Well, here we are back on the increasingly cracked and weedy Memory Lane. I have no recollection of this one whatsoever, which is hardly surprising considering that I made it almost seven years ago. So much water under the bridge, and, to be honest, there’s so much going on in the here-and-now that my brain doesn’t have a lot of room for nostalgia these days.
So I’m working off of my old notes, which seem so uninformative now.
This is one of those not-awful savory recipes, vegetables suspended in Jell-O instead of fruit. It’s seasoned with vinegar, salt and pepper, and I’m guessing that the amounts were adequate to counteract the sweetness of the Jell-O, because I didn’t remark that it was too sweet – though I did note that it “[wasn’t] Molded Tomato Relish, but definitely a WTF kind of thing”, so maybe it was still early enough in the Project that I didn’t quite know how to approach the savory ones.
The vegetables involved are onion (grated), cauliflower, and pimento, and it looks like this one is another where I made the mistake of asking Bryan to pick up ingredients for me. Like a lot of people our age, he only knew of pimentos as the red things that sometimes appear stuffed into green olives, and he didn’t realize that you could buy them on their own in jars, so he bought me a red bell pepper instead, and that’s what I ended up using. Appearance-wise, that was probably close enough, but I bet that using pickled pimentos would have helped to further mask the sweetness of the Jell-O. As with Garden Soufflé Salad, I found the cauliflower to have an odd texture in the gelatin, and it tasted weird, too. I thought this dish would be better with celery Jell-O.
The recipe suggests serving this with mayonnaise or French dressing if desired. No, I do not desire.
One thing I did like about Sequin Salad was the appearance, which is so often Jell-O’s strong suit. However, it did not look appetizing to Bryan, who saw it as primarily “pale beige” because he’s red-green colorblind. I’ve known this about him for almost as long as I’ve known him, and with image-filtering technology I can get some idea of how the world looks to him. I suspect that the filtered image here is more yellow-brown than it would look to Bryan. He can actually see some red, although he tends to have trouble with the Pepto-pinks (so Jell-Os like Cherry Chiffon probably don’t look that great, either) and depending on the brightness, greens appear to him as yellow, orange, or brown. When he was a kid, he was confused by the expression “The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence” because all the grass looked orange to him.
I guess I should be a little fairer to Bryan, considering that he’s getting even less enjoyment from the Jell-O than I am. Then again, this was his idea, so – nah…
We’re back to the savory Jell-O this week. I wish I could bring myself to describe it as “scary”, but I’m finding that the more I delve into the world of vintage recipes, the more it takes to scare me.
I should have planned out my editorial calendar a little more carefully, because it turns out that Garden Soufflé Salad isn’t all that different from my last savory offering, Jellied Fresh Vegetable Salad. The main differences are two additional vegetables (cauliflower and watercress) and the method of preparing the bavarian base, which in this case is whipped so that it’s light and airy (hence “soufflé”).
What I’d really like to be able to do here is somehow make Garden Soufflé Salad out to be a sort of metaphor for Brexit, because that’s been so heavily on a lot of people’s minds lately (and it might be more interesting than the dish itself), but it would be an extremely labored metaphor. The confused muddle of random vegetables could represent the U.K. citizens’ confusion and working at cross purposes on both sides of the issue. The fluffy whipped lime Jell-O, enhanced by mayonnaise, could represent the government of the U.K. doing a poor job of holding everything together. But that’s all I got.
I’ve been an anglophile since I was a kid, so I continue to sympathize with the folks in the U.K., and not only because I’m afraid this is like looking into a crystal ball at November 9 in the U.S. Even so, after months of feeling obliged to try to explain the Rise of Trump to the rest of the world, I confess I’m savoring a tiny smidgen of schadenfreude. Hey, U.K., let’s hear you justify Boris Johnson! Try to explain away Nigel Farage! Yeah, Trump’s being an ass, but your Prime Minister is bailing in the wake of the Leave vote after he explicitly said he wouldn’t.
I’m just taking the piss here, though. A lot of their problems are similar to our problems, and, sadly, they don’t seem to have any better idea of how to solve them than we do. So, the way I see it, we’re all stuck in this crazy time together, and one thing that’s heartening is all the humor that’s arisen from people just trying to keep their heads up.
Maybe that’s why I wish Garden Soufflé Salad was funnier, or weirder. The main issue I have with it is that it’s too sweet. Also, watercress. What the hell? After however many recipes calling for Bird’s Eye Quick Thaw this and that, suddenly I bump into one calling for a hoity toity ingredient like watercress – which is unexpectedly available at our local Super Stop’n’Shop. And what did it add to the Jell-O dish? Well, apart from the extra sweetness, the main difference in flavors between Jellied Fresh Vegetable Salad and Garden Soufflé Salad was a sort of earthy taste. And by “earthy”, I mean “dirt”.
The really odd thing is that I’ve come away from this series of jellied salads thinking that, actually, the concept is sound. I believe that, if done right, there may be a place for the savory jellied salad in American cuisine. Go ahead – laugh…
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).
