Wednesday, July 18, 2007
The Joys of Jell-0™
SOME RECENT eBAY PURCHASES [And what DID Mrs. Dewey Do?]
I have had a love-hate relationship with instant gelatin since I was a child. It was often given to us when we were ill and I remember particularly unappetizing red squares of it served in our school's cafeteria on a regular basis (with a dollop of fake, hardened whipped cream on top).
Years ago in the late 1980s, at a Halloween party I threw in the servants' quarters of a Victorian house museum where I lived and worked in Boston, I made a "Dead Yuppie Jell-O". I poured yellow Jell-O into a glass Pyrex™ pie dish, let it gel slightly, and then I placed small, inert, and well-clad plastic Yuppy-looking Barbie/Ken style dolls from Woolworth's. They were lying down, dead you see, and in between them I placed a Rambo-ish guy holding a gun. Eventually the gelatin mixture hardened and the Jell-O art lived in our attic in New Hampshire for a while until it was finally pitched. [Yes, I admit, the whole thing was warped. But fun!]
Now at Easter and other occasions I will make Jell-O salads and molds in various concoctions. In reading old issues of AMERICAN COOKERY (originally THE BOSTON COOKING-SCHOOL MAGAZINE), which was in existence from the late 1800s-1940s, there are scads of recipes for all manner of gelatin and fancy molded salads. Jellies and aspics were more elaborate Victorian holdovers and often served on their own in a large, multi-coursed dinner.
A few years ago I discovered a recipe, blogged in another entry [see: "Five Cup Salad ~ Ambrosia of the God(desse)s!", in the April 2005 archives-April 25, 2005], in a cookbook by Jan and Michael Stern. It is the closest thing to AMBROSIA (made by a neighbor who won't part with her recipe) that I've had:
1 cup mini-marshmallows
1 cup shredded pineapple, drained
1 cup mandarin orange sections, drained
1 cup coconut
1 cup sour cream
Mix, chill and serve.
[Another great recipe is the ORANGE GELATIN or MOUSSE that Neiman Marcus served in their restaurants: I remember lunches at their Boston restaurant, now gone, with my friend Di and her mother Liz. We'd have the chicken salad, popovers with strawberry butter, and the orange mousse, and iced tea. I will have to try to find that recipe--it used to be posted on their website about 10 years ago, but now they have an expensive cookbook. I printed it out and it is somewhere in one of my recipe clipping boxes--and I mean BOXES (I have neat pantries, usually, but I could use a few months to sort recipes and photos.) As I recall it has orange juice, cream and gelatin in it, among other things, and it is smooth and creamy, light and orangey.]
But imagine my joy when I received in my e-mail today an image of the LIME JELL-O SALAD recipe my mother gave to her friend Twila Baker back in Akron days. [I still keep in touch with Mrs. Baker and our Christmas tree is adorned with dozens of handmade felt ornaments she has given to me over the years.] My mother has a REUBEN SANDWICH recipe from Mrs. Baker on the same recipe card--I recognized that funky 1970s pantry motif right away. Oddly, I don't remember this recipe or my mother ever having made it (the recipe is in Mrs. Baker's hand). She writes: "I remember the pink kitchen, and your mother serving this recipe at a luncheon in the dining room." I suspected it was for the occasional ladies' luncheon or church supper. Or one of those foods with too many things in it that I might have refused when I was a finicky child.
Here is the complete recipe (with thanks to Mom and Mrs. Baker):
PAT's (My Mom) LIME JELL-O SALAD
Make according to package instructions:
1 large box lime Jello (using 2 cups water)
3 Tbsps. sugar
1/8 tsp. salt
Add when slightly set:
1/2 cubed apple
1 can drained crushed pineapple (save juice)
1/2 cup pineapple juice
1 Tbsp. flour
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 pint whipping cream (1 cup)
Cook first four ingredients in double boiler. Cool. Add cream, whipped. Spread on top of set Jello mixture. Put in icebox.