As you might have heard, starting at the end of January, winter decided to come down on the Boston area with a vengeance. So, in accord with our Hipster Overlords here in Cantabridgia, I decided to be all ironic and make Florida Seacoast Salad.
I had been putting off making a scary Jell-O for far too long, and on the face of it this sounded like a relatively simple one. The Jell-O part is just diced shrimp suspended in lemon Jell-O that’s been tarted up with vinegar, salt and pepper. (There should be some garlic salt in there as well, but garlic salt is, I guess, too “white trash” an ingredient for Bryan to keep stocked in the kitchen – and I neglected to add it to my shopping list.) The rest is salad greens, chopped up citrus fruit, avocado, chopped scallions, and artichoke hearts marinated in Good Seasons salad dressing.
That last part, the artichoke, was a real trip down memory lane. First off all, when I saw “Bird’s Eye Deluxe Artichoke Hearts” on the list of ingredients, I was sure they couldn’t exist anymore. As someone with a part-Italian spouse, I couldn’t imagine artichoke hearts coming in any other format than in a jar packed in marinade. Imagine my surprise when we found the nine-ounce packages, exactly as required, in the frozen vegetables section of our local Star Market.
Then there was the Good Seasons dressing. For those of you unfamiliar with this food product, it’s a packet of powdered seasonings that you add to oil, water and vinegar to make salad dressing (as opposed to being lazy and just buying a bottle). When it was being heavily promoted in the 1970s and 1980s, you were supposed to buy a cruet that you could use to prepare your dressing, and although I’m not sure where one gets those cruets now*, the packet still has directions that tell you to add the ingredients up to this or that line on the cruet. Luckily, the directions also include amounts in case you don’t happen to have a cruet. I had a peanut butter jar. Peanut butter jars are not watertight, and I knew that because I shake soapy water in them when I wash them, but still, thanks to the lingering memory of the ads showing how much fun it was to make the salad dressing by shaking it up in the cruet, I couldn’t resist shaking the dressing in the peanut butter jar, with predictable results. Only after wiping up the oily droplets did it occur to me that I could have used a whisk.
See if you can spot Bryan Cranston in this vintage Good Seasons ad:
Otherwise, preparation involved a bunch of peeling and chopping of fruits and vegetables that had been stored in the refrigerator – not a process I would recommend to someone who, like me, suffers from Reynaud’s disease and is in the midst of one of the coldest and snowiest winters in recorded history. I’m not kidding around about the cold. In the downstairs zone, which includes the kitchen, our heating system has been struggling to maintain a temperature around 60°F/15°C as outside temperatures drop. No one can say I don’t suffer for my art.
Finally, it turned out that the dread was largely unwarranted. Both Bryan and I were surprised to find that Florida Seacoast Salad is not bad. The shrimp in Jell-O was almost okay, if only the Jell-O had been less sweet and/or more tart, and the rest of it was, well, a salad with Italian dressing. It ended up being our lunch, although I won’t lie, we didn’t eat the whole bowl of it, and a good amount of it got fed to the garbage disposal. A donation has been made to Action Against Hunger to get food that will not go to waste to people who really need it.
For a more in-depth analysis of Florida Seacoast Salad, I invite you to check out the video:
* A quick google shows that they’re available from Amazon and at Walmart, or if you want a vintage one you’re sure to get lucky on eBay.