SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News) – Today was a big day for the salt potato in Syracuse. The Pomeroy Foundation launched its Hungry for History grant program with the inaugural marker in Syracuse. The marker will honor the historical Syracuse salt potato.
“In Syracuse people aren’t even really aware that Syracuse was the main provider of salt to the entire country at one point,” said Deryn Pomeroy, founder of the Hungry for History program. “I think it’s a great aspect to share about Syracuse.”
The salt potato dates back to the 19th century when Irish immigrants were working on the salt flats. To commemorate this history, the first ever marker will be placed at the Salt Museum on Onondaga Lake.
“At one point 600 acres around the lake were covered by salt blocks so it’s the perfect spot for the marker,” said Bob Searing, historian at the Onondaga Historical Association.
The main goal of the Hungry for History program is to ensure that local dishes, like the salt potato, are not just eaten, but that the history behind the meal is preserved. In order for a dish to be eligible for a marker, there are various requirements that the meal must go through as well. This includes the following:
- Ready-to-eat dish
- Contains at least 2 ingredients
- Dish is created prior to 1960
- Dish has historical significance
- Dish is still available today
The salt potato fulfills those requirements. Plus the Onondaga Historical Association was able to prove the history.
“We know the folklore that they were invented by the salt workers sometime in the 19th century, but I was able to find a direct connection to an Irish immigrant who came to Syracuse in the 1830s and started working in the salt industry in the 1840s. It’s been really exciting to work on,” said Searing.
Now, when people attend the Salt Museum, they will be reminded of the history that backs the popular dish.
“People love salt potatoes,” said Searing. “Food is that connection to memory. So I think there is a real romanticism and love and nostalgia for the potato.”
The Pomeroy Foundation expects more applications from the area to come in for the Hungry for History grant as well as around the nation.