american salads steph doesn’t understand

I just have a lot of feelings about food. (This is basically a journey of me learning about these foods)

snickers salad
saladsnickersThere are APPLES and SNICKERS and something that the recipe calls ‘cool whip’ which frankly sounds terrifying. and it’s a way to use up Halloween leftovers?

I just realised that if there’s snickers in there that means it’s got nuts and like nougat mixing together with the ‘cool whip’. WHY NOT ADD SOME TINY TOTS AND TINY TEDDIES WHILE YOU’RE THERE. Ugh.

[Liz notes: Cool Whip is a brand of imitation whipped cream which, despite occasional claims to the contrary, does contain dairy.  Dairy-free cream substitutes have an interesting history, being linked to Jewish people wanting delicious desserts that are creamy yet kosher, and one day Steph and I will go out to the eastern suburbs to investigate the vegan and lactose-free potentials thereof.]

[Steph notes that a Jewish grocery store in Balaclava stocks a vegan Vienetta, and it’s so good.]

celery victor

celery victor

Nothing I can say will be as great as the wiki explanation: “The dish, an ‘American classic’, was popularized by author Clarence Edwords in his 1914 book, A Bohemian Guide to San Francisco Restaurants. To prepare, celery hearts are simmered in a veal or chicken stock, chilled (often in a citrus or vinegar marinade), tossed with mild peppers, then served over Romaine lettuce.” Celery is ALREADY DISGUSTING, why would you make it MORE DISGUSTING.

[Liz says: I dunno, this sounds okay to me.  A bit bland, but that’s true of most American dishes.  Celery, like time travel, is one of those areas where No Award has to agree to disagree.]

glorified rice

glorifiedrice

This recipe is direct from the Kraft website:

  • 2 cups cooked long-grain white rice, cooled
  • 1 can fruit cocktail, drained
  • 1 can crushed pineapple, drained, 1 cup JET-PUFFED Miniature Marshmallows
  • 1 cup thawed COOL WHIP Whipped Topping

Here are some questions. I assumed cool whip was like cream from a spray can so you don’t have to whip it. But if it’s thawed … is it frozen? Do you still have to whip it? What is a JET-PUFFED marshmallow? Is it from a jet engine? IS IT IN THE SHAPE OF A PLANE?

[Liz says: Cool Whip is sold in tubs and kept in the fridge!  Like butter, only it’s more of an unholy mixture of oil and skim milk.  Can’t explain the JET-PUFFED marshmallows, though.]

Why would anyone eat fruit cocktails?

Why would you ruin rice with fruit cocktails?

Why would you ruin rice with CREAM?

MYSTERIOUS CREAM?

[Liz notes: I feel that this is unfair to those Northern Europeans who traditionally make rice pudding with cream.  But that is real cream, which, while Liz is not a fan for lactose-intolerance reasons, is a natural and honest type of food.  Cool Whip … look, I just don’t know.  Cream at least has a taste.]

[Steph also hates rice porridge, making her the worst Chinese person ever.]

jello salad

Congealed_salad_cranberry

Jello (jelly) salad is clearly a dessert.

watergate salad

waldorf salad

Some pages referred to this salad as a ‘no bake salad dessert’, which leads me to a whole bunch of other questions.

Putting those questions aside, this recipe also calls for cool whip, crushed pineapple, marshmallows, and a ‘pistachio pudding mix’, just continuing to prove that we may watch lots of American media and speak a similar dialect, but we really are two separate countries.

Liz says:

I can’t believe Stephanie missed the Waldorf salad, although maybe that was deliberate, since it traditionally contains ingredients made from actual food, and most variations are free of marshmallows.

Not that I’ve ever had a Waldorf salad, but I have fond memories of the Trixie Belden book where her brother’s girlfriend accidentally gives him cyanide poison by feeding him Waldorf salad containing apple seeds.

(Useful advice: in fact, it’s quite hard to poison a person using just apple seeds, as the poison is only released when they’re chewed or broken up — and the seeds are small and easily swallowed.)

(No Award does not endorse murder.)

The word salad has lost all meaning.

Further Reading

Steph hasn’t read this yet, but has been assured it is relevant to her interests: The Thanksgiving Recipes Googled in Every State.

