When I was growing up, eating “Jell-O Salad” was a thrice-weekly affair. I’d watch as mom poured the boiling water into the neon powder, add a can of diced pineapple, then pop it in the fridge. Hours later, a floating fruit side dish would appear on the table alongside our pork tenderloin, mashed potatoes, and peas.
I’ve often wondered why the congealed salad, as it’s generically called, fell by the wayside. Kids love it; it’s Jell-O! It feels all squishy and you don’t really have to chew it. It comes in every flavor and color known to man. Parents love it; it gets kids to eat fruit! Honestly, the best I can come up with is that it has to chill in the fridge 8 hours, which means planning ahead, something that doesn’t always happy for family dinners these days.
But that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t still happen around the holidays, when you’ve got time and the kids are aching to “help” you cook. Why not let them add the fruit, sprinkle the finished product with nuts, or even add a dollop of whipped cream to each slice? I mean, what is a side salad without whipped cream, really?
Generally speaking, holiday meals have gotten somewhat simpler. Before you pull out grandma’s eight-page spreadsheet for this year’s holiday “what to bring” rotation, let me clarify. Instead of serving courses, such as soup, salad, main, and dessert, we’re serving dishes family style, which allows the hostess to do a lot more enjoying and a lot less wondering which side she should stand on as she ladles your soup.
I, for one, think that’s a huge improvement. I remember my grandmother (happily!) scurrying back and forth to the kitchen bringing out different courses and, while we loved it, I still remember every adult begging her to just. please. sit. down.
These days my mom travels as she makes holiday dinners, treating grandbabies hither and yon to her beef tenderloin, squash casserole, and, of course, her Jell-O salad recipe. Another generation of wiggly fruit lovers is born!