Steve Chatterton
Will Write for Food
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642 Things #2 – Green Stuff

April 4th, 2014 by Steve

642 Things to Write About

I remember my Grandma as one h*** of a cook and my mother as the personification of how things sometimes skipped a generation. For instance, Grandma (pronounced Gramma by those in the know) always roasted her turkey to perfection; crispy skin, never dry in the least. And even if it were slightly overdone, her pan dripping gravy meant all was forgiven. My mother’s pork chops, however, doubled as hockey pucks once they cooled. Perhaps it was for the best. If mom had Grandma’s skill, I likely would have been a morbidly obese child.

Grandma knew the great secret to life: bacon makes everything better. Twenty-five years after, my head is still reeling from the day she pulled macaroni and cheese from the oven and the crust on top was literally a solid wall of bacon strips. For this reason alone I will always have fond memories of her prowess in the kitchen.

She had cooked in her kitchen since before the Second World War, so she had a lot of time to get it right (she lived in that same house up until her passing in the mid-1990’s). She’d seen more than her fair share of culinary trends come and go. Although not as inundated with superstar chefs as we are today, she still managed to collect a sizable cooking reference library, from classic cookbooks to cooking and baking articles clipped from women’s magazines to recipe cards she would swap with her friends and relations. She was always trying new things, and building up a stable repertoire of favourite dishes based on feedback from her always-satisfied dinner guests.

Everything was lovingly prepared. I firmly believe she put more of herself into her cooking when she expected company, and I swear, upon all that is holy, you could actually taste the difference.

But sometimes there were things she would make that just weren’t for me. I was at times a fussy eater. George Carlin once joked that “fussy eater” was a euphemism for “giant pain in the ass,” but I stand by my theory that at the tender young age of five I was already a budding foodie.

At the top of my do-not-eat list was a strange concoction called Green Stuff. It had originally been called Fruit Salad in the cookbook Grandma got it from, but apparently when my Aunt Gloria started dating my Uncle Bill she started calling it “the green stuff” and the name just stuck.

I, however, never asked for it, which was just fine by my Great-Aunt Edythe; that meant she could have seconds. Green Stuff was a violent shade of green that didn’t appear anywhere in nature, and it was cloudy (as will happen when sour cream mixes with Jell-o), so you couldn’t see all the nasty little things hidden inside lying in wait for you. It was almost as if a team of evil geniuses had conspired to put the most disgusting yet technically still edible things imaginable into one dish just so they could laugh themselves silly over the face you’d make biting into it.

For those of you daring enough to see what all the fuss is about, my Aunt Margaret still has the recipe, and was kind enough to share it with me recently.

  • Dissolve 2 small packets of Lime Jell-o in 1 cup boiling water
  • Beat in 1 pint (473 mL) sour cream, and add
  • 1 can crushed pineapple (drained)
  • 1 cup nut meats, and
  • Red & green drained Maraschino cherries, diced to add colour.

Mix it all together in one bowl, pour into a Jell-o mold, and refrigerate overnight.

Do not let the term “nut meats” frighten you; that’s just old-fashioned code for “Only use the edible bits of the nuts – no shells, dummy!” Grandma’s nut of choice was the walnut. I’m actually not violently opposed to walnuts. They’d easily make my Top Five List of Nuts, probably somewhere behind cashews, almonds and pecans. My big sister, Maureen, however called them “an abomination anywhere.”

What really upset my palate though were the pineapples (unadulterated slime under the best of circumstances) and the cherries. To this day, the thought of a Maraschino cherry nauseates me. I have refused free martinis because of them, and I’m not a man to turn down drinks lightly.

My wife and I share a theory that we need to re-visit the foods we reviled as children now that we have more sophisticated palates. It wasn’t until a few years ago that we discovered, much to our surprise, that we both loved asparagus. But I’m putting my foot down on this one. I’m not eating it and you can’t make me. No way. No how. No sir.

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Posted in 642 Things, Family, Memoirs


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