Yes I am one of those read-all-the-labels, organic milk buying, farmers market shopping, will not make mashed potatoes from a box kind of moms. But then Thanksgiving rolls around and every inch of my Midwestern rooted soul craves some particularly 1950s-centric foods. I spent every Thanksgiving of my childhood in suburban Michigan, staying at my grandmother’s house and feasting at my aunt and uncle’s with no less than 40 people every year. Kids’ table? Check. Tex-Mex dip? Yup. Giant round pumpernickel bread filled with spinach dip? Hell yes. But the most steadfast and true addition to the Thanksgiving buffet had to be the Jell-O mold shimmering brilliantly alongside the pumpkin and apple pies.
The Jell-O mold is a lost art. Both of my grandmothers were masters of the form. It wasn’t enough to pour that boiling, artificially colored liquid into a mold and just let it set up. No. There were ribbons to be created, sour cream to be swirled in forming pastel shaded layers, slices of bananas and bits of walnuts for texture, and maybe even crushed pineapple. Oh yes, that little box of Jell-O was just a starting point for a thing of beauty. And then there were the molds – the gorgeous copper molds. When my grandmother’s Parkinson’s made it too hard for her to bake anymore, and even to make her fabulous Jell-O sculptures, she gave me her copper molds (with the hook so you could hang them on the kitchen walls of course). I wish I could say I use them every year but they were stolen from my house in college, the thief taking boxes of belongings that were being stored in our basement over the summer. I’m sure the thief threw them out as soon as he opened the box and realized it wasn’t computer equipment he had stolen, but I would have rather lost my computer that summer than the copper fish, intricate bunt and cheerful pineapple molds that are gone forever.
I have never attempted the super fancy Jell-O molds of my childhood, but this year we are having a very sad little Thanksgiving, just the 4 of us. Since the cooking part will be a breeze I am thinking it’s time to bring back the Jell-O mold and see if I inherited my grandmother’s knack for turning the most simple of packaged foods into something more glamorous and special. Jell-O might just be so corny at this point that it’s actually cool and retro – or at least that’s what I’ll be telling myself as I slice those bananas and swirl in the sour cream. Now I just have to scour the thrift stores for some copper molds. And maybe by remembering my grandmother in this way it won’t be just the four of us at Thanksgiving after all.
Check out my fellow Yahoo! Motherboard bloggers’ fabulous Thanksgiving post at Yahoo! Shine! (they’re all very talented)
- How-To: Ten-Layer Jell-O Mold (craftzine.com)