[Sca-cooks] Meanderings on family histories and foods

Elaine Koogler kiridono at gmail.com
Sun May 20 16:37:43 PDT 2007

I don't suppose you would be willing to share your recipe for German potato
salad, would you?  In exchange, I have a great recipe for a potato salad
that's made with red potatoes, pesto and pine nuts....


On 5/20/07, Phil Troy / G. Tacitus Adamantius <adamantius1 at verizon.net>
> On May 20, 2007, at 4:19 AM, Huette von Ahrens wrote:
> > Well, my mother, whose parents were German immigrants and good
> > Lutherans to boot, would
> > make creamed eggs on toast after Easter using up all the hard
> > boiled Easter eggs she had
> > made for us kids.  Mom never used paprika on this dish, but it did
> > have black pepper in it,
> > so that it wasn't just a bland egg/cream sauce dish.
> You know, it's kind of funny: there are people who'd just assume
> adding pepper, and/or even paprika (which is, of course, a capsicum
> "pepper") wouldn't even come close to de-blandifying cream sauce, and
> I'm more like, "cream sauce is bland??? you must be doing something
> wrong..." As I get older (yeah, like I'm 6000 in this bunch) I find
> myself becoming more interested in essential flavors. More
> simplicity, more focus, more power. But I remember my first exposure
> to some northern German cookery, from actual Germans who had
> immigrated post WWII, and finding it un-be-_LIEV_-ab-ly bland. Yes,
> this pea soup is spicy. It has ham in it. ;-) That was ~ 25 years
> ago, and today I might even entertain the concept as a valid basis
> for argument, and not merely meaningless sounds that might have some
> accidental resemblance to words in English.
> But thinking back, we often added black pepper to foods at the table
> (salt, not so much, because we were taught it was considered kind of
> an insult to the cook, and because my mom -- also generally the cook
> -- would rake us over the coals and quote obscure health statistics
> for six hours). Paprika wasn't added at the table, but it might show
> up as a garnish on the comparatively few baked-casserole-type dishes
> we were served.
> >   I can still remember the taste of
> > this with the soft and creamy eggs on a toasted and buttered piece
> > of white bread.  Sigh.
> >
> > My mother and grandmother would use hard-boiled eggs in their
> > potato salad, but they didn't
> > do a creamed egg and potato hot dish.
> When we say "hot dish", is this a casserole, or just a dish that was
> hot? We had our potatoes on the side...
> >   For the potato salad, they would make a
> > mayonnaise/cream/mustard/sweet pickle relish emulsion to bind the
> > potatoes and eggs together.
> > And on hot summer days, they would also add cubed ham and cubed
> > cheese to make a cool, one
> > dish meal.
> >
> > Huette
> Yeah, that sounds right. My Aunt Ruth was the official potato-salad
> guru of the family, and the unfortunate reality was that while she
> lived, it was generally considered unnecessary for anyone else to
> know how to make good German potato salad. Of course, she passed away
> with no proper passing of the torch, so I've had to reconstruct some
> missing data. [I live in fear that when I am gone, no one in my
> family will be able to make good mashed potatoes.] I'm happy to
> report that after years of expensive culinary school and even more
> years of brutally ruthless interrogation of little old ladies in
> places like Wilkes-Barre, PA, I can honestly say my potato salad
> isn't too bad, and may some day be almost right. Which reminds me, I
> need some more cellophane and a new bucket...
> My aunt was of the "sour cream and mayo" school; most of my contacts
> do the "add-vinegar-while-potatoes-are-still-hot" thing, then mayo,
> mayo and sour cream, or, I suppose, mayo-and-sweet-cream, on the
> rationale that the added vinegar would probably make them largely
> indistinguishable anyway. Occasionally egg would be added, but not
> ham. I'm wondering if maybe this was a transplanted regional
> tradition, and perhaps the natural inclination would be to add
> herring, thus terrifying the children, and consequently, no protein
> garnish other than egg. But that's pure speculation on my part...
> I've suddenly been struck, as if by a sort of culinary thunderbolt,
> that we never even thought of a "boiled dressing" in this context,
> and that I have no idea if this concept is known anywhere in Europe.
> It actually would make a lot of sense in, for example, food-rationed
> post-WWII England...
> Adamantius
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