Sometimes the best things in life are its most simple pleasures.
Take, for example, Lois Nystrom's Snickers salad-four to six green Granny Smith apples, firm and tart, chopped up with the peels left on and mixed in a bowl with thawed whipped topping (light topping, in her case, make sure to get the large container either way) Add a package of Snickers Fun Size candy bars chopped into thirds, stir it up, chill briefly or serve promptly. That's it. Easy peasy. Bon appetit.
Now, there's a lot of holiday goodness in the Brainerd lakes area-whether it's those grand 18-foot-tall Christmas trees with enough metal ornaments and fixtures to build a Prius, all the way down to humble Snickers salads. But, while there's plenty of recognition and eyes for the trees, the enormous light installations, the gift-giving and profound acts of kindness-and justifiably so-what about the little things that tie it all together, the Snickers salads of the world?
Well, in 2018 at least, providence (aided by a social-media savvy grandson) thought fit to bestow that kind of recognition upon a Brainerd grandmother and her tabletop masterpiece.
The Dispatch visited the Nystrom home in south Brainerd Wednesday, Dec. 19, to explore how Twitter-a site about which, Lois admitted, she's a little foggy on the details-brought her creation and Mars Inc. together.
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Lois Nystrom's Snickers salad:
- 4-6 green Granny Smith apples, firm and tart
- 1 large container thawed frozen whipped topping (Cool-Whip)
- 1 package Snickers Fun Sized candy bars
Wash, core and chop up the apples (with the peels left on) and mix in a large salad bowl with the thawed whipped topping.
Open the package of Snickers Fun Size candy bars, unwrap and chop them into thirds.
Add the chopped bars to the salad and stir it up, chill briefly or serve promptly.
That's it. Easy peasy.
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The Nystroms are a visible family in the lakes area-look no further than rosters of just about every governing body here and there's a Nystrom on it-and Lois, 88, stands as something of a matriarchal figure gluing them together.
"Oh, the family demands it," said Lois, appropriately attired in a Christmas-themed sweater emblemized with images of angels and the Nativity scene. Next to her sits her husband, Arthur, 93-in most cases, Artie, or an affectionate "King Arthur" on occasion. "The family demands it. So if they don't get Snicker salad, it's not a holiday."
And so, four times a year, every major holiday, Lois said it's her job to provide two side dishes: a seven-layer salad and, of course, the Snickers salad.
The recipe was originally lifted from a cookbook roughly eight or so years ago, Lois said. It's all well and good the recipe is so simple and can be rattled off quicker than two shakes of a lamb's tail, because that cookbook-and, presumably, the original recipe-are nowhere to be found.
What started as something of a quick experiment evolved into a Nystrom holiday staple. The grandchildren clamor for Snickers salad every gathering, Lois noted-though, there's often members of the older generations clamoring right alongside them, she added.
As it turns out, they were right back at it, clamoring for more Snickers salad, when Thanksgiving rolled around this year and one of Lois' grandsons, Thor, decided to glean a little culinary wisdom from his octogenarian nana.
In a short 39-second clip posted to his Twitter account, Thor-who's a sports writer with NBC-chatted with Lois and walked through the simple steps and even simpler ingredients to make Snickers salad. There, the tweet caught the attention of big players in the candy bar world.
"I'm not sure what Thor did," Lois said. "I think he posted it to his Facebook, or off his telephone. See, we're not used to all that stuff. We don't have any of that. We don't have a cellphone, or a computer. Then he posted a picture of me, with me doing something with my hands."
At any rate, the official twitter account of Snickers tweeted back at Thor, quietly asking him for information so they could send Lois a package-which ultimately arrived as a cardboard box on Dec. 2, a box filled with Snickers bars of all kinds and sizes; more than fifteen types, many of which she had never heard of, Lois said.
Lois and Thor's jubilation popped up on the internet with another Twitter post and another beaming photo of Lois, joy that in turn spilled into a thread of comments that offered interesting tidbits of their own:
• Thor captioned his original Snickers salad tweet as a prime example of Minnesota culture, but Snickers salad isn't bound by borders and takes different forms across state lines. A poster hailing from Plano, Ill., said they make their Snickers salad with Cool Whip and Snickers bars, but Honeycrisp apples instead of Granny Smiths and a drizzle of caramel syrup on top. Another commenter from Idaho said they like to add a couple dollops of cream cheese to the mixture.
• Lois' sense of fashion-evidenced by impeccable cat sweaters and tasteful jewelry-wasn't lost on the Twitterverse despite the riveting images of Snickers salad. One Twitter poster observed Lois' broach was "fire" as the kids say, expressing his admiration for her blingage with no less than three flame emojis.
• Another Twitter poster commented-that given the chance-he would gobble down 100 bowls of Snickers salad. Thor agreed, though he cautioned-when it comes to snarfing down the goopy candy-bar riddled confection-fortune favors the bold, otherwise people will pick out the Snickers one by one and leave just whipped topping and apple chunks behind (which is still pretty delicious).
As for the bountiful care package of Snickers courtesy of Mars Inc. in Hackettstown, N.J.? It didn't find its way into Snickers salad, but to Good Samaritan Society-Bethany senior apartments, just across Highway 371 in south Brainerd, where Lois has volunteered for years and continues to do so.
"Of course they loved them, the residents-the ones that could eat them, anyway, the ones who have teeth. They're quite chewy. They're gone, they're all gone," said Lois, who told the Dispatch she would be unavailable until around Christmas Day on account of grocery shopping-to pick up those simple ingredients of course, and to meet those demands by Nystroms clamoring for more Snickers salad.