My primary role during holiday food prep is to stay out of the way. Jerry does most of the cooking – OK all the cooking. Once, a few years back I got inspired to whip up a batch of homemade cranberry sauce. But just that one year. It seemed like a lot of work when an equally satisfying version is available on the shelf of any grocery, pharmacy, or dollar store this time of year. Since then, my list of duties includes setting the table, and scouring the cupboards in search of the gravy boats that we use twice a year. We never manage to store them in the same place during the frenzy of post-holiday hazmat cleanup.
That’s why the hubs’ request to make green salad shocked me. Indeed it sounded more like a command.
“And you’ll make the green salad.”
In the 20+ years we’ve enjoyed marital bliss, I do not ever remember serving a green salad on Thanksgiving. The menu has changed slightly over the years. In addition to the standard fare – roast turkey, gravy, stuffing, mashed potatoes, yams, cranberry sauce, and dinner rolls – I used to insist on a dish of peas and pearl onions, a favorite of mine that Mom served when I was growing up. Turns out, no one else in my adult family would touch the stuff. So we switched to fresh string beans with bacon. Because who doesn’t like (enter selected veggie here) with bacon?
But we never served tossed salad. Not big consumers of leafy greens ourselves, we didn’t miss it, and I saw no need to clutter the already near-overflowing table with an unnecessary dish.
I didn’t argue, though. So grateful he has assumed meal prep duties in our household, I didn’t want to appear the least bit unappreciative. I just grumbled something under my breath about not wanting to rip up all that lettuce, and sulked away to begin the great gravy boat search and recovery mission.
That night, as I lay awake trying to come to terms with all the slicing and dicing of the requisite add-ins that make up a presentable green salad – coddling the delicate tomatoes, tearing up over the red onion, curling the carrot ribbons – not to mention wondering if I needed to buy a fresh bottle of dressing, or could risk serving the open bottle in the fridge (how old was that anyway?), it hit me. Jerry wasn’t referring to rabbit food when he asked me to contribute to the holiday meal. He wanted – no, expected – me to prepare my signature green Jell-O salad. Ever since I offered it at our first Thanksgiving together it has been as essential for our feast as the basted bird. The subtle notes of lime and pineapple, followed by hints of small curd cottage cheese, finishing with a robust kick of walnut have graced our holiday table every year without fail.
“I wondered why you got so grumpy when I mentioned it,” he said, peering at me over the top of the sports section, when I brought it up the next morning.
I snatched the last slice of bacon from his plate.
“Next time specify Jell-O salad. You freaked me out.”
This classic favorite is among the many things Jerry and I are thankful for during the holiday season. We have our health, our kids and grandkids are happy, life is good. And guess what? None of the other family members will touch the green goo. So it’s all ours. We’re thankful for that, too.
For the adventurous among you, here’s the recipe. Variations abound on the interwebs.
Lime Jell–O & Pineapple Salad
1-6 oz. pkg. lime Jell-O
1-16 oz. tub small curd cottage cheese
1-15 oz. (or 2-8 oz.) cans crushed pineapple, drained
½ to 1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
Prepare Jell-O according to package directions. Refrigerate until soft-set. Stir in all other ingredients. Chill until firm. Enjoy!