A Love Letter to Jello Salad

So Thanksgiving is all about the food.  That’s a given. 

Of course it is also about gratitude and tradition and family and all of that goodness and stuff, but since I don’t have any kids yet and I’m pretty grateful the other 364 days of the year, WHEN DO WE EAT?  I’m looking forward to football, family, card games and good times, but what I really can’t wait for is DINNER!  Or lunch, I guess. 

Do you all eat your Thanksgiving dinners early?  We like to eat around 3 so that we can have pie (or turkey sandwiches, what?) around actual dinner time. 

Anyway, both my mom’s and dad’s sides of the family cook very similar spreads, so it doesn’t matter who we are celebrating with because there is always a delicious feast.  There is one major difference in the two menus though, and it happens to involve one of my absolute favorite dishes:  Raspberry Jello Salad.  You see it’s a staple on my dad’s side of the family, but we only occasionally make it on my mom’s.  There is really no rhyme or reason to it on my mom’s side, sometimes we have it, sometimes we don’t, but usually it is per my request.   I thought about whipping up a real quick batch tonight, but with all the other dishes I am tasked with, plus squeezing in one more workout so I can freely snarf stuffing without guilt, it just seemed like a bit too much.   So since I’m not going to be eating it, well, I feel the need to at least discuss it at length.  Will you humor me? 

First of all, I will acknowledge a few things about this recipe:

1.  I Get it.  It is not salad.
I used to have an irritatingly food obsessed roommate and during one of the years we lived together I cooked my first Thanksgiving Dinner EVER (you know…by myself.)  I was feeling sentimental and I was telling her about each dish and how I made them, and why we make them year after year when I pulled out this dish she laughed like I had just told the most hilarious joke.  Then she tried it and said,  “Yeah, it’s good, but you are kidding yourself if you think this is a salad.  This totally isn’t very healthy, Holly.” 

And all I can say to that is THANK GOD SHE ENLIGHTENED ME.  I mean where would I have been in life had she not made a flow chart defining salads and health for me in our little kitchen?  Praise the lord!

For this, and many other reasons as you may assume, we are not only no longer roommates but no longer friends.  But I do think about her often when I make this SALAD, and 12 years later I still feel incredibly happy that I chose it over her.  It’s that good, people.     

2.  I Get it.  It sounds gross.
I have seen many different faces when I’ve explained that my favorite thanksgiving dish involves a jello salad with cream cheese, whipped cream and — wait for it — pretzels.  Not all of them have been excited faces.  It sounds like a ridiculous combination, and I full acknowledge that.  But let me just promise you that it is the best gift from the Sweet and Savory Gods, and I swear on a bag of kettle corn that the combination works.  And it just gets better and better as the days pass. 

3.  I get it.  It’s a dessert.  It doesn’t really go with the meal.
Who the hell cares when I eat it, you psycho control freak?  Oops, sorry, I think that was a little residual ex-roommate rage there.  Seriously though, it does taste more like a dessert than a side dish.  But if no one is going to be a stickler with the candied yams about it, then leave my jello salad alone too, okay?

4.  I get it.  Jello Salad is NOT sexy.
In fact, there is little that is less sexy than jello salad, well you know, at least when we are talking about cravings and Thanksgiving food.  I nominate Turducken as a food that sure sounds less sexy, but I have to agree that saying a jello salad is one of my favorites sort of makes me  feel like I’m answering one of those “You Might Be a Redneck” jokes in the affirmative.  

But it is so super duper delicious that I am willing to put all of those points aside!  And I have to admit, I will really be missing my Raspberry Jello Salad this year.  So on the off chance you are in dire need of a last minute side dish/salad/dessert, this recipe on Tasty Kitchen is quite similar to the one traditionally served in my family.  And you should try it, because I dare you not to love it.  Plus then we could be White Trash Friends Forever.   

Do you think they make a necklace for that? 

Do you have any crazy family food traditions?  Tell me so I don’t feel so stupid now that I have written a bazillion words about jello salad.  Pretty please?

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5 comments to A Love Letter to Jello Salad

  • Camels & Chocolate
    November 24, 2010 at 7:17 pm

    My family totally makes this for every Thanksgiving. I looooove it. Then two years ago, we did our first T'giving with friends not family–friends who are originally from the SOUTH I might add and should know better–and I brought the strawberry Jello pretzel salad and they never put it out with the spread (I forgot…I blame the champagne) because they thought it was DESSERT. What part of salad makes you think it should go with the dessert spread? Clearly, I too have an affinity for Jello SALAD.

  • Camels & Chocolate
    November 24, 2010 at 7:17 pm

    My family totally makes this for every Thanksgiving. I looooove it. Then two years ago, we did our first T'giving with friends not family–friends who are originally from the SOUTH I might add and should know better–and I brought the strawberry Jello pretzel salad and they never put it out with the spread (I forgot…I blame the champagne) because they thought it was DESSERT. What part of salad makes you think it should go with the dessert spread? Clearly, I too have an affinity for Jello SALAD.

  • Jessica
    November 24, 2010 at 8:08 pm

    This is one of the yummiest things ever, even though I dont like pretzels. My aunt often makes it on holidays just because I love it so much. Our version is strawberry.

  • AndreAnna
    November 24, 2010 at 9:44 pm

    OMG I haven't had this in years but I used to LOVE it! A family friend used to make it all the time and I would request it for get-togethers.

    Of course, in Jersey we called it White Trash Parfait. LOL.

  • Diane
    November 24, 2010 at 9:59 pm

    Since when does salad => healthy? Has she heard of egg salad, macaroni salad, POTATO SALAD? These are not health foods! Hell, most salad isn't that healthy anymore with all the cheese and croutons and bacon and creamy dressings (OMG I'm getting hungry). What was her deal? I think now *I* will think of her whenever I eat something called "salad" that isn't 100% healthy.

    I think there was a question I was supposed to answer, but I forgot. Because the rage! On your behalf!

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