You Got the Pink Stuff, Baby.

It has come to my attention that there is a little confusion over what exactly a salad is. I have always thought of it as lettuce with maybe some cucumbers or tomatoes punctuating the leaves, and then dressing like ranch or thousand island doused on top. It’s a straightforward, healthy(ish) dish whose presence on your plate cancels out the less-than-nutritious properties of pizza or hamburger. As long as there’s a little green, you’re good to go ahead and eat the entire sheet of lasagna. The same principle applies to fruit, and that’s why it’s OK to eat an entire bucket of fried chicken as long as you chase it with a shot of apple butter.

My grandmother saw things differently. Her definition of a salad was a tad more southern.

When I think back on the meals I spent at my maternal grandparents’ table in rural Tennessee, I cannot remember one single garden variety (heh) salad I ever consumed there. I know that they were there because I always referred to ranch dressing as “Mama Rodgie dressing” when I was a kid, and I only used ranch on salads back then. But that elusive crisp dish has effectively been eliminated from my memory. All I remember was Mama Rodgie’s treasured salad that my cousins and I lovingly called The Pink Stuff.

This is what it looked like. Source

Sorry, when I was seven I didn’t Instagram Mama Rodgie’s dish. I had to steal this picture from the Internet. Source

The term “salad” was bandied around freely when my family defined the nomenclature of this dish, but salad it was not. The only resemblance it had to its healthier cousins was that it was served cold. I don’t have the recipe and I don’t know if any of my family members do either, but I would venture a guess that it consisted of Cool Whip, jarred maraschino cherries, the juice of said cherries, canned pineapple, and gelatin to give it a firmer texture.


There are a few reasons why The Pink Stuff could not have possibly been a salad. The first is empirical: there was absolutely nothing in it that even nodded at the concept of health-conscientiousness or freshness. In their pre-industrialized life, the cherries and other fruit chunks that could be found in it had been healthy, but once jarred and canned in sugary syrup, they gave up that ghost.

pink-velvet-salad-2Another reason that it could not have been a salad was that I only remember the kids of the family eating it. Everyone knows that salads were invented by adults to put a damper on their offspring’s mealtimes. The adult love of salads is only matched by the childhood hatred of them. Yet all my cousins and I loved The Pink Stuff and never saw an adult it eat. Thus, it could not have been a salad.

Finally, it could not have been a salad because we never ate it as an appetizer or as a side dish. It was relegated to the land of dessert and we only got to dollop it into Mama Rodgie’s ice cream bowls if we finished our pot roast and mashed potatoes. Seriously, has any one ever been bribed to finish the near-perfect dish that is sour cream mashed potatoes? And even if they had, would the best tool of bribery be a salad? I thinketh not.

I think back on that dessert salad and I miss my grandmother a lot. I am reminded that the only person in the world who can get away with feeding children sweets disguised as healthy morsels of plant matter are grandparents, and that is what makes them so special.

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  1. I remember my Grandma’s mac and cheese, which is not a salad but was probably the most unhealthy version of a mac and cheese there could ever be…yet delicious! Maybe that’s Grandma’s signature move, turning tame food items into heart attack entrees…

    1. Grandmas are good for that. Do you know that some people actually try to sneak cauliflower into their macaroni? TRAVESTY.

  2. NotAPunkRocker · · Reply

    See, I am from the South and I don’t get the “salad vs salad” debate. Maybe I am not Southern enough?

    Thanks to some coworkers and friends, I finally figured out “hot dish” and “casserole” are almost the same thing and not just a specific request for warm vs. cold foods.

    1. I didn’t know that they were the same thing, but now that you mention it, that makes so much sense! I went to countless church potlucks growing up where the church bulletins requested hot dishes and people just brought a gazillion casseroles. Om noms.

  3. At our last family gathering asked my grandmother to bring the salad and she brought Ambrosia. True story.

    1. YES, Ambrosia! My other grandmother used to make that. Or was it trifle? Are they the same?

  4. My grandmother never served this, but my husband’s grandma made the green variety (Waldorf salad?). I could never eat it because it has cottage cheese or some such nastiness in it, and I would occasionally come across surprise curds. I do not like curds, surprise or otherwise.

