Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Where is the Aspic?

Today’s blistering heat has me thinking about salads. But unfortunately, the lettuce in the garden is dismal. Most of it didn’t even come up. And so, without lettuce, and my determination not to make the dreaded trip to town, I’m going to have to be creative.

Still, even without lettuce, I’m thinking salad. Maybe carrot salad. Haven’t made that for a long time. The kids loved it when they were young. Grated fresh carrots with a few raisins, some salt and pepper, and mayonnaise dressing. Yum. I could make that.

And then jelly salads come to mind. It’s been even longer since I made a vegetable jelly salad. Jelly fruit salads, I make often, but I have almost completely forgotten about the other – vegetable jelly salads.

Oh, at one time they were all the rage. Every community potluck supper had scores of vegetable jelly salads. They were cool, colorful, and as delightful on a hot day as a big juicy slice of watermelon. I still remember though, how the men complained at community picnics that there should be more meat and gravy and less jelly salads. But, to women, they were art. Creations and blends of color and texture cool to the taste and wondrous to the eye.

Meanwhile the men mocked those who ate them. And looked with utter disdain at the long line up of jelly salads winking at them with knowing eyes from their sparkling beds of cool smooth flesh with the semi-solid resilience of firm breasts. I swear when the men walked by those jellies even quivered a bit just to tease.

As I reminisce about those days, I remember one jelly salad that was ever popular. It resembled solidified regurgitation. Tasty, but visually an unattractive concoction of lime jello, cottage cheese, mini-marshmallows and walnuts and maybe some other things. Can’t know cause I never made one but if you shut your eyes and didn’t think about how it looked, it was exquisite.

As for Hub, he wanted none of it, with one exception. He couldn’t get enough of the tomato aspic laced or mounded with cooked shrimp and kicked up a notch with fresh green pepper. The rest of the men refused to touch the aspic. They scoffed and said they didn’t want anything that probably should be eaten with ‘an ass pick’ instead of a fork.

But ass-picks or not, I made shrimp-tomato-aspic frequently and a host of other vegetable jelly salads starting with a base of lemon, orange, or lime jello with a tablespoon of vinegar and some salt stirred in. Then the combinations one could add were only limited by one’s imagination. Grated cabbage and carrot, diced apple or green pepper, salmon flakes, chicken bits, tiny onions, finely cut radishes, cucumber, peas, beans, even corn, shrimp or olives. And crowning complementary fruit bits such as fresh apple, orange segments, or tart cranberries.

Today I’m thinking that it is hot enough I wouldn’t mind a taster’s choice of jelly salads to choose from. And also I can’t help wondering what happened that made vegetable jelly salads fall into such disfavor. Maybe it was because the kitchen was becoming too cluttered with cupboards overflowing with Tupperware and jelly molds of every size, shape, and description. I can’t believe it was solely because of the ambiguous connotation of ‘aspic’.

So shall we have a vegetable jelly salad today? Grated carrot and apple or would you prefer an aspic?


Pauline said...

My Mama used to make a lemon or lime jello base filled with grated carrot and cabbage. I still make a cranberry mold that is "frosted" with a mix of cream cheese and cool whip and dusted with walnuts. Scuse me while I go find something to eat...

Matty said...

Oh Lord, the visuals are too much! I'm thinking of a toothpick...then an asspic...from our mouth to our.....!
I have seen them..but never got the courage to mess with the jello. Perhaps because I never did like jello. But yes, a carrot salad would be nice...or a creamy coleslaw. I wonder too why they went out of fashion! I'll have the grated carrot and granny smith salad! And now I'm off to buy some cabbage!

Joy Des Jardins said...

I remember those jelly salads very well Roberta. My mother made many of them. But...that carrot salad sounds pretty good...that gets my vote.

Roberta S said...

pauline, I do like a hint of sour tartness rather than overly sweet, so your cranberry salad sounds really appealing. Maybe I best not write about food, cause now you got me running to the fridge as well.

Roberta S said...

Your so right matty, seems like some of the cabbage, coleslaws, carrot and grated apple are fast following in the out-of-trend pathway of the jelly salads. You are like others who just don't "do" jello. I fail to understand it. Is it the texture cause it can't be the taste? When we were kids we were in paradise when dessert turned out to be a bowl of wiggly jello with a dab of cool whipped cream on top.

Roberta S said...

joy, thanks for commenting. The carrot salad is really good especially when the carrots are very fresh and sweet. So simple too. A good stand-by when unexpected company arrive (which they frequently do here) and the lettuce in the fridge is rusting.

esther said...

One of my favorite things to do is to go to an antique shop (yup, you heard right) and get one of those "homemade" or "fundraiser" cookbooks that churches and junior leagues were so often promoting. There you can find some of the most delicious and adacious and precocious and horrendous recipes on the face of the earth. Always good for a new recipe and/or laughs.

Roberta S said...

Hi esther. I have to agree. Next best thing to an old book is an old recipe book. It always amazes me how much history they contain between the pages and lists of ingredients.