Sunday, May 20, 2012

A Jell-O Kind of Weekend

It was a Jello kind of weekend ....warm weather, family gatherings, and plenty of reasons to feast. Whether you call it Jello or Jell-O, the history of gelatin is quite deep and, dear readers, we'll completely ignore the whole thing about what exactly goes into the stuff.

During the Victoria Era, according to Wikipedia, gelatin was reserved for the well-to-do -- sold in sheets and evidently time-consuming to work with -- and transformed into "Jelly Moulds". The concept of gelatin desserts eventually gained traction with the masses around 1902 when the product was advertised in the Ladies' Home Journal as "America's Most Famous Dessert". By 1930, there appeared a vogue in American cuisine for congealed salads, and the company (General Foods) introduced lime-flavored Jell-O to complement the various add-ins that cooks across the U.S. were combining in these aspics and salads. By the 1950s, these salads would become so popular that Jell-O responded with savory and vegetable flavors such as celery, Italian, mixed vegetable and seasoned tomato. These savory flavors have since been discontinued, thankfully, though I do promise you, loyal readers a savory Jell-O blog post in the future. Stay tuned.

This week's Jell-O salad is from Mrs. Roy Palmer who concocted the following recipe:

Black Bing Cherry Salad -- submitted by Mrs. Roy Palmer

2 pkgs Cherry Jell-O
1 can Richlieu Black Bing Cherries
1/4 lb. Salted Almonds

Dissolve Jell-O in 4 cups warm liquid, using the juice drained from the cherries and water. Cut cherries in half and split the almonds. Add the cherries and nuts as the Jell-O begins to thicken. Serve with lettuce and mayonnaise.

For many years, our family occasions called for Jell-O salads -- culled from a pretty decent repertoire of standard Jell-O recipes. Grandma would usually rotate two or three such recipes, usually containing some cottage cheese or crushed pineapple. At Christmas, Mom would make a red Jell-O with bananas and a marshmallow topping -- in a Christmas Tree shape. Though I've noticed Jell-O falling out of favor as an actual side dish or even as "food", it still retains a certain novelty especially among kids.

Since it's been awhile since Jell-O has made an appearance at a family gathering, a trip to Columbus, Indiana for two Nebergall celebrations made Jell-O seem very appropriate. We were eight for a simple lunch celebrating three birthdays and Mother's Day just before we were off for a baby shower (yea!) for a Nebergall-on-the-way.

For lunch we had a simple chicken salad croissants and I offered up the Jell-O as a side dish. I whipped it up the night before, as Jell-O takes some advance planning. I proceeded with the recipe as directed but I did not have Richelieu Cherries on hand but instead, Oregon cherries. After all, a true Mid-century Modern woman would have used what was available. I figured we'd get along fine.  I also did not have 1/4 pound of almonds in the pantry but enough to chop and make around 1/3 cup. I did question Mrs. Palmer on that one....that's a lot of crunch.

At lunch we dutifully scooped the quivering red salad onto the plates and tasted. "Cherrylicious" (thanks, Jim) was NOT how anyone described the taste. The nut crunch was odd, the cherries weren't sweet nor was the Jell-O itself. It was definitely lacking in the flavor department. A marshmallow topping might have saved it, but we didn't stick around to try. (Note: Richelieu still makes their black sweet cherries -- in a heavy syrup -- but I still don't know if that would have saved this one).

As for kids being fans of Jell-O...Max didn't like this one at all and Trey didn't taste it -- not that I blame him -- but overall Max is zero for two with the Jell-O salads. He wouldn't taste the Ginger Ale Salad (see previous post) and that was clearly better than this Cherry Salad. Jigglers or just plain Jell-O would have gone over better with the kids. On the same coin,  Jell-O shots would have been a nice distraction from this salad. With that being said:

This week's Soup Can ScoreOne can out of Five

Recipe needed a serious overhaul to be good. 

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