Minnesota is upset — outraged, if you will — over this article in the New York Times.
— The New York Times (@nytimes) November 19, 2014
The Grey Lady “scoured the nation” and found that when it comes to Minnesota, grape salad and Thanksgiving are one in the same.
This grape salad, which falls into the same category of old-fashioned party dishes as molded Jell-O salad, comes from a Minnesota-born heiress, who tells me it was always part of the holiday buffet in her family. It couldn’t be simpler to prepare and has only three ingredients: grapes, sour cream and brown sugar.
Rather like a creamy fruit salad with a crisp sugar topping, it really is delicious, though the concept sounded strange to me before I first tasted it. Other versions, I hear, call for softened cream cheese and nondairy “whipped topping”; I can’t say I’ll be trying that. Some cooks caramelize the brown sugar under the broiler and some don’t, but I definitely recommend this step, which gives the dish a crème brûlée aura.
The Twitterverse pushed back. Hard. Nobody had ever heard of grape salad.
— Bradley Traynor (@bradleytraynor) November 19, 2014
Linda Holmes, who writes NPR’s Monkey See blog, once
served time lived here and today defends the culinary history of the state.
So please understand: The New York Times has examined the entire state of Minnesota and said, “You know what evokes your state? A bowl of grapes mixed with sour cream, covered with sugar, and heated up. That’s you. That’s how you are.” After this, I imagine them laughing, high-fiving, and refilling a glass of chardonnay. We all have our preconceptions, after all.
It’s enough to make a nice Midwestern-by-training girl put her hands on her hips and say, “Hey, you know what evokes your state? YOUR FACE.” (You’d have to see the delivery; it’s very devastating.)
They could have done something with morel mushrooms. Or wild rice, if they hadn’t brazenly given it to Wisconsin (the unkindest cut of all — their thing is cheese!). If Maine can have Lobster Mac and Cheese, how about something with walleye? Heck, I would have preferred Spam, which may not be gourmet cuisine but at least does have a connection to the state, unlike grapes, which do not.
Look, I’m not saying nobody in the state has ever eaten a grape salad. It’s heated up grapes and sour cream with sugar on it; somebody has eaten that in any state where there are families coming up with simple dishes — in fact, somebody has eaten that in any state where there are mostly empty refrigerators and college students. Somebody has also, at some point, dipped Doritos in peanut butter and washed them down with Yoo-Hoo, in spite of the fact that recreational marijuana use is still illegal by federal law. But that does not mean Dorito Peanut Butter Crunch is a dish, and it definitely does not mean it is a Thanksgiving classic.
This is one of those times when you do want to read the comments attached to an NPR blog post, by the way.
As for the man who wrote the piece, David Tanis seemed a tad huffy when called on it.
— David Tanis (@DavidTanisCooks) November 19, 2014
There was another dead giveaway that grape salad isn’t a dietary staple in Minnesota: You can’t cut it in half to avoid taking the last of it.