Easy-peasy — and low-fat, mayo-less — potato salad (recipe here)
I started listening to Wilco in high school, and the first album I bought was their super alt-country 1995 debut, A.M.. Reading about them in music magazines around the time A Ghost Is Born came out made me curious, and A.M. was the least expensive CD at the store, so that’s what I got. It’s not a great representation of them as a whole, but that album — especially songs like “I Must Be High” and “Passenger Side” — made for perfect summer driving music. They quickly became one of my favorite bands (and they still are); I saw them for the first time at Lollapalooza in 2006 (my first vacation with friends and no parents), and then they played at my college that fall.
Growing up I spent lots of summer weekends “up north” (what people who live in lower Michigan call the more northern part of the state — however, that is not necessarily the same as the “U.P.”/Upper Peninsula). My grandpa owned a summer camp in West Branch, Mich., when my mom and her three sisters were young, and for a long time our family still owned several of the cabins (a couple family members still do). My memories from “camp” are of getting lost in a corn field at 2 or 3 years old, picking strawberries, watching my mom and aunt make strawberry jam, catching a trout (and, at 5 years old, promising to eat the whole thing — which I did, thank you very much), paddle boating, and campfires. If you’ve seen those “Pure Michigan” commercials… it’s kinda like that.
Through every phase of their career — the alt-country, sunny acoustic rock, and the more experimental records — Wilco’s songs have always felt like the Midwest: being outside, driving with the windows down, and usually not being in too much of a hurry. Jeff Tweedy assures me that everything is gonna be OK in “Nothingsevergonnastandinmyway(again),” and he makes references to seaside breezes and Michigan beaches in in “Muzzle of Bees” and “Spiders (Kidsmoke).” (Also, because I’m creepy and I read Spencer Tweedy’s blog, I know they vacation in Michigan).
Call this group of Chicagoans “Dad Rockers” and hate on ’em for it all you want: I am a proud Midwesterner, and Wilco is my musical equivalent of comfort food. So when I hosted my New York “family” (who are mostly from Michigan/the Midwest) for a 4th of July party, I wanted to make a comfort-food picnic and cookout staple: potato salad. I’m proud to say I made this up completely from scratch and without using another recipe.
On my Brooklyn rooftop, watching fireworks with a bunch of Michigan kids
5 lbs red-skin potatoes
3/4 cup Greek yogurt
1/2 cup brown mustard (spicy or not)
1/3 cup sweet relish
1-2 scallions, chopped
2 1/2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
A couple tablespoons of fresh dill, chopped
• Slice potatoes in half and boil until you can easily stick a fork in, but not until the point of them falling apart. (You can peel them first if you’d like; I didn’t and I ended up peeling some off afterward but kept some on.)
• Let potatoes cool completely in the fridge (I left mine overnight). When cold, cut into 1-inch pieces.
• For the dressing: Mix together yogurt, mustard, relish, scallions, vinegar and dill. Pour over potatoes and toss until evenly coated.