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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Cooking up the past

In an earlier post, on vintage recipe pamphlets, I talked about how the “history and culture of food fascinates me – especially when it is represented visually”. But, what about the recipes themselves? Stripped down to the essentials, they are just a list of ingredients and directions for making something. What do they say about the history and culture of food? And moreover, what does a “gelatin salad” really taste like?

Before the internet and tools like Pinterest, a home cook’s personal recipes were often organized in recipe boxes or files. The recipes were handwritten on small index cards or were clipped from the local newspaper and filed according to subject.  Like family photo albums, recipe boxes represent a microcosm of a family’s social history.

recipe box
My great aunt’s old recipe box. Photo: C. Hagemoen.

Continue reading “Cooking up the past”