Posts Tagged ‘Perfection Salad’

Perfection Dinner . . . Not.

Tuesday, September 4th, 2007

I couldn’t let Perfection be ignored. I couldn’t go on and on about a 102-year-old recipe without giving it a go, right? And I’m here to tell you, it’s everything you imagined it could be.

When I told Gentle Husband that I was making said Perfection, he quipped ever so galantly, “You’d better have your parents over when you serve that because somebody has to eat it.” Ah! Good idea! A party!! Perfection demands guests after all.

What else to serve alongside Perfection? I did what any good depression-era housewife would have done — I looked at what I already had in my cupboard that would fit the bill (of fare). There’s that stack of hot dogs. . . . Of course, pigs in a blanket! The exemplar of creativity and economy. Add some diced carrots and peas, and you have a square meal. Sublime!

Could any dessert match a congealed paragon of virtue? Why yes! The Crown Jewel itself! Again using that collection of Jell-O I’ve acquired over the years.

The pigs were met with skepticism. Gentle Husband recalled, “Yeah, my Mom tried that. . . . Once.” Hm. Note to self: If said recipe was once served in the literal Mona Faye’s Kitchen with little acclaim, serving it in a virtual Mona Faye’s Kitchen, even with the requisite amount of kitsch, will not please Gentle Husband. Gentle Boys, however, enjoyed the pigs but missed the swine connection.

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Those photos really sell it, don’t they? You can just smell the history as you see those sweaty weiners glistening in their Kosher glory. Yum!

Peas and Carrots were appropriately tough and under-salted. I should have boiled them for hours rather than zapped them for minutes.

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Crown Jewel Dessert was . . . well, just like you’d imagine Jell-O and whipped cream would taste. Utterly forgetable. Very diety.


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But we can’t forget the recipe that gathered this crowd — Perfection Salad itself. When I invited my parents, my mom said, “Oh yeah. . . . I remember that! They served it in the cafeteria in my high school all the time!! But it was the War.” Ah, happy memories of the good War. I chopped the pickles and gathered the Knox and vinegar. I had no pimentos, so I added chopped carrots instead. Plopped it ever so carefully into my Bundt ring and set it to chill.

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When I schlepped it onto the serving platter — a 1950s Jadeite green — Gentle Husband said, “Huh. Looks just like a Horta.” Ah . . . another vintage reference. That’s what Perfection does, I guess. Brings together all the high-cultural elements into a kind of transcendent symmetry.

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Perfection tasted gelatinous and stringy. I imagined that Perfection would be more crunchy and zingy, less slurpy. Touché. My Dad had two helpings while my dear Mother tried to imagine improvements: “Honey, I think the cabbage should be chopped smaller and less coarse. And the pickles. Leave out the pickles. . . . The recipe called for pimentos? Ew. I wouldn’t put in pimentos. . . . Well, I’ll have something to tell your Aunt Stella tonight when I call her. Aunt Wanda used to make this for all those Polish showers. Yeah, we always had something exactly . . . like . . . this.”

And so Perfection had what we all deemed the perfect ending — down the drain.

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Perfection Salad

Sunday, September 2nd, 2007

So important is this little gem that I’m giving it an entire post.

If the thought of munching on “vitamins” in the second course leaves you blanched, People’s Dairy offers that dish that is nothing short of transcendent. Take a closer look-see:


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This recipe earned Mrs. John Cooke third prize in the 1905 Knox gelatin cooking contest — a new sewing machine! Food historians label this recipe an exemplar of the domestic science movement for its “impeccable,” molded looks.


It appealed to turn-of-the-century housewives who used the family dinner table as a feminine manifesto to express belief in proper nutrition, daintiness, and, above all, efficiency (Perfection Salad xi).

Dainty and disciplined, “healthy” and homemade — this aspic (my favorite vintage recipe category EVAH!) offered it all.

And so, just for you my Gentle Reader, I shall attempt Perfection right here in the next post of Mona Faye’s Kitchen. Stay tuned. Striving for the Tower of (Vege)Table might cause our servers to crash.