Indoor Picnic Potato Salad

We picked this potato salad recipe to try while attempting a Barbie-style indoor picnic a few months back.

At the start of the “Sandwiches, Salads, Snacks” chapter of Barbie’s Easy-As-Pie Cookbook, Midge tries to talk Barbie into going to the movies now that the weather’s too rainy for the picnic they had planned. But Barbie promised Ken a birthday picnic, so she announces they’ll just lay out their paper plates in the dining room and use the stove instead of a grill.

The main attraction of Barbie’s indoor picnic involves a fundamental misunderstanding of what burgers are, so for our own similar type of party (back before we couldn’t have picnic parties), we decided on something more routine for the side dish.

Barbie’s Potato Salad


      • 4 medium potatoes, Yukon Golds or similar
      • 3 eggs
      • 1 cup celery
      • 1/4 cup cucumber
      • 1/4 cup onion
      • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
      • 1/2 teaspoon mustard
      • 1/2 teaspoon salt
      • 1/8 teaspoon pepper

In a large pot, cover the unpeeled potatoes with about two quarts of water and bring to a boil. Cover the pot and cook until tender, about half an hour. Pierce the center of the potato with a fork to check doneness. When potatoes are ready, drain them, rinse with cold water, and pull the skins off if desired. Then set the potatoes aside and let cool just enough to handle.

At the same time, boil the eggs using your favorite method. (Barbie’s suggested boiled egg technique is in the tips section below.)

While everything else is cooking, dice the celery, cucumber, and onion.

Cut the potatoes into bite-sized pieces and add them to a large bowl. Peel and chop the eggs, adding them to the potatoes. Stir in the celery, cucumber, and onion, salt, and pepper, and then add the mustard and mayonnaise. Stir all ingredients until well blended.

Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least an hour before serving. Serves 4 to 6.

-Adapted from Barbie’s Easy-As-Pie Cookbook 

I probably ought to confess that I usually avoid potato salad.

As a southern woman, I’m prepared to admit that’s a character flaw, but here’s the thing: any dish that has a similar look no matter how it’s made is a minefield of flavor. It’s easy enough to steer clear of the yellow ones that mostly taste like mustard, and I can usually spot the ones with pickles at a glance. But just when you think you’ve safely navigated your way to the one potato salad at the potluck that won’t hit your mouth like a shot of pickle juice or a spoonful of French’s… Boom. There’s the Miracle Whip. So yeah, I mostly just stick with a handful of fries.

This potato salad was a nice surprise because it lets you taste the potato and egg rather than treating them as a vehicle for some strongly flavored dressing. It seemed to satisfy everyone at the table too, even the folks who tend to like more pickle or mustard in the mix.

Extra Tips:

  • We like using waxy potatoes (like the Yukon Golds mentioned in the ingredient list) because they stay in firmer chunks after cooking and mixing with the other ingredients. If you substitute a starchier potato (like russets), you’ll get a potato salad that has a softer, creamier texture.
  • For the sake of completeness, I should mention that Barbie’s recipe says you can use salad dressing instead of mayonnaise. Please don’t do that though.
  • Barbie’s method for boiling eggs (which is in the cookbook as a separate recipe) calls for room temperature eggs in a pot with enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, turn the heat down to a simmer for 20 minutes, and then rinse the eggs with cold water.
  • Barbie suggests serving this potato salad on a bed of lettuce leaves. I forgot about this step for our own indoor picnic, which is an oversight I blame on spending that whole cooking session trying to figure out why someone would refer to sloppy joes as burgers.

Final Thoughts:

Overall, this recipe is a good starting point. I love that it’s fairly basic, but despite my dislike of overpowering dressings that mask the flavor of the other ingredients, I still think this dish, like several of Barbie’s other recipes, could use more seasoning. If I make it again, I’d at least try doubling the ground pepper and adding some celery salt or dill.

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