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Vintage Recipe or Washington Scandal? Watergate Salad

Apparently, I have been using the term “vintage” wrong. It applies to something that was in popular vogue in the past, went into a period of being “out of date,” but has now resurfaced again as being popular.

I just thought it meant old. Sort of a euphemism for “antique.”

In regards to recipes being “vintage,” I found nothing on the internet. Frankly, I have a hard time calling recipes “antique.” In my mind, antique denotes worn or frayed edges, and/or possible wear and tear from being used. Sometimes it just means old.

I certainly don’t wish to eat “old” food. Just saying.

So in the future, just so my readers know, I will dub these recipes “vintage” and go on with my merry Christmasing and beyond. And this week I wish to bring to you an oldie but goodie – Watergate Salad.

This recipe has graced the tables at our Christmas feasts since I first made it in high school nearly thirty years ago. A quick sidedish, it is great for putting together ahead of time and then, as it chills in the refrigerator, the cook can move to other things. It has a “sweet” look and a sweet taste, and if you take it to pot luck dinners and the like, where no one remembers it, it will get placed with the desserts as a pudding if you are not careful. (By the way, double it for potluck dinners. It goes fast as everyone oohs and aahs not only at the taste but the memories as well.)

Picture from

Picture from

As for the history of Watergate Salad, most folks think it has something to do with the Watergate Scandal which burst forth during the Nixon Administration in the mid-70s. The real origin of the name, however, is a bit more obscure and sketchy.

The dish was created by Kraft Corporate Affairs in 1975, the same year that pistachio pudding arrived on store shelves. Not even the Kraft company can substantiate the origin of the name “Watergate Salad.” The original name of the dish, as dubbed by Kraft, was “Pistachio Pineapple Delight.” According to Kraft, when the recipe for “Pistachio Pineapple Delight” was sent out, an unnamed food editor in Chicago renamed the dish “Watergate Salad” to promote interest in her column. Imagine Kraft’s surprise, shortly thereafter, when customers requesting the recipe referred to it as “Watergate Salad.”

Since then various rumors, none substantiated, have surfaced about the recipe and the name. The Denver Post in 1976 cited a rumor that the dish was created by the assistant chef at the Watergate Hotel in Washington, D. C. Served at brunch and on weekends, the dish took off in popularity during and after the Watergate scandal of President Richard Nixon’s Administration.

Interestingly, at the time a number of other dishes surfaced as part of a trend toward satirically-named recipes. Others included Nixon’s Perfectly Clear Consomme and Liddy’s Clam-Up Chowder.

Yea, it’s alright. Go ahead and laugh. (I guess since Saturday Night Live was in its infancy (1975), and social media had not been invented, people took to their kitchens to express their displeasure with the political system.)

The funniest explanation for the name, however, comes from Anne Adams and Nan Nash-Cumming, syndicated household advice columnists. They reported in their “Anne & Nan” column of 9 October 1997 that the name came from “Watergate Cake” which shares many of the same ingredients. The cake, like the pudding, was created during the Watergate scandal, and the cake, at least, has a “cover-up” icing and is full of “nuts.”

Yea, you are entitled to more laughter (especially after the fractious election we just all lived through).

Just don’t choke on the politicians, er . . . nuts in your salad.

Recipe for Watergate Salad


1 20 oz can crushed pineapple, undrained 1 3.4 oz Jello Pistachio Pudding and Pie Filling 1 cup miniature marshmallows 1/2 cup chopped pecans 1 8 oz frozen whipped topping, thawed

Mix all the ingredients together and chill for an hour or two before serving.

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