April 13, 2004

latter-day fixin's!

4/13/04

I'd like to interrupt your usual blog broadcasting for a tidbit of culture many of you might have missed: yes, I'm talking about Mormon Jello Dessert.

AuntieDonnaMormonJello(bl).jpg

While my family did not become actual Mormons, the rest of my 735 cousins did, and every few weeks we decide to experience the culture shock of leaving Hollywood and venturing into the San Gabriel Valley for a dose of Latter-Day Saints. My own relationship with the church is fraught with many contradictions and inner turmoil, but my family is terrific, and we always have a great time.

The meals, however, always teeter on the edge of bizarre, and nothing typifies this more than Mormon Jello Dessert. I was probably 15 before I noticed that this concoction was being served at every function. The dish is an ever-changing amalgamation of dark-colored jello that is land-mined with deeply incongruous fruit: you should not be surprised to find carrot cubes stuck in the gelatin, like trilobite fossils hung forever in rock. You might come across the thorny skin of a pineapple, the shaving of watermelon rind, or even globs of maraschino cherries. It's not far from the jello dish the grandmother brings in "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation," you know, the one with Tender Vittles Cat Food in it.

The pan is refrigerated, and then topped off with a three-inch viscous layer of Dream Whip (powdered milk from the apocalycloset recommended). I warned Tessa about the dish before we got there, but she actually took a big helping and finished the whole thing! I began wondering who this chick "my wife" really was.

FamilyPriusGlendora(bl).jpg

Although Republican by nature, Mormons are also strict survivalists, which made them a perfect audience for the Prius. They took turns driving, and the whole family was deeply impressed. For a group of people who keep two years' worth of food stored in their homes, a car that gets 60 mpg would be perfect for the End Times. If Jesus ever shows up and all the gas pumps are rendered useless in the Rapture, at least we know the Prius will be the last car running.

Posted by irw at April 13, 2004 11:41 PM
Comments
Posted by: Laurie from Manly Dorm at April 14, 2004 4:59 AM

I nearly split a gut laughing at today's entry! Thanks for the laugh -- I needed it early this morning. Your Prius has made quite the impression! By the way, you and Tessa are an adorable couple -- your recent photos, including bunny ears, are very cute. Have a good day.

Posted by: rhonda at April 14, 2004 5:25 AM

Is it not the truth! The Latter-day Saints can whip up some interesting food... but I must say, I've made the same sour cream sugar cookies since my good buddy mormon friend, jodi's mom taught us how at the age of 15. My four year old now makes them with me and we mail the photos of her covered in flour back to "untie jo" and her family of five in Oregon. Jodi's mom, "corky" is so proud, never did convert me but I did accquire the appreciation they have for food and fun with the family - Should the tough times come, our mormon friends and family can help get us through, those well stocked pantrys can be a good thing!

Posted by: Caroline at April 14, 2004 5:44 AM

It's not just the Mormons, pal. My family makes a similar dish for Thanksgiving and Christmas, only the Cool Whip is mixed in the jello (lime) with the random nuts and bits of things, which makes it all sort of monkey-vomit green and lumpy.

Posted by: Alan at April 14, 2004 7:05 AM

I was going to say, I (a minister's kid) have had the experience at many a church supper of digging into my share of the jello mold to find, rather than orange and pineapple bits, the spine shivering texture of carrot and celery. Is there an eccumenical newsletter shared secretly amongst church ladies on this stuff? That being said, I am a devotee and a fine judge of the scalloped potato dish because of these same good folk's good work. The Swedish version, with a smattering of fish, is up there with the version dauphinoise: http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/database/dauphinoisepotato_65929.shtml

Posted by: michelle at April 14, 2004 8:30 AM

Umm, did anybody notice that the deviled eggs in the middle of the table were colored? I mean, it's one thing to color the egg shells, but an Aunt Marilyn altogether another thing to color the whites!?!? I still wish I could have been there, though. I agree with Manly Dorm above that you guys are an adorable couple, but the Prius is sexxxxxyyyy.

Posted by: CarlaS at April 14, 2004 8:31 AM

Yeah, this is no Mormon Exclusive. My mom makes this holiday dish she calls "Watergate Salad" and it's much like what Caroline (below) describes. It's cool whip, pistachio pudding, pineapple and nuts. This year, my mom put in crushed strawberries for added flair. It looks like fluffy mold, but it's SO amazingly yummy. Every family has their bizarre food contribution. It's what makes holidays and families fun.

