Sunday, July 31, 2011

Salad Oughtn't Wiggle

After Grandmother died in 1993 I spent several days in Morristown with my parents clearing out the house she lived in for more than fifty years. I found sunbonnets my mother and aunts had worn as girls, fabulous Christmas ornaments, books and seemingly endless boxes and bags of family papers (many of which have been or will be featured on this blog). I had an especially good time going through the kitchen.

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I'd always loved that kitchen. It was a huge, sunny room at the back of the house. There was a breakfast nook with benches and a table that was just like a restaurant or diner. Once you slid in you were trapped until the adult on the end would let you out (though very small children were known to slip down and crawl out under the table). The cupboards and drawers had all kinds of well-used gadgets and equipment I never saw in our kitchen at home.

But it was the 43 recipes for molded lime jello salads that were in her recipe box that really sparked the memories. Note that was just for lime jello salads. (Lest you doubt me, you need only google "lime jello salad" images to see the endless possibilities.) There were also the recipes for cherry jello salads, orange jello salads and uncounted recipes for aspics and other congealed foodstuffs. Grandmother, it seems, preferred her food structured and controlled. Wiggling allowed, but no running all over the place.

I'm not sure which I loathed more - the shredded carrot, pineapple, and raisins in lime jello or the chopped ham, horseradish, and peas in lime jello or the cottage cheese in lime jello pictured. Regardless, it seemed every supper or dinner included a version. Sometimes, she would even include the green beans that appeared at every meal (mandated by my grandfather who believed them the food of gods) in the salad du jour. Lettuce was a garnish. Every other fruit or vegetable was encased in something derived from boiling animal carcasses that had more in common with glue than anything I wanted to eat.

It's not that Grandmother was a bad cook. She made wonderful chicken salads (the uncongealed ones), cakes, biscuits and cornbreads. Margaret, who was her housekeeper for many, many years, made the best deep-dish peach pie I will ever eat. I still dream of it. But those jello salads had me squirming and wiggling in my seat so that I must have born more than a passing resemblance to the stuff.

I packed off one recipe and salad mold to each of my cousins in their box of souvenirs and took a couple home with me. Can I find either the recipes or molds today? Of course not. They surely lurk in the nightmare that is my basement, probably shaking a bit in their box with each step we make upstairs.

Written for the 108th edition of Carnival of Genealogy hosted by Jasia at Creative Gene.


  1. Oh, My, ROTFLOL.

    "chopped ham, horseradish, and peas in lime jello"

    Seriously?? Hope your gramma will forgive me:


  2. My mother used to make those salads every now and then. Never my favorite either! I'd forgotten the cottage cheese in lime jello. Did not carry that recipe forward! My grandmother also had a breakfast nook. The kids ate there when there were too many people around the dining room table.

  3. You have given me the giggles. I do seem to remember a jello recipe with some shredded carrots and some other things in it.

    Personally I'm with Carol. And Kristin, I don't think I've kept any cottage cheese in the jello receipe either!

  4. I have two three ring binders I found in my mother's house full off recipes clipped from magazines and glued to notebook paper. Jello was well represented!

  5. Aunt Alice always made lime Jello with cottage cheese for our family gatherings. One Thanksgiving my Dad and his co-conspirators decided to refuse a helping of the Jello salad when it was offered. Aunt Alice was mystified -- everyone loved her Jello salad! When she found out the joke was on her, she was a really good sport about it. Can't think about Jello salad without fondly remembering Aunt Alice.


  6. Never in a million years would I have guessed there were that many recipes for lime jello. In my house it was either served plain or layered with red jello (and some sort of cream or cheese in the middle) for the Christmas holidays.

    I do remember having jello with cottage cheese in it once and liking it, but I don't remember if it was lime jello or not. I'm a fan of cottage cheese so that's not a big surprise.

    Thanks for a great contribution to the COG!

  7. You've written this memory so well, Susan. I'm sure there are some who love lime (and other flavored) jello in all its variations but I couldn't get the extra ingredients past my lips. Your grandmother's recipes made for an interesting memory and post. Thanks so much for sharing.

  8. "...or the chopped ham, horseradish, and peas in lime jello or the cottage cheese in lime jello pictured." I don't know how I missed this post. The thought of it makes me sick thinking about it.

  9. My grandmother had a lime jello salad recipe with canned chopped chicken (the kind that really could be tuna, as it looks, tastes and smells like tuna), cabbage, onions and chopped pineapple in it. My husband knows the exact moment that he decided he was comfortable in our relationship- the moment he said NO to Nana's jello salad.

  10. Oh. My. Gosh.

    You have, in a truly fine blogging moment, made me recall things best left in the deep recesses of my mind.

    We had those, too.

    Only it was an aunt who made them.

  11. Thank you all. I'm so glad my childhood food nightmares amused. I KNEW I couldn't be the only person in the world who detested these things.

    And Debbie - your grandmother must have been swapping recipes with mine. Props to your husband for drawing the line!

  12. My grandaunt Peggy used to make these and I studiously avoided them whenever possible. But I do fondly recall the Jello made with fruit cocktail that Mom made.

    Fun post, Debbie!

  13. Congratulations on the scariest salad picture of the year :) I'm lucky -- I avoided the Jello salad phenomenon except the cottage cheese variation. We ate it plain, as a dessert, and loved it. But my kids can't stand the sight of it.

  14. Oh Susan - it never occurred to me that jello/jelly could be used in a savoury way. I'd try a mouthful but.... :-) Jo

  15. As someone who's spent a significant amount of time over the last few years making jigglers, this post definitely gave me the giggles. There's something innately humorous about jello.

    I'm almost afraid to admit it, but I kind of like the lime one with the cottage cheese and the pineapple. You know the one. ;) My mom made it for the holidays. All of them. It was a "special occasion" food.

    FYI, the jello part of your photo doesn't look so bad, but that (dare I call it) meaty stuff in the middle is a bit disturbing...


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