I thought I knew a lot about food when I moved from California to New York for graduate school. I’d lived in So Cal all of my life, regularly ate food from various cultures and thought I was pretty adventuresome. Isn’t there something about pride going before a fall? In this case, my “fall” was going to be in falling in love with food and cooking in a way that I’d never experienced before.
I grew up loving to cook with my family; my mom and Grammie are two of the major cooking influences in my life. Then in New York, living alone and thousands of miles away from any friends and family, I found myself turning on the TV just to have some background noise in my cramped, but empty apartment. More often than not the channel I left it on was food TV. This is where I started to truly learn to cook, and thankfully I also made some of the best friends of my life in New York and they also love food.
I met my best friend, my brain twin, in graduate school within the same week that I met Dave. And have mercy on anyone in our path; we did our best to get them caught up in our own version of crazy. Jen and I started having dinner parties on our super tight grad school budgets, trying out recipes from Bon Appetite and (the late) Gourmet magazines that we read like novels. Soon Jen started bringing me (later Dave too) home with her for holidays to her parents’ place in upstate. Dave and I fell in love, with each other, but also with Jen’s family. We claimed them for our own and they’ve been stuck with us ever since.
It was at their home where I learned about true hospitality, gained an appreciation for a good Dark and Stormy, and learned (or tried) to hold my ground under severe peer pressure for one more trip back to the food line in the kitchen. Even if you’d already been 2-3 times before, if you were lax enough to leave an empty plate in your vicinity for a moment to lean back and groan you were charged with “what, you don’t like my wife’s cooking?” And back in line you’d go, unbuttoning the top button of your pants as you went. We learned that the secret was to take small portions on the first round, then it wasn’t quite so painful to go back for thirds in true Hobbit fashion.
There are many recipes (or versions of them) that I learned from this household, and the one I’m sharing here today is by far the simplest but it is one that I must have every Easter (now to be joined with Aureuil’s Ham). It is a deceptively simple, retro-style jello salad, but one that in our household now takes the place of dessert; Deb’s Jello Salad. In fact, when I first sat down to write this post, I did so with a bowl of the leftover jello at my side. This too, is one of those dishes that I look forward to making because I’ll have the leftovers to look forward to as well. My only regret is that I don’t have a nice crystal bowl to showcase it in. I can guarantee that soon I’ll be making a trip to the local thrift store to remedy that. Then I’ll have to make this jello salad again, just to make sure that the bowl shows it off nicely, of course.
Deb’s Jello Salad
2 boxes raspberry (or other flavor) jello
2 14 oz. cans of pineapple chunks,
1 cup frozen black berries or strawberries
2 bananas, sliced
1 pt. sour cream
- Drain the pineapple, reserving the juice. Set aside.
- Mix the jello following the package directions, but substituting the reserved pineapple juice for some of the cool water.
- Put the jello in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.
- Add the pineapple, frozen berries and bananas to the jello. Divide the jello in half, putting half into a serving bowl and then into the refrigerator. Leave the other half on the counter so that it doesn’t set up as fast.
- When the refrigerated jello is set (start checking after 15 minutes or so), carefully spread the sour cream over that first layer.
- Gently spoon the remaining jello on top of the sour cream layer and refrigerate until set. Enjoy!
Click here for a printable version of Deb’s Jello Salad.