Texas potato salad with nasturtiums

There was once a town in North Texas known as Cathron’s Store. In the late 1800s, a grocery, a grist mill, and a post office could be found in this small Lamar County community, though by 1905 the name had changed to Tigertown and Cathron’s Store was no more. Most people, I reckon, have never heard of this place; it is forgotten. But because of a most unusual potato salad recipe by one of its residents, the town and its legacy continue.

Now, I realize that potato salad may seem an odd subject for contemplation, but Texan-style potato salad—which is typically yellow and tangy with mustard and often mashed to the point where you can’t tell where the potatoes end and the other ingredients begin—is not usually seen outside the state. It’s a unique dish.

Curious as to its beginnings, I began to do research and delved into a collection of recipes from the 1800s to see how it was made in the state’s early days. Most of the potato salad recipes followed a familiar fashion with hard-boiled eggs, pickles, and onions all bringing color and spark to the dish. Surprisingly, mustard was the preferred dressing even then, and while some recipes were prepared with cubed or sliced potatoes, mashed potatoes were used, too. The potato salad that Texans eat today has deep roots.

As I was reading, I came across a mashed potato salad by a Texan named Mrs. Lissa Gardner Bowman. She lived in Cathron’s Store. Her version started with leftover potatoes that she mashed and then mixed with the usual suspects. But just when things were becoming predictable, Mrs. Bowman encouraged the cook to go out into the garden and pick some nasturtiums for garnish. Not only was her hometown new to me, but also was her directive to add flowers to one’s potato salad.
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