Always room for Jell-O s-a-l-a-d at Christmas?

By Jessica Wong, CBCNews.ca

Around this time of year, facing a series of impending holiday dinners, I usually harken back to a funny story a friend recounted years ago about her first Christmas dinner with her in-laws.

Like me, she comes from an Asian background and a family that doesn't celebrate a long tradition of the usual Western holiday meal (i.e. centred around a turkey or roast plus all sorts of fixings).

Though she is an adventurous eater and a foodie, my friend was bewildered — and a bit horrified — by a bizarre dish she encountered at that dinner: a wobbly concoction proudly presented as "green salad."

Moulded gelatins from a bygone era (Chaloner Woods/Getty Images)

I still laugh when I think of her description of the odd, wiggly, electric lime-coloured, cream cheese-laced concoction and her attempt to bypass the dish. Her suave manoeuvre actually resulted in a larger-than-ever-intended portion when her partner's mom noticed it missing from my friend's plate (it was, naturally, mom-in-law's specialty). A few years later, mom-in-law shook things up by using orange gelatin instead of green!

Though I'm a Jell-O fan, I've always thought of gelatin as a dessert food — the idea of "green salad" still strikes me as weird. But typing "green salad" and "gelatin" into Google brings up a plethora of recipes featuring countless variations: with horseradish or pineapple mixed in, studded with sliced or chopped nuts, topped with whipped cream, etc.

Though I do recognize that there was a time when all manner of food was "captured" in aspic — wasn't it considered the height of elegance? — I think I'd probably only manage a polite spoonful of "green salad" if it appeared on a table before me.

What weird, wacky or strange holiday food traditions have you encountered? Have any become a part of your annual holiday table?