Originally posted October 11, 2009
Okay, I’ll be honest with you. I don’t really remember this one, and the notes I took are scant. It’s one of those simple recipes from the first chapter of the book, where you’re supposed to be just getting the hang of Jell-O, but reading the recipe is one of those “what the hell” moments. It’s lime Jell-O flavored with with crème de menthe, of all things, whipped up in a blender to give it that frothy look.
This was my second venture into the “lime Jell-O and mint” flavor palate, the first being Minted Pineapple Relish (to be reposted in the not-too-distant future). There are a few such recipes in the book, which is puzzling because it’s really not a good combination of flavors. In my notes, I speculated about whether this was supposed to evoke the flavor of mojitos. I’m not a big fan of rum, so I haven’t downed a lot of mojitos in my time, but I don’t recall them tasting like this. (And I can’t imagine Ernest Hemingway, a famous mojito drinker, approving of this dessert.)
Unsurprisingly, I determined that the combination of lime Jell-O and mint is better without the addition of pineapple, although the aftertaste was still not pleasant. It started out vaguely refreshing, and gradually turned into a sort of burning on the tongue. Nevertheless, I gave it two nasties.
Doing this as a Memory Lane post feels like a bit of a cheat, but it doesn’t seem like something worth repeating. Besides, as I’m pushing fifty, I’m starting to appreciate that life is just too short to spent extra time making and eating mint-enhanced lime Jell-O.
That said, turning forty-eight last month gave me an idea. I’ve been following a blog called Fit is a Feminist Issue that was started by two Canadian philosophy professors who, as they were approaching fifty, decided that they were going to make a goal of being their fittest ever by their fiftieth birthdays (which were last summer/fall) and blog about it along the way. Since they did the fitness thing, I’m thinking that I will make my fiftieth birthday the outside limit for getting through The New Joys of Jell-O. That way, no matter what, in January 2017 I’ll have something to celebrate.
Originally posted January 16, 2010
Note: Almost exactly five years later, I’m reposting this about a week after my birthday. I didn’t have any Jell-O for my birthday this year, which doesn’t exactly compensate for being five years older, but it’s something.
I guess I’m just not as smart as I sometimes think I am. You’d think I would have learned my lesson with the Jell-O brunch, but with this confluence of recipes on the schedule, I couldn’t resist doing another “theme” post. I must say, though, that unless I pick up the pace I’m going to have to Tom Sawyer a bunch of unwitting friends and acquaintances into attending a Jell-O buffet – and nobody wants that…
Spanish Tuna Salad
Don’t ask me what makes this salad “Spanish,” because I honestly don’t know. As I work through The New Joys of Jell-O, I often have the impression that recipes were named (and/or developed) using a process akin to Mad Libs.
Spanish Tuna Salad is your basic “things suspended in Jell-O,” savory style – tuna, diced tomato, chopped celery and scallion, and, in theory, small strips of cucumber. However, the cucumber Bryan selected from the bin at the supermarket turned out to be a zucchini, so I just went with that. I suspect it could only have improved the dish. The chopped vegetables (which I “eyeballed” rather than measured, taking care only to not skimp) and chunks of white albacore tuna were added to a thickened lemon Jell-O that had been seasoned with pepper and vinegar. This was put into individual gelatin molds and left in the fridge to chill overnight. Probably the best thing I can say about Spanish Tuna Salad is that it gave Bryan a night off from cooking. The next best thing I can say is that it wasn’t as bad as the Salmon Dill Mousse (although Bryan disagreed with me on this). It looked like some sort of kooky diet dish from a recipe out of a 1970s-vintage issue of Ladies Home Journal, and as has been the problem with the savory Jell-Os so far, the sweetness of the Jell-O was not sufficiently cut by the seasonings and other ingredients. I found the flavor too complicated, the sweet lemon gelatin bumping rudely against the tuna and the celery. The texture wasn’t as creepy as that of the Salmon Dill Mousse, but it still wasn’t remotely pleasant to eat. My overall impression was that this was the sort of thing a young housewife of forty years ago would have made if she didn’t know any better, having married young and gone directly from living with her parents to living with her husband. Once I’d formed this impression, I felt like a bit of a chump.
Key Lime Pie
First, a disclaimer: Yes, I know what key lime pie is, and I know that this isn’t really it. Again, it was those crazy GF R&D drones who named the recipes, not me. When I was making up my schedule, I tried to balance the weird, scary, and outright offensive-sounding recipes with the kinder, gentler ones, hence the pairing of Spanish Tuna Salad with Key Lime Pie. Also, I like lime, so I decided to schedule that one for my birthday. We ended up eating it the day after – close enough. Key Lime Pie sounded like it would be a bit of all right, especially since the recipe calls for two teaspoons of lime zest and a half-cup of lime juice. I juiced the limes I used for zesting, so this had a bracing quantity of fresh, genuine flavoring. The zest and juice, plus a teaspoon of aromatic bitters (don’t ask) were added to lime Jell-O, and the hot liquid was stirred gradually into a well-beaten egg yolk. (I managed not to cook the egg this time – hooray!) This was chilled over an ice water bath until it was slightly thick, and then a can of sweetened condensed milk was stirred into it. Finally, a beaten egg white was folded into the mixture and the lot was poured into a pre-baked pie shell (again, a store-bought crust from the freezer case) and popped into the fridge to chill and firm up.
