Memory Lane: Ported Cherry Dessert

martini glass containing frothy cherry gelatin dessert

Ported Cherry Dessert circa 1974

I hope your hiking shoes are all broken in by now, because we’re going to be spending a good bit of time treading down Memory Lane from now, past the holidays, and on through my birthday in January. (I have big plans for the Big Five-Oh that shall be revealed in due course, but they don’t have a lot to do with Jell-O.)

portwine

I’m still feeling a little apologetic towards A–…

I do vaguely remember Ported Cherry Dessert, because it requires actual port wine, and I happened to have a bottle of it on hand, courtesy of an actual Portuguese person.

At the time that I was working on the original iteration of the Project, the Lab in which I work was heavily involved in the first phase of the MIT Portugal Program, collaborating with researchers in Portugal and participating in the supervision of the work of Portuguese doctoral candidates. For a few years, at any given time there would be at least one or two Portuguese students in the Lab for a semester or more at a time, enjoying our particular version of “the MIT experience”, and we would regularly host Portuguese faculty for shorter periods. One of them gave me this bottle of port. It’s nothing special, but a decent wine, and I appreciated that A– thought of me (a mere administrative assistant), so I felt mildly guilty for using it in a Jell-O dish.

The MIT Portugal Program has shifted focus somewhat in the second phase, and apart from one research project that was pending for years, our involvement now is minimal. However, MIT is generally a pretty “international” environment, and we still have a lot of non-U.S.-Americans in the Lab, which has made the election more engaging as we Americans have to think about it carefully when we talk with them about it. As it turns out, the outcome been rough on all of us.

I went to bed around 10:30 on the night of Election Day, as things were starting to look bad for Clinton, so I wasn’t shocked at the result when I tuned into NPR the next morning. What I hadn’t been expecting was the deep sense of shame that I felt. Along with the recent Trump news stories (the Access Hollywood recording and assault accusations, his refusal to release his tax returns with all sorts of lame excuses, his campaign rhetoric) I had been paying attention to the reports of how he’s been doing business for decades (e.g., abusing the legal system to avoid paying contractors), having my memory refreshed of his romps through the tabloid news, and learning about his upbringing and how he has treated his family. I came to the conclusion that Donald Trump is a terrible person, so bad that he’d be implausible as a movie villain; selfish, petty, narcissistic, vulgar; incurious and anti-intellectual; opportunistic and unethical. And we just elected him to be President of the United States. I thought we were better than that. Silly me.

On Wednesday, I felt as though I should be apologizing to our international students and staff, to at least try to assure them that there are people in this country who aren’t represented by the Trump candidacy. They said that they felt badly for us being stuck with him for at least four years. They also said that they suddenly feel much less welcome in the U.S. We have a few Muslims on staff, and they’re understandably nervous. One of our researchers is gay, and he’s concerned about the possibility of advances for the LGBTQ community being rolled back. Of course, we female types are worried about what this means for reproductive rights. Everyone is wondering what might happen to research funding under a Trump administration, especially considering that a lot of our research concerns sustainability.

two red wine glasses containing a frothy cherry gelatin dessert

Ported Cherry Dessert á la Freak Mountain

I’m heartsick at the outcome of this election, sad that it’s left people feeling anxious and afraid, ashamed that Trump’s is the image we’re going to be projecting to the rest of the world. I haven’t been out demonstrating, but I’m mulling over ways to constructively oppose the coming administration. It’s hard to know what to do right now, since there’s a lot of uncertainty around what to expect (Trump has flip-flopped and waffled so much, both during the campaign and since winning the election), but I have a few ideas, and NJOJ will definitely be in on the protest action.

This being a Jell-O blog, my plan is to keep it a little light, and positive. One symbolic (and admittedly silly) gesture I will be making is to eschew the use of orange Jell-O for the rest of the Project. I’ve already gone though the calendar, picked out the Virgin and Reboot recipes with orange Jell-O in them, and identified substitutes. For Memory Lane and Reposts, I’m thinking contributions to relevant charities would be a good way to go – Planned Parenthood for sure, and I’m trying to decide on one that provides assistance to refugees. There are some really good ones, and it’s a tough choice. I’ll be providing sidebar links. Stay tuned!

a page of handwritten notesMeanwhile – Ported Cherry Dessert. Another thing I remember is something I indicated in my notes, an ongoing dissatisfaction with frozen fruit. I wonder if it was better in the mid-20th century, or if my standards are just too high.

The Birds Eye Quick Thaw Sweet Cherries specified in the recipe were no longer available when I made this, nor were there any plain old frozen cherries (I’m wondering now why it’s so hard to find processed cherries at all). I found myself wishing that I’d deviated from the recipe in other ways. The gelatin and hot liquid (lemon juice, cherry juice, and wine amounting to one cup) were mixed in a blender, and then ice was blended in. I think this was supposed to be another quick-set recipe, because the next step is to put the gelatin into dessert glasses, garnish with sour cream and whole cherries, and then chill it. The problem with doing it in that order, I found, was that the sour cream and cherries sank into the gelatin (as you can see in the “á la Freak Mountain” photo), which wasn’t set up enough to support them. I really should have chilled this until firm, and then added the garnish.

Even so, this one wasn’t so bad. The “two nasties” rating was something of a compromise that partly reflected my dissatisfaction with the frozen fruit and also reflected the fact that Bryan didn’t care much for the flavor, although I did. Wine jellies usually seem to go well, and this one might almost be worth a redo with fresh fruit and a little reordering of the preparation steps. It’s always nice to do a recipe that doesn’t leave you scratching your head and wondering why…

 

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