix until combined.

Do you have a favorite recipe for potato salad? A preference of mustard over mayo? Please share to:

Gini Rainey at

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