Recipe Review

The Candle Salad: A Retro Recipe to Make You Blush

published Jul 17, 2013
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(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Your eyes do not deceive you. The candle salad is a banana thrust vertically into a stack of pineapple rings on a bed of lettuce leaves, with a maraschino cherry toothpicked to the tip. No, this is not some naughty bachelorette party dessert; it is an actual recipe from the 1920s. A holiday recipe. Later printed in a children’s cookbook.

What on earth?

The candle salad was most likely invented in the 1920s, a time when bananas were widely available, pineapples were becoming popular, and apparently nobody had a dirty mind. Its “festive” appearance and easy preparation made it a natural fit for holidays like Christmas and Halloween, as well as children’s birthday parties. Obviously.

It appeared in Betty Crocker’s Cook Book for Boys and Girls in 1957 with the header: “It’s better than a real candle because you can eat it.” …There are no words.

At least Betty Crocker skipped a step commonly found in early 1920s recipes, the one where you dribble mayonnaise or flavored whipped cream “on top of and down one side of the banana to represent melted wax.” Oh no. No no no.

Despite its lurid appearance, by 1928 candle salad had secured a place on the holiday table and the Philadelphia Tribune dreamily waxed poetic about the salad:

Probably millions of recipes are invented each year. Most of them are used only by the composer and few friends or neighbors, others manage to creep into recipe and cook books and live for a number of years, but here and there a recipe is composed that seems to live forever. 

Read more: Candle Salad at the Food Timeline

Want to continue the legacy? Try making one yourself!

(Image: WikiHow)