Family Recipe Friday – Jello: Salad or Dessert?

Continuing with recipes my mom contributed to the Friendship Circle Cookbook, Westminster Presbyterian Church, Clovis, NM, 1973  

In October of 2009, my friend Pam and I wandered around the Texas Book Festival on Saturday afternoon. We were getting pretty hot and decided to duck into the cooking tent, relishing the shade and hoping there might be samples.

Two young men, authors of the cookbook Baked Explorations, were the presenters. Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito own Baked bakery in Brooklyn. The cookbook in question features regional desserts – the kind grandma took to the pot luck dinner at church or the family reunion – and then the authors put their spin on the recipes. I’m not sure exactly how they came by the recipes, but it sounded as though people submitted them while they traveled around the country searching for recipes.

The black and white cookies looked really good and I surely would have liked a sample. 🙁

In answering a question about the most unusual ingredient in a dessert recipe they had received, Matt and Renato looked at one another and started talking about jello recipes with celery and carrots in them and laughed.

It was obvious that these guys didn’t know the difference between a jello salad and a jello dessert.

So let me set the record straight:
If the jello has carrots or celery in it, what you have is salad.
If the jello sits on a crust (usually graham cracker), what you have is dessert.

Granted, some jello recipes walk a fine line between salad and dessert – what with the addition of Cool Whip or sweetened cream cheese.

When in doubt, use this rule of thumb: If your momma serves it with the meal, it’s salad. If you have to eat your vegetables first, it’s dessert.

And so these young men, uneducated in the particulars of J-E-L-L-O, included a recipe which they named Strawberry Jell-O Salad in their book of dessert recipes. And it is a dessert – the jello sits on a crust. Their unique spin on the recipe is a pretzel crust.

Seriously, I wanted to send these guys an email to set them straight, but three years later I have a blog, so I can just get it off my chest here. If you want to check out their jello salad dessert recipe, I found it on a couple of blogs. Here is one you might peruse. It sounds pretty tasty.

Now – about my momma’s jello recipes…

Jello salad was a regular item on our dinner menu. Tuna casserole was often accompanied by green peas and a lime jello and pear salad. Sometimes we had red jello with fruit cocktail. Or orange jello with mandarin oranges. The recipes Mom included in the cookbook had more ingredients or were prepared in layers, making them suitable for company.

I’ll share Mom’s version of a strawberry jello salad today and a couple of others in later posts.

Strawberry-Nut Salad

2 packages strawberry jello
1 cup boiling water
2 (10-ounce) packages frozen strawberries
1 (1-pound 4-ounce) can crushed pineapple
3 medium bananas, crushed
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 pint commercial sour cream

Combine jello and water. Fold in thawed strawberries with juice. Drain pineapple; add bananas and nuts. Put 1/2 strawberry mixture into dish as first layer. Refrigerate until firm. Spread top with sour cream. Spoon rest of jello mixture on top and refrigerate. Be sure to thaw berries before dissolving jello.

***  P.S.  If you put Mom’s Strawberry-Nut Salad on a crust, it would probably make a good dessert. Just be sure you call it dessert when you serve it.

3 thoughts on “Family Recipe Friday – Jello: Salad or Dessert?

  1. This delicious recipe is a family favorite at my mother-in-law’s Thanksgiving lunch every year. My sister-in-law’s best friend has made strawberry nut salad for 30 years and always brings it over for my sis-in-law when she comes home for Thanksgiving. It’s a family tradition now and the one year the friend couldn’t make strawberry nut salad, our meal didn’t seem right without it. While we eat it with our lunch, it’s considered dessert. Enjoyed reading your thoughts on what constitutes Jello as a salad or dessert. 🙂

    • Aw.. We have a recipe in common! Over time, Mom stopped making this one and our Thanksgiving jello was something different. After your comment, I think I should try this one again. Hope I didn’t step on any toes with my jello rant! 🙂

  2. I have a, nearly, identical recipe card from my mom’s recipe box! But we’ve always called it the Strawberry Jello – Sour Cream Salad. It’s a staple at our Christmas brunch.

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