Posted by: Alan at April 14, 2004 8:42 AM

Not dissimilar to the 1960's standby in the 'burbs of Toronto called "ambrosia" which was a white sweet glommy glob including coconut flakes, tinned mandarin orange segments and other preserved ingredients. [Kind of like a desert version of my pal's "soup of seven cans" in terms of its creation.]

Posted by: Emily at April 14, 2004 11:09 AM

My family has a holiday-centered, jello-based dessert, too! Ours is a bit more "fruity," with raspberries and mandarin oranges mixed in raspberry jello. But being the sugar addicts we are, we like to put mini marshmallows on the top after the jello sets, and spread sour cream over the whole darn thing. This has become such a popular dish in my house that every time I come home from school for a weekend, I demand that my mom make it so I can bring it back to Maryland and take a break from the diner food.

Posted by: Jennifer at April 14, 2004 11:27 AM

For my Northern family, it's Watergate Salad (as described above by Carla). For my Southern family, it's a concoction of cottage cheese, orange jello (still in powder form), mandarin oranges, pineapple and Cool Whip. Both are oddly delicious.

I'm also a big fan of "finger jello" but it HAS to be made in a special pan that's identical to the one my grandmother always used. God bless eBay because I was able to find this pan after one of my aunts claimed Grandma's pan (grumble, grumble). The bottom of the pan is molded into blocks and each block has a letter of the alphabet or a toy-type symbol in the center of each block. Recipe is:

3 packages (4-serving size) Jell-O, any flavor
4 envelopes Unflavored Gelatine (Knox)
4 cups boiling water

Mix flavored and unflavored gelatin in large bowl; stir in
boiling water until gelatin dissolves.

Pour into 13 x 9 x 2-inch pan. Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.

Cut into small squares or assorted shapes. Store in refrigerator.

If you love Jello, this is the site for you:

http://www.chefandy.com/

Posted by: Alan at April 14, 2004 1:22 PM

The late CBC radio broadcaster Allan McPhee in the 70's and 80's on his bizzare late nightly show called "Ecclectic Circus" used to praise "Mom Mifkin's jellied gin". Sadly the recipe was never given out, thought the bath used to make a version of jellied gin by McPhee's radio pal Max Ferguson is apparently still in CBC Studio F in Toronto: http://www.cbc.ca/weekender/abouttheshow.html

Posted by: Salem at April 14, 2004 9:17 PM

We don't throw in the chunky parts, but the Jasper Family Steakhouse has an exciting twist on Jello fun! Instead of putting the cool whip on top, stir it in while the jello is still hot liquid. The two gue naturally separate into a lovely two tone gelatinous treat.

Posted by: Greg at April 15, 2004 8:38 AM

My wife's family in Highlands, NC serves ambrosia (much as described above) at many events. I can't attest to it's quality - I'm afraid of it.

Posted by: Cyn at April 19, 2004 6:17 PM

It's one big Kraft commercial, right here in blogland! Cool!! (whip)

Posted by: Beth at April 22, 2004 6:12 PM

Growing up Mormon, I was well-aware of this scary dessert. But it wasn't until my parents moved to Salt Lake City for a year that I learned that not only do the people of Salt Lake City consume more Jell-O per capita than any other city in the United States, but in 2002 the residents of Utah voted to name Jell-O the Official State Snack!

I'm happy to report that my parents have now moved to Hawaii, the Spam Capitol of the World.

Beth (a friend of kmeelyon's)

Posted by: J at May 2, 2005 4:43 PM

Hi,
Made a mistake on the other email. Its actually 'eccumenical' and 'carrot'!!
Congratulations!

Posted by: SugarRx at February 18, 2010 7:05 AM

What a wonderful blog! Love seeing the family take turns with the Prius! And FYI, I am Roman Cath NYer, not Mormom, but have loved funeral potatoes and utahs famous green jello. Any homestyle mormon recipes you might want to throw my way would be greatly appreciated as those ormons sure can cook! YUM! I think they should give the Food Network a run for their money! I admire all of your you for your cheery outlook on life and embracing family values as they should be! Bravo!!!!

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