8 oz Cool Whip
    8 oz Pistachio Pudding
    15 oz Can Crushed Pineapple (do not drain)
    1 Cup Miniature Marshmallows
    ½ Cup Nuts

    Fold the dry pudding into whipped topping then add the pineapple and juice.
    Add the marshmallows and nuts then stir.
    Refrigerate 3-4 hours

    Cool and creamy, great with Bluegrass, blues and summertime chicken dinners. Watergate salad is so easy, simply double up the recipe to take to large gatherings too! Serving it around the Christmas holidays? Topped with maraschino cherries it makes a pretty holiday dish.

    This is a family favorite fruit salad recipe that takes about 20 minutes to prepare so it’s great for those on the go. With pistachio pudding, whipped topping, and marshmallows it’s a bit on the sweet side. There are a number of variants that calls for adding fruit cocktail instead of pineapple and for fewer calories you can substitute Jell-O Instant fat-free/sugar-free, 8 oz vanilla low fat yogurt along with 2 ½ cups Cool Whip Free topping

    Makes about 8 servings.


It’s a cold salad with an alias

Watergate salad is really more of a dessert than a salad and it’s sometimes called Pistachio Salad. Some may think that it’s rather strange that a cold salad with this stage name could reasonably contain walnuts, but indeed this recipe calls for walnuts or just plain nuts. Of course one could use pistachios.

Pistachios have been enjoyed since ancient times and were commonly deemed an extravagant treat until the 20th century when progress made them more available to cooks. Cookery through the ages tells us that these nuts were frequently used to add some zest to ice creams and parfaits. They were also used in pates, salads, baked goods, and candy, Volume 2 of The Cambridge World History of Food (2000) explains:

"Pistachio nut (is) a native of central Asia and member of the cashew family, the pistachio nut...has been cultivated for some 3,000 years and has a long history of popularity in the Mediterranean world. But it was not until the 1930s with the advent of vending machines, that pistachio nuts (also called pistache) imported from Italy became something of a rage in the United States as a snack food."

What’s all this Watergate stuff?

In 1972 the Democratic National Committee Headquarters located at the Watergate Hotel and office complex in Washington, D.C. was broken into. The capture of five burglars led to an investigation by both the government and the media. They discovered that the burglars were connected with the campaign to re-elect Nixon. Further investigations also uncovered that the president and his aides had almost certainly misused their official powers in other ways. For example G. Gordon Liddy known as one of the “Plumbers” attempted to fixed a leak by breaking into the office of psychologist and previous Pentagon employee Daniel Ellsberg who had not only leaked the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times in 1971, but was eventually prosecuted for espionage, theft, and conspiracy.

Congressional hearings revealed other evidence that President Nixon had installed a tape-recording device in the Oval Office. When the special prosecutor tried to get theses tapes from the Oval Office Nixon tried to block him by removing him from his job. However the second special prosecutor upheld by a ruling of a federal district court was successful in getting the president to hand over the tapes. However Nixon only made public some condensed transcripts and edited versions of the tapes.

The case made its way to the Supreme Court where Nixon’s lawyers argued “that the case couldn't be heard in the courts because it involved a dispute within the executive branch.” They further argued that, “executive immunity and privilege should protect the tapes.”

The special prosecutor responded,” that executive privilege is not absolute and that in this case the confidentiality normally accorded a president and his aides had to give way to the demands of the legal system in a criminal case. To give the president absolute executive privilege, he claimed, would amount to an unchecked power that could undermine the rule of law.“

On March 1, 1974, the former aides of the president known as the Watergate Seven were indicted by a grand jury for conspiring to hinder the Watergate investigation. The grand jury also secretly named Nixon as an un-indicted co-conspirator. Congress began investigations into impeachment proceedings against the President and by July his presidency was teetering on the brink of disaster from the scandal. On the evening of August 8, 1974, President Nixon announced he would resign effective by noon the following day. With his resignation voiding the criminal investigations, Nixon avoided impeachment and conviction.

Now let me make this perfectly clear.

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.

Both Watergate salad, as well, as a recipe for Watergate cake were popular during the 1970’s and there were a number of our parents' parties when my sister and I prepared this tongue-in-cheek dish. In 1973 there were a couple of cookbooks published to commemorate this auspiciously American event: "The Watergate Cookbook" (N.Y. Alplaus) and "The Watergate Cookbooks (Or, Who's in the Soup?)" by The Committee to Write the Cookbook. Lynne Olver of The Food Timeline comments that, ”These may have been inspired by The Washington Post writer Tom Donnelly, who published an article titled Serve Hot, Then Count the Silver. “ In addition to this classic Watergate recipe Olver goes on to list several other recipe titles from the Committee to Write the Cookbook: like, "Nixon's Hot Crossed Wired Buns with Tapping", "Liddy’s Clam-Up Chowder" and "Ellsberg's Leek Soup".

While Watergate salad clearly gets its name from the scandal that caused Nixon's resignation, the connection between politics and the dessert is pretty ambiguous. For instance there are some connections to the Kraft Company because in 1975 they introduced the pistachio instant pudding mix used in both recipes. Even so, Kraft refuses to take credit for the name. Pat Risso of Kraft Corporate Affairs explains, "We developed the recipe for Pistachio Pineapple Delight. It was in 1975, the same year that pistachio pudding mix came out." In a 1999 article for The Richmond Times Dispatch, titled The proof is in the pudding; crashing Watergate Louis Mahoney notes in his research that Kraft didn’t refer to it at all by this name until consumers started demanding a recipe for “Watergate Salad.” In another response from Kraft to an e-mail query a representative says, "According to Kraft Kitchens, when the recipe for Pistachio Pineapple Delight was sent out, a Chicago food editor renamed it Watergate Salad to promote interest in the recipe when she printed it in her column." To follow up on his quest, Mahoney placed a call to Carol Haddix, the food editor of the Chicago Tribune who said. "Never heard of it."

Additional calls by the reporter to “previous Chicago food editors, publicists and retired Kraft Kitchens personnel also hit dead ends." However one writer for The Record (Bergen County, NJ) did discover in March 2000 that the original name for the cake recipe is “Watergate cake with cover-up icing." It’s reasonable to conclude that this is probably a recipe that had been served for several years and eventually gained its out of the ordinary name from the parties, papers and reporting of the day. The most recent publication of this recipe was in the 1997 edition of JELL-O Celebrating 100 Years .

Sources :

"Eating Lite" Recipes:
Accessed June 1, 2005.

Kiple, Kenneth F. and Ornelas, Kriemhild Conee. The Cambridge World History of Food, Volume 2, (2000), p.1835.

My recipe box.

Olver, Lynne, The Food Timeline:
Accessed June 1, 2005.

Olver, Lynne, The Food Timeline:
Accessed June 1, 2005.

United States v. Nixon (1974), Background Summary:
Accessed June 1, 2005.

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