HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >


Should I still consider jello "salads" and such, salad?

So, I'm writing my family cookbook with recipe submissions from my grandma and all of my great aunts, among others. Obviously, their generation ate A LOT of jello "salads"- that is the one thing I always remember my great grandma having at every meal. I just cannot think of them as salads- grated cabbage, pineapple, marshmallows, mayo/ lemon jello, crushed pineapple, cheddar cheese/ carrots, orange jello, etc., etc. I don't know what they really are, besides not so appetizing (at least to me)! But, hey, it's history! So, I'm torn between going with history and putting them in the salad section or trying something new and putting it in a more approproiate-sounding section, but then I don't know what... fruit? Miscellaneous? A whole jello category? And then where do you draw the line? Where does the raspberries, raspberry jello, sour cream one vs. the grated cabbage, pineapple, marshmallows, mayo one go? What do you think? Opinions (besides how gross some of those combos sound)?! (And yes, they are real combos!)

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I'd do a Jello section because you have main dish Jello too. Which was what my grandma served to her bridge group...lime jello with diced ham and peas mixed in, then tropped with softened cream cheese mixed with mayo and garnished with shredded carrots. Served along with cream cheese stuffed celery. Now I've grossed myself out. ;))

    1 Reply
    1. re: mtngirlnv

      Urp... that outdid mine! ;-) Okay, so if I do a jello section, then what do I do about the cabbage, pineapple, and marshmallow one, because it doesn't have jello? Oh, the dilemmas in my life!

    2. Definitely a separate Jello chapter. With love and whimsy--and you never know when Jello will stage a comeback!

      1. Katie Nell, they ARE history! You might not remember the 50s or the years before when grocery stores were the size of today's convenience stores and produce wasn't trucked all over the country much less from the rest of the world. Especially in the winter, your older relatives made "salads" from whatever they could to provide a little tangy, vinegary taste as part of the meal. Sometimes that was nothing much more than cabbage, shredded carrot, raisin, apples, mayo, pineapple, a sorry head of iceberg or jello. Waldorf salad was pretty common. Pineapple slices with mayo and cherries. Canned bartlett pears with shredded cheddar. Restaurants got fancy with iceberg wedges and blue cheese dressing.
        I know all that sounds bizarre today - a mere 50 or 60 years later - but that was the reality for us then. Even when I lived in rural Missouri in the mid-70s, good Romaine in the dead of winter was a reason for celebration.
        They were referred to as "congealed salads" which sounds pretty gross unless said with a very ladylike accent. In many sections of the country they are still proudly produced at church suppers, family reunions and picnics. No proper Southern festive meal is complete without Ambrosia even if it goes untouched - it can be a centerpiece or something - but a small bowl is de rigeur.
        I think a Congealed Salad section might take care of salads, main courses and side dishes. Give it its own section after the regular Salad section. Check with some of your elder relatives.

        1 Reply
        1. re: MakingSense

          ok, I've tried to say congealed salad in every accent I can muster and it still doesn't sound very appetizing.

        2. Oooh - I dunno about your genealogical problem, but thanks for the memories. Until I was in my 30's... actually, until Grandma kicked the bucket... no family meal came without my "favourite" peach jello and banana "salad."

          I guess it's a "salad" if it's served as a main side-dish??

          P.S. - my taste has been significantly refined.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Rabbit

            Not sure "refined" is the correct word. You've adjusted to the times. Tastes change and always have throughout history depending on what's available, what's recently become available, and the dictates of fashion.
            We may laugh at some of these old concoctions but our kids and grandchildren will die laughing at some of the things we're eating today, even in high end restaurants, and at some of our ideas which will seem antiquated and completely incorrect adjusted for the scientific knowledge of the future.
            We're already mocking foods of just a few years ago as oh-so-over!

          2. How about this? I'm going to make a modern Jello or geletin based salad because you've all made me think about the past.

            1. I see two viable options.

              1. File them under "Miscellaneous" as you say.


              2. Put them under "Salad" Heck, if a bean salad can be called a "salad" then surely a gelatin concoction can be labeled likewise.

              2 Replies
              1. re: ipsedixit

                You know, in Iowa, where I live, they STILL call them salads. At potlucks, people often bring Snickers salad, which is chopped Snickers in Cool Whip. (Imagine my horror as a Connecticut transplant who had certainly never seen such an aberration. It is, however, delicious, although so sweet it makes your teeth hurt.) And at my favorite supper club, just across the river in Illinois, the Sunday brunch buffet has 14 different Jell-o-based salads, labeled as such. I think that's part of their charm: that they're SO not salad as we know it, but that's what they've always been called. And really, isn't a salad just a sort of conglomeration of smallish food and moisture, to some extent? I say stick with "salad."

                1. re: ctscorp

                  The Snickers salad should also have chocolate syrup, and possibly chopped nuts. Marshmallows are also a good addition. My dad refuses to eat mayonnaise or Miracle whip, so my mom always makes one of these kinds of "salad" to take to potlucks, etc. My cousins used to go through and pick out the snickers bars and then not eat the cool whip.

              2. As a Southern girl where we still call these items salads, I vote keep them under the "salad" label. I assume part of your goal in doing a family cookbook is to preserve your family's culture. Thus, I think keeping the recipes under the salad heading paints a nice picture of the cultural norms of your grandma's generation. If you change the category, future generations will not be able to laugh about the crazy notion that a recips for jello and marshmellows can sit next to the recipe for a nice ceasar.

                1. They've always been salad to me, either fruit or veggie salad, depending on the mix-ins. I always hated the ones with veggies (Mom's lime salad with green olives, carrots, celery and a mayo/jello layer--ew). However, and maybe you'll kick me out of the chow club, I still love the orange spice jello salad. I'm not sure why gelatin dishes in general seem to be considered some sort of unrefined, unchowish thing. What's wrong with wiggly food?

                  1. Why not have sub-sections within the Salad chapter. Jello Salads can be one, Fruit Salads another, etc.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: mojoeater

                      Yeah, that's kind of the direction I was heading after reading the responses.

                      debbiel... I'm certainly not concerned about consuming food that is unchowish, but I never really liked jello much, even as a kid. As far as I'm concerned, the only great thing about jello is swishing it through your teeth! :-)

                      1. re: Katie Nell

                        We had a lot of fun at my niece's third birthday party. We lined the kids up and they raced to see who could slurp thier jello fastest - no hands allowed!

                    2. For some foolish reason I always assumed that such "salads" were peculiar to the Mormon West (Utah, Idaho, Nevada, etc.). It's interesting to hear they're a vital part of Southern and Midwestern cuisine as well. I think, in fact, Laura Bush refered to Southern Ambrosia in a recent speech somewhere.

                      My great grandmother was very into the shredded carrot/jello combination. Definitely old school.

                      They still serve such salads back where I'm from (my mother's favorite involved broken fudge-striped cookies, coolwhip and a mixture of canned & fresh fruit).

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Yaqo Homo

                        Having grown up in the Mormon west, I always assumed the same thing, so don't feel foolish. It wasn't until I moved away from Utah that I realized jell-0 is considered a dessert in some places. It was definitely always considered a 'salad' where I grew up. And I love teasing my mom about her Snickers salad....

                      2. I say keep them in salads but maybe in their own subsection in salads -- vegetable based salads vs. molded salads or side dish salads?

                        1. this is tongue in cheek

                          MOLDed (indeed) salads