Friday, February 24, 2012

The retro gelatin recipe dare: Shrimp Salad Surprise, aka Knoxploitation

This is the story of how my new neighbour and I came to spend Monday evening chowing down (and gagging) on a plate of Shrimp Salad Surprise. It's the story of why I will be forever indebted to Adele and now owe her a great number of excellent dinners. It's also, tragically, the story of the first recipe I've attempted in my new(!) home. Enjoy, dear readers. But be warned: this story contains images that may offend.

Our innocent protagonist Lexi had been a long-time reader of the great blog, The Mid-Century Menu. Every Wednesday, the blog's owner Ruth cooks up a mid-century recipe from her vast collection - exactly as printed - and she and her partner sit down to eat the result. It's a fantastically funny project and quite different to Lexi's self-set retro recipe challenges, 'cause Ruth sticks entirely to the original recipe and tucks in anyway. Lexi's admiration crossed the line though when late last year she emailed Ruth to ask if she'd be interested in a mid-century recipe dare. She was.

The year ended and the seasons changed. Ruth settled into the Winter while back in OZ, Dorothy (that's Lexi, bien sûr) had just - quite unexpectedly - found the ultimate miniature apartment and suddenly had to move house quick smart in the hot summer weather. While she trawled through her closets deciding what to pack, stopping only to photograph Quincy hundreds of times jumping into boxes of crumpled newspaper, Mimi and Emily got in on the dare too and before long the kids in America had come up with a theme: Jell-O. Drastically behind the eight-ball, Lexi nodded politely to all the rules and regulations of the forthcoming challenge: no ingredient substitutions, strict deadlines. It was exciting, in a back-of-her-mind kinda way, until she got the recipe for Emily darling's choice of Shrimp Salad Surprise. (Be warned that if you click the image below, you will read something very dirty.) 

Lexi dutifully picked up all the ingredients from her new local supermarket; before she'd even bought a carton of milk for her new home, she had stinky tinned prawns, garlic salt, sour cream, mushy olives and squeaky-on-the-tooth bland pickled artichokes on her new kitchen table. And lemon jelly crystals. Things were looking bleak. They say a picture is worth a thousand words and boy, did Lexi say some words while she put this baby together...




As Lexi's mate Jez so quaintly put it, she was "basically moulding vomit". It would appear so, wouldn't it? Next was to slice this baby up into "creamy cubes" and arrange among salad leaves, tomato wedges, squeakychokes and sliced stuffed olives. Oh, and to rope her lovely new neighbour Adele into coming over for dinner. What a sport. 

First bite goes in.

First bite goes down.

Second bite goes in.

Second bite goes down.

The rest went in the bin.


The verdict: 

These creamy cubes made us gag each time we tried to swallow. Our first mistake was trying the milky-lemon jelly on its own: the combination of flaccid prawns, chopped pecans, celery and onion suspended in a malevolent concoction of sour cream, vinegar, garlic salt and lemon Jell-O was hideous. Soon we realised that the cubes acted better as a kind of solid dressing for the plain leaves and came significantly closer to being palatable eaten this way. But the whole thing literally stunk and we just couldn't keep it up (or down). We tossed the cubes and opened a tin of Ortiz anchovies. 


I should have chopped the prawns etc finer, so that the cubes could be cut more easily. The little chunks disrupting the geometry of each creamy cube were not aesthetically pleasing.

Would I make this again?

F*#! no.

See how the other kitty kats fared with their dares!

Ruth at The Mid-Century Menu (poor thing) made Liver Pate en Masque

Emily at Dinner is Served 1972 got stuck with my submission: Swedish Jellied Veal

Fine print: Apologies to mah homegirls Ruth, Mimi and Emily for running late on this post. Unfortunately, Australia is ahead of the U.S. time-wise, so I can't even use that as an excuse. 


  1. So glad that you enjoyed the Shrimp Salad Surprise so much!
    At least it looked pretty.
    Thanks for being such a good sport!

  2. OH my goodness, what a first meal to have at your new place!! I hope this doesn't ruin the chances of you ever being besties with your new neighbor! :)

    That salad looked repulsive. Ack! But I must say that I LOVE your table. Very pretty!

    Thanks so much for being a part of this! Next time, we will try not to do something right when you move! :)

  3. I am SO PROUD and in awe of you. I've seen recipes like these and, while I must admit, I've had that brief moment of "wouldn't it be a hoot to make this?", I've never actually made it to the kitchen. You're awesome.

    (Far more awesome than flaccid shellfish.)

  4. oh god lexi. that's repulsive. this challenge was hilarious, thank you for your supreme courage.

  5. I too think it was rad of Adele and you to even try it.

    My mom's Jello cookbook was one of my favorites to look at when I was a kid — too young to know the difference between edible + inedible, I suppose?


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