July 16, 2013
Island Cooking: Rediscovering gelatin salads
By LYNNE FOSTER
been reading the delightful essays of Julia Reed, a rip-roarin’
Southern woman whose life has been filled with experiences more exotic
and wonderful than most of us could ever even imagine!
grown up in comfort in the Mississippi Delta, Reed represents the
quintessential Southern belle of our era. Bright, ambitious, and
accomplished, she is also pretty and dresses very well. She
loves to entertain generously and can cook and dine (and party and
drink) with the best of them.
She was raised at a time
when entertaining was elaborate and frequent and the food,
unpretentious and abundant. And women really did wear hostess
gowns when they entertained at home!
Her personality is oversized. I wish I knew her!
to her biography, she is a contributing editor at Newsweek, where she
writes the “food and drink” column. She appears regularly on CNN
and is a contributor to Garden and Gun, Condé Nast Traveler, Elle
Decor, The New York Times, and Vogue.
To date, she has authored
four delightful books with equally delightful titles – “Ham Biscuits,
Hostess Gowns and Other Southern Specialties: An Entertaining Life
(with recipes),” “Queen of the Turtle Derby and Other Southern
Phenomena,” “But Mama Always Put Vodka in Her Sangria: Adventures in
Eating, Drinking and Making Merry,” and her latest, “The House on First
Street, My New Orleans Story.”
What I really love about her
stories is her humorous, down-to-earth attitude about life and food,
despite her privileges and they are many!
She has inspired me to
concentrate my efforts of late on the traditional foods of the abundant
southern table that even includes unsophisticated gelatin salads --
because I remember that they tasted so good and were refreshing in
summer’s heat. Plus, if they are good enough for Julia Reed,
The first chapter of “Ham Biscuits” is tantalizingly titled “Miss Congealiality.” Let’s see where that leads.
to Reed, congealed items were a “staple” in their diets as “This was in
the Mississippi Delta, after all.” She noted 51 salad recipes
containing gelatin in “Gourmet of the Delta” cookbook and 23 in “The
She tells of a four-day house party her
mother held where she served “an almost exclusively gelatin-based menu”
mainly so she could prepare the food in advance. Some are sweet
and some, savory.
After the second day of the house party, the
guests had consumed, “... a crabmeat mousse, a strawberry mousse, two
kinds of tomato aspic, and a Charlotte russe.”
Then there are the condiments!
It was a revelation that one could serve mustard mousse with ham or slices of horseradish mousse with roast beef.
a chilled congealed dish is delightful for a summer meal, summer is not
the ideal time for making jellies. In fact, they rose to
popularity only after the introduction of air conditioning.
to think of it, they are often on the holiday table even in the
north. When I began researching congealed foods, I came across at
least one “Christmas salad” in every old cookbook I could find.
Needless to say, they make great use of green and red ingredients and
there are lots with cranberries.
I have been trying out gelatins
dishes. You do have to take a little time with them, but the
transformation of the ingredients is like a science experiment -- one
day a can of V-8 and tomato soup and a packet of gelatin and the next,
a shimmering jewel on a plate!
The Red and White Supermarket
in Hatteras sells some pretty scalloped disposable tins that are good
for aspics. Lightly spray with oil to facilitate unmolding.
LIME GELATIN AND COTTAGE CHEESE SALAD
From ‘River Road Recipes’
1 package lime gelatin
1 package lemon gelatin
2 cups boiling water
1 No. 2 can crushed pineapple, drained
1 carton cottage cheese
1 cup mayonnaise
1 can condensed milk
1 cup finely chopped nuts (I used pecans)
2 heaping tablespoons horseradish
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
the gelatin in hot water and let it stand until cool; add
pineapple. Blend cheese with mayonnaise until smooth and add to
gelatin mixture. Add all other ingredients and stir until mixture
begins to congeal. Pour into molds and place in refrigerator
BLOODLESS BLOODY MARY AND SHRIMP ASPIC
recipe was derived from numerous entries in old, local Southern
cookbooks. Every book has at least one so I took ingredients from
several and added some of my own, and this flavorful gelatin salad is
1 can tomato soup
12 ounces V-8 juice
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
3 packages plain, unflavored gelatin
1/2 cup water
1 cup mayonnaise
3/4 cup chopped bell pepper
3/4 cup chopped celery
1 small onion, chopped
1 avocado, diced
1/2 pound shrimp, cooked, peeled and sliced
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons hot sauce
1 tablespoon horseradish
Enough drops of red food coloring to make an appetizing shade of red
soup and juice with cream cheese. Melt and beat lumps out.
Dissolve gelatin in water and add to soup mixture. Add salt,
Worcestershire, hot sauce, horseradish, to taste.
Stir in rest of ingredients and chill.
Serve with arugula, watercress, or lettuce and a dollop of mayo.
Foster lives in Hatteras village with her husband, Ernie. Together they
operate The Albatross Fleet of charter boats. They actively support the
sustainable practices of the island’s commercial fishermen and the
preservation of Hatteras Island’s working waterfront. Both love
to cook seafood and entertain friends, and Lynne loves to experiment
with recipes for locally caught seafood.)
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