Mama Stamberg's Relish Faces Its Toughest Critics: NPR Staffers It's tradition: Every year, Susan Stamberg sneaks her mother-in-law's cranberry relish recipe onto the air. To be honest, we've given her a hard time about it, and now she's seeking redemption.
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Mama Stamberg's Relish Faces Its Toughest Critics: NPR Staffers

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Mama Stamberg's Relish Faces Its Toughest Critics: NPR Staffers

Mama Stamberg's Relish Faces Its Toughest Critics: NPR Staffers

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

We're approaching Thanksgiving, when certain members of the NPR family encounter a Thanksgiving side dish that is relished by some. Here's NPR's special correspondent Susan Stamberg.

SUSAN STAMBERG, BYLINE: Many, many Thanksgivings ago, my fiance took me home to Allentown, Pa., to be inspected by his family. My mother-in-law-to-be served a relish that was so delicious I married her son. Ever since, I've offered the recipe to listeners. You can find it at npr.org.

Over the years, in addition to appreciation, I've gotten a good deal of grief about this recipe, especially from NPR staffers, many of whom had never tasted it but felt perfectly free to groan nonetheless. Well, last year, with no warning, the head chef in our in-house cafeteria made a batch for the entire staff. Seeking redemption, I grabbed my microphone and went to work.

Hi, Lynn Neary.

LYNN NEARY, BYLINE: Hi, Susan Stamberg.

STAMBERG: We tend to address one another formally around here.

Well, I'd love to have lunch with you today. But I can't 'cause I have to go downstairs. I understand that the NPR salad bar is serving Mama Stamberg's cranberry relish.

NEARY: (Laughter) Excuse me. I'm just recovering from a cold, and you're making me start coughing.

STAMBERG: Oh, I was afraid I was making you sick.

NEARY: No.

(LAUGHTER)

NEARY: You know, I've never tried it, Susan.

STAMBERG: It's time. You'll come downstairs with me. We'll do it today.

(SOUNDBITE OF ELEVATOR BEEPING)

RECORDED VOICE: Going down.

STAMBERG: Hello. Do you have any idea what this is?

TIM PRESTRIDGE, BYLINE: I have zero idea what that is. It looks like a Jell-O product that my grandmother used to make in Alabama.

STAMBERG: Tim Prestridge, Institutional Giving Department. Well, it's not Jell-O. And it's not your namby-pamby, cranberry-sugar-orange recipe. Mama Stamberg's has guts - cranberry, sugar, sour cream, onion and - wait for it - horseradish. And it's bright pink. I invite Tanya Blue from Development to try it.

TANYA BLUE, BYLINE: Are you going to wait until I actually taste it?

STAMBERG: I'm afraid I am.

BLUE: Oh, wow.

STAMBERG: You don't have to be polite. Few are.

She sticks a finger - no fork handy - into the blob of pink on her plate. It has been called Pepto-Bismol pink.

BLUE: That's tasty.

STAMBERG: You like it?

BLUE: I do like it. I'm so delighted that you're pleased.

STAMBERG: This is the chef, Janis McLean. It was her first Thanksgiving cooking for us.

JANIS MCLEAN, BYLINE: I have heard about this for years.

STAMBERG: Yeah?

MCLEAN: And this year, I got to make it. How cool is that?

STAMBERG: Pretty cool. Hers tastes better than mine. And it's almost gone.

CINDY CARPIEN, BYLINE: It's disgusting.

STAMBERG: Cindy Carpien, how can you say that?

CARPIEN: Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't say that very well. It's disgusting.

STAMBERG: Cindy is my all-time favorite producer - or was until that mean remark.

You've tried it. Have you?

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: No, I've never had it (laughter).

STAMBERG: Don Gonyea, do you see what they're serving here?

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: What's this cotton-candy-colored thing (laughter)?

STAMBERG: Mr. Gonyea, former White House correspondent - he has covered five presidential elections - should give him a strong stomach.

GONYEA: I haven't had this in years. I haven't had this since...

STAMBERG: Could there be a reason?

GONYEA: I don't prepare the relishes in our household (laughter).

STAMBERG: Nicely done - political.

Gonyea decides to taste it.

He's putting it in his mouth. He's chewing. He's looking past me.

Not a good sign.

GONYEA: It's great.

STAMBERG: Oh, my goodness.

GONYEA: It's fantastic.

STAMBERG: Could you take some over to the president?

GONYEA: I'll do that.

STAMBERG: Really?

GONYEA: Now I'm just being nice to you (laughter).

STAMBERG: You always have been. Bless you, and Happy Thanksgiving.

GONYEA: Happy Thanksgiving.

STAMBERG: Happy Thanksgiving all around, dear listeners. I'm Susan Stamberg, NPR News, Washington. Whoops. Here comes Lynn Neary again.

NEARY: I'm a little afraid, I have to tell you. I'm kind of a traditionalist when it comes to cranberries.

STAMBERG: This will clear your cold. It will clear your sinuses.

NEARY: I know it will. That's what scares me (laughter).

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