Friday, 17 April 2020 15:53

COLUMN: J-E-L-L-NO: Post-war recipes weird and risque

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I think one of the hardest things during this time of quarantine is planning meals that are not only delicious but also not redundant.

 Lets face it, with the ingredients we have on hand and the limited supplies in the supermarkets, this has become a pivotal time for culinary creativity. The sky is the limit when it comes to creating in the kitchen. The world is your oyster, so to speak. You don't like oysters? I don't really care. It's just an old saying. I'm getting a little surly because our brains are failing us and we are running out of original and, let's be honest here, edible ideas. 

I looked at the ingredients we had in the kitchen this evening and scoured the internet for any slight suggestion as to what I can make with the few things we had. I found a lot of those frightening recipes from the ‘50s magazines and such and I was, quite honestly, scared witless. Some of the combinations were a bit on the unusual side. 

Apparently, after World War II, it was quite popular to put pretty much anything into gelatin. Sometimes the gelatin was flavored, sometimes it wasn't. I can't imagine a flavorless gelatin being edible in any way, but here it was, for all to see. 

The first gelatinous meal was clear and flavorless gelatin with cocktail weenies. Let's take a moment and process this. A big and wiggly see-through bundt cake with stubby little sausages held captive inside. We are supposed to eat this. The picture had it poised on a big bed of leaf lettuce looking like some kind of science experiment gone horribly wrong. I don't believe for a second that the hostesses of the 1950s asked her guests if they wanted a slice of wiggly weenie ring with a straight face. 

Moving along, I found a recipe for a delicious ham and banana dish covered in hollandaise sauce. This is genuine, you can look it up. I like ham and I like hollandaise, but once you put a banana in the mix it gets a little weird. Apparently, you wrap the banana with the ham and cover with hollandaise sauce. Between this and the weenie ring, I was seeing an unfortunate trend here and it was leading me to believe the housewives of the ‘50s were strangely creative and just a wee but risque. Domestic frustration should never enter meal planning.

The desserts were no better. A lot of them had fruit and the ever present gelatin. I am starting to think the Jell-o people had a lot at stake and had to unload an enormous amount of product so they just told people to put whatever they wanted in it and pass it off as food. 

In a half century on this earth, I have never seen rhubarb or prune Jell-o, but here it was in at least seven recipes. There was a suspicious lack of chocolate in these desserts, as well. I can't think of a better way to finish a meal of jellied weenies than a delicious slice of Jell-o with prunes, dates and an occasional maraschino cherry in it. I think we got more than wartime intelligence from the enemies of WWII, we got their cookbooks as well. I'm pretty certain Mary Margaret McBride never endorsed some of these atrocities. 

This evening, my wife and I had hot dogs, fries and onion rings. No weird sauces or jiggly gelatin. Hot dogs and fries and onion rings. I shared some of the recipes I found online with her and she vowed never to make any of them. After I read this column to her, she opened the fridge, took out a dish, opened the back door and tossed the dish out into the yard.

“What was that all about?” I asked.

“I figured you didn't want dessert.”

“I always want dessert.”

“Not tonight, you don't.”

I looked into the yard and saw the broken dish, Oozing from the one side was a pineapple. It was covered in Jell-o.

Joe Weaver, a native of Baltimore, is a husband, father, pawnbroker and gun collector. From his home in New Bern, he writes on the lighter side of family life.