Originally posted August 31, 2009
I’m not sure, but I think this recipe may have been included in the book as a joke. The ingredients are lime Jell-O, crushed pineapple, peppermint extract, and vinegar. The proportion of pineapple is fairly sizeable, and this made me nervous as I’ve been warned by a few different people that I should be careful when using pineapple because it contains an enzyme that inhibits gelling.
However, this appears not to have been a problem here. It’s difficult to tell from the photo, but the Jell-O in the ramekins is, indeed, fully set. I had intended to unmold the Jell-O from the ramekins onto the plate, but it would not come loose, despite the little knife and the warm water bath. I assume the ceramic wasn’t transferring the heat as well as, say, my metal bundt pan. Oh well, another Jell-O lesson learned. I may have to invest in some Pam for future recipes. (It’s not a General Foods/Kraft product, so naturally the Jell-O folks aren’t going to recommend using it.) Another little problem with using the ramekins is that I find myself wishing they contained crème brulée instead.
It would have been helpful if the recipe book had included a serving suggestion for this one, because I honestly have no idea what place this might have in a meal. Texture-wise it is rather like your more traditional relishes, in that the gelatin serves mainly as a binding agent for the crushed pineapple. Flavor-wise, I’m not sure what would be enhanced by this. The flavor is, to put it generously, complex. At first it’s just “mmm, lime Jell-O and pineapple, this is a bit of all right” and the vinegar just seems to enhance the tartness, which is something I like about both lime and pineapple. But then the peppermint sneaks up on you, and you wonder what the hell it’s doing there, like some kid in a crowd jumping up and flipping the bird in the background of a video of two dignitaries shaking hands. I’m thinking maybe you could have this with Nilla Wafers in a course somewhere between the salad (iceberg lettuce wedges with bleu cheese dressing?) and the dessert (something involving Cool Whip, definitely).
It’s funny how long it can take to unlearn all the stuff you were taught as a kid that screwed you up. I was taught some pretty messed up stuff, such as “there’s no point in writing or dancing or learning to play the guitar, because when you grow up and have a family you won’t have time for those things anyway” (an almost-verbatim quote of my grandmother). Some lessons were subtler, like “if something doesn’t come easily, it’s a waste of time to work hard to learn it” and “if you’re not good at something, might as well not do it” (for instance, when I finally got interested in music for real and annoyed my parents by laboriously teaching myself Queen songs out of a songbook on our Yamaha home organ).
It took me a stupidly long time (and a lot of therapy) to even realize how wrong those notions are. It wasn’t until I was newly divorced and turning 30 that I really twigged the importance of learning new things. That was when I first took up weight training, a real departure for a nerd who was not picked dead last for teams in gym class only because I wasn’t “the fat kid”. It’s pretty clear I have no talent for strength training (even with the help of a trainer, I’m still in the “high intermediate” range for a woman my age) but I really like being in the gym, lifting weights, and training to be a tough old bird.
One cool thing about lifting is that on some level you’re always a newb. There are so many different factors to take into account. A lot depends on how well you’re eating and sleeping, what’s going on with your health and your mood, and maybe you think you’ve got it nailed down, but then you have to work around an injury, and you’re always getting older, and gradually you have to start taking wear-and-tear into account, and all the ways you’re physically changing. That’s good, though; keeps it interesting.
Something about getting older brings these things further to the front of your mind. As I approach 50, I’m giving more thought to how I want to age. Recently I was inspired by an interview that Stephen Colbert did with Jane Fonda on “The Late Show” in which she talked about feeling like a newbie. (Why CBS didn’t leave that bit in when they posted the video, I don’t know. They really should have left that and scrapped the emoji bit.) I love what she has to say about learning from failure and learning to do new things, even as she’s pushing 80. My takeaway is, do what makes you happy and don’t be afraid to suck.
So if anyone’s still wondering why I’m doing this blog, that’s why. I’m no good at pretending to be “normal”, and it makes me unhappy to try. In that vein, I’m also getting back into juggling (sucking pretty hard each time I try to learn a new trick) and having another go at Twitter (which makes me feel old – all the more reason to try). Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have an appointment with my trainer at the gym, where hopefully I will suck a little less. Hm, that didn’t come out quite right, did it…?
For my first Jell-O back, I thought I’d ease into things with a simple one. Frosty Mandarin Dessert has three ingredients (not including water): orange Jell-O, a tin of mandarin orange slices, and a pint of orange sherbet. That’s a lot of orange.
