There’s always room for the Jell-O Salad

I grew up in a time when gelatin salads were considered, nutritionally, the moral equivalent of vegetable salads, proudly served in place of fresh greens – even though my grandmother often upped the nutrition bar by placing a rectangle of Jell-O on a single leaf of shredded lettuce. At church picnics, big bowls of frothy ambrosia with fruit, gelatin, Cool Whip, cottage cheese and marshmallows were never on the dessert table; they were placed with the three bean salad or the pasta salad as they were all delicious with fried chicken.

We now live in healthier times of extreme sugar awareness and know that flavored gelatin, canned fruit, and whipped topping are in no way nutritionally similar to leafy greens and vegetables. Objectively speaking, this is progress. Emotionally speaking, however, I’m still attached to the idea of ​​Jell-O salad as a legitimate side dish. I crave it at outdoor gatherings with grilled meats or any kind of chicken in a bucket. As far as I’m concerned, no potluck or BBQ is complete without it.

When we recently had a little 4th of July barbecue, I set my table with homemade potato salad, vegetable salad and a platter of pistachio-lime gelatin “salad” with canned tangerines. , mini marshmallows and whipped cream. I didn’t follow a recipe; instead, I just combined a few things that had been sitting in my pantry for a long time and hoped the end result would be palatable. Before you back away from the idea of ​​pairing lime and pistachio, remember that they go together because they are both green. The gelatin concoction was the approximate color of Kermit the Frog and tasted like a stick of Fruit Stripes lime gum, which is to say deliciously unnatural. His perfection was not in spite of his artificiality, but rather because of him.

The next day I went online and found all kinds of recipes that paired lime gelatin with pistachio pudding. Most of the recipes had names like “Grandma’s Jell-O Salad” and other references to how old people apparently liked Jell-O. Well, call me grandma and dress me up in one of those handy plastic rain caps that sensible older women wear, because I like shimmery, jiggly, slurpy stuff. However, it got me thinking: what else could I do with Jell-O and instant pudding? The combinations are incredibly endless. Well, mathematically speaking, they are not endless. The Jell-O brand offers 22 flavors of gelatin and nine flavors of pudding, or 198 possibilities. Tried a few in 2020 when my pandemic boredom was peaking. It might have been the most fun I’ve had in the kitchen, other than setting my toaster on fire.

But back to today’s offer. This gelatin dish, which is definitely dessert in terms of not good for you, combines two classic summer flavors, strawberry and lemon. I made this to my personal requirements for the Jell-O salad, which is that it should contain tangerines, marshmallows, and a creamy element. It is not haute cuisine and requires no special effort; it’s about nostalgia, not sophistication. To illustrate: if the pistachio-lime combination tastes like Fruit Stripes, it tastes like SweeTarts.

About Marion Alexander

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