NYT settles grape dispute with nod to wild rice

Good news! Minnesotans have been validated.

The New York Times has revised its infamous state-by-state breakdown of popular Thanksgiving foods. Sort of.

Instead, the Times is providing a breakdown based on Google searches. Even then, the Times anticipates another outcry.

You should not interpret the dishes here as the most iconic Thanksgiving recipes in each state, or even a state’s favorite dish. It’s possible that some dishes are so central to a state’s culture that people there don’t need to search for them on the web, for instance. But academic research – on everything from voter turnout to flu epidemics – has found that Google searching can be a meaningful indictor of behavior and attitudes. We certainly learned a lot from the analysis – ooey gooey bars! pig pickin cake! – and have had great fun talking about them around the office in the last few days. We hope you enjoy it as much.

Minnesota has regained wild rice and given up grape salad.


Perhaps we’re too sensitive, but do we detect a “can you believe those sensitive Minnesotans” attitude in the description?

Few food-related articles in the Times got more attention from Minnesotans than the much-debated Grape Salad recipe, which was literally front-page news in the Twin Cities. Many Minnesotans insist that they don’t make the dish. Whatever you think of #GrapeGate, there’s no denying that Minnesotans do love their salads, especially if the main ingredients are Cool Whip and Snickers bars. The uncontestably Minnesotan dish of wild-rice casserole tops the list, with strong showings by lefse and bacon-wrapped smokies, a distant member of the pigs-in-a-blanket family.

Almost every other state has been updated too. Clams are out in Massachusetts and butternut squash is in. Bacon is gone from Pennsylvania and “dirt pudding” has taken its place. Wild rice is gone from Wisconsin, leaving cheeseheads with a heaping helping of brownberry stuffing.

Nebraska now has “snicker salad” which we believe is code for “grape salad,” which no longer appears anywhere in the country.

  • Jerry

    Snicker salad is delicious

    • I assume this is actually a dessert, right? It’s not a side dish?

      • Kassie

        Salad comes with the meal. Fruit Salad, Snickers Salad, Jello Salad, all sugary and sweet and all part of the meal. Pie is dessert.

      • Anna

        When my husband first visited my grandmother in North Dakota, Snickers salad was the salad option he was given with his meal. She had several other deserts for after dinner. He was mystified.

  • Jeff

    Stuffed artichokes for New Jersey? Sounds like another “gate” in the making.

    • Dave

      “Stuffed artichoke” is a euphemism for something in New Jersey, I’m sure. And it ain’t food.

      • Jack

        as heartwarming as the state inhabitants are from New Jersey. Nothing says “A Walton Thanksgiving” (as in John-Boy and not Walmart), more than this photo: http://ryanseacrest.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/Jersey-Shore-Cast2.jpg

        • Maggie Akhavan

          FYI — these poor specimens are not from the great State of New Jersey. They are carpetbaggers from Staten Island.

          • Jack

            poisoned fabric indeed.

  • Kassie

    What Minnesotan calls it “Wild Rice Casserole?” It is hotdish, always and forever.

  • John Peschken

    I’m just glad to see us resolve ONE problem in this country.

    • Oh, it’s not over. See Kassie’s post “What Minnesotan calls it “Wild Rice Casserole?” It is hotdish, always and forever.”

  • kevinfromminneapolis

    What if they had issued such a sweeping change/correction to an actual news story?

  • Dave

    If you want a delicious wild rice recipe, try Byerly’s Wild Rice Soup


    Our family cannot get enough of it. I have always thought that wild rice concoctions occupy a slightly higher and classier place than the plain old Lutheran hotdishes you see around these parts.

  • David

    Marilyn Hagerty’s comment on the N Dakota dish is typically blunt and also hilarious.

    • If they ever get around to putting a map together of the most treasured people in each state, I hope her picture is on North Dakota. I love her.

    • joetron2030

      Link? I’d love to read it.

  • Kris Troske

    “Whatever you think of #GrapeGate, there’s no denying that Minnesotans do love their salads, especially if the main ingredients are Cool Whip and Snickers bars.”

    I don’t think it’s being oversensitive to detect the sneer in that sentence. “Especially if?” There is no way that doesn’t sound snotty. I am certain that there are people who now think that there are no salad greens of any kind within our borders.

    • Tib Shaw

      Miracle Whip and Snickers? Ish!

      • Kassie

        Cool Whip is not Miracle Whip. One is fake whipped cream the other is fake mayonnaise.

  • Amy Taipale Canfield

    Now I’ve looked up some of these that I’ve never heard of on Google. Will that skew the ratings?

  • illudiumQ36

    The sole problem here is that their food critic David Tanis made 3 mistakes: not researching his topic (lazy), calling grape salad “quintessential” (drama), then after receiving scathing criticism doubling down on the story by explaining he came by it through party conversation with some dowager who had lived here in the ’60s (humblebragging). Now the editors revise their story by doing Google searches, not by knowing anything about it. Well, even we nose-picking hicks in “fly over country” expect more from the New York Times.

    • joetron2030

      The Grey Lady is going senile, me thinks.

    • As a nose-picking hicks in “fly over country” I have no idea what you are talking about.

      /Did I do that right?

  • Jack

    I write for the New York Times; therefore, it would be assumable I have some sort of degree in Journalism…English..er uh…something like that (heiress) this speculation would also suggest that I have studied at least a course or two on the subjects of Anthropology and Sociology and have an inkling of how to study and research behaviors and culture. Where would we be if Margaret Mead or Franz Boaz googled their information? Is John Pilger aware of using Google as a research tool in writing articles as a sole method of research as done by Upshot Staff from the New York Times.

    • The other Jack

      I do not write for the New York Times. What in the world is frog eye salad? That just sounds gross.
      For Minnesota it should have been the ubiquitous tater tot hotdish? Come on, admit you have eaten it a million times at church dinner and/or potluck.

      • The other Jack

        Should not have been a question – For Minnesota, it should have been the ubiquitous tater tot hotdish.
        That’s what I get for writing on a blog when I just wake up. 🙂

      • Jack

        And they wonder why the congregation is dwindling.

  • davehoug

    The book was about 50 great recipes from all over, with a balance of entrees and salads. However it was SOLD as iconic recipes which was not how they were chosen. More of a marketing fail.

  • davehoug

    How many cans of cream of mushroom soup are sold in MN and how many of us have had that AS soup????? Ask grocery stores why it sells well and they will flat out state as an ingredient in hotdish.