Trading Spaces With One Of My Neighbors

Today I’m trading spaces with one of my neighbors! As a part of a new meme that Amy over at The Never-True Tales is starting, neighbors in Blog World are trading spaces, sprucing up each other’s blogs with some fresh material (in the eyes of the new neighbors, anyway). We’re slapping up a fresh coat of paint, moving the furniture around – just shaking things up a bit. I decided to give it a try since it falls in line with the posts (here and here) I started a few months ago about moving into my neighborhood. Sounds like fun – so on with the show!

The Kitchen Witch is a blog I read regularly. Here’s a secret….lean in…closer….closer….good…..she’s not really as witchy as she pretends she is. But don’t tell her I told you. Bookmark her, read her posts and then you decide. I love, love, love her posts. She’s funny. She’s thoughtful. She’s real. She’s the friend you can count on when you’re feeling crabby and you need a lift (thanks, TKW!) She’s the friend you can count on for amazing recipes for every occasion. You can also count on her to bravely tell of failed recipes, rough moments in parenting, or tough life experiences. She doesn’t judge. She doesn’t preach. And she’s amazingly supportive of her family and friends. She’s shared a post with us today that I know you’ll enjoy. So sit back, enjoy the fresh coat of paint. And welcome, TKW, to my home!

Orange Potato Salad and Other Family Oddities

Admit it, you have some strange food skeletons clanking in your closet. Every family does. Maybe it’s white trash food, or scrapple, or liverwurst on toast at midnight. But somewhere in your past, guarantee ya, you’ve got some embarrassing food lurking in the corner.
I do, too. And for some reason I’m not just embarrassed about the weird food I’ve eaten–I’m embarrassed about the weird food my family’s eaten as well. There’s some strange guilt-by-association thing going on there. If I see my dad eating slices of raw salted potato for a snack (which he does) shame just seeps outta me. Which makes zero sense–it’s not my freakshow snack, it’s my father’s.
Food and family are so closely intertwined it’s scary. Take Thanksgiving, for example. The food that ends up on your holiday table says a lot about you and yours. Illustration: cornbread stuffing. If you eat cornbread stuffing on a certain day in November, I’m betting there’s Southern knocking around somewhere in your family tree. Creamed pearl onions? Yankee. Green jello mold with shredded carrots and pineapple in it? Hello, Midwest.
Now some of those family foods are stamps of pride; my Grandmother’s fried chicken was legendary. It was so crisp, so perfectly Grandma-seasoned, so juicy…the day she died, fried chicken died too. I’ve never eaten it since, because she owned fried chicken. I can’t look at a chicken without mourning her loss and knowing that never, not ever, will I eat fried chicken that perfect again. Ditto for Aunt Lee’s Chocolate Cake. Maybe in your case it’s your Nonna’s Marinara or your mother’s stuffed cabbage. Those are the family gems, the heirlooms you guard passionately because they are your history.
But just like that one cousin you had with the buck teeth and the donkey laugh and the ears that didn’t match, some food appeared on your family’s guest list that made you squirm. And darned if you aren’t as ashamed of that as you are proud of Dad’s bbq sauce. Because those oddities say something about your family too, and they’re not always fun to examine.
I recall dying of embarrassment in 6th grade when a playmate and I walked into the kitchen just as my father was whipping up his favorite little afternoon refresher, a tall glass of saurkraut juice mixed with V-8. “YARGH,” was all the horrified kid could sputter, eyes a-buggin. I wanted to vaporize into thin air.
In fact, my German father had plenty of little doozies in his arsenal. The strips of raw turnip, salted to death, which he snacked on during football games. The wedges of watermelon he salted, peppered, then ate. The hideous Braunschweiger roll he smeared on crackers. The bologna he sneaked from the package, rolled up and popped in his mouth. The peanut butter and pickle sandwiches. Embarrassments, all of them.
My mother’s diet was pretty plebian in comparison, but she did make her famous potato salad, which she toted to every potluck and party of my youth. The Orange Potato Salad. I remember one 4th of July when a kid next to me in the buffet line said, “Who the hell brought orange potato salad?” And I replied, “No idea.”
Orange Potato Salad was one of my mother’s “experiments.” Experiments happened when my mother, missing an ingredient or two from a recipe (in the middle of a North Dakota winter), decided to improvise rather than drag two young children to the supermarket in 8-inch drifts of white misery.
In the case of the potato salad, my mother was out of vinegar and had a scant cup only of mayonnaise. Normally, she tossed the cooked potatoes with a drizzle of vinegar and let them cool before dressing. The hot potatoes absorbed the tang and salt of the vinegar and resulted in some spunky salad, let me tell you.
But she didn’t have any vinegar, so she went shopping in the refrigerator and came up with Kraft French Dressing (yeah, the neon orange kind). She had about 3 tablespoons of it left in the bottle, so she tossed the hot potatoes with that, let them cool, and then tossed in some celery, onion, seasonings and that scant cup of mayonnaise. Orange Potato Salad was born.
Crazy thing is, as unsightly as that crayola-hued salad looks, people love it. It’s different and un-boring (and admit it, most potato salad is boring). People started asking my mother to bring Orange Potato Salad to parties and she was happy to oblige. “Ah! You brought the Orange Potato Salad!” neighbors would announce, and she would beam.
I guess it could be worse–at least Orange Potato Salad was a crowd pleaser. Mrs. Mondry always brought oyster stew and nobody wanted that, so I shouldn’t complain.
This Father’s Day, I had my parents and the K family over for a barbecue. Mom called earlier in the week to ask what she could bring. “Orange Potato Salad,” I said. Of course. Orange Potato Salad may be an embarrassment, but it’s our embarrassment and what’s a family without a few quirks?

