Geezer Tribe: Celebrating summer salads

By Linda Shaffer

If you have never made, eaten or seen a red, white and blue gelatin salad, you might not be old enough to read this column. If you need to understand the finer points, techniques and flavor combinations of Jell-O and whipped topping you’ll need to find an old person to teach you. We prepared salads using these ingredients and oh, grasshopper, the things we added to those basics! It boggles the mind. Let’s just say that in the past 71 years, I’ve never been to a family reunion, celebration or picnic to which someone did not bring a gelatin salad.

Times have changed and Jell-O boxes are starting to show up on shelves in museums. Why? Our grandparents used it too. They taught us how to cook and of course we caught right on. Which one of you didn’t have a special gelatin mold? How many of you still have one? I knew it. My mother-in-law decorated her entire kitchen with them. Molds were something you just couldn’t have enough of. The trick was getting the gelatin out of the mold and many of us gave the whole thing up because of that little problem. Turns out that nobody likes a watery, flat, unrecognizable, brightly colored blob on a plate. There aren’t enough lettuce leaves and mayonnaise to cover that kind of a mess up.
Nowadays when someone says, “summer salads”, they are talking about something in a green category (not Jell-O). This is a time to celebrate all that comes from the garden instead of the deli. The healthy food craze that many of us predicted would go away, just didn’t. We are bombarded by ways to use spices, herbs, vegetables and an assortment of soy products in order to be healthier. Recipes and chefs advise us to improve everything from libido to memory by simply eating a diet free of all the things we grew up with and replacing it with ingredients we can’t pronounce. Some of these recipes scare me because many have more than one outcome. The cold soup you make for lunch is also a great night lotion for your face. Really? That combination of herbs for a relaxing breakfast tea can also be ground and used in a smoothie at bedtime for constipation. This might be fine for some, but not for the Shaffers.
Mr. S describes green salad as “wet leaves.” Sometimes he refers to certain vegetables as, “Creepy green things.” I’m guessing you’ll figure out what he thinks of the whole natural foods movement. To him there are only two summer salads. Macaroni and potato. In fact, I would go so far as to say that these are his year-’round choices. I am amazed that after 40+ years he still answers, “potato or macaroni?” when I ask what kind of salad he wants. We both know that a green salad is what he’ll get but he never gives up. It should be noted that by the time he gets done dressing his salads, the color green is difficult to find. His salads are mostly white, unless you count the funky color of bleu cheese.
Even though it’s made out of bread, you won’t see a Panzanella salad around here. No broccoli salad either. Egg salad is O.K. but has to be served as a sandwich. Same goes for tuna salad. Coleslaw is on the menu every once and awhile but it’s slowly going away too. In the early years, Mr.S ate taco salads and an occasional Chefs’salad but those fell by the wayside as his Geezer side took over. Fruit salad went with them. Since that time he makes his own potato salad in huge quantities so we won’t run out too soon. He uses a lot of dressing on his potato salad, which makes it better than mine. I wonder if I can teach him how to make that macaroni salad he used to like so much?
Me? I love all salads in all different seasons but summer is my favorite because we seem to have more of a variety, even though I do make some ‘salads for one’. I will admit that I don’t miss those Jell-O years much, but I do have some in the cupboard, just in case. Have a great week my friends.