It seems like every middle-class American family has a jello salad and/or dessert that they eat around the holidays. In my family, it's layers of jello with cream cheese, mayo and pineapple, simply referred to as "the jello salad." I've heard of other people making something they called "the jello salad", but the recipe is never the same. My great grandmother made it, my mother made it and now I make it whenever I go see my extended family for the holidays. It varies in colors depending on the holiday: raspberry and lime for Xmas, orange and lemon for Thanksgiving, but other than that, it's been exactly the same for at least 50 years. And my ex-boyfriend's family used to clamour for something they lovingly called "Pink Stuff" which was a mix of Cool-whip, jello, assorted canned fruit and cottage cheese. Both of these things were - and are - delicious, even though most of us (ok, maybe just me) won't usually admit it in public.
Yet whenever someone describes their family's holiday jello dish, it always sounds disgusting and just wrong. Mayo in jello? Fruit cocktail? Yuck. And really, jello itself is pretty gross. But still, when you mix all of those things together, I think you usually end up with a dish that is much better than the sum of its parts.
Or maybe I'm just being sentimental.
At any rate, last year I came across a recipe for something called "Raspberry Fluff" in a summer issue of Cooks Country. They have an interesting section on lost recipes where readers can write in requesting old recipes they've lost or never had in the first place, and this fluff recipe was the "found" recipe of the issue. I thought nothing of it, but later I found myself going back to that page over and over again and eventually I decided: I must try fluff.
The recipe contained some of the usual ingredients: cream cheese, a packet of dream whip, pineapple and a box of raspberry jello mixed up in a graham cracker crust. Easy enough. I made it, and it was good. Then I wondered: what could make it better? So I made it again, this time leaving out the jello and replacing it with a packet of gelatin and lemon zest, lemon juice, sugar and water. Instead of canned pineapple I mixed in fresh raspberries. And the second time it was really good. Light and airy, and not overly sweet.
Yesterday, for the 4th, I made fluff again - this time I made a raspberry coulis, and mixed that in with lemon zest/juice to make the fluff bright pink. I topped it with a thin layer of cream cheese & powdered sugar and some raspberries:
I think it turned out really well. Maybe a little too tart from the lemon, but much better than the first batch I made.
So, I've decided to make my new & improved version of Fluff into my own 4th of July holiday tradition. I'm not big on American nationalism, but hey, I'm happy to have an excuse to celebrate average Americans' penchant for gelatinized, airy, sugary desserts. It's now "National Fluff Day" in my book.