Herring Salad and Papa

It’s New Year’s Eve, and on every New Year’s Eve of my life, I have had herring salad.  I guess that’s not literally true.  I am not sure at what age I started eating it.  I do remember liking it though even when I was pretty small.

Herring Salad is a German dish and part of our New Year’s Eve tradition. The primary ingredients are potatoes, herring, beets, pickles and mayonnaise.  It’s very dark pink and as you might imagine, it smells a little fishy.

This year was the first time I had made herring salad without Papa.  Of course he has rarely been here with us physically on New Year’s Eve since we grew up, but  he was always very much a part of our herring salad preparations no matter where we were.

We’d almost always have an annual chat about the herring salad, and he always would ask me if I added an apple to it (that’s a secret ingredient).

Some years he asked me if we had added Spam because this is something we used to do when I was little.  This became kind of a joke because none of really eats Spam anymore.  (nor do most of us eat herring except for on New Year’s Eve – except for Papa. He did.)

After we all had digital cameras, phones, email and social media, we would share our pictures of herring salad with each other.

I was looking through old emails this morning and I found this one from Papa.  He wrote it on 12-31-12:

“This is very essential. Do not put Herring salad in a plastic bowl and do not eat with plastic fork or spoon. Happy New Year to all of you. Papa.”

(Papa never liked eating with or on plastic ever.  Just in case you thought the herring salad might cause the plastic to disintegrate – it does seem like it has that power).


This year I felt the comfort of tradition.  As I chopped up all the ingredients, I felt as though Papa was right there with me.  He knows that I added the apple, and that there is no Spam in the salad.  He’s happy that the tradition continues.  Happy New Year!

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