Monthly Archives: May, 2017

Virgin Recipe: Strawberry Bavarian Pie

white Squier strat

New arrival at Freak Mountain

So, I’ve been trying to take advantage of a long holiday weekend that has turned out to be far too short. On Saturday I finally got an electric guitar, a Squier (budget-range Fender) stratocaster, and a cool little practice amplifier that has a USB port (for digital recording, hopefully) and a bunch of built-in effects to keep me happily distorted until I’m ready to start shopping for pedals. I have a strap and some lesson books on order, so I’m on my way, though I tend to think that probably I’ll end up being to the guitar what Inspector Clouseau was to the violin. But we’ll see.

Meanwhile, our cat Ida has been slowly recovering from what appears to have been some sort of mental breakdown a few weeks ago, during which she decided that she hated our other cat, Sam (her offspring), and took up residence on top of the kitchen cabinets. Feeding her up there was fine, but she perceived coming down to use the litter box as a journey fraught with peril, and this was not a situation that we could allow to continue. On Friday evening we got her down and set up in the bedroom, where she seems to be gradually getting back to normal, but we still don’t know what happened. Even the vet seems mystified so far.

Just to add to the fun (and freak out the cats some more), a little while ago we had a plumber here trying to deal with our weird European tankless furnace/water-heater “combi” unit because the hot water suddenly cut out yesterday. The plumbing issues always seem to crop up on long holiday weekends, so that they’ll be as expensive as possible. $300 so far, and we still have no hot water.

So I’ve been a bit less focused on the Jell-O this week, but I did make a Strawberry Bavarian Pie for you.

strawberry pie in chocolate crumb crust with ugly-ass Cool Whip dollops

Strawberry Bavarian Pie á la Freak Mountain

To be honest, this wasn’t very interesting, just another Cool Whip bavarian, with frozen strawberries mixed in. The recipe calls for a nine-inch pie shell, but again I decided to go with a chocolate crumb crust because that makes this dessert a little more of a treat. As you can see, I attempted to use leftover Cool Whip to garnish the pie, and I’m way off my dollop game.

photo of pie from book

Strawberry Bavarian Pie circa 1974

It occurs to me that despite everything else I had going on this weekend, I was still able to prepare this dessert, so in a way it was fulfilling the function for which it was intended. On some level, I was emulating the housewives for whom these recipes were created, women who were busy taking care of their families and felt that a nice dessert was part of a good family dinner (anyone else remember back in the day when it was usual and expected that families would eat dinner together?) but didn’t necessarily have time for something fancier. Actually, Strawberry Bavarian Pie would have been kind of a special dessert after supper when I was a kid.

Bryan and I tasted this after the plumber left, and for us it wasn’t so special. I told Bryan about how the recipe calls for an addition of a tablespoon of sugar to the gelatin, which I think might have been meant to balance out tartness in the strawberries. We both thought it was odd, given how sweet Cool Whip is, but then it occurred to us that Cool Whip might not have been quite as sweet back in the day. Looking at the history of high fructose corn syrup, it’s likely that these Jell-O and Cool Whip “no-bake pies” were developed before HFCS was widely adopted as a sweetener in mass-produced food products. (That might help explain why, much as kids my age were junk-food junkies back in the 1970s, few of us were obese.) We mulled over how it might be possible to find out what the ingredients in Cool Whip would have been in 1974, thinking that perhaps it would be possible to find vintage tubs on eBay or something like that. I didn’t find any vintage tubs, but I did fall down a rabbit hole of vintage Cool Whip commercials going back to 1966, when Cool Whip first hit the market, including the “Tucker Inn” series, which any child of the 1970s will remember. This one is especially relevant:

Virgin Recipe: Molded Vegetable Relish

Your Humble Narrator tasting the Jell-O

Why did this take me so long?

