It has long been an obsession of mine to research vintage Jell-O recipes, and when my great friend Karen started a Mid-Century Supper Club Pot Luck where participants are to re-create, in faithful detail, a vintage recipe and present it in corresponding vintage serve-ware, I though to myself: It must be Jell-O. But not just any Jell-O, because I frequently make plain Jell-O, fruit-added Jell-O, marshmallow Jell-O, even adding Jell-O to cake mix if I need a quick cake that tastes better than cake mix. But this event called for a new Jell-O experience, one that, regrettably, featured tuna fish.
Heck, if it was considered good enough to publish in a national cook book, how bad could it be? Um, bad. Fearfully bad, in fact. The sad thing is, it didn’t even look delightful, but was murky – a warning, perhaps, of what lurked inside! I took plain gelatin and added mayonnaise, chopped onions, celery and tuna fish. On purpose. And lovingly served it on a bed of lettuce. And I think I actually ate a bite! I know of one other person who did, but it was not actually a hit. But it was one of those things, you know, you just HAVE to do - once.
Sadly, not a single photograph exists of the concoction, so all I can do here is to reproduce the elegant full-color photo from the 1963 edition of Better Homes and Gardens “Lunches and Brunches”. This is a book full of fun photos of what sound like barely edible yet time-consuming recipes, all served on glorious mid-century table finery. Such contradiction! Such adventure!
1 envelope (1 Tbsp) unflavored gelatin ¼ cup cold water
1 can condensed tomato soup 1 3-ounce package cream cheese 1 cup salad dressing or mayonnaise ½ cup chopped celery ½ cup sliced stuffed green olives ¼ cup chopped green pepper ¼ cup sliced green onions ¼ cup chopped pimiento 2 hard-cooked eggs, chopped 2 6-ounce cans (2 cups) tuna, in chunks
Soften gelatin in cold water. Heat soup to boiling. Add gelatin; stir till dissolved. Add cream cheese, beat smooth with electric or rotary beater. Blend in salad dressing; stir in remaining ingredients. Pour into a 5-cup ring-mold; chill firm. To serve, garnish with greens (See picture page 45). Makes 6 to 8 servings.