Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A Taste of Fear

What a glorious evening and roller-coaster of a day.  I was flying high all morning but felt defeat was inevitable by six.  I left the grocery store somewhat frustrated by the amount of money I had spent on food that I was likely to spit out within hours.  I considered the possibility of bringing the leftover food to the salvation army but was concerned that they would mark me as a first class asshole (which, lets be honest, using food purely for entertainment purposes is kind of douchey, given all the hunger that remains worldwide) But conscience aside, fight or flight kicked in and by the time I got home company was just around the corner.  As I reviewed my cookbooks and unloaded my gelatin the other ingredients began to cluster on my kitchen counter in patterns that seemed so unholy I did not dare look directly at them, nor did I dare to look away.  Just to be clear, I was intimidated by GD Jello and a can of salmon.  This was also evident earlier in the check-out lane at Copps when product related shame got the best of me and I realized I was trying to hide the contents of my cart from all passers by (and the subsequent shame for that shame - "who the hell do I think I am... if it was good enough for my grandparents, etc...").  I am lame and talk to myself often, this is what we've established.

I somehow managed to break the eye lock I had going with the one inch of counter space that remained unfettered and with that the cooking commenced.  First up was a recipe called "Salmon Mold".  I felt the need to begin here because, I'll be honest, something dirty and buried deep inside of me really liked the idea of folding whipped cream into a can of salmon.  The recipe was selected for a multitude of reasons but first and foremost it was because gelatinous & savory won in the the poll I conducted and I knew that you sickies would not be ignored.  After mixing the initial ingredients (which, in the end amounted to a home-made thousand island dressing, dressed up with gelatin) it was a waiting game.  The dish needed to cool so I worked on the next recipe for a bit.  When the Jello/dressing was sufficiently chilled I darted around the room like a hyperactive child and probably let out a couple of high pitched squeals .  I should mention that by this time a few of my guests had arrived and were watching me with a combination of bewilderment and disgust that contorted all of their faces into a uniform grimace.  I cracked open the salmon, whipped the whipping cream and began to fold it all into the original mixture.  Well boy howdy!  That can of fish was rather pungent and not much in the looks department either.

It was only a moment before I had it "molded" and I returned it to the ice box, moving on to my next project.  The following item up for resurrection was a freak show titled "Lime-Tuna Ring".  It consisted of lime jello whipped into sour cream and (of course) molded, topped with tuna salad, dressed with vinegar and garnished with cucumbers.  I chose this because it had a picture along side that provided some kind of terrible guideline and also because it looked just awful.  

Preparing this one was shockingly simple, as was the salmon whip, and I started to understand why this disturbing trend held on for almost three decades, this shit show is quick!  If I could get away with serving something so easy to whip up back then, I just might, even without a house full of small children yanking at my apron strings.  I'd like to believe that some of the women who made these dishes popular did so with a little subversive voice speaking to them from within, whispering encouragement "Just pretend like it's not quivering that way, they'll never know the difference" or "You've got better things to do with your time than slave in the kitchen for these ungrateful pricks, go read a book Mabel!".  It reminds me of that line from "So I Married an Axe Murdered" where he speculates that the entirety of Scottish cuisine was based on a dare.  In any event I was done cooking far before I expected to be and it gave me a chance to catch up with my "testees" and drink a glass of wine.  After a brief respite I noticed that my youngest guests bedtime was  not getting any later and I wanted to make sure he got a crack at something revolting too.  I got to work on my last effort, a Hawaiian open faced sandwich that was born in the depths of hell.

Its ingredients can be seen in the first photo.  That's right, hamburger buns, peanut butter, pineapple rings, "Velveeta cheese product" and maraschino cherries served open-faced. Ooph! With everything done in a matter of minutes, we were ready to start...

These came out of the oven fairly true to the original which I was pleased with and although they certainly had the look of something indigestible, they turned out to be a complete let down.  I was shocked to watch more than one guest willingly take multiple bites.  They weren't nearly as offensive looking/smelling as the other two dishes and I think it gave them the benefit of perspective.  The best way I can describe them is "meh".  I'm not typically a fan of Velveeta but it was very mild and didn't impose much more than sodium and a bizarre texture to the first bite I took.  After a second go-round the "cheese" flavor became more prominent and I was done.  My friend Laura described it in the most glowing terms, praising it for "juiciness" and making an argument for it as a passable snack. I made three of these in total and only one small bite remains.  

