I met some friends for happy hour tonight. We're all from small towns, and this common bond means we all have a strong heritage of Jell-o salad.
Now, Jell-o salad isn't just Jell-o. Oh, no, my friend. Jell-o salad is, well, salad! With Jell-o! Iowa native and my literary boyfriend Bill Bryson calls Jell-o "the state fruit of Iowa" - and he's right.
But the ways of the Jell-o salad are mysterious, and each family has its own Jell-o traditions and proclivities. Our conversation tonight went something like this:
Now, did you all have Jell-o salad at Christmas?
Oh, of course!
Well, duh! It's Christmas!
Well, my favorite is orange with mandarin oranges in it.
Oh, that is good.
Yeah, my family tends towards the more traditional cherry Jell-o with pears, cherries, bananas and grapes in it.
Now, I just can't abide by that. It seems so boring and fruit cocktail-esque.
Really? What's your favorite?
Well ... my mom makes the lime with pineapple and cottage cheese.
Bwah ha ha!
You guys! Does your mom ever make the black cherry Jell-o with Bing cherries in it?
I don't really like cherries.
What? You're so missing out. That's the best kind!
Now, my grandma used to make it with shredded carrots ...
YES! And raisins! My mom makes that all the time.
What's the one that's basically lime Jell-o with Cool Whip?
Oh, no, no! That's pistachio pudding mix, Cool Whip, marshmellows, and a can of crushed pineapple - Watergate salad.
Dude! That's probably my favorite food in the entire world!
Have you had the one with the pretzel crust?
With the strawberry?
I could go on and on, but you get the general idea.
Did you know there's pina colada-flavored Jell-o? Me neither! But you can find it at the Jell-o Flavor Finder. Oh, sweet, sweet Jell-o - you make the world my oyster.
Eating in the Midwest? It's cool. But I know it's not the end all, be all. What random regional specialities / comfort food makes you giddy?
I tried to find an appetizing pic of Jell-o salad, but, umm, had trouble. I'm not talking about Jell-o shots or Jell-molds - I'm talking about all-American Jell-0 salad! In a bowl! I need to talk to the Google Images folks about the dearth of images on this important topic.