EM – Watergate salad is a tradition in my family that has been a controversy for years and years. Every Easter, my Aunt brings a dish that mainly consists of marshmallows and is dyed green. The name of this concoction is Watergate salad and every year my aunt puts it on the dinner table arguing that it is meant as a side dish with dinner. Everyone else argues that it’s a dessert. The same arguments are made every year and the issue has never been resolved to this day.
Interviewer – What are some of the arguments your family makes for and against Watergate salad being a salad instead of a dessert?
EM – My aunt argues that it’s green, so its a salad. Everyone else says it’s sweet, made of marshmallows and jello, so it’s a dessert.
Interviewer – Does anyone besides your aunt eat it as a side at dinner, or do people wait until dessert, or do people not even eat it and it’s kinda just a prop?
EM – A couple of my cousins sometimes take a minuscule scoop at dinner. Most other wait til dessert.
Interviewer – Is it only an Easter meal?
EM – Ya, only Easter.
Interviewer – Do you know any other families who have a similar recipe at their Easter meal?
EM – I’ve never heard of anyone else having it.
Interviewer – Is it always present at Easter, and is it mainly a yearly joke that everyone still enjoys, or is this serious debate?
EM – It’s always at Easter when my aunt comes. And it’s both a joke and a debate that still gets laughs.
Interviewer – Does anyone else know the recipe or just your aunt?
EM – As far as I know, my aunt is the only one.
This family’s traditional dish is only for Easter, so it was not collected in a natural context. However, the informant and I were talking about favorite foods, which veered into dishes we eat only at certain times or events.
Watergate salad is named for its controversial status as a “salad” or a “dessert.” This folk group consists only of the informant’s immediate and extended family, and close friends who attend their Easter dinner.
The dish is not a regular recipe meant only to be eaten. It is also a joke. The family engages in playful debate about the salad and may refuse to eat it during or after dinner, but it gets eaten nonetheless. The dish brings the family closer together, because it is an inside joke, and always gets laughs no matter the stance.