June 20, 2012

Not your run-of-the-mill 1940s potato salad recipe

Today, the summer solstice and the very longest of the year, has always been one of my absolute favourites. I find there is a powerful energy and sense of excitement that flows through its every moment, and rarely is there a year that I don't stay up until at least midnight so as to experience every last moment of this fantastic day. 

From now until late September, we're under summer's sway again. It's hot, piercingly bright, sometimes languid, sometimes manic days of vibrancy, excitement, vitality, and - quite often - meals that are so simple, perfect, and unfussy as to scarcely warrant a recipe.

Cold cuts, platters of freshly picked and sliced (undesirably delicious) fruit still subtly warm from the tree, generously sized green salads bursting with a rainbow's worth of hues, leftovers of all kinds eaten straight from the fridge, Italian ice, garden gathered produce, and of course all of the sublimely enticing fare that comes part and parcel with barbeques, cookouts, and picnics.

In the case of the later, one of my favourite dishes to make and bring along is potato salad. Aside from my mom's fantastic recipe that I grew up with, I rarely make exactly the same potato salad twice. As with my pasta salads of the season, I like to use whatever is to hand and that I think will marry well together. Sometimes I opt for German style potato salads, others I smoother my spuds in a creamy dressing. At times fresh mint, a few peas, and olive oil are all it takes, or maybe the opposite is true and I pull out all the bells and whistles.

There's really no right or wrong when it comes to potato salad, so long as your 'tatoes are well cooked (but still a bit firm), and you ensure any dish with eggs and/or other highly perishable ingredients is properly refrigerated at all times (other than while eating, of course!). Over the years I've tried everything from an idea I came up with for pizza potato salad (fabulous!) to several vintage recipes culled from the web and my collection of mid-century cookbooks.

Most have been quite nice, though I do sometimes find myself further jazzing up those from the 30s, 40s, and 50s (and/or scaling back the copious amount of mayo in their recipes). Today's recipe from 1945 for Chef's Potato Salad is already guised up quite nicely though - so much so, that some folks may wish to remove various ingredients (forgoing the canned lunch meat will make it vegetarian, for example).

Vintage 1945 Chef's potato salad recipe 

{Toss everything but the kitchen sink into this yummy 1940s potato salad recipe, it's a great way to use up leftovers and cut down on the amount of time spent over the kitchen stove. Vintage recipe scan via Eudaemonius on Flickr.}

Whether you try it out as is (I'd use low sodium lunch meat, if possible, as the salt and cheese should already be salty enough) or play around a bit, this is an excellent summertime dish that can just as easily be the star of the show (aka, a meal unto itself) as a highly enjoyable side dish at a party, backyard feast, or picnic.

I'd be tempted to skip the canned meat, increase the cheese a little, trade the celery for sliced gherkins (a perpetual fave of mine), and toss in a small handful of fresh chives or parsley. You could also introduce tomatoes, leftover meats, tuna (or another seafood), nuts (almonds perhaps), or some fresh-off-the-cob corn.

Dishes like wonderful 1940s potato salad are not meant to be overly serious or formal affairs, they're fun, filling, versatile summertime meals that work every bit as well today on the first day of the season as they will right up until autumn starts on September 22nd.

Have a blast this summer, sweet friends, no matter what you cook, where you go, or how you spend your gorgeous sunshine filled months!


  1. Even in black and white it looks rather good.

  2. Hilariously perfect timing! I am going to a cookout tonight and in scanning the pantry a moment ago decided that potato salad was probably what I was best supplied for.

  3. Sounds yummy! I love the vintage recipe photos!! Lately I have been subconsciously rescuing vintage cookbooks from the Thift Store and Salvation Army. I just can't leave them there on the shelf!!

  4. I have to sat the min I saw Potato Salad as your title I had to come and see bc I love potatos! BUT with that said I dont think I can try this one. Just too much inside of it that I think takes away from the actual potato although you gotta give it to those recipes-they really were creative!!! Great post hun! xox

  5. I used to heat potato salad, but now I love it. This looks really yummy too.

  6. Thanks Jessica, the black and white picture does look good, but your very persuasive-descriptive-suggestions, means that I am now forced into having to try out this yummy-looking-sounding recipie asap! Great find, but please share a secret...What is the best way to cook the potatos for potato salad generally? Do you cook them whole, and then dice them, or do you cut them into pieces, cook, and then cut into smaller pieces? I'm sure there is a proper way to do it, but my potato salad (the potatos) are either not cooked enough or cooked too much...

    1. You're very welcome, delighted to know that you're intrigued by this ingredient rich potato salad. I generally peel my potatoes and cute them into fourths or sixths (depending on how large they are) before I boil them, then cool them in the fridge and toss them with the other ingredients once they've chilled (this, of course, does not apply to warm potato salads, just cold ones).

      Hope this helps - happy vintage cooking!
      ♥ Jessica

  7. I really must try this recipe! I love potato salad, it's one of my favourites! I'm a carber afterall. ;0 Looks so yummy!