Here at home, I have a cookbook that includes a recipe from Mrs. Albert Brewer (published in a time when so many women went simply as Mrs. Husband’s Name). Her name was actually Martha, and her husband’s name is familiar because he became Governor of Alabama when Gov. Lurleen Wallace passed away (in 1968), and then George Wallace, who had been Lurleen’s husband, defeated him to win the office back into the family in 1970.
Well, back to Martha. She contributed to the cookbook her recipe for ‘Pimento Cheese Salad’.
Are you thinking: pimento cheese on top of lettuce?
Maybe pimento cheese embellished with some other vegetables?
Me too. I mean, I did.
Pimento Cheese Salad turns out to be a ‘salad’ in the ’50s and ’60s sense, like an aspic, or strawberry/cherry/pineapple/cranberry/whatever-fruit-you-like salad (w/ extra points for marshmallows and orange sections!). It’s molded salad, made with gelatin, like our grandmothers made.
That pic above is of my attempt at Martha Brewer’s pimento cheese salad. When I read the recipe, I was intrigued: lemon jello, pimento cheese spread, extra mayonnaise, vinegar, celery, onion, and bell pepper.
(and yes I took the two extra minutes to make my own pimento cheese)
Now for the question: could lemon Jello and even-better-homemade pimento cheese taste good? Could I put it in a pretty mold and everyone be amazed?
It was good in an odd way, but I don’t think I’ll be trying it again.
I just like the idea that someone thought to themselves, “you know what would be great? How about…”
Not only were the contestants asked to be innovative, part of it was that they had to construct their own molds (no Tupperware or pretty copper fluted pans!). The Chicago Tribune, of all things, had an article about it in their Opinion section that read in part:
The event drew 200 spectators and 27 entries, plus one “meltdown,” reports Michelle Zata, one of the organizers. Grand prize went to Shelly Sabel, for her creation, “Aspic Ascension — Tastes Like Heaven.” Her concoction featured a church altar made of pickles and olives and a gelatinous statue of the Virgin Mary.
Art with a dash of blasphemy — there’s the perfect recipe for East Coast elitism. Indeed, the judges and contestants were largely drawn from New York’s design and artisan circles.
Still, Sabel’s victory was indebted to tradition.
A New York lighting designer, she said she was inspired to enter the competition by her grandfather’s recent death. Sorting through her grandparents’ attic in Houston, what did she find?
“An old recipe book put out by the Knox Gelatin company,” said Sabel. “My grandmother’s.”
While many spectators applauded Sabel’s creativity and craftsmanship, none said her mold reminded them of one that sat on their family’s dining-room table. She can understand that mixed reception, noting: “Mine wasn’t the kind of thing that inspires nostalgia.”
Um, Our Lady of the Jello? I’m not a blasphemy fan. We can do better. How about this? 100% jello – cups and all:
Used courtesy Bekathwia under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic. Thank you!