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Think outside the jar.

If ever there were one requirement of any summer gathering in the South, it’s potato salad. It’s the one side dish you can expect to see at cookouts, backyard bashes, and potlucks, crammed on paper plates right next to the cobbler, barbecue, ribs, catfish, burgers, and other grilled favorites. As long as it’s warm and nice outside, you can bet on this humble crowd-pleaser making the menu.  

While everyone has their own signature recipe, handed down from their mother and grandmother, the ingredient that always has a place in a classic potato salad is mayonnaise. None of that sweet Miracle Stuff, either. Every self-respecting Southerner knows that Miracle Whip has no business binding together a bowl of hearty potatoes, relish, celery, and hard-boiled eggs. No, in the South, we’re a Duke’s, Kraft, Hellman’s, or Blue Plate kind of people. We’re just proud and stubborn that way. And, if your version of the picnic staple is anything like my mama’s, then you know a little sprinkling of paprika on top for added color never hurt anyone.  

But, what if someone shows up to the celebration with mounds of mayo-less potato salad? Well, it’s not the end of the world—nothing like bringing cold fried chicken or watery store-bought salad to an event. Before reducing them down to drinks and silverware duty the next go round, let's try to look at it from their side, okay? It’s possible they forgot to make a store run to purchase a jar, or maybe they have a strict aversion to eating and cooking with the creamy condiment. Or, perhaps they took a few salad cues from legendary actress and screen heroine Doris Day.

It's true Day may not know exactly how old she is, but we’re willing to bet she has no problem remembering the ingredients and steps to her famous German salad that appeared in the St. Petersburg Independent newspaper in 1968. The actress officially turned 95 on Monday, April 3, and it seems her mayo-less recipe has stood the test of time, just like her songs and films. Oh, Doris, you had us at bacon. 

If you must bring a side dish to your next big potluck, try it the Day way and nix the mayo. Que Sera, Sera, right? Sure, you’ll be greeted with a few questionable looks and stares and, undoubtedly, accused of committing the cardinal potluck sin. But, in the same way that we’re full of pride, Southerners are also quick to forgive, especially when surrounded by a buffet of delicious food to coax us. It may not be the potato salad we all grew up on, but it’s still a pretty yummy substitute. 

Here are six of our very own Doris Day-inspired recipes for those of you who want to hold the mayo: 

*Specific instructions and ingredient list included below to make Day's German potato salad recipe.

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Ingredients: 

  • 6 medium-sized potatoes
  • 1 large stalk of celery, chopped in small pieces
  • 3-4 scallions (white part only), thinly sliced
  • 4 slices lean bacon, cut in small strips
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1/2 cup cider (or wine) vinegar
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

How to Make: 

1. Cook potatoes in their skins until tender. Cool slightly, peel and slice into a large bowl. Add celery and scallions. Fry bacon in saucepan until crisp. Add water and vinegar. Pour over potato-celery-scallion mixture, toss lightly. Cover and marinate thoroughly (several hours or overnight) before serving. Serves 4.