I'm in Love with Tammy Wynette's Dump Salad
Stand by your cottage cheese, Jell-O powder, and Cool Whip.
Composite photo via Wikimedia Commons and Farideh Sadeghin
Welcome to Best Before, where we unearth recipes from retro cookbooks that were maybe forgotten for a reason.
When country singer Tammy Wynette would entertain guests at her Nashville home, she couldn’t stand the thought of ordering out or heating up a frozen meal. She wanted to cook for them.
"That's the way it was in Itawamba County way back when," she wrote in 1990’s The Tammy Wynette Southern Cookbook, referencing the place she grew up in Mississippi. "That's the way it is today. I wouldn't have it any other way."
Besides, Wynette, who died two decades ago, knew how to cook. She championed comfort above all else. And comfort, for Wynette, meant a dump salad.
Her dump salad appears in the pages of her cookbook, where the country singer embraces ingredients some may dismiss as "low"; I'd say she dwells in the low without apology. She saw ingredients as elastic, recipes as invitations to experimentation. This dump salad is a hodgepodge of whatever is languishing in the crevices of your kitchen: cottage cheese, Cool Whip, orange Jell-O mix, and canned pineapple and mandarin orange chunks.
Follow the stupid-simple instructions, which involve sprinkling a orange Jell-O powder mix onto a medium pack of cottage cheese and mixing them together with a large spoon. The cottage cheese will turn the color of Cheeto dust. Stud it with chunks of canned pineapples and oranges (the recipe does not specify whether you drain it, but I suggest you do). Fold in a tub’s worth of Cool Whip and stir to combine until your arm starts to ache.
Making your dump salad should take you fewer than five minutes. Cover it with plastic. It will sit in your fridge like a fatberg the color of peach fuzz. When you open your fridge the next morning, you may not dare to touch your dump salad, let alone eat it.
Don’t listen to yourself. Shovel into it with your spoon and take a bite. The Cool Whip acts as a masking agent, evening out the cottage cheese’s lumpy texture and papering over that grody saltiness; it is more soothing than any gelato I've ever had.
Maybe, after eating it, you’ll feel compelled to feed it to your guests. I can guarantee this much: It’ll be the most beautiful dump they’ve ever seen.