Search This Blog

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Salads of Yore

In the 1950s in North America, "salad" was a loose term. Yes, it could mean lettuce: usually a wedge of iceberg lettuce, crisp and cool and without flavour, smothered with store-bought Thousand Island dressing (in the world I grew up in, dressings were always store-bought).


So yes, that was something that we might almost recognize today as a salad—though we'd recognize it with a strong sense of superiority, we with our arugula and mache, our mini-greens.


But the Lime Jello Salad? That's a horse of a different colour—lime green, in fact. Eileen, my mother, made it for special occasions, though she certainly didn't invent it. It was in the Zeitgeist. Over the years of its popularity it took different forms, with cooks improving on the original recipe, sometimes disastrously, though the original was itself pretty disastrous.


The Lime Jello Salad was not something to throw together at the last minute. Its basic building block was lime Jello. You know Jello, don't you? Gelatin powder, sugar, and artificial flavouring. On its own, Jello was often served as bright-coloured bouncy dessert cubes, with a blob of "whipped cream" on top. If there are places where this is still being served, please don't tell me.


But that was Jello as dessert. To make it into a "salad" you had to put a little savoury into it. So as you stirred in the second cup of water to it you also added mayonnaise (or, more likely in those days, Miracle Whip salad dressing, certainly cheaper than that wicked foreign, hard-to-spell mayonnaise).


Anyway: Jello, not yet set. Mayonnaise mixed in. The next ingredient was cottage cheese. Large curd or small, it was your choice. You mixed it right in to the still-liquid Jello.


Then came crushed pineapple—always canned because, as everyone knows, fresh pineapple's bromelain keeps gelatine from setting.


And chopped nuts. Pecans were best, but unless you lived in the South and had your own tree, pecans were pricey, so you added them only for very special occasions, like Thanksgiving.


You stirred up all of this and poured it into a baking dish (like an 8x8 Pyrex dish) and refrigerated it until it was firm.


To serve, you cut the Lime Jello Salad into large-ish squares, lifted them out with a spatula, and placed each square on a little bed of shredded iceberg lettuce, topping the whole thing with a dollop of mayonnaise or, of course, Miracle Whip.


The small plate holding this was placed to the upper left of the main plate. No separate courses in those days. You ate your Jello salad along with your turkey or roast beef.


As cooks sought to make this their own, some merged it with the "perfection salad", which was a different Jello salad with grated carrot (and sometimes celery) and crushed pineapple, maybe with nuts. The Jello for that salad was lemon, not lime. Made a huge difference. So sometimes extra nutrition was added to the Lime Jello Salad in the form of grated carrot, but that wasn't in the original recipe as I remember it.


It is virtually unrecognizable today as even edible, let alone nutritious. Certainly I won't be making it (I don't even know where to look in the supermarket for packets of Jello). And yet I can still taste the way the mayo made the base of lime Jello creamy and tangy, while the little toothsome lumps of cottage cheese contrasted with the sweet chunks of pineapple. I don't want this, but my memory of it is nothing but sweet: elegant pale green squares broadcasting the specialness of a meal.



Copyright © 2018 Ann Tudor
Food blog:

Sunday, April 22, 2018

The Toddler Who Lives Across the Street

The father (a hulking kind of guy) came down the driveway to the sidewalk. And then I noticed the baby, the 20-month-old, trailing well behind him. When he reached the sidewalk he began walking toward the subway while the baby stood at the top of the sloping driveway.


I wondered about the dynamic playing out here. Was he so hands-off that he would leave the little one to make her own way? What baby deserves that? (I do tend to be judgmental where babies are concerned.) But he stopped and turned around to watch her progress down the slope. Tiny and inexperienced as she was, she got sucked in by the impetus of going downhill and in no time at all went from a toddler's walk to an almost baby-toppling run. Run-run-run on tippy toes—I imagined her doing a face plant (and would it be his fault?). But no, she made it to the sidewalk without falling.


At this point the father came toward her and then turned around to walk once more in the direction of the subway. And he held out his hand, as baby-lovers do, to guide her or help her or just to feel that little hand in his. And she waved her arms in a vigorous and abrupt refusal to hold hands. Both arms swept from front to back in the unspoken "No!" of an independent soul. "No! I don't need help!" It was clear that this was not the first rebuff he had experienced from her. He knew this little girl. So he continued walking on his own, and she tottered, toddled after him—perhaps relishing the safety of his nearness, but definitely choosing to walk on her own terms.


Another day I caught a glimpse of the toddler from the corner of my eye. She was standing stock still on the neighbours' lawn, a foot from the edge of the four-foot-high railroad tie retaining wall. Where was her father?


