This Friday (June 17) marks the 39th anniversary of the break-in of the Democratic National Party headquarters at the Watergate Hotel, and somehow this scandal gave birth to a peculiar recipe: Watergate Salad. The ambrosia-like summertime dessert is the product of a 1960s sensibility that easy entertaining equals canned "instant" foods. It's just a mix of pineapple chunks, mini marshmallows, and pecans in a base of pistachio pudding.
Kraft Foods debuted its bright green instant pistachio pudding mix in the 1970s and promoted a recipe using the pudding mix called Pistachio Pineapple Delight. It's believed that a crafty editor at a Chicago newspaper reprinted the recipe but renamed it "Watergate Salad," and the new name stuck.
Watergate Salad is not too pretty to look at (based on my personal experience, though the yummy appearance of the above photo is an exception). Maybe the editor was referring to the "mess" of the scandal? It's kind of chunky too—perhaps a suggestion that president Nixon should just "take his lumps?" Maybe they were referring to how nutty politics had become (there are after all, two flavors of nuts in the dessert). No one seems to have a copy of the original article for reference.
Perhaps it was just sensationalist celebrity food journalism (like tagging a Youtube video with "Lady Gaga" because you'll get more hits?).
While Kraft takes no credit for the name "Watergate Salad" they did rename the former Pistachio Pineapple Delight and maintain the recipe on their website here, in case you'd like to give it a whirl.
Have you ever prepared or eaten Watergate Salad, or do you know something about this little bit of political food history?
About the author: Lee Zalben was a PB&J-loving kid that grew up to be the founder and president of Peanut Butter & Co., which began as a Greenwich Village sandwich shop serving nothing but peanut butter sandwiches and expanded to include the now-famous line of all natural flavored peanut butter. Lee is a graduate of Vassar College and enjoys traveling the world in search of interesting foods made with peanuts, tree nuts, and seeds. When he's not working, eating, flying or writing, he enjoys scuba diving and training elephants.