It feels like ages since I did a nasty Jell-O, but it’s only been a couple of months. I’ve been having a weird relationship with time lately. On the one hand, time in the Trump regime goes by slowly, what with all the drama and “bombshell” news. It’s hard to believe it’s only been four months since the inauguration. On the other hand, on a day-to-day, hour-by-hour basis, time slips through my hands like water as I try to get done everything I want to do (work, gym, spending time with spouse and cats, Jell-O, guitar, Fallout…) but somehow I get sucked into the interwebs or old movies on TCM instead. Time has been almost unmanageable, for me at least. Still, I’ve managed to do Molded Vegetable Relish for you.

This is one of those Jell-O molds that strike fear in the hearts of random people on the internet. Oh no! Lime Jell-O with vegetables in it! The horror! But I’ve grown numb to it, and anyway, Molded Vegetable Relish couldn’t be as bad as the last couple of weeks have been for the U.S.

bowls of cabble, celery, pickle, and sliced olives

For my Molded Vegetable Relish – chopped cabbage, chopped celery, chopped pickle, and sliced martini olives

Molded Vegetable Relish gives the cook the option of choosing from six different vegetable combinations: 1) cabbage, celery, carrots, and green pepper; 2) cabbage, celery, green pepper, and pimiento; 3) cabbage, celery, pickle, and pimiento; 4) cooked peas, diced celery, and cabbage; 5) cabbage and sliced stuffed olives; or 6) carrots and green pepper. (I’m sensing a theme here…) To make this as repellent as possible, I went for door number three, except that instead of pimientos I used martini olives for maximum nastiness. The recipe is non-specific about the type of pickles, so I used what we had in the fridge, Grillo’s Italian dill slices. So, yes, what we’re talking about here is lime Jell-O with cabbage, celery, chopped dill pickle, and sliced stuffed olives that have been marinating in vermouth.

I have learned that, for the viewers, the most interesting bits of my videos are the ones where I make “yuck faces” as I taste the Jell-O, and I aim to please.

As far as preparation goes, the lime Jell-O gets made more or less in the usual way, a single batch (3-oz. packet) with 3/4 cup cold water instead of a full cup, with the addition of vinegar, salt, pepper, and grated onion. I found myself in the weird position of feeling as though I hadn’t added enough onion to my Jell-O (and that just ain’t right…) After thickening (over an ice water bath), the chopped veggies are mixed in and the whole mess is put into a mold and stuck into the fridge to firm up.

lime Jell-O mold with bits of veggies suspended in it

Molded Vegetable Relish in all its glory

The result was a bright-green mold, the color possibly enhanced by the almost-monochrome solid ingredients. It was certainly visually striking. It almost didn’t look like food. (Almost?)

This was not the worst Jell-O recipe I’ve done, but it definitely wasn’t good. To start with, there really wasn’t enough onion in it. I’m not sure if more would have helped, though. Between the salt and pepper and vinegar, and the salty, vinegary pickles and olives, there should have been enough savory flavoring in this, but all of that just could not cut the sweetness of the lime Jell-O. Instead, the flavors clashed in a rather aggressive way.

As Bryan noted, at least it didn’t have mayonnaise in it.

I took pleasure in shoving most of this down the garbage disposal, so Action Against Hunger is definitely getting a piece of this action.

Recipe Reboot: Quick (Not Orange) Fruit Salad

For some reason, WordPress won’t let me use strikethrough formatting in the title, so let me just note that, for the purposes of the Project, the official title of this recipe is Quick Orange Fruit Salad.

bowl of blue Jell-O with bits of strawberry, blueberry, honeydew, and halved graps, next to a smaller bowl containing a serving of the salad

Quick Orange Fruit Salad

This one is definitely an Orange Boycott, given that the base Jell-O is orange, and the “salad” part is mostly orange sections. This meant that I had to get kind of creative with the substitutions.

I thought that it could be fun to go with one of the more interesting Jell-O flavors – in my stash I have boxes of flavors like mango and “Melon Fusion”, but I decided that after the narrow passage of Trumpcare in the U.S. House of Representatives this week, I wanted to get as far from orange as possible. That meant Berry Blue. Blue is, of course, the complementary (or opposite) color to orange on the color wheel you learned in elementary school.