When I first tasted it, it seemed to me that the real and fake lime flavors clashed a bit on the palate, but I quickly got used to that. Otherwise, it wasn’t bad at all. The real juice and zest gave the pie a nice dash of acidity, and the sweetened condensed milk gave it firmness without the peculiar artificial flavors of Cool Whip or Dream Whip. The recipe recommended garnishing the pie with Dream Whip, and while I did kind of regret presenting a plain pie in the photograph here, it was a relief to eat a Jell-O dessert without Dream Whip in it. While it wasn’t exactly the sort of Key Lime Pie you would expect to get in a good restaurant in Florida, it was a reasonable consolation after eating the Spanish Tuna Salad.
Bryan took seconds.
Originally posted January 31, 2010
Nothing seems to be going my way lately. I really thought I was going to be able to get close to caught up over the last week and a half or so – and then last weekend I started to come down with gastroenteritis. Kind of ironic when you consider that, next to chicken soup, Jell-O is the ultimate American sick-room food, but over the past week I haven’t wanted to think about Jell-O, let alone eat it. I think as you read this blog entry, you’ll understand why it took me so long to write and post it.
I wasn’t sure what to expect as I embarked upon Jellied Avocado Ring. For one thing, I’m a little ambivalent about avocados. I find them confusing, fruit that tastes like a vegetable. I don’t eat them very often, and when I do it’s usually in the form of guacamole, with nachos. I just didn’t have a good sense of how well they would go with lime Jell-O, so I tried to be optimistic, and decided that this recipe could turn out to be okay.
So what did I do? I started myself off on the wrong foot by letting the avocados get a little overripe. (Like I said, I don’t know avocados very well…) Still, I soldiered on, buoyed by the idea that no matter how this turned out, I was going to plant the avocado pits and have four new friends like in the California Avocado Advisory Board ads I used to see in Seventeen magazine in the early 1980s. I mashed up the avocados as well as I could, and added them and a quarter-cup of mayonnaise to a quadruple batch of lime Jell-O that was salted and thickened. I started stirring:
This was a little discouraging. For some *ahem* unknown reason I was reminded of some drunken blow-outs kick-ass parties thrown by a certain C– W– that I had attended during my misspent youth. I kept stirring, sure it would get better. It didn’t:
Not only was the avocado just a little too chunky for this to be visually appealing, but also the mayonnaise would not be fully incorporated into the mixture and stubbornly remained in worrying little lumps. It began to dawn on me that this was going to be one of the more interesting Jell-Os to write about, and into the bundt pan it went.
Finally I had a Jell-O mold big enough for the bundt pan, and it had to be this one. I know what you’re thinking, so I’ll go ahead and say it – this came out looking like a green vomit mold. The real question was, would it taste like a green vomit mold?
I’m not sure how to describe the flavor. As I was eating it, it didn’t seem all that unpleasant, and yet I had to force myself to finish it. The lime Jell-O wasn’t too sweet. The avocado flavor wasn’t particularly objectionable, but the mayonnaise lumps were. As usual, none of it blended together at all well. The texture was a little creepy, maybe. It was difficult to imagine what place it could have in a meal. As Bryan put it, “This isn’t a 2 or a 3 [“nasties”, my old recipe rating system, not used in the reboot], this is a WTF.”
I’ll tell you what this reminded me of. Five years ago, I suffered an episode of idiopathic acute angle-closure glaucoma in my left eye. The condition is rare to begin with, and I didn’t have any of the common risk factors for it, so when it proved difficult to bring down the pressure in my eye, I was subjected to a battery of tests. One of them, ultrasound biomicroscopy, involved placing a sort of open-bottom cup on my eye (by fixing the lip of the cup under my eyelids,) filling the cup with saline solution, and running a vibrating ultrasound probe in the saline. (This generated some interesting pictures of the inside of my eyeball.) While I was going through it, it didn’t seem so terrible. I managed not to freak out, managed to stay calm even. My memories of it are not horrible. However, I never want to go through it again.
That’s sort of how I feel about Jellied Avocado Ring.
Despite my dictum against waste, I could not bring myself to eat any more of it. Luckily, I’ve come up with a rationalization for this. In my yoga classes, we’re told by the instructors that on the principle of ahimsa (nonviolence) we shouldn’t force ourselves to do poses that are uncomfortable or painful, that do us harm. I have decided that to force Bryan and myself to eat the nastier Jell-O dishes would be to cause us both to violate the principle of ahimsa – and, frankly, neither of our karmas can afford to take those hits.