Thursday, November 12, 2015

Watergate Salad

When I was younger I seemed to have this knack for having a story to go with any topic.

It kind of became a game with my friends, like "Here's a topic- go!"

These were the days before smartphones when the internet was a baby- we had to fill time somehow.  :-)

Sometimes blogging kind of feels like a flashback to that silliness.  This weird tangential loose association of memories that all somehow tie in to whatever I happen to be cooking.
I kind of love that about food, though.

It's life.  It's family.  It's friends.  It's good times.  It's memories.
It's something that ties us together, good times and bad- from the almond bread I remember baking to send to family at my grandma's bedside as kid to the image of my dad making us pancakes on Saturday mornings.  It's this thread running through life that ties it all together.

Or at least that's how I feel about it.
Visceral memories.  Delicious memories. 

Watergate salad is part of that for me.

I have this memory of a bright sunny day when I was a child (it was California, there were a lot of those...).

I was 5, maybe 6.  My friend Marti, the daughter of my dad's friend and a girl who had been in my life since her birth a year after my own, was sitting across from me on the deck behind my house.

I don't know what the occasion happened to be, but my dad's friends- still best friends since their days as a band in high school- and their families had gathered at our home.  I remember them gathered around the grill, and something in the back of my mind tells me that I have a picture of them together that day somewhere in the depths of my photo albums.  At the very least I've had a picture of them together out there burned into my mind's eye since the late 80's.

Anyway, back to Marti.
The adults were inside, we were out on the deck with our food.  Somehow this green stuff I'd never seen before had ended up on my plate, most likely part of my mom's "you have to take at least one bite" campaign.

So you know...I took the requisite bite.
Oh my gosh.  That glorious green goop.
Why had no one ever told me that salad could include marshmallows??

Pistachio pudding.  Cool whip.  Marshmallows.  A little pineapple.  A few nuts.

Sold?  No?
Ok, now that I've written that out, it doesn't really sound good to me either.
You're just going to have to trust me on this.
It's bizarrely wonderful.

I have no idea who made that salad.  I doubt I knew what it was called.  But it certainly stuck with me.

Fast forward a few years...maybe 16?
I was traveling to Tennessee for the first time with my then-boyfriend.
He kept raving about this green salad that the local grocery stores sold called Watergate Salad.

I had absolutely no idea what he was talking about but it certainly didn't sound appetizing.
We stopped at the store and grabbed some from the deli.

That amazing salad I'd had lurking in the back of my mind for all of those years.

This was the stuff.
The salad I remembered from childhood had a name!

Guys...I know this sounds weird.  I get it.
I know it looks weird.
I know it could be debated whether it's a (Thanksgiving?) side dish or a dessert.

I don't care that it looks funny.
 I don't care when you eat it.
I just care that you give it a try.

This weird green stuff deserves a chance!

3.4 oz pkg instant pistachio pudding mix
8 oz can crushed pineapple, with juice 
1 C miniature marshmallows
1/2 C finely chopped pecans
8 oz frozen whipped topping, thawed

1. In a large bowl, mix together pudding mix, pineapple with juice, marshmallows, and nuts. Fold in whipped topping. Chill.

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