Further in Salad

Steph says:

I note that there are lots of socio-economic elements to these outrageous salads that No Award might not necessarily get, highlighted by this excellent article at Serious Eats: A Social History of Jell-O Salad: The Rise and Fall of an American Icon. I actually know very little about this stuff and google is failing me, so really I’m just trusting my common sense and also what Liz is telling me.

Liz says:

All I know is that Jello salads are like Velveeta or bland white bread — they’re inexpensive versions of “real” food available to — well, poor white people who have grown up with limited diets because of issues around money and access to “real” food in food deserts.  They’re particularly associated with Southerners — hence Mrs Bennet in The Lizzie Bennet Diaries humiliating her daughters by bringing a plate of vile gelatinous salad to the Lees — because, ya know, southern poverty and all that.

Traditional western European food — your standard beef and three veg — relies on quality, fresh ingredients for taste, and once frozen food shipped over long distances became a thing, a lot of that taste experience was lost.  Especially in America, which kind of led the charge for processed foods, but also in Australia, and probably any western country where food has to travel a long distance from source to plate.

Accordingly, people who eat processed foods form the butt of a lot of classist humour, ie, every single Tumblr post that says “white cuisine” is just “white bread and mayonnaise”.  It’s “hilarious” because it’s poking fun at people who have grown up with limited palates, and don’t have the resources (financial, retail, cultural or any or all of the above) to expand their knowledge of food.

Steph:

Is there a racial component to this salad business, or is it all class-based? I honestly can’t tell. I usually avoid salad (not a fan of cold food) so I’m a little biased in this regard.

Liz:

I don’t know, but I wouldn’t be surprised!

Steph:

Stay tuned for more food rambling later in the month, because I went to a great talk on culinary geography that completely failed to talk about class whilst it did talk about hating when kids say they hated a thing they’d only had in its poor person adulterated form (like that shaker Parmesan that comes in the green tube).

FINALLY, please add in the comments any Western but not-Australian (specifically we want UK and USA) foods that No Award should try.

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13 thoughts on “american salads steph doesn’t understand

  1. nonelvis

    To the best of my knowledge, there isn’t a racial component to the salad mockery; rather, it’s class and region-based. Jell-O salads, ambrosia salad, and similar processed food salads are all things I associate with the south and midwest, not the “elite” east and west coasts. (My husband, a southerner whose family was the first to feed me ambrosia salad, agrees it’s a regional bias thing.)

      1. nonelvis

        Unfortunately, it is. I love coconut! I love marshmallows! I even love maraschino cherries, and Cool Whip, and fruit cocktail! … just not all together.

  2. Pebble

    OH WOW that Trixie Belden book, where she’s all, “a/n you won’t die from waldorf salad poisoning IRL but I put it in the story anyway” and then Mr Waldorf Hotel probably sued her for damaging the reputation of his salad.

    American recipes often use a lot of brand names without explaining them, so I entertain myself by trying to imagine what sort of food that name might mean. Actually a lot of British recipes use unexplained brand names as well; do we Down Under make our recipes entirely out of ingredients, or are the local brand names slipping by me because I’m familiar with them?

  3. Man, you didn’t even cover the other side of Horrible Southern Salads For Poor People: Mayonnaise-Based Salads.

    My observations as a southerner once led me to believe that poor blacks and poor whites alike have suffered under the yoke of the Jello salad, but I do recall a rather hilarious line in True Blood, which is set in Louisiana, and includes two black characters looking at the spread at a friend’s grandmother’s funeral: “What is with white people and Jello?”

    Another component of the horrible American processed food experience, apart from poverty, is the diet fads marketed at working class women in recent decades. I had Cool Whip all through my childhood because my mother said it was less fatty and caloric than whipped cream.

    The thing about recommending American foods is that sometimes I don’t know that a food is American until I mention it to someone (frequently Liz) and get a blank stare. A patently North Carolina dish is Brunswick stew with a side of hush puppies and succotash–good luck with that.

    1. I’m so glad you chimed in here! Given that 99% of my knowledge about American food and class comes from stuff you’ve told me.

