Over the years, I have amassed quite a collection of church cookbooks, starting with one handed down from my grandmother, all the way through last week when I purchased four from the church I now attend. They are generally bound with black, plastic, binding combs. Although, some of the newer ones are in fancy three-ring binders, you know, in case you get crazy with a hole-punch and decide to add your own recipes.
At the top, right-hand corner of each recipe you will find the name of the contributor. Generally, these are women, but occasionally you’ll have one or two funny guys who submit things like “Stan’s Elephant Stew” or “Cal’s Lethal Ingestion Chili.”
Flipping through the pages is akin to going back in time; seeing the names of those who have gone on to their heavenly reward. Names that hearken back to a simpler time when Sunday School was held in the cool of the church basement, and smelled faintly of grape juice and the ink of the ditto machine. Scents indicating that people, the people whose names are forever recorded in cookbooks, had arrived early to prepare communion for the worship service, and print coloring pages designed to keep kids busy…I mean help kids remember their lesson each week.
The best Sundays were potluck, pitch-ins, or covered dish, depending on your denomination. Early in marriage, hubby and I attended a new church where everyone was asked to bring a “well-filled basket.” Only, I thought they said, “welfare basket” so I arrived with an assortment of food items suitable for donation. When I viewed the tables laden with steaming casseroles, salads of every variety, and a vast array of desserts, I quietly set aside my canned goods and got in line.
From a very young age, I began skipping the salad end of the table. I didn’t see any reason to load my paper plate with that stuff when Grandma’s meatloaf and Mrs. Blessing’s scalloped potatoes were in sight. Besides, 48.27 percent of what churches consider “salad” is really just Jell-O mixed with crap. I’m not even making that up. I pulled out the inherited cookbook, and counted. Out of twenty-nine recipes listed in the salad section, fourteen called for Jell-O.
Recognizing that this was published thirty years ago, I double checked my facts in the cookbook purchased last week. Thirteen of thirty-eight called for Jell-O. This brings our average to 40.29 percent. Although, I think it’s only fair to note that of the remaining recipes, eleven require at least one of the following:
Of course, I’m not going to complain about a salad that supplies my daily caffeine intake.
What I love most are the creative and fabulous names the ladies have come up with for their gelatin concoctions. Vegetable salads are simply listed: Cauliflower Salad, Bean Salad, Broccoli Salad, Spinach Salad, and on the same page, Simple Spinach Salad. But the Jell-O salads, oh my! We have such delights as: Rosy Spring Salad, Sunshine Surprise Salad, and Waldorf Crown Salad with Regal Dressing. Regal Dressing includes fifteen (FIFTEEN!) large marshmallows.
The entry that epitomizes these salads is simply, and accurately, called:
1 small carton cottage cheese
1 box Jell-O -any flavor (I appreciate the versatility)
1 can crushed pineapple-do not drain
1 container Cool Whip
Mix together in a bowl.
Why would I want to put something like that on my plate, and risk it sliding over into Mrs. Rader’s Pizza Potatoes or Mrs. Jamison’s Cheesy Tuna Casserole? Besides, I need to save room for the desserts; none of which contain Jell-O.