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German potato salad evokes Michigan, according to the New York Times

Nov 26, 2014

A potato salad says "Michigan" to the New York Times.
Credit Megan Myers / Flickr

As you plan your Thanksgiving meal, what is the one dish that represents your family? Maybe it’s one that's been handed down through generations.

The New York Times recently ran a piece that highlighted a recipe collection called The United States of Thanksgiving. Each recipe, the authors wrote, evoked each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

The recipe that evoked Michigan, according to the Times, was German potato salad.

While all sorts of products, like oysters, were coming by boat from the East to Michigan and the rest of the Midwest during the pioneer period, the European families who settled there generally liked to stick to their ethnic traditions. “In the Upper Peninsula, there were the Finlanders, and they had Cornish hens,” said Priscilla Massie, a co-author of the cookbook “Walnut Pickles and Watermelon Cake: A Century of Michigan Cooking.” Then there were the Germans families, who, Ms. Massie said, tended to adopt Thanksgiving first. Their tangy baked potato salad can be found on many tables around the state to this day, made easy by a crop that’s available statewide.

Many readers felt the Times got their state’s quintessential recipe wrong.

Among those skeptics is Linda Holmes. Holmes is a writer at NPR's pop culture blog Monkey See and she's the host of Pop Culture Happy Hour.

She’s from Minnesota and says the Times selection for her state, grape salad, was way off the mark.

From her post:

I have never in my life heard of a "grape salad." Not at Thanksgiving, not at Christmas, not during a Vikings game, not during the Winter Carnival, not during the State Fair, and not during the greatest state holiday: the annual hockey tournament of the Minnesota State High School League.

You can listen to our conversation with Holmes below.