"Umm, excuse me ma'am, but it's FIESTA and the FIESTA themed merchandise is in aisle 7, ok. It's FIESTA."
The woman was really ticked about it, so I'm just letting you all know that the next time you need a pinata or some maracas for your party that your taco night is not called MEXICAN, it's FIESTA. Jeez. Get it right people, ok? FIESTA dammit.
In any event, our FIESTA was great and yes I did make that damned pretzel salad in spite of the fact that my status as former professional cook should be revoked for doing so. Sometimes you have to do things for the people you love if it makes them happy even if you don't like it.
I had to do a lot of research on pretzel salad, culinary atrocity that it is. I had never made one before and although I knew roughly what was in it, I didn't know the proportions or how exactly one gets Jell-O on top of Coolwhip without the two abominations running all together and creating a far worse abomination. Thank God for the Internet where one can find a million variations on pretzel salad as well as hundreds of sites and blogs with posts singing its praises. No wonder our country is in trouble. People are eating pretzels and Jell-O. What's next people? Pudding Burgers?
I found site after site where commenters just raved and gushed about how good the pretzel salad looked and how they loved it and were going to/ already had made it and how amazing and simple and earth shatteringly perfect was the salade de pretzel. You would think the shit was made from pure gold. I realized then that most food bloggers and the people who read and comment on them are a combination of full of it and too polite, because pretzel salad does not in fact, look good, by any stretch of the imagination. And its not just pretzel salad. Plenty of other food blogs post photos and recipes for things that I can tell are disgusting and all the commenters commence complimenting it immediately. Pioneer Woman Cooks - perfect example. The woman can post a recipe for lasagna made with breakfast sausage and cottage cheese and the blogosphere goes wild over her 17 pictures of her cutting open a tube of Jimmy Dean and glopping some cottage cheese over noodles and she gets 785 comments all saying how good it looks. No it doesn't. It does not look good. I don't care if you live in the wilds of Cow Ranch, USA and can't get ingredients, you should never EVER EVER use cottage cheese in a lasagna. And yes I'm jealous of her traffic and her graphics so you can just forget that comment you were about to leave me about how good that cottage cheese is and how I'm just jealous because she's more popular than I am and was on CNN. I would love to be on CNN for something good. Right now my best chance at being on CNN is if my parents do something notorious and Nancy Grace has to interview me about it and make me cry, or if we have another hurricane. I could be the dirty looking redneck in the tank top holding a beer and standing knee deep in flood waters and debris who says it sounded like a freight train. Then I could be all like "Anderson Cooper, ain't you that Gloria Vanderbilt's son? I just bought me a pair of them jeans at Ross last week. I heard you was a homo. Is that true? Tell me it ain't cuz yer cute."
But back to the pretzel salad. It was worse than I remembered. The recipe I settled on was from, where else, Cooks.com, a veritable hot bed of white trash recipes. Entertain yourself sometime by going on there and searching simply Jell-O. You will die. You know what, I'll do it for you. HERE. Have fun. It is there that I learned about a rare version of pineapple pretzel salad. Who knew?? Pineapple!
The pretzel salad was easy enough once I accidentally obliterated several pretzel rods in the blender and realized I had to crush them by hand instead. I made sure I used the cheapest, most generic pretzels I could find for authenticity and I used store brand Cool-Whip too for the cream cheese layer. As for the Jell-O layer, get this, it's mixed with frozen strawberries which make it set quicker because they are so cold. It's freakin' genius I tell you. That's why it doesn't melt all into the cream cheese/ Cool-Whip (or in my case, whipped topping) layer.
As I constructed the pretzel salad I began to muse over its origin. Who came up with this? It appears to be a sort of trailer park cheesecake as best as I can figure. It has crust, cream cheese and fruit on top, which is fairly cheesecake-esque, but then it's also really salty and really sweet at the same time, as cheesecake is not. The redneck palette seems to favor strong salty-sweet combinations though, so perhaps when Wandella came up with this, she thought she was actually improving on the standard cheesecake. I don't really know. I can say at least that pretzel salad is slightly easier to make than a cheesecake, so perhaps that was its original appeal.
My husband was optimistic. He thought this was going to be one of those things that sounds gross but then when you try it, it's surprisingly good. I tried to tell him it wasn't, so he tasted it anyway, as did my exceedingly polite guests.
Here it is all cut and ready to eat. It's disturbingly firm. You have to be really careful to scrape up all the pretzel from the bottom of the pan too because you don't want to miss out on a single crumb. Terrifying, isn't it? Look how it just glistens.
Here is a slice of the pretzel salad, just where it belongs on a paper plate. It just wouldn't be right on fine china, you know? It might mess up the taste (forgive me if the alignment is jacked up, I'm not great at adding pictures on blogger for some reason).
I'm thinking about starting a pretzel salad fan club, since so many people seem to love it. If you want to dare and try making it yourself HERE is the version I used, courtesy of Miss Mary Boyd, who I picture as a plump Mennonite lady from the Midwest who has 13 kids. I could have chosen from any of about 379 pretzel salad recipes but what really got me about Miss Boyd's version was this line:
"Serving on a lettuce leaf or with a sprig of green is always a pretty touch."
I mean, how can you argue with her? Is that priceless or what? And she's right. Lettuce leaves are always a pretty touch, especially with desserts, but then again, maybe I've finally hit on the answer to why this is called a salad though it bears no resemblance to any salad I know other than that it's cold. DUH. If you serve it on lettuce leaves it HAS to be a salad. God, how did I not realize that?
For more pretzel salad love I've compiled a list of blogs involving it.
The Equivocal Epicurean - thinks it's better than the sum of its parts. She is entitled to her opinion of course.
Musical Mom - loves pretzel salad AND Jesus, which is very important.
Party of Six - mentions that her friend introduced her to desserts that sound gross and weird but are delicious. I beg to differ, but I'm with her on the gross and weird part all the way. I liked the comments on this one.
There you go people. Pretzel salad. I made it. I love my cousin. A lot. Enough to let her take the whole pan of it home with her.
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