    1. You are walking a fine line when you cook with cottage cheese. The only time green food coloring should be added to it is is when you’re making those haunted house foods that are meant to look like slime or brains.

  5. That last paragraph is spot on! I do have some love in my heart for members of this mysterious jello salad family. My grandma used to make a green one, with lime jello, possibly cool whip, pinapple, and little pecans. Smooth and wiggly deliciousness. Oh man…I just realized that this week’s blog hop is going to make me really hungry. I have a feeling I’ll be making a trip to the grocery store to get the oddest combination of foods that I will inevitably be craving.

    1. Jello salads are amazing. I was watching this PBS doc once where the guys who make America’s Test Kitchen were recreating all these classic turn-of-the-century fancy dishes, and the gelatin and aspic creations they made were gorgeous. I’d never eat them BECAUSE ASPIC but they were incredible to look at.

      Lime jello. MMMMMMMMmmmm ;D

      1. OMG, I just realized I talked about lime jello in my post today too. I must have lime jello on the brain. Weird.

        1. It’s OK if you’re getting paid by Jello to plug their product online. You are a good followup spokesperson to Bill Cosby.

  6. My mom makes something called “The Green Stuff” which I think is very similar. I can’t eat it, though, because pineapples. Nasty.

    1. The only time I will eat pineapples is when they are 100% fresh. I hated them as a child because even without the spines, they cut the roof of my mouth.

      1. I just don’t like the taste.

  7. Okay, I have to confess that when I read the title of this, my first thought was, ‘ZOMG, is Emily pregnant?!’ Give me the “pink” (lines, anyone) and “baby” all at once like that. . . Yeah. Plus my brain has been weirdly preoccupied lately, entirely without my consent! :)

    1. Hahahahahaha! Nope, no babies here, thank God. This house is full up!

  8. Ugh….my mom used to make this pink stuff and everyone went crazy over it. I hated it – I’d dive in for additional portions of lasagna! Nice Grandma story. :)

    1. Oh man, lasagna over ambiguous pink concoctions any day! That’s an easy one!

    1. What exactly *is* ambrosia? I am trying to remember how it’s different from trifle.

      1. it has mini marshmallows and possibly flaked coconut – not like trifle, more like cool whip salad.

  9. I was an adult the first time I ever had “fruit salad” without cool-whip. The fresh fruits confused me!

    1. Cool whip is so incredibly good. I’d add it to spaghetti if I could figure out how.

  10. I remember those salads! (And I’ve been around a lot longer than you, so think of how horrifically unhealthy the older versions were…) The interesting thing is, my kids wouldn’t eat that if they encountered it today. They don’t like whipped cream. How is that possible?! I’d like to say it was good parenting, and they never developed a taste for sugar, but I’d be lying. They enjoy cookies just fine. But your grandma’s salad? They’d pass that on by. :)

    1. My husband doesn’t like whipped cream either! They are all freaks of nature, I think. Or maybe all of us who love it are missing a chromosome ;D

  11. I know this is totally cruel and I’m sorry about saying this (warning). But when I see that, I think of the pink slime meat from McDonalds! Thankfully I didn’t have that mental connection when grandma served it up ;)

    1. OMG I totally thought of that stuff too! No more industrialized meats for me, thank you very much! ;D

      1. Couldn’t agree more. GROSS

  12. My grandmother’s “famous” salad, was an orange flavored Jello carrot salad. And it’s exactly what it sounds like: shredded carrots, tossed into orange Jello, chilled, and served. For whatever reason, it seemed completely normal for this to be a “thing” at EVERY family family get-together (especially the holidays). Moral of the story: Southern Nanas are weird, but God bless ’em, what would we do without them?