Oh, yes. There he is, running back toward the apartment building. The toddler didn't move an inch for about 30 seconds. He obviously had said, "I have to run back. You stay here. And DO NOT MOVE!"


After those 30 seconds she turned her head, one way and then the other, to examine her surroundings. Her feet did not move. She looked at the porch behind her, the tree to her left. Then she pivoted slightly on one foot.


She was calm for the first minute. And then she began to wonder whether this was a permanent abandonment. I couldn't take my eyes off her. She wore tights and a long-waisted top with a flounce at the bottom, and her sun hat protected her face. She was beyond adorable, at least from a distance.


Just as her movements were becoming a bit more agitated, her father ran from the apartment building, a cluster of keys in his hand. He went to his duffle bag beside the girl and fastened the keys on to it. He slung it over one shoulder. And then he held out his arms and hoisted her high in the air before settling her in the classic parental hip-carry.


Toddlers: endless entertainment, if you aren't responsible for them.



Copyright © 2018 Ann Tudor
Food blog:

Sunday, April 15, 2018


In the late '60s there was a parlour game in which you described yourself in five or ten attributes. I was never clear whether these were to be nouns (wife, mother, writer) or adjectives (emotional, instinctive, apoplectic). Since the game allowed you only a limited number of words with which to sketch your essential nature, it definitely made a difference whether you chose to identify yourself with nouns or with adjectives.


Nouns are easy. No judgment. Straightforward. No major revelations, even, except perhaps as to the ranking. Do you consider yourself, for example, a mother before a wife? Cook? Homemaker? Citizen of the world? Intellectual? Describing yourself with nouns could almost be done by another person, except for the ranking. In fact, maybe that was the game, now that I come to think of it. Maybe you were to describe not yourself but someone else.


But it's hard to imagine someone-not-you being able to capture your essence in adjectives, because it is in the nuances of adjectives that we hide ourselves. There are so many. So many possible adjectives, and how many of them would you like to acknowledge publicly? Who is to say whether you are honest in choosing attributes? Perhaps you choose the ones that fulfill a fantasy rather than reality. For example, which of the following possibilities are actually true?


seeking             popular                       pretty

humble                         thoughtful                      unpopular

proud                           thoughtless                    loved

ineffective                     inattentive                     unloved

thorough                       asleep                           grateful

slapdash                       enlightened                   ungrateful

reliable                         unenlightened                secretive

unreliable                      careless                        open


You see the difficulties? "Who am I?" might be the question. But who among us can be boxed into the space of five or ten or even an infinite number of adjectives? Notice how many adjectives call forth their opposites. Faithful demands unfaithful. Loving evokes unloving. Because we contain multitudes, all of us. Within each of us is a bit of everything. All is possible.


Perhaps the key is emphasis. Or intention. If I know that I am at the same time loving and unloving, can I not learn to enhance the former part of my being and diminish the latter?


We're coming to the nub of my thesis here. I must admit I believe in mutability. In our perfectability, even. Change is possible, for each of us. And it is never too late to change (that's the part I like).


Mired in old habits and old personal mind-sets, we might want to say, "This is how I am; take it or leave it." But is it not liberating to realize that "this is how I am today"? And that I am capable of changing any part that no longer serves me.


Copyright © 2018 Ann Tudor
Food blog:

Sunday, April 8, 2018


For many years

I did not know that the egret

is an immature heron.

Even now I may be lying.

Not lying in wait in a heron-like


stillness of bamboo stilted legs

but standing on my own pins

between the bank and the pines

behind and watching the almost-hidden heron


slower than Time itself,

one stick of a leg

and balance in tai-chi smoothness

as she lulls the silvery prey

into careless abandon

and then the long beak darts

into the water

and the fish is breakfast.

Is here, not here.

And I am astounded by the lessons of this moment:

The patience.

The slowness of movement.

The eating.

The death.

The inevitability.

Gratitude for it all.



Copyright © 2018 Ann Tudor
Food blog:

Sunday, April 1, 2018

En-joying Again

Walking east on Dearborn Street one morning in March I was cold. The damp, raw air made me grumpy. And of course we all know by now that I hate being cold.


Then I remembered my current mantra of "en-joying" my moments. It's obviously not an automatic thing yet—it may never be—but I can still access it when I remember, which is at least something.


So I thought about en-joying the walk. I was not in a hurry. There was nothing I had to do except arrive on time for my appointment.


And the minute I thought about en-joying myself, my whole demeanor changed. I was no longer cold. I was able to feel the chill on my face as the freshness of early spring rather than the final blast of winter. Able to soothe my nervous system into openness and delight.


And WOW, I thought, not for the first time. This really works!


Copyright © 2018 Ann Tudor
Food blog: