Idaho is no longer a "meat and potatoes" type of state: it is becoming a veritable culinary melting pot! New and interesting ethnic restaurants and grocery stores are opening up in cities around the Treasure Valley and a growing group of "new" Idahoans is introducing exciting unfamiliar ingredients, different approaches to old-fashioned foods and secret family recipes that have been handed down from one generation to the next.

This blog allows us a peek into the pots and pans of these travelers that have chosen to make Idaho their new home. It captures a compilation of stories and dishes from people who, far away from their country of birth, recreate familiar elements in the dishes they prepare. For many, food from their home country is a comfort to the soul: for some it's an important part of their cultural or religious celebrations and for others, it's just good eating!

Saturday, February 27, 2010


Name: Ursula Draeger
Born in: Landshut, Germany
In Idaho since: 2006

"I'll make Kartoffelsalat", Ursula tells me on the phone when I ask her what she will be preparing for Idaho's Melting Pot. "I've been making this traditional German potato salad for the last 45 years and it comes out great every time."

Ursula and her husband Horst have been in the United States since 1956 but have only lived in Idaho for the last four years. When I meet them in their Meridian home, I immediately notice how incredibly efficient and energetic Ursula is. Her home and her appearance are impeccable. While we chat, she shows me how to prepare the kartoffelsalat, but she also makes schnitzel and a cucumber salad on the side for dinner, tells me about her homebaked breads and gives me numerous tips and tricks to save time and money in the kitchen, all within a two hour timeframe. And somehow nothing seems hurried or hastily done: Ursula is all smiles, very charming and a wonderful hostess. 

"I like using tools that help me to be more efficient in the kitchen," she says. I see that she has a variety of items at hand: a chopper, a mandolin, a salad spinner, a meat mallet, a jar opener and one little tool that I wouldn't even know what to call: it has little extendible arms that grasp the pickles from the jar so you don't have to stab them with a fork or, heaven forbid, reach in the jar with your fingers. Half the efficiency is having the tool, but the other half is knowing where it is when you need it. And Ursula knows. Her movements around the kitchen are like a well choreographed dance, and it is a pleasure to watch. "This is my favorite one," Ursula says pointing to a slender wooden spoon she is using to stir the frying bacon pieces, "I gave it to my mother when I was ten years old. As a child you don't have a lot of money and I wanted to give her something that was practical. When she passed away, I took it with me and still use it to this day."

"For the potato salad, I prefer white potatoes. Yellow potatoes will do too, but they tend to be a little sweeter and it changes the flavor of the salad. I boil the potatoes the day before so that they're cold when I slice them. That way, they keep their shape better and don't turn into mush when I toss them with the rest of the ingredients. I also freeze the salted pork. It keeps longer and is a little easier to dice as well. And for the salad, I use canola oil. It has the same nutritional qualities as olive oil, but does not have that typical olive oil taste and is much more affordable."

6 medium size boiled and peeled potatoes, white
1/2 medium size onion, diced
2 tablespoons parsley, minced
1 small dill pickle, diced
2 tablespoons of white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon of canola oil
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of black pepper
1/2 cup of salted pork, diced

Slice the potatoes thin and put them in a bowl. Mix in the rest of the ingredients, up until the pork, and mix. Fry the bacon on the stove in a dry pan until crispy, then add to the bowl hot, fat and all. Fold the pork into the salad, taste and adjust with salt and pepper. Let the salad sit, preferably overnight, but at least for 30 minutes so that the flavors can blend.

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