My mother was a pack rat when it came to collecting recipes. There was a drawer in our kitchen full of miscellaneous stuff, including an incredible stash of recipes.
She had recipes from every source imaginable – calendars, instruction sheets that came with appliances, pamphlets from local businesses, little cookbooks from her Sunday school class, her sorority, etc. Basically, anything that had a recipe on it went into that drawer.
Mother’s kitchen drawer told a lot about her. She was a homemaker whose recipes reflected life in the 1950s and 1960s. From her collection you can tell that she had a family with eclectic tastes, she loved to entertain, she played bridge, she had lots of friends, and she went to church a lot.
She went to church a lot because my father was a minister. Even if you didn’t know this you’d still be able to guess this from her recipe collection. Some of mother’s recipes are written on pew cards – you know, those little cards on the pews for newcomers to fill in their information for the visitation committee? Well, apparently my mother had another use for them. She sat in the front pew every Sunday.
Now I know what she was doing up there – at least part of the time.
There were lots of recipes in that drawer from her friends at church. My absolute favorite was a recipe for “Chest Pie.” I still laugh when I see that card. Chess pie will never be the same for me ever again.
I couldn’t help but notice there was a common thread running through Mother’s collection – Jell-O. Her entire generation was enamored with it. Apparently Jell-O was considered to be fine food back then. It was featured in desserts, but its main role was in salads.
The word Jell-O is replaced by the word “congealed” in most of the salad recipes. Maybe this was to make them sound more sophisticated or something. Frankly, I think the word “congealed” is a little creepy and certainly unappetizing, but that’s just my opinion.
Reading through myriad salad recipes, you can’t help but notice that the ingredients are pretty much the same – fruit, nuts, marshmallows and Jell-O. The only difference seems to be what color they are, depending on what flavor of Jell-O is used.
As I thumbed through the multicolored salad recipes, my eyes began to glaze over. An orange one caught my attention, however. It was a molded salad featuring orange sherbet. It only had three ingredients – orange sherbet, orange Jell-O and orange slices. No nuts or marshmallows to be found anywhere. Now this one sounded interesting.
It turns out it was just as good as I thought it might be. The only drawback to this salad is that you can’t set it out too far in advance. After all, it does have sherbet in it.
One thing that sets this recipe apart from the others and makes it particularly special to me is that it’s written on the back of a pew card in my mother’s handwriting. Enjoy this recipe straight from the front row of my father’s church. It’s heavenly.
Joy Smith is a resident of Fort Mill.