In the American tradition of making something impossibly sweet and calling it a salad, Watergate salad became very popular in 1974. It’s a combination of pistachio pudding and Cool Whip, laden with pineapple chunks, pecans, and miniature marshmallows. It may have gained our attention because of the name, as the recipe was published in newspapers during the Watergate investigation headlines of 1974. But maybe it was just an easier version of Watergate cake, which was first published in 1973 during the Watergate hearings. People would joke that it was called Watergate cake because it has so many nuts in it. Others jokes that the whipped frosting was a coverup.
But then again, the inspiration may have come even earlier. The Water Gate Inn in Washington went defunct in 1966, but at one time served a Water Gate Ice Box Cake, even though the recipe was quite different. While the origin of the name is probably impossible to determine, pistachio pudding will always be associated with the Watergate scandal for some reason or another. Read what we know of the history of Watergate salad at Mental Floss.
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On a slightly related topic, the Jell-O company will let you know that pistachio pudding debuted in 1976. However, Royal Desserts was selling pistachio pudding mix as far back as 1966, and that was the brand used in early Watergate cake and Watergate salad recipes.