New York Times stands behind #Grapegate recipe

In "The United States of Thanksgiving," New York Times food writers selected "recipes that evoke each of the 50 states" during this most food-centric of seasons.

You'd probably think Minnesota's choice would've been something along the lines of Tater Tot Hot Dish, Green Bean Casserole, or Swedish Meatballs, right? Wrong. Instead, the New York Times' David Tanis went with... warm Grape Salad?

Indeed. And here's what Tanis had to say about that concoction of seedless grapes, sour cream, and brown sugar:

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.


As you'd probably expect, Tanis's recipe ignited a firestorm on social media and gave birth to the #Grapegate hashtag:Fox 9 contacted Tanis to get his reaction to #Grapegate. He referred us to a comment he posted on Facebook that reads as follows:

Greetings, Minnesota! We're still hoping you'll give our grape salad recipe a try. It was a staple of 1950s and 1960s spiral-bound Lutheran or Junior League-type community cookbooks, even featured in the Redwood Falls Gazette, right alongside tater-tot-topped hotdish recipes. The friend who gave it to me (a life-long Minnesotan who also made a lot of Swedish pancakes with lingonberries) would be dismayed to know it has caused such ire. Grape salad may be out of date, but is so delicious it could stand a revival. For a version of hotdish, stay tuned for Sam Sifton's post -- he's developing a new recipe now. In the meantime, have a happy Thanksgiving, one and all.

We asked Tanis if he has anything else to say on the record about #Grapegate.

"Hell hath no fury like a… oh never mind," he replies.

What the New York Times says is one thing, but what a local chef says is another. So we asked chef Marshall O'Brien for his take on the whole fiasco.

"Well, I would think it's kinda weird considering Minnesota isn't know for the prestige and notoriety of our grapes," the Fox 9 regular says. "But on the flip side, if you look at some of the traditional [Minnesota] dishes, like sweet potatoes with marshmallows, that kinda falls in line -- obnoxiously sweet and decadent."

O'Brien speculated that a bit of East Coast Bias might've been at play as well.

"We're always fifth fiddle, everything happens five years late," he says. "And five years later [Grape Salad] will be the rage for Thanksgiving in the Midwest."

Ultimately, O'Brien says he knew something fishy was going on before he even finished the first sentence of Tanis's post.

"Do you know of any Minnesotans who call themselves heiress?" he says. "So yeah, I think that was a clue to us that something was mistaken."


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