Tag Archives: out of style

The Haggis of Salads

Last week, Robbie Burns Day got me thinking about another food that, like haggis, drives otherwise-reasonable people into vehement arguments over whether to love it, hate it, or call up the hazmat team to dispose of the toxic waste-on-a-plate.

I’m talking about jellied salad.

Jellied salad was in its heyday when I was a kid.  My Culross Copper Club cookbooks (published in 1954, 1965, and 1978 by the local ladies in the small rural community where I grew up) are packed with recipes containing the almighty Jell-O™.   If they could conceive of a food combination in even the most hallucinatory of dreams, there was a jellied salad recipe for it.

Some were, quite frankly, revolting.  Others sounded revolting, but were actually delicious.  My particular favourites were baby shrimp in tomato aspic (always molded in a fish shape and served on lettuce leaves) and Golden Glo salad:  Lemon jelly, pineapple, grated carrots, and diced celery.

There are cultural and historical reasons why jellied salads got so popular, but the truth is that they were fun and pretty, and usually tasted okay as long as you could put aside your innate objection to odd pieces of food suspended in unnaturally-coloured gelatin.

I know its day is long past, but I still can’t resist serving it every now and then.  Just one brightly-coloured jiggly blob in a cut-glass bowl is enough to bring back happy memories of my grandparents’ big dining table extended to its limits, surrounded by a happy hubbub of family.

It was prettier in the cut-glass bowl…

Anybody who didn’t live through the golden age of jellied salad reacts the same way when I put it on the table.  First there’s a furtive glance:  What is that?  Next, a longer, more incredulous look:  Is that… Jell-O… with STUFF in it?!?  Finally, they avert their eyes in a polite effort to ignore my embarrassing faux pas.

When I explain what it is and that they’re not required to eat it unless they want to, everyone relaxes.  Some even sample it cautiously, but I have yet to hear anybody sing its praises; or, for that matter, say anything at all about it.  They just eat the small portion on their plates and tactfully turn the conversation elsewhere.

So I guess jellied salad is firmly relegated to the same status as haggis:  If you grew up eating it during happy times, you probably still like it; but the rest of the world thinks you’re nuts.

Or maybe everybody has moved on to more sophisticated foods; and I’m the only nutcase left.

It wouldn’t be the first time…

Book 14 update:  Off to the beta readers this week!  Then I’ll be putting on my ‘production manager’ hat, so stay tuned for a title, cover art, and a release date announcement soon!

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Suitably Embarrassed

A while ago Carrie Rubin posted “My Closet Has Skeletons – Literally”, in which she offered blog awards to those brave enough to post photos of their own closet-cleanout detritus.

I can’t resist the opportunity to accumulate blogging awards and public humiliation simultaneously, so here goes…

I hate waste and clutter.  I can’t count the number of times I’ve cleaned out my closet over the years, ruthlessly culling clothes and shipping them off to charity.  If it doesn’t fit right, isn’t in style, or I haven’t worn it recently, out it goes, no matter how much I paid for it or how much I loved it at the time.

But every now and then I get caught in an embarrassing bout of hoarding.

I got this suit sometime in the late 80s or early 90s; I can’t remember.  The pants still fit, which leads me to believe that it looked just as ridiculous when I wore it regularly as it does now.  The photo fails to capture the enormous bagginess of the rear.  (The pants’ rear, not mine.  I have no ass to speak of.)

But it’s linen (the suit, I mean).  It feels wonderful and I love the colour (it’s nicer than the photo).  And, hello, it still fits twenty-odd years later.

Please excuse my geeky expressions – as I’ve noted before, I’m NOT photogenic.  And I have never worn the suit in public with white socks, either.  Promise.

Please excuse my geeky expressions – as I’ve noted before, I’m NOT photogenic. And I have never worn the suit in public with white socks, either. Promise.

Somehow the suit has survived all those culls even though I know:

a) it doesn’t look good on me now;

b) it probably never looked good on me;

c) it’s not fashionable;

d) it probably wasn’t fashionable when I wore it;

e) the probability of it ever becoming fashionable is roughly on par with the probability of Oprah hiring me as her fashion consultant; and

f) even if it did become fashionable again, I probably wouldn’t wear it because, let’s face it, it doesn’t look good on me.

So I tried it on, snickered, got Hubby to snap those incriminating photos… and then tenderly tucked it back into my closet.

I’m embarrassed.

Hubby is my exact opposite.

He putters happily around his man-cave surrounded by his “stuff”. He’s completely unfazed by the knowledge that he’ll likely never need, use, or even look at 90% of the stuff he’s hoarding.  He might need it someday, and that’s good enough for him.

And I acknowledge the wisdom of his approach every time I throw something away and then discover I need it two days after the garbage truck has come and gone.

But I can’t overcome my need to organize and throw away.  Except for my linen suit.

I prefer to call this “loyalty”, not “irrational hoarding”.

Are you a thrower-outer or a pack rat?  And please tell me I’m not the only one clinging to an unsuitable, unflattering, useless item…

P.S. I’m still in Manitoba this week, and I thought I’d offer you folks in southern climes a small opportunity to gloat.  Welcome to mid-April in southern Canada:

Yes, this is unusual even for us.

And it’s snowing again today. Yes, this is unusual even for us.

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