Sunday, April 4, 2010

There's always room for Jello: Retro Seafoam Salad

A recent Facebook topic regarding Easter menus, and which dish always appears, whether anyone really likes or not, brought to mind the ubiquitous Seafoam Salad.  It's appeared on every Easter table my mother ever set, and it shows up at family picnics and post funeral gatherings with alarming regularity in the Midwest.

I only needed to consult my "Mom" cookbook, a compendium of family recipes that she typed on index cards and pasted in a photo album, to discover it's secret.  It's the first recipe in the book, but not because it was one the one I loved the most.  It is written in her typical, sparse style, which usually includes instructions like "add a little more mayo until it looks right".

I had no idea Dream Whip still even existed.  I thought surely that Cool Whip would have wiped this do-it-yourself fake whipped topping into oblivion.  A glance at the ingredient list both baffled and frightened me.  I really would rather take my chances on a full cup of heavy whipping cream than this creation, which seems like a waste of perfectly good organic milk and high quality vanilla extract to prepare.

The box helpfully advises that chilling the bowl and beaters on a really hot day is preferable, but that it is not necessary to refrigerate the package. Good to know. A consultation with my mom, indeed revealed, that Cool Whip is her weapon of choice these days.

I try to avoid Jello for a lot of reasons, and none has passed my threshold in at least a dozen years.  I was so clueless, I really thought this salad was made from pistachio pudding and cool whip.  But no, it starts with lime jello.  Which has a color obviously not found in nature.  But the most disturbing part is the smell.  Acrid, in your face fake limey, and it lingers in the fridge even after the other ingredients join the party.

The only thing natural in this photo is the reflection of the trees.

I do have a bit of soft spot for Miracle Whip.  I used to enjoy a good white bread with Miracle Whip sandwich as a kid, and I recognize the underlying tang in a lot of family recipes, like deviled eggs, potato salad, etc.  The Hellman's camp gets all freaked out about Miracle Whip, but those of us who lived in Kraft households probably had as much Miracle Whip as mayo.

I fear I may have let the jello get a little farther past the 'almost set' stage that my mother probably has timed in her head.  I whipped the Dream Whip, chopped some walnuts, and did my best to fold everything together.  It looks and tastes the same, save some little tell-tale bits of jello.

Now that I've unlocked the mystery of this family favorite,  I'd like to stuff that genie back in the bottle.  It's one thing to put a spoonful on your plate to be polite.  It's another thing altogether to have a bucket of this in your frig throwing off it's limey twang.


  1. Perhaps your dinner guests will beg for a doggie bag of Seafoam Salad!

  2. We alsways had two different jello molds at our Christmas dinners. One was a Christmas tree and the other was a wreath. And they both included very similar ingredients to this recipe.

    Don't you just love the typed recipe. Can you even imagine typing a recipe on a typewriter today?


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