    1. That totally reminds me of the carrot and raisin salad from Chick Fil A. I haven’t been in there in like ten years so I don’t even know if they still have it, but my best friend’s little brother worked there in high school and he said that they had this carrot, raisin, and mayonnaise salad that only geriatric restaurant patrons would order.

      And you were wondering why raisins gross me out so much.

      1. Dang…I think they actually still have that. Ew.

        1. I adore Chik-fil-a’s carrot/raisin salad! :D Thou shalt not ruin it for me.

          1. *silently judges you*

  13. My Mom STILL makes that same exact salad at every family reunion. :)

    1. What do you guys call it? I have a feeling it has a better title than The Pink Stuff.

      1. Fruit salad, of course. :)

      2. I think she MAY have called it cherry salad sometimes too….I kind of like pink stuff. :)

  14. I have a friend who makes jello “salad,” with mini hot dogs and pretzels in it. I kid you not.

    1. o.O Wow. I think I got a stomachache just reading that.

      1. Yeah, that’s nothing short of gross. Blech! Actually, if you leave out the mini dogs, the salty pretzel combo with jello sounds good!

      2. Yeah, right? On the other hand, she makes mini franks with bacon and maple syrup that make your toes curl… SO yummy!

  15. We eat Pink Salad! Only it’s “Green Salad” and it’s, shockingly, green! Pistachio jello, cool whip, pineapple, pecans, marshmallows, cherries. Only we eat ours with dinner, carefully on the side of the plate as to not touch the hot beef sandwiches, cheesy potatoes or baked beans. It’s a Christmas Eve tradition, for kids and adults. You don’t get dessert until you eat your green salad. True facts.

  16. Then AM reads the other comments, sees other people eat the green salad and realizes she’s not as special and fancy free as previously thought. She still wants some green &$!= :@$ salad now, though.

    1. Hahahaha! Don’t worry; my family isn’t as special as I thought it was because apparently everyone has tried The Pink Stuff. DANG YOU INTERNET FOR MAKING THIS WORLD SO SMALL!

  17. I love the humor in your blogs …….. :) really nice and fun ……..

    1. Thank you! If you can’t laugh at yourself, what can you laugh at?

  18. Nice bit about your grandma. I remember being a kid and asking my mother, “Why is grandma’s vegetable soup so good (meaning “better than yours”)? She just rolled her eyes and said, “Because she puts sugar in it.”

    1. Of course! Sugar makes everything better. Salt too. I remember being a newlywed and trying to cook for myself and my husband, and when I finally figured out that things *actually* taste better when you put a little salt on them, I felt like I has invented the wheel.

  19. Teresa Pate · · Reply

    Mama Rodgie is smiling in heaven right now. And I have a tear in my eye remembering. Hope I have a special recipe C. will remember, Mom

    1. That shouldn’t be too hard. Everything you make is incredibly delicious.

  20. My grandmother also made “green salad” – pistachio pudding, cool whip, pineapple. MY FAVORITE THING EVER. I’d have eaten just that if I could. And yes, it was served with dinner. Usually with turkey. And it would get all mixed in with the gravy. And no one ever found this weird. And now I miss both my grandmother AND her salad, and want to get the recipe and make some.

    1. I think we may revisit this prompt around Thanksgiving, and we’ll all make the things that we miss the most and then write about them. ;D

      1. Ooh, I LOVE that! What a great idea!

  21. Was this stuff only made by Protestants? Cuz Protestant homes were the only places I ever had the luck to have this heavenly dessert! It’s a dessert, I tell you!

    1. I wouldn’t doubt it. My grandparents were about as Church of Christ as you could get. Their church services were spartan, but their desserts – ahem, SALADS – were all frivolity.

  22. My grandma made this too, only in green. She also made a lot of pasta salads which were just pasta, chunks of cheese, chunks of deli meats, and tons of Italian dressing. It was yummy, but I’m not sure there was anything green involved.

  23. My in-laws have a green version that they call Watergate salad. I’m not sure if that’s because it dates from the Watergate era, or because it’s as scandalous as the whole Watergate scandal. They serve it as a side dish at Christmas dinner.

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