From the New Zealand Woman’s Weekly, 1971
Hello and welcome to Bad Jelly! Take a Harvey Wallbanger and put your keys in the bowl. Help yourself to the devilled eggs.
For our first Bad Jelly recipe, Olivia and I wanted to make something that would never, ever appear on a table nowadays. Something that would take hours to make, and years of therapy to forget. It had to exhibit the reckless abandon with which retro cooks mixed savoury and sweet; it had to contain both fruit and meat; and most importantly, it had to wobble.
It had to be Jelly Salad:
For the uninitiated, Jelly Salads were essentially regular salads (meat, olives, bananas, whathaveyou), set in glistening moulds of fruit-flavoured gelatine. We can bet the jelly companies themselves were responsible for dreaming these up – “Who says jelly can’t be dinner? Just look!” – but how they ever made it into real cookbooks is a mystery.
We found our version in that goldmine of retro oddities, The New Zealand Women’s Weekly Cookbook.
As you can see, the ingredients look like they were picked by some plonker contestant on Ready Steady Cook. Lamb, onion, peas…. Fine. But for the love of God, what is that lime jelly doing there!?
We felt comfortable with what we were doing until we added vinegar to the jelly, which was the second step. After that we were just like “Whatever Women’s Weekly, you’re f***ing crazy but we’ll humour you.”
Unfortunately there was nothing humourous about the finished product:
OK so maybe there was.
Now, honestly, Olivia and I were pretty open-minded about this. We were hoping it would be one of those crazy-sounding dishes that actually turns out to be amazing – like bacon strips dipped in chocolate sauce (don’t judge me) – but sadly it wasn’t to be. Here are the verdicts:
Olivia: Every mouthful (I had two) made me gag. It was truly the most horrible thing I’ve ever tasted. The texture was disgusting – slimy, creamy, jelly, cold chunks of meat and mushy peas. I really wanted to like this but it was just sick. One out of five stuffed olives.
Alice: Very confusing. The texture is like chocolate yoghurt, but then it’s chunky and chewy with bits of overcooked meat. You can taste every distinct flavour – mayo, vinegar, weird fake lime – but they don’t mesh well. They’re together but they’re not speaking. Two out of five stuffed olives.
Unsurprisingly, my human waste disposal of a boyfriend (I say that with love) thought it was pretty good. So good that he wouldn’t let me throw it out and ate the leftovers the next day. I can see it will be hard to find a retro recipe that’s so bad it fails The Finn Test, but dammit if we’re not going to try.