Since the regular marketing is not one of my household tasks, I always get a bit of a kick out of going to the supermarket. It’s weird how things can change in a few months. Suddenly there are a lot more varieties of Cheerios. (“Dark Chocolate Cheerios mixed with Peanut Butter Cheerios. I’d eat that,” Bryan announces.*) Soda containers shrink, familiar logos change, new products turn up.
It turns out that mandarin orange pieces still come in 11 oz. cans as the recipe requires. Reading the label, we found that the can of oranges was a “product of China”, which I guess makes them authentic. Out of curiosity, I read some other labels, and discovered that most of our tinned fruit comes from Asia, with the notable exception of a jar of maraschino cherries that were proudly “made in the U.S.A.” There’s something a little off about going to a New England supermarket and finding prepackaged apple bits made in Thailand.
The sherbet was another story. I don’t know if sherbet is now considered a “summer thing” or if it’s just going out of fashion, but I could only find Friendly’s watermelon sherbet (my favorite as a kid) and Hood orange, both in quart sizes only. Oh well. If my mother was making this recipe in 1974 she would have gone for the Hood orange, so chalk up another point for authenticity.
The preparation was unremarkable – make a double batch of Jell-O, melt the sherbet into it, chill until thick, add the orange bits, chill until firm. That old story.
So, it turns out that I’m no Hemingway or Kerouac when it comes to drinking and writing. For one thing, I’m a small female person, not a manly man. For another, I don’t have nearly the practice drinking that either of them did. It’s kind of embarrassing how little alcohol it takes to leave me with a miserable hangover the next day, especially now that I’m older. (This seems to be a common complaint about aging.) If there’s one thing Jell-O is not, it’s hangover food. I had to fortify myself with a nice cheese-and-pickle-on-rye sandwich before tasting Frosty Mandarin Dessert.
No surprise, this one is pretty meh. It’s that artificial orange flavor. It’s offensively inoffensive, sort of like the shitty pop music they play at my gym. It’s supposed to be something everyone likes, so nobody really likes it. I can’t account for the wide disparity between the picture in the book and how mine turned out. Orange sherbet is quite light in color, so I certainly didn’t expect it to darken the Jell-O, but that’s what happened. Life is just full of surprises.
Meanwhile, we have half a quart of sherbet left over in the freezer, which should come in handy if either of us gets sick…
* Just to confirm, as of this writing, my husband is 51 years old. Not five.
This opening monologue from “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” has been haunting me since the beginning of October.
What really got me was the part about breakfast for dinner, pancakes at dusk. That happened at my house sometimes when I was growing up, my mother apparently couldn’t be arsed to make a proper supper, and instead we’d have pancakes. As a kid, I thought it was a lark (pancakes for supper!) but in retrospect, I think Colbert was right – Mom was either very sad or very tired; either way, somebody needed counseling.
Well, anyway, I suppose that if I was in charge of dinner at Freak Mountain, there would be a lot of pancakes at dusk. I’ve been both very sad and very tired for a long time. My long, dark teatime of the soul, you might say. After July, my mood was taking even more of a beat-down when the presidential race started heating up. I won’t rehash that. We all know how our initial amusement slowly changed to a growing horror, which paralleled my own personal descent towards a self-negating hell.
Pretty heavy stuff for a blog about Jell-O, innit?
So, something happened to me last week that I don’t think I’ll divulge here because I’m still processing it, and it’s a little embarrassing, but it reminded me that there’s a part of me that can still see the amazing, weird, fun parts of life. Things have gotten bad enough that, even though near as I can tell practically no one reads this blog, I can kind of see a point to making Jell-O recipes and writing about them. It’s so random, and silly, and I’m not monetizing this (it’s actually costing me money, because I pay extra so that readers won’t have to see ads, and Kraft certainly isn’t chucking any ducats at me for this) but it’s fun, okay?
Fun is what’s needed now. Yes, I’ve been drinking. But here we are.
I’m back on the Jell-O, kids. But I have other ideas, too. I’m trying to have more fun, which I want to share with the world (or at least the internet), because we need some fun now. The concept is that this won’t be so much “the joy of Jell-O” as “joy and Jell-O”. I hope you’ll come along on the ride with me, and maybe bring some friends along, as I try to enjoy life more.
Hang in there with me. It’ll get better, I promise. And truly, I love you a little…
P.S. I’m on my third bourbon-and-water here, and my connection with gravity is becoming tenuous. How did Hemingway and Kerouac do it? Stay tuned, kiddoes…