Steaming Hot Bowl of Watergate Reminiscences

Last week, we had the distinct pleasure of attending the lecture of two of the most respected and well known journalists in the country, Robert Woodward and Carl Bernstein. With Election Day this week and the 40th Anniversary of the Watergate Scandal rapidly approaching, the session held at Emory University was quite timely.

These two former Washington Post reporters were the first to uncover information suggesting that knowledge of the Watergate break-in, and attempts to cover it up, led deep into the Justice Department, the FBI, the CIA, and even the White House.

The lecture setting was informal with both journalists cajoling and openly interrupting each other (with previous permission granted). The two waxed nostalgic about the good ‘ole days of typewriter ribbons and old-school, gum-shoe sleuthing. Not surprisingly, they are still bitter about the level of arrogance demonstrated by all involved with the scandal. They encouraged young journalists to always use integrity in seeking the truth and to confirm leads and tips, and cautioned against being drawn in by the immediacy that is created by gossip-driven, internet-based media. 

In preparation for this post, I had planned to post the recipe for the ever popular Watergate Salad to add to the above paragraphs, but found (just as Woodward and Bernstein did all those years ago,) that there was more to the story. As it turns out, the two most popular recipes attributed to the Watergate scandal (Watergate salad and Watergate cake) did not  appear in any of the original Watergate cookbooks printed in the early 1970s. Both were publicized by Kraft Foods and Standard Brands (respectively) well after the Watergate scandal occurred.

In 1973, seven Bostonians referring to themselves as "The Committee to Write the Cookbook" turned a parlor game into a cookbook. The idea for The Watergate Cookbook (subtitled Or Who’s in the Soup?) began when the hostess served chicken in peaches to her dinner guests and one of them dubbed it “Cox’s In-peach Chicken” and others took up the pursuit.

While the cookbook contains real recipes, it is also an interesting read when taken in context. This compilation was just one way for frustrated voter’s to express their anger and shock over the antics of Washington politics during this period of time and is certainly more intriguing when compared with decades of Junior League-esque spiral-bound collections of senators' wives’ recipes for hot crab dip, easy beef burgundy and, yes, Kraft’s Pistachio Delight also known as Watergate salad.

"Nixon's Perfectly Clear Consomme" is the first among the 108 recipes in this tongue-in-cheek cookbook. The recipe for "Ervin’s (referring to Chairman of the Senate Watergate Committee’s Senator Sam J. Ervin, Jr.) Bouillabaisse" says “put a kettle of fish on the front burner and keep the pot boiling; do not put a lid on it.”

Other recipes bring back memories of the Watergate scandal and its players including Ellsberg's Leek Soup, Ehrlichman's Cover-Up Casserole, Kennedy's Contented Sole, McCord's Spilled Beans, Billy Graham's Eggs Benedictine, Hunt's Hush Puppies, Republican Peeking Duck, Mitchell's Cooked Goose with Stuffing, Cox's In-Peach Chicken, Martha's Sweet and Sour Tongue, Liddy's Clam-up Chowder, Magruder's Dandy Ly'in Salad, Sauteed Slippery Eels a la Deanoise, and GOP Cookie Crumbles.

This easy recipe commemorating Judge John Sirica, who presided over the trial of the Watergate burglars and did not believe the claim that they had acted alone (and was  named TIME magazine's Man of the Year in 1973,) makes a quick dinner or appetizer similar to our Linguine with Clam Sauce:

Sirica’s Steamed Clams
4 pounds clams, scrubbed
1 cup water
1 cup dry (inexpensive) white wine

Bring water and wine to a boil in a stockpot. Add clams; cover and return to a boil.

"Keep the heat on them until they open up" which should take about five minutes. Immediately remove open clams with a slotted spoon. Continue cooking remaining the clams for an additional 2 to 3 minutes; they may open. Discard any remaining unopened clams and serve the clams immediately with the clam broth.