Mother’s Day & Mother-Daughter Banquets = Jell-O Salads
Do you attend a mother-daughter banquet around Mother’s Day? Did you when you were young?
The banquet I remember happened each spring in my Barneveld, Wisconsin K-12 school gymnasium. Moms and daughters in new clothes and shoes brought all manner of casseroles and desserts that filled many six-foot tables.
A common item was Jell-O salad. In my recently re-issued short novel, A Moonstone Wedding, Margie puts her favorite gelatin “salad” on the menu for her wedding.
My Australian editor had never heard of a Jell-O “salad” or encasing chopped vegetables within gelatin. In Australia they call Jell-O “gelatine” or “jelly.” (Old cookbooks in the U.S. refer to “jelly,” too.)
One of my mother’s favorite salads was lime Jell-O with chopped carrots and celery. She put the mixture in a cake pan or bowl. Mom served this with mayonnaise on the side—if you wanted to be fancy.
The mother-daughter banquets of my youth would have maybe a half-dozen Jell-O salads, some with fruit. Strawberries, bananas, and marshmallows in strawberry gelatin created a common version. Other cooks mixed vanilla ice cream with strawberry gelatin and berries to create a tasty, pastel-pink molded dessert.
My Betty Crocker’s Picture Cookbook, copyright 1950 (second edition), which I received after a relative died, has several recipes for “molded gelatin salad” and “Molded Garden Salad.” The latter includes thinly sliced radishes, green onions, cucumbers, celery, and raw cauliflowerets.
Old cookbooks recommended molded fruit salads as fancy menu items for weddings, cocktail and card parties, and holidays. A “Tomato Jelly Salad”—made by putting gelatin salad inside a carved-out tomato half—was on Thanksgiving menus. Today, many holiday tables would not be complete without cranberry molds.
Gelatin made from boiling bones goes back to Medieval times. Skip ahead to 1897 and a cough-syrup maker patented the brand name “Jell-O.” By 1902 the instant powder we all know soared in sales.
Lime Jell-O was introduced in the 1930s and became the rage. And although mixing in celery and veggies became the norm, when Jell-O tried to introduce “celery” and “mixed veggies” and “Italian salad” flavors in the 1960s, they bombed.
HASTY WINE GELETIN
(adapted from The American Woman’s Cookbook, 1944,
edited by Ruth Berolzheimer)
2 packages lemon-flavored or orange-flavored gelatin
3.5 cups hot water
½ cup Madeira wine or ¼ cup sherry wine
Instructions: Dissolve gelatin in the hot water thoroughly. Add the wine. Pour in molds that have been rinsed in cold water. (The cold-water rinse helps so the gelatin doesn’t stick to the mold.) Cool 2 or 3 hours or more until “solid” or “jiggly.” Serve with whipped cream. Garnish with grated orange peel on top of the whipped cream. (Orange-flavored gelatin combines well with Madeira.)
Christine wants to know . . .
What is your favorite Jell-O salad or memory?
Have you attended a mother-daughter banquet? Like my character Margie, have you encountered Jell-O salads at weddings?
Please leave your answers for Christine in the comment section.
Christine DeSmet is the author of The Moonstone Wedding (re-issued Spring 2021, Mischief in Moonstone Mystery Series set in a small town on Lake Superior). She also writes the Fudge Shop Mystery Series set in Door County, Wisconsin, including the recent Deadly Fudge Divas (2020) and forthcoming in 2021, Undercover Fudge.