The cure for writer’s block: molded gelatin salad!

I have been suffering recently with a case of writer’s block. I have several drafts of future posts for Vanalogue in various stages of completion, but have been unable to complete any of them. It has been very frustrating. In order to relieve the tension of uncompleted tasks and release the writer’s block, I decided it was time to try something creative, fun and a little daring – making a molded gelatin salad.

About a year ago I wrote the following in a post titled Cooking Up the Past:

My ultimate vintage recipe goal is to make a gelatin salad or aspic – there is something truly otherworldly about them. However,  first I need to procure a nice gelatin mold… and perhaps a little courage!

Though it took me about a year, I’m pleased to announce that I conquered my fears, found a vintage gelatin mold and made my first molded gelatin salad. In fact, I made two. Here’s the full story:

Vintage jelly mold. Photo: C. Hagemoen
Vintage jelly mold. Photo: C. Hagemoen

For months I have been scouring second hand stores and garage sales for a vintage gelatin mold. I finally found this 6″ tall one for $3 this summer. I thought it would make a very elegant looking gelatin salad (and would also be excellent for making a fancy ice cream bomb!).

I really wanted to make a gelatin salad with “things” suspended in it, so I scoured my collection of vintage cookbooks and the internet for suitable recipes. During my research I discovered that Jell-O once produced vegetable flavoured gelatin’s specifically for gelatin salads. Apparently the the possibilities were endless for what one could suspend in gelatin!

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Vintage recipe pamphlets

The history and culture of food fascinates me – especially when it is represented visually. This is probably why I started collecting vintage cook books and pamphlets. I am especially drawn to the delightfully illustrated recipe and entertaining pamphlets, or booklets, published by companies for homemakers in the 1930s, 40s, 50s, and 60s.

In the 20th century advancements in the way people stored and cooked food at home changed dramatically. Food and appliance manufacturers published recipe pamphlets to encourage homemakers to use their products in their own home kitchens. Through the use of these materials, companies achieved brand name exposure while providing consumers with new and exciting ways to use their products. These beautifully illustrated recipe pamphlets were selling more than just products, they were selling a lifestyle – a lifestyle to which homemakers could aspire.

Reading and using vintage cooking pamphlets is a great way to discover unknown recipes and a variety of foods and dishes that were at one time commonplace – gelatin salads, jelly braid, floating islands, noodle oyster loaf and boiled tongue.

Composite of cook book covers
Composite of covers and photography from various cooking pamphlets and books, 1938 – 1957.

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