Hooray for the flea market find! There I was, looking for some kind of book that would craptastically inspire me and…voila!
Now, I am like you…or many of you, anyway…in that I am disturbed by the concept of Jell-O, particularly when there is foreign matter suspended in it (no offense, Bill Cosby). Peaches. Tuna. Olives. I’m not making that up; there is a recipe for a Nicoise salad in this book. Nicoise. Salad. The thought of it makes me want to stab myself in the brain, though I suppose I should admire the Jell-O peoples’ recipe sensibilities. If you gelatinize fish, please use the lemon Jell-O. Once you accept that as a possibility, there’s nothing that stops a person from putting inedibles in the Jell-O. Panties. Key rings. For Mardi Gras they can produce a Jell-O King Cake. Who’s got the plastic baby? (Mardi Gras people…you know you want this. Call me.) So an entire book dedicated to the concept of the artistry of Jell-O?
Which is precisely why I’m so thrilled to share this book with all of you. For the record, I have the entire thing scanned so if there’s something I post that you want more information about…I’m here to help. I would be curious to know why you wanted more info. Not that I would deny you that info. Just, you know. Curious.
I need to preface this first Jell-O recipe with a story. When George and I went to Savannah, we went in the summer. It. Was. Hot. It wasn’t just hot, it was (literally) “Do not go outside, the air quality is too poor” sort of hot. C’est la vie. One day while we were out in the city we saw a lovely little cafe (whose name escapes me, which is too bad because their food was fantastic) featuring gazpacho as their daily special. Must eat! Must have! I adore gazpacho. It was the pick-me-up we both needed considering the weather. Delightful. Cool, refreshing, a little spicy, rich-yet-light, tomato-y, crunchy. It was a delicious soup for sure, but this one sticks out in my memory because it was so perfect in its ability to refresh and delight. What it was not, was encased in a lemon-flavored gelatin, getting slimy in the southern summer heat.
PAY ATTENTION, PEOPLE! THIS IS A BOWL OF GAZPACHO EMBEDDED IN LEMON JELL-O.
Here’s the recipe, if anyone’s interested. Do bear in mind: that gazpacho is solid. SOLID.
Next, let me introduce you to the Jellied Fresh Vegetable Salad. It’s a salad that’s primarily made from lemon Jell-O, boullion, and sour cream. And then you add in things like celery and radishes and cucumbers, or–as I like to think of these ingredients–actual salad.
Because I, for one, am anxious to eat my vegetables only–and I mean ONLY–when they are cleverly disguised as a milk glass lighting fixture.
Part of the kitschtastic allure of Jell-O lies in its ability to mimic other things. The lamp shade is a great example, but here are a few more.
The black and white Jell-O, for example, echoes the lines in the hostess’s dress. It makes me feel like she is one with her tablescape.
I like how the hostess is positioned as though she’s coming out of the trifle dish. And, props to the progressive nature of Jell-O, showing a mixed-race party in 1973. After all, it was only ten years before that George Wallace was standing in the schoolhouse door, blocking integration efforts at the University of Alabama. Fair play to Jell-O!
This next picture? Doesn’t have the same sort of social implications.
He: wearing the traditional creepster trench coat and smiling like he’s just bitten off his lower lip. I think he’s a LIT-tle too anxious to throw his keys in the swinger’s bowl. She: standing like she’s doing a pee-pee dance, and holding a gelatinous dessert that HOLY MOTHER OF GOD matches her outfit. Who’s the more tasty dish; her, or the Jell-O? Coffee, tea or me, baby?
Ahhh, Teena Marie. Safe travels into the Great Beyond.
Once you’ve stopped your crazy swinging lifestyle, Jell-O can be there to make your Happiest Day Ever even more super-duper extra-special.
(Cue the swelling music.) OooOOOoOoOooo. Nothing says love like standing in a grey, windswept, empty churchyard (who did they make all this food for, anyway?) in front of a variety of tart-n-tangy Jell-O meals. Family, take note: IF I were to marry again (unlikely, as I’m pretty comfortable with the notion of “one and done” and George is in no hurry either) and IF we were to decide that the wedding feast should be prepared by family and IF you guys settled on a Jell-O based menu? Yeah. We’d be fighting. #consideryourselfwarned
And finally, for the holidays…
Know what? I’m just going to let this one speak for itself. BEHOLD! The festive joy that is…JELL (…Jell…jell…) O! (…O’…o…)
So seriously, this is the sort of party that finds the hostess drunk in the kitchen at the end of the night, clutching a bottle of cooking sherry and crying about her lost youth, while her cousin starts yelling at the aunt who never loved her and somewhere, a boy child either tries to pop a wheelie on his bike off the roof of the toolshed and biffs, crashing into the neighbor’s prized rose bushes OR “accidentally” lights a rag in the garage on fire and can’t get it to stop.
That’s a party I’d like to be at.
They’re right. There are indeed multiple joys to be found in Jell-O! I only had to consider the possibilities.