Saturday, July 12, 2008

Foods of the past

Today we are going to discuss Green Jello, but not just yet.

Methods of cooking and serving foods sure have changed in my lifetime. I can remember when beef Wellington was considered an elegant dish; guests were actually served steak, roast beef, and brisket. Nowadays you could probably perform a citizen's arrest on any host who dared to serve beef to his guests. Even burgers are made of turkey these days.

Things were different when I was young, back in the twentieth century. You expected your host to provide grub and plenty of it. Nobody worried about their weight unless they were morbidly obese. Marilyn Monroe and Sophia Loren were considered fine figures of women and even Jane Russell had her admirers.

A young couple of our acquaintance were ahead of their time, foodwise, and we were victims of their hospitality. Our hostess proudly served a cheese souffle, which I swear had only 4 eggs in it. For 4 people. A finicky little salad--3 or 4 lettuce leaves and a slice of tomato--accompanied this. Dessert was half a pear in syrup that had a few cranberries floating in it.

As soon as we decently could, we left, and on the way to the subway stopped in Wolfie's for a double-decker pastrami sandwich with a chocolate shake on the side.

What was I talking about? Oh, yes, green Jello. Jello molds were considered haute cuisine in those days, and for some reason green was the color of the day. The truly elegant hostess provided Jello, part of which remained green and contained--let's say pineapple, coconut, and slivered almonds. You could actually put anything, reasonable or not, in it. The other part was mixed with cream or cream cheese, at any rate something white. So it became a light green, which set off the other, darker Jello. The two were layered in a fancy mold. When ready to serve, the mold was dipped into warm water and downloaded on a fancy plate. Whether anyone ate it is not recorded, but everyone took a little piece to be polite.

Nobody eats stuff like that any more. Green Jello has gone the way of ambrosia salad (which contained marshmallows, among other things), meat loaf with tomato soup poured on top of it, and iceberg lettuce.


airforcewife said...

Now that you mention it, I miss ambrosia salad. I LOVED it growing up.

dick stanley said...

Ambrosia salad. Oh, my. I had forgotten. I'm going to request it next time the chef asks for suggestions.

dick stanley said...

Turns out the chef was thinking along the same lines and had pulled her recipe from the file:

Venomous Kate said...

I eat green Jello still! My mom makes the best -- when we were down there I begged her to whip some up. But I'm starting to get good at making it myself, too. I make red Jello, too: use cherry jello, diced pears, 7-Up and cream cheese following the same instructions you would for green Jello.


Then again, I still serve beef to (very grateful) guests and regularly make Caesar salad, too, without once giving a hoot about using soft-cooked eggs.