This all started with a lol-worthy tweet.
Please someone explain to me how these 2 things are different pic.twitter.com/N3zIPrLfAg— Matt Brickman (@Matt_Brickman) August 27, 2019
A one-off label misprint captured at the right moment seemed the easiest answer… but no. It wouldn’t be so simple.
A late-evening trip to an inner-ring suburb’s Lunds & Byerlys, an upscale grocery chain known for being not-Kowalski’s, proved this was no fluke. The store sells, for some reason, two kinds of potato salad, each bearing half its name. Clearly the answer was to buy these potato salads and actually discover their differences.
In the process, your author continued a trend of asking ridiculous questions of strangers. This time it included gently provoking a woman at the deli counter:
“Do you know which potato salad is more popular, Lunds or Byerlys?”
“Oh, Byerlys,” she responded without hesitation.
This confirmed my early suspicions. Out of all three potato salads, the Lunds variety was displayed in the smallest bowl (suggesting they needed the least of the stuff).
(Yes, Lunds & Byerlys sells not two but three kinds of potato salad – Lunds, Byerlys, and Swedish. This is your reality check for what most people eat, and how picky they are. Swedish appeared to be the only flavor unavailable in pre-scooped to-go deli containers.)
“Why do you think that is?” I continued, unabated, as she scooped my Swedish potato salad into a bowl.
“There’s more mustard in it. Maybe it reminds them of what their families ate? But I don’t know.”
Continuing to the checkout, I meant to continue this line of questioning—as much to deepen my intel as to buffer the askance looks I was about to catch for purchasing nothing but three varieties of potato salad at 9:30 p.m. However, because the Venn diagram between “potato salad” and “robotics” overlaps at Lunds & Byerlys, the only open lanes were a series of self-scan machines. Our mechanical overlords were being polished by a diligent young man who might have been 17, and I thought, “Why interrupt a work ethic like that?”
Everyone knows the first step in eating potato salads is to remove it from the fridge and set it out for a minimum of 90 minutes. Room temperature is as important as bacteria levels.
Byerlys' has hardboiled eggs in it and tastes like the one sold at OxCart's rooftop. Up until that moment of eating OxCart's, I’d had no idea any human beings put eggs in their potato salad. Now I don’t know what to do with myself, seeing as it’s the most popular option.
Meanwhile Lunds is much sweeter, and doesn’t have that mustard-only-in-color tinge to it. They’re clearly different beasts; this one’s base is listed as a “salad dressing” whose third ingredient is high fructose corn syrup. It also supposedly has eggs—though I couldn’t find them (?)—along with chopped red bell peppers and a sprinkling of… negligible black pepper.
The Swedish variety is good, though! You can actually identify big hunks of red potato through the (much lighter, still mayo-based) dressing. Also, fresh spriglets of dill run through the dish like flavorful crosshatching, while thumbnail-sized slices of celery add a pleasant crunch to the slurry. Again, it has eggs. From my side of the deli counter, I’d mistaken bits of yolk for corn kernels.
Figuring out the differences between these “salads” felt a lot like learning to negotiate the myriad meanings of the word “fine” in the Upper Midwest. Maybe one day I’ll get it, but this was too much for me to make sense of before my coffee had cooled.
Yes, I ate three kinds of potato salad with breakfast… for you.
Verdict: Lunds & Byerlys is hilarious in their naming conventions.
Verdict: All these potato salads are actually different… if not by much.
Verdict: Swedish is best. I’m equally sure I’m wrong in your opinion for reasons having to do with your mom, which I couldn’t ever hope to argue against.