I had to put more thought into what I was going to use in place of the orange sections, and I settled on a bit of an assortment, like a standard, non-gelatinous fruit salad. At the range of restaurants we tend to frequent, fruit salad is almost always bits of cantaloupe, honeydew, strawberries, grapes, and maybe banana slices and/or blueberries, so I thought I’d try for something like that. Ruling out cantaloupe on account of the color, and bananas on account of their maddening tendency to clump together, I finally settled on honeydew and a strawberry and blueberry mix from the prepared-fruit section at the supermarket.

The recipe also calls for halved green grapes, and that was the key point where I did follow instructions. This part was kind of annoying, cutting the grapes in half. It reminded me of making Frosted Fresh Grapes, and I decided that, really, any preparation of grapes beyond washing them and pulling them off of the stems is a waste of time.

side view of finished Jell-O dish in glass bowl

Fish bowl Jell-O?

The preparation of Quick Orange Fruit Salad was mostly straightforward. The recipe includes the addition of a dash of salt and two teaspoons of lemon juice to the gelatin, and I went ahead and did that. This is supposed to be quick-thickened by the addition of ice in place of the cold water, but I guess the temperature in the kitchen wasn’t quite cool enough yesterday because, once again, this technique didn’t quite work, and I ended up thickening it over an ice-water bath. Once that was done, I added the fruit, put it in a pretty serving bowl, and was struck, as I put it into the fridge to chill, by the aquamarine color of the Berry Blue Jell-O and how it made me think of a fish bowl. I started wishing that I’d cut the honeydew slices into little fish shapes, and…. Nah. Life’s too short.

Your Humble Narrator shoveling a spoonful of Jell-O into her bright-red gob

Tasting Quick Orange Fruit Salad

For me, this turned out to be a perfectly nice dessert. I didn’t measure out the fruit and probably added more than the recipe called for, but this just meant that it seemed more healthful. The grape halves sank to the bottom, but that wasn’t a big deal once I’d dished out a portion. The Berry Blue flavor was better than I remembered, but maybe the addition of the salt and lemon juice had something to do with that. It reminded me of Smarties (the American kind, not the British kind) or Sweet Tarts. I found that I really liked the color, too. It reminded me of summer, which is taking its own sweet time coming around this year. Also, it kind of matched my hair’s current “accent” color, as my trainer pointed out when I was telling him about this earlier today, which is why I included a somewhat rare photo of myself tasting the Jell-O. However, to my colorblind spouse, Berry Blue Jell-O is a weird sort of blue-gray. “It doesn’t look like food!” he protested. I’ll be eating the lion’s share of this one.

Your Humble Narrator wearing an apron featuring a lurid image of a brain

Modeling my awesome, Jell-O-y brain apron

The apron I’m wearing in that photo was sent up to me this past week by R–, a former student/researcher in our lab who’s now working on his Ph.D. at Yale. The shiny red cerebrum reminded him of my brain-shaped Jell-O mold, and he couldn’t resist the kind gesture, for which I’m grateful.

It’s been kind of a gloomy week, between the weather and the GOP trying to kill and/or subjugate us 99%ers, so small kindnesses have meant a lot. A Facebook friend whom I’ve never met in person was good enough to share positive feedback after viewing the video of my Rock Camp band’s performance (luckily we were first in the lineup; I kind of feel like I owe a beer or other beverage of choice to anyone who makes it all the way through the song), and, most importantly, he took my interest in pursuing music seriously.

The interesting thing about my Facebook friend is that he’s politically conservative, and we’re both trying not to cut people off because of political differences. I know some people who are doing that, and I understand that they have their reasons, but (rather uncharacteristically, to be honest) I’m trying not to be so quick to give up on some large portion of humanity. It’s nice that some people are affirming my (admittedly shaky) faith in people.