The Local Food Report: Aunt Birdie's Potato Salad

Time was, potato salad was composed mainly of potatoes. In years since, it's grown cucumbers, tomatoes, green beans, and eggs, and gotten rather heavy with the mayonnaise.

I don't have a problem with getting gussied up, but neither do I like to every day. I'd guess that's how a ruby-skinned potato feels, too. Today's recipe is from Ruth Reichl—it's her Aunt Birdie's potato salad I toyed with giving you after our last interview—but it seemed better suited somehow to the mood today. We talked a lot this week about the new president, and all Reichl's hopes for him in the realm of food. Given the magnitude of what she's wishing on in terms of food and tax policy from the Obama kitchen, it seemed only fair to keep things straightforward when it came to the cooking itself.

Her Aunt Birdie's potato salad was just the thing. It's simple, spare, and tasty, and it wouldn't mind waiting a few days. (Reichl says she likes it best after three.) It has a very, very short list of ingredients, and even the least dedicated locavore can find the produce involved from a nearby farm in the winter. It sets a very low bar, when it comes to presidential expectations.

But it is an important bar all the same. What if the Obamas ate potato salad in February, rather than on the fourth of July? What if they saved asparagus for April, strawberries for June, and ate their fill of pears in October? What if they not only did these things, but told the world about them, too? Think what a turn our national belly might take.

Aunt Birdie's potato salad isn't much, but it is a place to start. Just in case you haven't quite mustered the courage yet to jump in.


adapted from Ruth Reichl's recipe in her 1971 cookbook, Mmmmm: A Feastiary

3 pounds small potatoes
salt and pepper to taste
1/3 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon honey
1 medium onion
1/2 cup cider vinegar

Dice potatoes, leaving skins on. Place in a large pot and cover with water. Boil until tender, then drain and put into a serving bowl. Toss with oil and honey and salt and pepper to taste. Finely chop onion, and mix in. Dilute vinegar slightly with water, bring to a boil in a saucepan, and pour over top. Let sit for several hours, or even several days.

Here are some links for more information on what we covered in today's radio interview:
The Who Farm (remember, the garden on top of a bus?) and Eat the View (check out their video on the history of gardening the White House Lawn).


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All text, photographs, and other original material copyright 2008-2010 by Elspeth Hay unless otherwise noted.