Note: I woke up this morning to the news about the shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. Like so many others, I’m shocked and saddened, and feeling pessimistic about my country when it seems like there will never be a number of deaths high enough to get us to finally declare “enough is enough”. If this has cast a pall over Orange Parfait, I apologize. The show must go on…
If I may, I’d like to start with this photo from the book. There are so many things wrong with it. The ugly two-page spread is the least of it. (And how sad is it that even with a book like this I can’t bring myself to break the binding?) The cheerful demeanor of the family seems all out of proportion. Dad needs a haircut. The Orange Parfait that they’re pretending to enjoy so much bears little resemblance to mine, and I think Mom must have doubled or tripled the recipe to get that much Jell-O in five tall parfait glasses. But the thing that chiefly strikes me is the fact that the three kids are half-finished with their dessert while Mom and Dad haven’t had a chance to dig in their spoons yet. In my family, that would have been considered rude; Dad would be yelling, red-faced with a vein throbbing visibly in his temple, and at least one of those children would be crying.
But enough nostalgia. Outside of my imagined family scene. Orange Parfait is actually okay, easy to make and easy to eat, though I must admit that I did not entirely trust the recipe, and made a few modifications. The key ingredients are orange Jell-O, “orange sections”, chopped apple, and Dream Whip. The recipe calls for a half cup of each of the fruits, which doesn’t sound like enough, and a half-cup of orange sections sounds peculiar, so I cut the orange sections into chunks. Orange Parfait á la Freak Mountain therefore includes one navel orange, sectioned and cut into chunks, and one half of a large apple (Honeycrisp), chopped.
The Dream Whip was another minor challenge. The recipe calls for a half-cup, but a packet of Dream Whip yields two cups of whipped topping according to the directions on the box. I am dubious about that claim, but it’s definitely more than a half cup. So let’s say the quantity of Dream Whip is one envelope prepared per directions. After all, there’s no such thing as too much whipped topping.
Then there was the Jell-O. Oh, General Foods, you sneaky Petes… They tried to fool me into thickening it by adding ice instead of cold water. I don’t know, some people like that technique, but for me that trick never works. I dumped a two-cup measuring cup full of ice into the hot Jell-O, and it immediately started melting at an alarming rate. I pulled out what little unmelted ice there was left after a scant minute, and the Jell-O was still quite liquid, so I ended up thickening it over an ice-water bath anyway.
While I was making this, I kept thinking about more delectable parfaits, trifles, tiramisu…. Of course, the beauty of a simple parfait dessert like this is that it’s highly adaptable, and you can just layer your favorite ingredients in a glass and really enjoy your dessert. This dessert as given in The New Joys of Jell-O isn’t at all bad, though. As you can see from the photo, it looks quite nice. I did find myself wishing I had some Cool Whip, because it’s much easier to make photogenic dollops with that than with Dream Whip. Bryan prefers the taste of Dream Whip, however, while I’m pretty neutral when it comes to non-cream whipped dessert toppings.
For eating it was fine. Bryan said he didn’t like the “crunchy bits”, but I thought the combination of textures was acceptable. The photo shows the actual yield of the recipe (tall glasses for Mum and Dad, and smaller ones for the kiddos) and we managed to eat it all – the tall glasses after supper last night, and the small ones with breakfast this morning. If I were going all-out to pretend it was a fancy dessert, I would have served this with some crisp almond cookies, which would have nicely rounded out the flavors and textures.
I found myself wondering if kids still like this sort of thing. I mean, when I was a kid, a dish of Jell-O was a rather “meh” dessert, but I think I would have been impressed by a layered parfait like this. Of course, everything was simpler 40 years ago, wasn’t it?