Thursday, January 14, 2010

No, I'm not a professional spokesmodel. Yet.

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!

What kind?

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?

Oh, yeah.

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.


Anonymous said...

Great. Now I'm hungry for jello salad. EVEN the Watergate kind, even though my mom cottage cheese in hers.

Molly said...

ew. Jello salad? I've never heard of it other than on blogs.
I'm a bagel girl. I am a new yorker after all. haha. We do a lot of bagels and schmere.

Laura said...

I prefer my jello salads with fruit - no veggies, no coconut and certainly no cottage cheese!

Love live the jello salad!


They have a cheese cake flavor pudding.

Average Jane said...

Love the strawberry Jell-o with the cream cheese layer and the pretzel crust! I've made it with cranberry Jell-o for Thanksgiving, but the strawberry is better.

Anonymous said...

The pistachio fluff with graham cracker crust. I literally DANCE with joy when I see it lined up at a pot luck supper. LOVE it.
Going to make jello squares now.

Iron Needles said...

We called Mom's 'orange salad'. (And now it's mine) It combined the best of all possibles - orange jello, cottage cheese, pineapple, mandarin oranges, and orange sherbet.

It also became the traditional food forgotten and left in the fridge, until after dinner was over.

Then everyone is all 'hey where's the orange salad?' Upside is always lots to go with the leftovers...and because it's jello and sherbet? Lasts foooorevah!

gertrude said...

First, just want to say I LOVE BILL BRYSON TOO. Love, love, love.

Second, not a big Jell-O fan, but had I ever been exposed to the pretzel crust or the pistachio concoctions you speak of I am sure my opinion would be different.

Now, if we're talking comfort food and desserts then I really don't see how anything could match a good ole southern chess pie or pecan pie. Yummy, yummy goodness. A friend of mine made a chocolate chip, Jack Daniels pecan pie at Christmas and it was so good I almost cried.

CheckerMom said...

My mother-in-law is the Jello salad Queen, to whom I bow down LOW. She has the tupperware Jello mold with all the interchangeable holiday designs and everything. She makes egg nog Jello salad for Christmas and this awesome salad (no special mold) made with Jello and applesauce instead of water. Yum! I married into a good family!

Magic27 said...

I feel like I've been deprived - I don't even know what a Jell'o salad is... Maybe they never hit British shores (not my house, anyway). And you can only buy Jell'o in "specialty delicatessens" here in France (and besides, the French think it's vile). For me, comfort food would definitely be my mother's chocolate sauce (a recipe she noted down off the radio IN SHORTHAND. Which I CAN'T READ. And she died 6 1/2 years ago.) poured over Italian vanilla icecream. Yum!

sherilee said...

Oh, Jello salad was a big deal when I was growing up too. A huge nostalgia moment for me--made my very own Jello mold at 11, blueberry with blueberries IN it! And whipped cream around the outside of that scalloped edge. It was one of those green plastic ring Jello molds.

I have made Jello a number of times for my son, who loves it, of course! Layered red and green for Christmas, even. Never been big on mixing things in--one of my grandmas was huge on the crunchy stuff in Jello, but that kind of grossed me out.

Long live Jello! Maybe I'll make some this weekend...

Trixie Bang Bang said...

I'm not sure if I should be ashamed or proud that I have experienced all the aforementioned salads. But it wasn't until I dated my current lovah and met his grandmother that my love affair with jello salad truly began.

It is a threesome involving raspberry jello, a can of blueberry pie filling, and crushed pineapple. The topping doesn't even matter, but it is a menage of cream-cheese/melted marshmallow/cool whip. Delish. And I can't enjoy a holiday meal without it now.

8 said...

Ok so my mom and grandma were not big on making the jell-o salads so I never really had any until I got married and my husband's grandma made some great ones for all the holiday potlucks.

My favorite hands down though is the pistachio one that my bff's grandma makes every year. Seriously you have not lived until you've had it!

Side note: if you are making jell-o shots the best flavors to get are the new Jell-o Fusions. Good stuff!

Caron said...

I am still confused when I see a Jell-o salad on the table because it is so unlike my MIL to put dessert on the table with dinner. So then she brings out dessert after the table is cleared and I'm like, "Uh, wait. What happened to the J-e-l-l-o?" I just can't eat that with my supper. But I like it, so bring it back!!!

Sarahviz said...

My mom used to make a green jello casserole (in a 9x13 pan) - lime jello mixed with crushed pineapples. With maraschino cherries and walnuts on top. It reminded me of that movie "Better Off Dead" where the green sludge crawls off the plate.