Virgin Recipe: Frosty Mandarin Dessert


Frosty Mandarin Dessert circa 1974

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.


I was so tempted to buy this – until I read the directions on the back. It’s like getting ready to go to the disco all over again.

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.


What does this make you think of?

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.

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