We were ready to move on but had to wait for a while, those molds take time to set and I wasn't about to jump the gun on such refined and delicate cuisine.  When the time finally came to dislodge these odd jellies from their pans I started to get nervous.  What if they brake?  I threw caution to the wind and flipped those babies right over.  The lime-tuna-suicide ring came out with no fanfare, just a hot wet towel over the back and it was good to go (*thatswhatshesaid*).  The salmon pan gave me considerably more trouble but I managed to coax it out after sharing a couple of beers and a Rohypnol.  These two incredible structures (I'm not boasting, they just shimmied and wiggled like nothing I've ever seen) were presented side by side and were met with considerable but warranted trepidation.

The lime-tuna bite was a hard one to swallow and by far the least appetizing.  Both dishes had the benefit of cucumber decorative touches that masked their odor somewhat but when the cucumber became the vehicle for mouth delivery it lost any favorable impression it had going for it.  My friend Matt was up first and was expecting to like everything.  Throughout the night he had offered fervent defenses for each dish claiming "I'm gonna like it, no really, I'm gonna like all of it"  After his first swallow of lime-death surprise I knew that I had struck a blow against flavor and overconfidence.  His face went from neutral to disturbed in an instant and success was mine!

Jenny was not a fan either and could barely bring herself to try it:

I was as grossed out as I could hope to be by it.  To say that the textures were off is a crude understatement. What I thought was most interesting was the way the individual flavors remained separate in your mouth. This was at once a blessing and a curse.  While you might not want to taste sweet lime jello and tuna together, trust me when I tell you that you do not want to taste them separately at the same time either.  Here I am giving it a second go... Bad idea Palm.

But I believe that this picture of Maggie will leave you with the most succinct description:

The salmon mold was the most controversial dish in that we were deeply divided as a group regarding just how bad it would be.  I was caught somewhere in the middle.  Despite the fact that I like salmon generally, what I saw come out of that can was traumatic.  On the other hand, the whole thing smelled like a big mac, and while certainly not the highest compliment you could give a dish it was at least familiar.  Once again Matt was the first to try it and of course loved the damn thing.  Jenny was entirely sickened by his appreciation and I think may have tasted it out of spite.  I fell into the take it or leave it category and Mags (who was decidedly anti-salmon mold) overcame her prejudice and was pleasantly surprised.  Deric held out, refusing to try anything and thus gave each dish the somewhat redundant "no thumbs" rating:

It ended up being a really fun evening and my only concern at this point is getting people to show up for this kind of thing regularly.  Subjecting oneself to disgusting meals repeatedly requires a special kind of trait (i.e. masochism).  I'm hoping that the lure of theme nights and the occasional meal without gelatin might be enough to bring people back.  I'm not opposed to adventuring alone but it's so much more fun when you can drag your friends along for the ride.


  1. This was AMAZING. Consider this sickie gratified.

  2. To be fair, I tried the salmon mold in three separate bites. Direct from the utensil, with cucumber and with Triscuit...and ultimately with Triscuit and cucumber. Thumbs down on mold alone...With the extras, thumbs up!


  3. oh how I wish I could have been there to savor the culinary oddities.

  4. i cant wait for a casserole evening!

  5. Thank the baby jesus for you, A! I needed a good laugh after my day. I am looking forward to MUCH more of this!

  6. Considering the fact that I eat like 8 meals a day right now I am amazed that I have completely lost my appetite! Way to go! I hope to heaven that Peanut Butter Soup makes its way into this heavenly fold.

  7. This is amazing... Love the idea! Great photos!

  8. I think that you should market the whole thing as a (likely really effective) diet. If it meant that I would be too icked out to consume the meal, and too traumatized to eat anything for the rest of the night - I would absolutely be in.

    Also, I love the glass of wine as you are trying the two molded concoctions. What wine does one serve with a marriage of lime jello and canned tuna? Perhaps you could enlighten us all and provide some complementary suggestions (something tells me Pinot, of course...)

    All kidding aside, fantastic and a laugh a minute, Adrienne. Keep it up!

  9. Mingus: You can count on it!

    Rana: If you agree to come over for one of these nights, you can count on peanut butter soup!

    Rose: Wish you could have been there too...

    Erika, Leah & Emily: Thank you <3

    Liz: I like the diet idea too ;) ...I believe I was drinking a glass of Cabernet from the Walgreens region of Northern WI at about $1.75/glass. Next time I think I'll go for something a bit more refined, say vodka? p.s. thank you for all the sweet comments/compliments, they really are helping to keep me motivated.