Mom’s Orange Potato Salad
serves 6-8
2 1/2 pounds red potatoes, unpeeled
3 tablespoons Kraft French Dressing
1 cup celery, diced
1/2 cup onion, diced
1 tablespoon sweet pickle relish
1 scant cup mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon mustard seed
salt and pepper to taste
Boil potatoes about 15 minutes or until easily pierced with a knife. Drain potatoes and cool until warm enough to handle. Peel potatoes, chunk them and toss with French dressing while still warm. Cool.
Whisk mayonnaise, pickle relish, mustard seed, salt and pepper. Add celery and onion to potatoes, then toss with mayonnaise mixture. Make a few hours in advance to allow flavors to blend, and re-taste for salt/pepper before serving. If salad seems dry, add more mayonnaise.
Serve to non-judgemental people who love you.

*** Giveaway alert!*** If you post a comment/confession below, you will be eligible to win a 1-year subscrption to Everyday Food Magazine, courtesy of TKW! I really like this magazine because the recipes are simple, fresh and delicious. And maybe, just maybe, you might not be stuck eating cereal for dinner again!

You can find me, Jane, over at The Kitchen Witch’s site today! Pop on over for one of my favorite (and TKW’s, as I found out) blog posts!


Filed under Observations

15 responses to “Trading Spaces With One Of My Neighbors

  1. suzicate

    Your Dad’s snacks sound just like my Dad’s I used to be so embarrassed as a kid. And I can never forget how he would take a raw hotdog out of the fridge and pop in his mouth. Still eats raw potatoes, turnips, and salt and peppers them and watermelon and cantelope.

  2. My father was a salesman when I was growing up so he spent alot of time on the road. Many nights he would bring home some “delicacy” he found for us all to try. Some were good, some were odd and others…words cannot describe. I remember trying fresh coconut(he took it to the basement to crack it open), chocolate covered ants (I swear he traveled in the midwest, not the amazon), fish eggs, and the worst …limburger cheese. The smell alone could knock out anyone within a 10 foot radius. It smelled of week old socks but he loved it and still does!! YUCK!

  3. I am like your mother, TKW. I substitute ingredients rather than make emergency stops at the grocery store. But the recipe in our family closet is Frozen Salad, and it’s much better than it sounds. Actually, that’s a matter of opinion, and perhaps someday soon I’ll share the recipe over at Never True Tales, because people either love it or they hate it…to the point that at picnics, you can hear the audible cheers AND groans when people see it on the buffet table. Heh.

  4. LOL @ “a tall glass of saurkraut juice mixed with V-8.” Did he add vodka in it? I am thinking a brand new recipe for a Bloody Mary!? And the orange potato salad actually looks enticing to me. May be because I don’t have any preconceived notion of what potato salad should look like? The assumptions/preexisting knowledges are usually what “turn off” people before they try a certain food. Great job, ladies!

  5. I think that salad looks yummy! TKW already knows I ADORE all kinds of foods and am happy to experiment. (I especially like to be experimented on by HER!) I like lots of odd greens and icky sounding foreign delicacies. Its because I had an adventurous eating family as a child. And my crazy Dad’s motto was:

    “In THIS family, we EAT our mistakes”. Therefore I have attempted to enjoy curdled clam chowder, pizza dropped upside down on the floor, and squash from India so bitter it made us all cry. And laugh!

  6. BloginSong,

    I don’t know if you remember this, but the first time I tried a curry–with all of the accompanying toppings like chutney, raisins, coconut–was at your house. I think it was 8th grade. It made such a big impression on me because I’d never eaten something so exotic before.

    LOL at “we eat our mistakes”…that sounds so very much like your dad.

  7. I love this post and everything it says about kids and families and the tinges of embarrassment we all feel when our parents and siblings do something that seems out of whack – be it an odd sweater or a space-age Jello mold.

  8. That is such a great story about the orange potato salad! Who would have thunk it that it would have turned out so deliciously?

  9. I love TKW too.
    I was thinking what weird thing do we eat in my family. My dad is famous for mustard and fries; just ask every ex-girlfriend he had. There’s a lot of things my mom eats that I find weird, but that’s me because I don’t like squash. I Love cabbage core and hard marshmallows. Not together. But my grandma would save them for me when she found them. Now that I think about it, they’re both very chewy and would keep a very loud, talkative granddaughter quiet for quite a while.

  10. Amie

    TKW you rock! I am totally making orange potato salad and crediting to you and your Mom. The beginning of the blog nailed TKW she is an awesome friend!

    Embarassing foods of our family…..with my Mom I was more embarassed at the presentation. She always burned everything. No matter what we were having there was always ketchup on the table to hide the taste of the “black stuff” as I called it. Friends always asked why ketchup and I would say you will see! The fire alarm would go off and my Mom would yell, dinner is ready! I move out after college and she becomes a great cook. Hmm…

  11. Ambrosia

    Kitch, what a great post! Embarrassing foods? hmmmm I cannot think of one! I can think of disgusting habits…

    I hated going to my grandma’s for dinner because of her lack of sanitation. For instance, she would make cookies and put them on old (and supposedly sanitized) plastic meat plates. It was horrendously disgusting. So, I just learned to eat before I went to grandma’s house. Worked better that way.

  12. Kristin

    I ALWAYS salt my watermelon and Love salted, raw potato! Bet you didn’t know that about me!

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