Even if I couldn’t see the dogwood blooming in the front yard, trace my name in the pollen on my car or hear the whoosh of the air conditioner kicking on before 10 a.m., I’d know it was springtime in the South, because the Jell-O Pistachio Pudding’s almost sold out at Walmart.

Reach for a box, and the church ladies start swarming, like angry bees guarding fresh honeysuckle.

They know you can’t have Easter here without a big bowl of Watergate Salad, and you can’t have Watergate Salad without pistachio pudding.

I started eating Watergate Salad long before I knew it had a proper name. Mama always called it Green Stuff. I’d watch as the pistachio pudding mix turned the Cool Whip a soft shade of Easter egg-green while Mama folded them into the crushed pineapple, mini marshmallows and pecans. She’d keep an all-purpose batch in the fridge all spring and most of the summer. It was a cold side, a quick snack and a cheap alternative to ice cream.

So, how did it get that name? When Kraft introduced the recipe in 1975 to help sell its new pistachio pudding mix, it was called Pistachio Pineapple Delight. Supposedly, a Chicago food editor thought it needed a more memorable name and printed it in the paper as Watergate Salad. People called requesting the recipe by that name until Kraft finally changed it.

As salads go, this one is far from the ideal. There’s Cool Whip instead of arugula and marshmallows where the cherry tomatoes should be. But it can pass for dessert in a pinch, and that’s something a wedge of iceberg with Ranch dressing just can’t do.

Watergate Salad

Slightly adapted from the Kraft Foods original recipe.

From Rebecca Crump (Ezra Pound Cake)

Makes 10 servings (about 1/2 cup each)

  • 1 can (20 ounces) crushed pineapple in juice, undrained
  • 1 package (3.4 ounces) Jell-O Pistachio Instant Pudding
  • 1 cup miniature marshmallows
  • 1 cup pecan halves (or 1/2 cup chopped pecans)
  • 1 1/2 cups whipped topping (like Cool Whip), thawed
  1. Grab a large bowl, add the first four ingredients, and stir them together.
  2. Fold in the whipped topping.
  3. Refrigerate the salad for 1 hour before serving.

Nutritional Information (Per Serving) – calories: 200, fat: 8g, carbs: 31g, fiber: 1g, protein: 1g, PP+ = 6

Low-Fat Watergate Salad

From Kraft Foods

Makes 8 servings (1/2 cup each; 100 calories per serving)

  • 1 can (8 oz.) crushed pineapple in juice, undrained
  • 1 package (1 oz.) Jell-O Pistachio Fat-Free Sugar-Free Instant Pudding
  • 1 cup vanilla low-fat yogurt
  • 2-1/2 cups thawed Cool Whip Free, divided
  1. Combine the first three ingredients in a large bowl, and whisk until blended.
  2. Stir in 2 cups Cool Whip.
  3. Refrigerate for 1 hour. Serve with remaining Cool Whip.

Nutritional Information (Per Serving) – calories: 100, fat: 1.5g, carbs: 20g, fiber: 0, protein: 2g, PP+ = 3