Thursday, October 29, 2009

A Blast From The Past

According to Something From The Oven: Reinventing Dinner in 1950s America, those strange recipes you see in vintage magazines for things like half a doughnut with jam and cottage cheese were brainchildren of the packaged food industry's test kitchens. Most American homemakers weren't buying, but apparently my family was the exception. My grandmother's pot roast recipe included packaged onion soup mix and ketchup; her kale soup required beef bouillon cubes. I'm pretty sure those aren't the same recipes her mother brought from the Azores in the early part of the 20th century. Gram adapted them to modern times. She was hip that way.

Also hip, I guess, was her Jell-O salad. It was a star player at every holiday meal of my childhood. My required "no thank you helping" sat on my plate in a scary pink-and-purple lump. I found it cloyingly sweet - and I was a kid who could eat Twinkies until my eyes bubbled. I was suspicious of the slippery fruits lurking in its murky depths.

Years later, Sophia Petrillo on The Golden Girls summed up my childhood feelings: "I hate Jell-O Salad. If God had meant peaches to be suspended in midair, he'd have filled them with helium."

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