What ingredients should go in Christmas Eve potato salad? Survey finds some surprising results

Basic ingredients for Christmas Eve potato salad

Virtually every Czech household will be eating some form of potato salad as part of their Christmas Eve dinner – but everyone seems to have their own recipe and surprisingly the list of ingredients can spark heated debate between the “traditionalist” and “liberal” camps. To find out what most Czechs put into their potato salad, and whether there are any significant regional differences, a team of data journalists at Czech Radio polled a number of listeners and did a statistical analysis on the results.

Petr Kočí | Photo: iROZHLAS.cz

Petr Kočí, part of the team behind the survey, describes how the data was collected.

“We had a web app that was based on the ‘Hot or Not’ concept that was popularised by Mark Zuckerberg about 15 years ago, where people choose between two ingredients that they are offered randomly. There was no option to pass the choice, so they had to choose the lesser evil, or the thing that was easier for them to imagine in their Christmas salad.”

Perhaps the most surprising outcome of the survey was that there was not 100% consensus on using potatoes in potato salad, with some people choosing other ingredients over the humble tuber when faced with a choice. However, potatoes still came out on top, with pickles, eggs, mayonnaise and carrots right behind them in the ranking.

After carrots, there was a wide gulf before reaching the next most popular ingredients: onions, peas and mustard. However, although already significantly less popular than the five core ingredients, these three still came out in what could be considered the mainstream.

Potato salad | Photo: Ondřej Tomšů,  Radio Prague International

After mustard came a transitional, somewhat experimental zone including ingredients such as parsley, pepper and celery. Beyond that, it was anyone’s game. The least popular ingredients were orange, Olomouc cheese, and honey.

Petr Kočí says the thing that surprised him most about the results of the survey was the apparent lack of regional differences.

“From the statistical analysis, we saw that most regions are actually quite similar to one another, with a few exceptions, like the Vysočina Region. I expected that there would be much more data variation between the regions, but the only strong differences that we really found were in the Vysočina Region – it differed from the average because people use a greater quantity and variety of ingredients there. Across the entire spectrum of 43 ingredients that we selected for this survey, all of them were more likely to be added to the salad in Vysočina.”

Potato salad | Photo: Štěpánka Budková,  Radio Prague International

Aside from the apparently high number of experimental chefs in Vysočina, the other visible difference that emerged from the data was in the Pilsen Region.

“There was also a slight difference in the Pilsen Region, where people were more likely to add meat ingredients, like ham or salami. This was actually confirmed by my colleagues who have relatives in the Pilsen Region, that this is quite common there.”

Meat ingredients were in fact the most divisive, with Olomouc cheese, beetroot, orange, celery and zucchini also proving to be a significant source of disagreements at the Christmas dinner table.

Author: Anna Fodor
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