Monday, December 17, 2007

God Bless Richard Nixon

Obviously, enjoying food with family and friends is a treasured holiday ritual, especially for a girl like me who has always loved to eat and who has a tendency to develop food obsessions (the fluffernutter, Burger King ciniminis, cheese weavers, and Lean Cuisine pizzas, just to name a few). Thanks to my mother-in-law, I developed a new food obsession a few years back. My husband's family affectionately dubs this delicacy "green stuff," but its official name is Watergate Salad. I would eat and enjoy it even if it were called "snot." I am writing this post to make sure my mother-in-law keeps it on the menu this holiday!

There about a gizzilion recipes for Watergate Salad, but the one I dream about includes these key ingredients: instant pistachio pudding mix, mini marshmallows, cool whip, canned crushed pineapple with its juices, chopped pecans (if I have them), and shredded coconut (optional, but I tend to opt for it for flavor and texture). I'm sure I had green stuff at sometime in my childhood, perhaps at a family reunion, but it clearly hadn't left an impression on me. When I was re-introduced it again a few years ago, it was a revelation. I just love it.

As I neared the end of my pregnancy with the bubby, my Watergate Salad obsession intensified. In December of that year, we hosted my husband's nephew, niece, and her boyfriend for a holiday dinner. Even though my husband is not fond of green stuff and even though he was fairly sure his niece and nephew were not huge fans, I made it anyway. Then, I systematically polished off the leftovers over the course of three days. Because I could not travel for the holidays due to my pregnancy, my husband's family came to us for Christmas a couple of weeks later. In the spirit of tradition, I had to make some more green stuff. Then, I had to eat those leftovers too. When my parents came to stay with us a week later in anticipation of the bub's January due date, my mom went to the Jewel for me several times as we tried to get prepared for the bub's arrival. I have a distinct memory of asking her to secure the ingredients for yet another batch of green stuff. The bub was born (right on time on his due date, NTB) before I had finished my container of Watergate Salad. When my husband left the hospital to shower and take a short nap, I made sure he brought some green stuff back with him to the hospital. I polished off the container in one sitting as he and my mom looked on in semi-horror. "That was supposed to be two servings," I remember him protesting. But I heard green stuff promotes lactation! If only.

So last night I made some green stuff. I just started thinking about it and the holidays and I just couldn't wait. The bub helped me stir and was pretty generous with the marshmallows he added. It's not my best batch ever, but it's difficult to really mess up so I am still enjoying it. Then, I thought I'd so some research about how Watergate Salad got its name. My husband and I speculated and agreed that it must have been served at the Watergate Hotel, but apparently that was not the case at all. Kraft (the inventors of instant pistachio pudding) came up with the recipe that they called Pistachio Delight and take no credit for the name Watergate Salad. There were apparently several cookbooks with Watergate in the title, but they don't include the recipe either. The name was once traced to a Chicago Tribune food writer, but that lead was a dead end as well. So, in short, it's a mystery.

Over the course of my research, I did find two delicious tidbits concerning Watergate Salad that I couldn't help but share. The first contained this explanation linking Watergate the Scandal with Watergate the Salad: "Today some might think the reason for the name of this recipe is that someone had to resign. Not resign as in 'I give up the Presidency.' It's more like someone said 'Oh, okay, I'll eat this whole bowl if I have to!' This recipe became popular during the Watergate Scandal of the 70's and it's easy to say it's because it was full of fruit, marshmallows, and nuts. After some research into some of the history, sure enough there's some good reasons for how this recipe came to earn its moniker." As the kind of person apt to resign myself to eat a whole bowl of something, I was charmed by this explanation.

The second explanation came in response to a question about why a salad and a cake (yes, there's also Watergate Cake with Coverup Icing, but I haven't gone there yet). The answerer responded that her mom "said the name stuck because the salad was full of marshmallows, bananas and nuts and covered up with fluff - just like the Nixon administration. Everyone took it to parties and everyone was talking about the scandal. It just happened." I am trying to picture a bunch of adults in the 70's digging into bowls of Pistachio Delight while discussing politics, and it's amusing. Why, I wonder, isn't there a Lewinsky Salad or appetizer or something? Perhaps there is, but I'm just not invited to the kind of parties where it is served. NTB?

Here's wishing you all your favorite foods this holiday season. I'm off now to enjoy a little Watergate Salad before bed. NTB.


LAP said...

I believe you prepared the green stuff for the bub's 1st birthday party, hosted at my house when you were in Cincinnati. I recall enjoying the leftovers as well. I like the bites with a good chunk of crushed pineapple and try my best to avoid the nuts as I strongly feel that nuts don't belong in dessert items of any kind. My thoughts aside, you paint an intense picture of your passion for the green stuff. Even though I didn't get to visit you right after you delivered the bub, it's frightening how clearly I can picture you sitting in your hospital bed, polishing off your "two servings" (despite the concerned onlookers). I never cease to be amused when you speak of your passions for the simple things. I also love that you researched the name. Good stuff. Just really enjoyed this one.

Actchy said...

Okay, this is *fascinating* to me. I have never heard of Watergate Salad, Watergate Cake, or any other Nixon-administration-related foodstuffs. And the only other poltical-event food and/or beverage item I can think of is the drinking ping-pong game "Beirut." I would be in favor of supporting a movement to name a snack or two after the issues of our times (although I would venture to say that a Lewinsky hors d'oeuvre would almost certainly be fairly unappetizing?)

CJR said...

Sometimes the political content in this blog hits too close to home.

Steph said...

Oh, yes! My mouth is watering as you speak. I know this delicacy well and enjoy it EVERY TIME it shows up at the Christmas Eve extravaganza. I hope with two votes it might make an appearance soon!

M said...

After the bub and you made some green stuff, I decided I would, too. Alas, one serving and I have had plenty. (and not because I am a dainty eater) The walnuts in mine was the personal highlight but I am glad it gives you so much pleasure.

E... said...

As someone who has a "Watergate blanket" -- crocheted for me by my mother while she was pregnant with me and watching the Watergate hearings on TV, I am charmed by this entry as well. My own personal nostalgic salad is not "green stuff," but "5 cup salad" instead. Alas, its name does not need to researched -- just put a cup each of sour cream, mini marshmallows, coconut, mandarin oranges and canned pineapple. My grandma used to make a version for me without the pineapple, so I guess it's really "four cup salad" my cravings are for, though I haven't thought of it in a long time. Maybe I'll have to cruise the canned fruit aisle at Kroger.

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