For my grandmother’s generation of Midwesterners, “salad” was a term used very loosely. “Salad” seemed to mean anything that had (or could have) vegetables in it, especially if the medium was Jell-O. A mid-century Midwestern “salad” made the right way was about 50% Jell-O.
This bizarre Thanksgiving concoction of strawberry Jell-O, shredded carrots, Cool Whip, and canned pineapple – something one might expect to find in the bakeshop of Dr. Moreau – was not good. Yet, I still love it. It is the taste of my family laughing over the Thanksgiving meal, my kid sister falling asleep under the table after eating twice her weight in turkey, and grandpa’s booming voice calling us to the living room to watch the Lions lose. All the while, the salad – was it a side or dessert, Grandma herself never seemed certain – would perch on a nearby counter watching the merriment and soaking in the good feelings with an occasional quiver in lieu of a smile.
This is my own best attempt at recreating a recipe for this dish. To my knowledge, the true recipe has been lost to time with my Grandma, and, perhaps, a 1950s issue of Good Housekeeping.