[It’s been less than a month since I started working my blogging way through Natalie Goldberg’s Old Friend from Far Away. Already, I feel like I’m getting weary of it. I miss going on and on about all the things I’m behind in doing. I miss whining about all of my struggles. I miss just talking! However, it does seem like this exercise is good for my writing practice. And I hate being a quitter, especially so early on in an endeavor. And, some days, the prompt given is absolutely inspiring. Today, that’s not the case. Jell-O. Really!]
My childhood encompassed the 1950s and 60s. Those were the Jell-O years! Cookbooks had whole sections devoted to the jiggly desserts. Every woman’s magazine offered variations. Housewives passed around their special recipes. Jell-O showed up on every buffet table, sometimes in several different forms.
In the house I grew up in, Jell-O was not saved for dessert. The cherry or strawberry flavored Jell-O, filled with banana slices, halved seedless grapes and cubes of peeled apple, topped with a thin layer of whipped cream, was a cool, fruity accompaniment to many Sunday dinners. Fruit salad! The vegetable salad version was orange or lime Jell-O filled with grated carrots, walnuts and diced celery.
If we were planning Jell-O for dessert, we left out all the fruits and vegetables. Then, we made it up simply in a cake pan, and slathered the surface with whipped cream. Had we come from a higher class home, I thought, this dessert would be served in individual parfait glasses. I promised myself that when I was an adult, that is how I’d do it.
Jell-O without fruit was the most fun to eat. It could be slurped off the spoon almost like magic. There it was, in front of me. Blrrrp! Like magic, the sweetness was inside my mouth. Delicious!
It was when I was in high school that creamy variations were becoming the fashion. Then, the firm Jell-O was beaten right into the whipped cream, to create a pastel masterpiece. Coconut, canned fruit cocktail, miniature marshmallows or maraschino cherries could be added to make it even more decadent and extraordinary.
Though Jell-O certainly does not make the regular mealtime appearances that it did when I was young, I still sometimes like to make it. When summer is so hot that cooking seems unbearable and nothing sounds good anyway, that is when Jell-O hits the spot. The remembered taste and coolness satisfies when nothing else does. Times have changed. Still, “there’s always room for Jell-O!”