Although I am a Utah native, I have never been passionate about Jello. The irony is not lost on me, considering I live in the Jello capitol of the world and all. However, you have to understand that for those of us that grow up here, you are really either all in or all out when it comes to this jiggly confection.
You see, there is an unwritten rule in Utah against simply preparing gelatin according to package directions and serving it up as is. It is expected that for Jello to be a servable dish you must stir in and spread on the most sinister of ingredients. It is not a proper dish on it’s own, but a medium in which to suspend a virtual hodgepodge of foods you would never otherwise put together and that magically, once they are quivering as one in a transparent mold, they are not just edible, but delicious. It is just one of the many half-truths born of my childhood!
I remember being about seven years old standing in line at the buffet table at our family reunion, my paper plate in hand, my feet feeling a little sweaty in my new jelly shoes from Woolworth’s. I was patiently waiting to load up on potato salad, hot dogs, and watermelon cubes, secretly strategizing about how I would avoid my grandmother’s jello salad in lady like manner. I couldn’t tell her I was allergic to it because she’d wonder why my mom never told her about that and I’d get a chastising later when we got home. So I figured I’d just get to talking to the person next to me in line, get a little distracted, and just miss it altogether. Plan B was to take a teeny tiny bit and feed it to my aunt’s dog under the tablecloth. I can’t remember which scheme got me out of eating that Jello salad, but I know it didn’t enter my mouth on that day or any other. My grandmother’s Jello salad was a sheet pan of lime Jello, holding a mix of walnuts, carrots, and celery, coated in a thick layer of Miracle Whip “frosting”. Yep. You heard me right. Now you know what nightmares are made of.
So, needlesstosay, I never really got a taste for the stuff.
That is until I discovered the Jello shot.
And now all is well in the world.
Turns out gelatin is not just capable of suspending horrific combinations of fruits, nuts, and vegetables, but is an excellent vehicle for a little booze as well.
It is the perfect medium for vodka, rum, or tequila. It helps these piquant drinks go down easy and smooth on a hot summer day and will not cause you to sweat in your favorite sandals the way my grandmother’s jello salad did.
They are the most proper of party starters-no giant green Tupperware bowl needed.
For these, I used grapefruit peels as the vehicle to hold the gelatin. You just have to be sure not to puncture the grapefruit peel when you are ridding it of the fruit. Make sure to fill them up very full so that your shots look nice and plump when they are done.
I actually use plain gelatin in these and flavored them with grapefruit juice, coconut rum, and thyme. They are a summer day incarnate.
I still run into gelatin nightmares housed in big Tupperware bowls at many a gathering, whether it be a baby shower, family get together, or church picnic, and I still avoid them like the plague they are. There is the wonderful frog eyed salad, made with little bits of pasta and fruit-gag! Or there is aspic salad made with lemon jello, tomato juice, and shrimp-goodness gracious. Or you have jello salad filled with mini marshmallows and about 17 tubs of fake whipped cream-is there nothing else to eat on the planet? I cannot fathom the reason these concoctions were made, but there are better options in the modern world, even in Utah.
I think a profound quote from Maya Angelou will sum this post up well, “Do the best you can until you know better, then when you know better, do better”.
I am certain she was talking to those of you who have made Jello salads in the past. Now that you know better, you can make Jello shots instead.
I love happy endings.