      And you’re totally right about the dieting factor — I think one of the articles Steph links discusses the perception of Jell-O as a “light”, “dainty” sort of food.

      (Also, I just googled Brunswick stew, and it looks amazing. I think I can get okra and beans at the markets, so come autumn, I’m totally trying it.)

  4. I remember that Trixie Belden book! It was also the first time I heard about Waldorf Salad.

    One of my favourite cooking blogs is the Mid Century Menu, in which the host cooks genuine recipes from the 1950’s and forces her husband to eat them. It’s amazing, and this is where I learned about things like celery flavoured jello.

  5. As it is approaching Thanksgiving (and I am procrastinating on NaNo): I am unaware of class-related issues to Jello Salad (although I don’t doubt they exist), it’s just part of our traditional Thanksgiving dinner – a three layer salad that came from a church cookbook. I also remember multiple different Jello salads being served at normal dinners – not so much at my grandparents’ place when we lived with them, but by the neighbours and by my great-aunts. It’s just a Minnesota sort of thing.

    We occasionally joke at Thanksgiving that the standard way of eating anything (particularly vegetables) is to cook it with eggs, sugar, cream and butter in varying quantities. Hence traditional Thanksgiving fare includes rutabega pudding (what you know as swede turnip cooked, mashed, mixed with eggs, sugar and cream, and baked), rice croquettes (rice cooked in milk, mixed with sugar and butter, rolled in bread crumbs and deep fried) and pumpkin pie (pumpkin, cooked and mashed, mixed with eggs, brown sugar, spices, and cream and baked in a pie crust.)

    There’s a shop called “USA Foods” in Hampton, where my mother gets her tooth paste. Things you could get there to try are Grape Nuts (my favourite cereal in the world and I miss it so very much) and real true Graham Crackers – I used to have buttered Graham crackers and a glass of milk every afternoon when I got home from school.

    (And while we’re (not) talking about NaNo, I have two books on food during the British Raj as resources, and man, did they eat some interesting stuff. Why, when they had all that beautiful Indian food right there, I don’t know, but then, I’ve been eating Indian since I was two.)

    (Now if I could only use all this as word count…)

  6. I got most of my knowledge of the stranger corners of USA cuisine through reading various cooking threads at “Making Light”. From which I gather there’s a certain amount of religious cross-contamination in things as well – Mormons apparently do something called “hot dish” (an almost Australian feat of naming) which largely consists of Campbells condensed soup (usually cream of mushroom), noodles, tinned tuna, and a topping consisting of crushed potato chips (presumably plain rather than flavoured) and cheese. There are, however, “hot dish” variations across various state and religious divides – Lutherans do a version, Presbyterians do another, etc etc.

    If any Aussies want to explore the wonders of pre-seventies Australian cuisine, however, my recommendation is to get hold of some of those wonderful old standard cookbooks – I have “The Golden Wattle” (from WA – originally compiled in 1926); the “CWA Cookery Book And Household Hints” (also WA, compiled 1936); and the “Commonsense Cookery Book: Metric Edition” (NSW – the metric revision dates back to 1970). I also, somewhere in the bundle of boxes, have a copy of what I suspect was one of the first Women’s Weekly cookbooks to be compiled – “Women’s Weekly Best Ever Recipes”, which contains recipes in their full 1970s glory, including something called “Herbed Beef”, which, once you start making it, you can recognised as an extremely Anglicised version of Bolognaise pasta sauce (except it contains condensed tomato soup instead of either tomato paste, or actual tomatoes).

    I suspect my great-nieces and nephews will probably regard most of my current collection of cookbooks with much the same sort of fond horror in fifty years’ time.

    1. My mother had/has a partial set of (American) Better Homes & Gardens cookbooks, that I never entirely have let her get rid of, because of the amusement value. I don’t know that I could ever cook any of them these days, but OMG the awesome!

  7. Ah yes, and here’s the exact thread which actually goes to at least some trouble explaining what the story is with jello, marshmallows and the wonderful things the USAliens do in the name of “salad” – La cuisine de Nouvelle Zion.

    I would strongly urge everyone to take a good long look at the linked image for “candle salad”. As Ms Neilsen Hayden says, “it takes a very, very clean mind to think that up”.

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