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

wong-jessica-52.jpg
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."

jello-getty-3140582.jpg
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?

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Comments

Marguerite Howey

Well, I haven't had that salad for years and I really like it. The recipe came from my late aunt. Thanks for the reminder. Maybe I'll serve it this Christmas.

Posted December 19, 2008 05:04 PM

julie

just for a twist - the first time i encountered jello salad was at my asian husbands family thanksgiving dinner. it is always orange jello with celery and pineapple.

Posted December 20, 2008 06:10 AM

valancy

Toronto

My aunt used to make hot dogs in grape jelly as an appetizer every Christmas.

Posted December 21, 2008 09:15 AM

Chantel

Yukon

My husband and I recently had a dinner at my grandparents' house, and my grandmother served cranberry jello aspic with orange slices. Her reasoning? She felt that aspic was a very "Grandmother" thing to serve at a meal, and she just wanted to do her part. It will be such a nice memory!

Posted December 22, 2008 09:49 AM

AlysM

Vancouver

I think of it as a prairie dish, as in our family that is the side that it comes from.
Pretty safe adventure ...
Now, "Thousand Year Old Egg" that was an adventure to me.

Posted December 22, 2008 06:31 PM

Mr. Muggins

Tobermory

Upon finding out what jello is made of (eee-yuck!), I stopped eating it. Upon finding out how it's made (OhMyGawd!), I stopped looking at it. Same for hotdogs. My sympathies to valancy... Grape?!

Posted December 23, 2008 06:31 AM

Meg Ball

Up until he passed away a few years ago, my father would tell stories about his mom's "yucky green salad".

My grandmother never once admitted to making it, even though everyone in the family over 40 years old seems to remember it quite clearly.

I'm about as "white bread" as you get, and even I can't imagine having to swallow that mash of textures down. *shudders* Jello was novel chic in the 50's, now it should be left to the hospital meal trays. :)

Posted December 24, 2008 07:05 PM

Chelsea

Vancouver

My mom still makes 'Grandma's Salad' every Christmas and I love it.
Her version includes green Jell-O, pineapple, nuts and cottage cheese.

Posted January 5, 2009 01:22 PM

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Amber Hildebrandt Amber Hildebrandt writes for CBCNews.ca in Toronto. Growing up on a farm in Manitoba, she acquired an insatiable appetite, but it was during a stint in Japan that she developed her discerning tastebuds and "foodie" ways.

Andrea Chiu Andrea Chiu is an associate producer at CBC Radio Digital. Though she loves to eat, cook and discuss food, don't ask her to bake. It never turns out well. She tweets as @TOfoodie on Twitter and organizes food and wine events in Toronto called FoodieMeet.

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