When potato salad makes you think about your mortality

I made German Potato Salad tonight, following the recipe card that my great-aunt Connie wrote in her loping cursive.  The recipe card is yellowed and spattered with what I can only imagine is bacon grease.

As much as I love Allrecipes.com, there’s something special about cooking from a recipe hand-written by a relative who is no longer living on earth.  I think about her–about all the cook-outs from days gone by, all the get-togethers, all the laughter and inside jokes, the kids running around–I was once one of those kids–and the older folks sitting on lawn chairs, shooting the breeze.

Life changes so dramatically but in such small increments sometimes that we don’t realize it’s changing.

And then one day the babies are all grown with babies of their own who are graduating from high school.  The gray-haired aunts and uncles shrink and battle cancer or their hearts fail and they leave us behind.  We move from being the young ones to being the old ones, from being the college kids to being the adults, from being the parents to being the grandparents.  It happens in a flash, happens so fast we can’t even feel the earth moving.

And so I made Aunt Connie’s German Potato Salad and thought of her.

(It was delicious.)

6 thoughts on “When potato salad makes you think about your mortality

  1. A friend has a visitor from Germany this week. He made them German potato salad, without a recipe. She said it was wonderful. I hope to get this recipe.


  2. While shopping in the German deli in Lakewood, I saw a container that said German Potato Salad. Thinking it must be the real thing, since this was in a store where all the employees were talking to their regular customers in what I assumed was German, I bought a container of it. I was SO disappointed – it was NOT what I grew to love at those backyard cookouts in Wisconsin. Aunt Connie’s German Potato Salad was THE best.

    I saw a picture of her just this week – even though minus one leg, she still was all dressed up, and had make-up on, and her famous smile.

    Some things never change. Well, yes, they do. She is gone, and the once small children are now the grown-ups! Glad you are continuing making the kitchen smell good and the dining room a place of comfort and memories.


  3. I have an old Composition Book that belonged to my paternal grandmother, who was known to be a marvelous cook. It’s all in her handwriting, basically the old Spencerian script. What I especially love is her note on the cover: “If you don’t like it, bury it.” LOL! Things like these are priceless treasures.


  4. I agree – it’s the heirloom recipes hand-written on 3×5 cards that I treasure the most. I got a little file box handed down to me from my Grandmother who passed in 1990, and even though I’ve transcribed a number of those recipes, they still seem to come out better if I stick her original up on the range hood and follow that instead.
    I try not to think too much about how old I’m getting, and how quickly I’m approaching the “hand down the box of recipe cards” status. As long as I have those cards, I’m still a nine-year-old boy eagerly awaiting a taste of grandma’s famous apple sauce or that marvelous fudge.


  5. I like this post. 🙂

    And I also think about things like this all the time. Somehow it’s the small tasks, the domestic every day things that make me feel the most connected to some people.

    I think of my grandmother every time I hang the laundry, or slice a squash, or wash tomatoes. I think of my other grandmother every time I slice a lemon.

    When I fold laundry it brings my own mother to mind and when I fix something it’s most often my dad I’m thinking of.

    It’s fascinating that such normal tasks are such a connection point for me.


  6. Last summer, I did a few recorded clips of my mom making homemade doughnuts – and homemade bread. Staples of my childhood. My sister and daughters were here and my mom felt a bit silly and even wondered about what on earth I’d want to film her for!

    I took some pictures of her hands kneading the bread – printed one out in sepia, framed it – and hung it in my kitchen. She also wonders about this.

    I know the videos and the photos will be priceless someday. 🙂 She turns 80 this September and has twice survived breast cancer.

    I think I’ll have her write out a few of her recipes in her handwriting next.


You know you want to comment here:

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s