When I was a little girl I greatly enjoyed reading the Mrs. Piggle Wiggle books, which featured chapter after chapter of misbehaving children and their hapless mothers who turned to good old Mrs. Piggle Wiggle for help. The cures ranged from “let the kids stay up late as long as they want until they’re too tired to do anything fun, so they’ll stop complaining about bedtime,” to “I’ll let you borrow my pig with lovely table manners to act as a model/shame your child into eating politely,” to “here are some magic pills that will turn your child invisible whenever he’s showing off.” The books were hopelessly dated even back when I read them– they all involved happy housewives and mostly absent husbands, and everyone wore gloves and attended luncheons and ate ridiculous 1950’s food. Which is what brings me to this, um… masterpiece.
Because really, the 1950’s produced some seriously awful stuff, and while I think that the foods mentioned in the Mrs. Piggle Wiggle books were deliberately exaggerated (prune, noodle, and sardine surprise, anyone?), this one was just too bizarre-yet-plausible to pass up.
The table was decorated with pink tulips, a pink tablecloth, pink candles, pink napkins, and pink nut dishes. The main course was a maraschino cherry, walnut, marshmallow, pineapple, strawberry, cream cheese and cabbage molded salad, accompanied by pink biscuits. There were also pink mints and pink gumdrops. And luckiest of all, Mrs. Harroway just happened to be dressed entirely in pink with even pink gloves and pink roses on her hat. All through lunch she was so happy and gay everybody said, “You look adorable, Helen dear, I wish I’d worn pink.”
As soon as I saw the words “molded salad,” I knew I was in for an experience. Because what do you mold other than gelatin? And gelatin, as we all know, is the basis for some very… creative dishes. For anyone who didn’t know, cabbage-and-gelatin salad is a thing. Really. Sounds disgusting, but internet searching yielded recipe upon recipe, most involving lime jello and some including mayonnaise (shudder). I figured that if I substituted strawberry jello it wouldn’t be a problem, and the rest of the add-ins looked pretty innocuous. I decided to melt the cream cheese into the jello, which would give it some body and creaminess (also making it a nice opaque pink rather than a clear red), and to reserve the walnuts to garnish the top for crunch. Everything else was just dumped into the jello mold, and voila!
It’s actually not half bad. No, really, I’ve been eating it and it’s reasonably tasty– the cabbage has very little flavor, so it’s just vaguely crunchy and slightly vegetal, and generally just kind of tastes like the pineapple only tougher. I’m not saying I’d make it again or anything, but I’m not going to throw it away.
On the other hand, I’m not quite sure how anyone would consider this a main course for a luncheon– it’s pretty sweet and not very filling– but perhaps with the pink biscuits and all the cream cheese it was enough for a light meal. Or maybe everyone was too weirded-out by the idea of cabbage jello that they politely declined second servings and decided to eat something else once they returned home.
Pink Molded Salad (fills 6-cup bundt pan)
1 package strawberry jello (package makes 2 cups of jello)
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 cup mini marshmallows
3/4 cup canned crushed pineapple, drained
2 cups finely shredded cabbage
1/3 cup maraschino cherries, halved
walnut halves for garnish
additional cherries for garnish
1. Prepare jello as directed on the package. Add to the softened cream cheese about 1/4 cup at a time, stirring after each addition to make a smooth mixture. If you still have little lumps in the cream cheese try microwaving the whole thing for about 25 seconds to warm it up a bit, then keep stirring.
2. Chill jello mixture for about an hour, until thickened slightly.
3. Fold marshmallows, pineapple, cabbage, and cherries into the jello.
4. Pour into a lightly oiled bundt pan or gelatin mold and chill for at least 4 hours.
5. To unmold, use a butter knife to pry the side of the jello apart from the top 1/2″ or so of the mold, all the way around (breaking the seal along the edge). Invert over a plate and rap the side of the mold sharply in several places. If the jello doesn’t unmold, soak a towel in hot water and wrap around the pan for 45 seconds, then try again. If it still won’t come out, fill your sink (or a large pan) with hot water and set the pan into it for 5-10 seconds, then try again.
6. Garnish with walnut halves and additional cherries and serve with pink biscuits.
- The other recipe I considered trying was “chocolate, walnut, whipped cream, banana, devils food, cocoanut, peanut brittle frozen custard.” But that actually sounded delicious and not particularly challenging, so it’ll have to wait until another time.
- As always, remember never to use fresh pineapple with jello– it won’t set. Besides, it’s not like housewives in the 1950’s would’ve used fresh instead of canned anyway.
- The chilling step for the jello/cream cheese mixture is important– otherwise all of your mix-ins will just float to the top of your jello, making a dense layer of stuff on what will be the bottom of your molded salad. If you chill the jello first it’ll be thick enough to prevent this from happening.
- If you want extra insurance that your jello will unmold, feel free to line the pan with plastic wrap (and then spray with oil)– just be aware that you might get wrinkles from the plastic on the surface of your jello.
- This recipe filled my half-size bundt pan, which holds 6 cups of liquid. Feel free to double the recipe to fill a standard bundt pan, if you think people will actually be willing to eat it!
- If you want pretty slices, cut this with a serrated knife, sawing gently as you cut so the cabbage gets sliced through. If you use a regular knife the cabbage strands won’t separate and it’ll look very messy.
- Bonus recipe for pink biscuits found here! Just add pink food coloring to your buttermilk before mixing it in, and make as directed.