11th May 2008

Watergate Salad

Per a request from Trott (before he realized that he was facing the very real danger of actually having to eat the salads I make), the next salad I made manifest from the 1979 Marysville United Methodist Women’s Cookbook was the dreaded Watergate Salad.

The alien landscape of Watergate Salad
The alien landscape of Watergate Salad

There is something intriguing about the idea that anything in 1979 would willingly carry the appellation “Watergate.” I recently discovered a nearly-identical Watergate Salad in a 1981 Lutheran church cookbook from Wisconsin. This little beast got around. More astounding, there is a Wikipedia entry for this affront to the culinary arts. According to the dubious, citation-less, stubbalicious entry:

No one is really sure of where the name came from. Kraft Corporate Affairs said, “We developed the recipe for Pistachio Pineapple Delight. It was in 1975, the same year that pistachio pudding mix came out.” Kraft, however, didn’t refer to it as Watergate Salad until consumers started requesting the recipe for it under the name. “According to Kraft Kitchens, when the recipe for Pistachio Pineapple Delight was sent out, an unnamed Chicago food editor renamed it Watergate Salad to promote interest in the recipe when she printed it in her column.”

This? This is the best the Kraft Kitchens could come up with to promote their new pistachio pudding flavor? I know pistachio pudding, I have enjoyed pistachio pudding, and these ingredients are not friends to pistachio pudding:

Watergate Salad recipe: if you recite it in front of a mirror three times, Nixon appears and bites your face off.
Watergate Salad recipe: if you recite it in front of a mirror three times, Nixon appears and bites your face off.
Mmm... slime
Mmm… slime

The green, slimy first stage of Watergate Salad — the precursor, if you will — had a certain je ne sais quoi.

My initial reaction to a bite of Watergate Salad was “it wouldn’t be so bad if it didn’t have the mini-marshmallows.” My second reaction was, “oh, wait, no… it would be exactly that bad.” This stuff is vile. The recipe sounded dreadful, and boy did it deliver. Luckily, I did not have to bear the burden of Watergate Salad on my own: I was invited to a potluck dinner. The “salad” went untouched for nearly the whole meal, but at the end of the night, a few brave souls dug in — and liked it! Go figure. So, I guess there’s an audience for Watergate Salad after all.

There are step-by-step pictures, if you want to see the whole gory production (including multi-color mini-marshmallows in their native environment — Cool Whip!). Coming up next thanks to a request from Liz: Corned Beef Salad!

There are currently 13 responses to “Watergate Salad”

  1. 1 On May 11th, 2008, dogbytes said:

    i think its because you used pastel marshmallows, that you disliked this delicious dish! i think it tastes even better if you allow the flavours to meld overnight. Watergate Salad is one of my guilty pleasures.

  2. 2 On May 12th, 2008, Humuhumu said:

    You’re in good company — I was surprised how many people at the foodie dinner I was at loved the Watergate Salad. Do multi-color mini-marshmallows taste different from white ones?

  3. 3 On May 12th, 2008, dogbytes said:

    i’m pretty sure, the pastel ones, have fruity flavours. there was probably a collision of chemicals that made the Wonderful Watergate Salad a little bit off. i also might have affected the colour.

    now i am inspired to have a Lutheran Potluck theme party.

    i blog my food adventures on myspace, not as picture intense, but fun nonetheless. cooking from scratch has become a Lost Art.

  4. 4 On May 12th, 2008, dogbytes said:

    Mini marshmallows in delicious fruit flavors. Orange. Lemon. Strawberry. Lime., Perfect in a fruit salad or right out of the bag for a fruity, fat free treat! but not so perfect for Watergate Salad.

  5. 5 On May 12th, 2008, Humuhumu said:

    Hoo boy, if the packaging on my marshmallows mentioned flavoring, then I missed it in all the excitement. That can’t have helped. The Lutheran cookbook version called for “whipping cream” but I think they meant whipped cream, because it’d be seriously gloopy if it wasn’t whipped. I do, though, think it’d be better with whipped cream than Cool Whip — one less chemical in the mix.

    I do think it’s worth trying again, but I’m going to hang up my Watergate Salad-making hat, and instead look forward to enjoying it from the hands of a master during my next visit to the Rongo Rongo Room. :)

    I totally agree about scratch cooking. I was talking to someone just this weekend about how different very old cookbooks are: they assume you know how to do basic things like making a roux. My foray through the 1979 Marysville United Methodist Women’s Cookbook was inspired by a much more noble cooking blog adventure: Trott’s trip through the entire Joy of Cooking. I won’t learn how to make a roux, but boy howdy I will be a Jello mold master!

  6. 6 On May 13th, 2008, dogbytes said:

    i havent found a book that i’ve wanted to make all the recipes ~ but this article in the Stranger, really struck a chord in me ~ http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/Content?oid=445158

    not that im suicidal, but baking does make me happier. that and my SAD light. and massive doses of coffee. remind me, PNW girl, when is it supposed to be spring?

  7. 7 On June 23rd, 2008, Lahern said:

    I doubt the flavors were ever actually made, but as a kid I remember a contest in Dynamite Magazine to name a new topical Baskin-Robbins ice cream flavor. The front runners were “Watergate Ice” (I have no idea what that might taste like), and my favorite, “Impeachmint.”

  8. 8 On December 31st, 2008, Sandi said:

    The way I was taught to make it was to mix the pudding according to the package directions {with 2 cups of milk} and then add drained pineapple {crushed} mini marshmallows and cool whip. This way makes a much lighter, fluffier dessert.

  9. 9 On November 7th, 2009, Dinerwood Mike said:

    It’s called Watergate salad because the Watergate hotel was green.

  10. 10 On May 12th, 2010, papawow said:

    An “affront to the culinary arts” maybe; but there is something that draws me to this recipe. I’m going to have to make some…

  11. 11 On December 8th, 2011, tina said:

    My mom made this when I was a kid. Except she mixed the pudding in with the Cool whip first, then added cottage cheese, mini marshmallows and mandarin oranges instead of pineapple. We loved it and my kids still say every holiday “You’re going to make the pistachio right?” (Obviously the actual name didn’t stick)

  12. 12 On December 10th, 2011, starfire said:

    a friend made a variation of this for a potluck at work but she called it a “dump salad”. you dump 1 large can of crushed pineapple, 1 large box of lime jello, 1 large container of cottage cheese, 1 cup of walnunt pieces, 1 package of mini-marshmallows, mix it all up then fold in a large container of whipped cream. i have since made it several times (also in double batches) and it always disappears! i believe people like it because it doesn’t sit as heavy as cake.
    i am looking for the pink one that has cherries, pineapple, whipped cream… etc

  13. 13 On July 30th, 2013, Teri said:

    I would love to address by name, but I see you’ve created a psuedonymn. Hmm? There is something to be said about the phrase, “If you cannot say anything nice, don’t say it at all.” Shame on you if you really feel better about bashing not only the recipe, but the dear ladies that publish and make it for gatherings. Is this blog simply for you to exercise your food snobbery? If you love food, you do understand that everyone has their own taste and not one is right or wrong, it is simply what it is. You may not prefer someone else’s favorites, and they may not prefer yours. Food is one thing that is wonderful in the varieties of flavors as well as what it does to bring people together. Who am I to judge why someone prefers fluff over fouf. That’s one thing about the Midwest that I love– unless you live in the Chicago-land area, if you’re from the Midwest, you don’t judge others, you just sit back and enjoy each other’s food and company. Chew on that =) !