We, like the rest of the internet, have long been fascinated by the plethora of disgusting vintage recipes that pop up all over Pinterest. Why so much jellied tomato? Who knew you could put a shrimp THERE? How many quivering meat-based loafs could a single person possibly have had time to eat?
In the pursuit of ~journalism~, and because we were genuinely curious about how Jell-O mixes with cauliflower, we made five of the most fascinatingly terrible-looking recipes and put them in our mouths and bodies. Though they may seem like a random assemblage of foods, every single one of these was an actual recipe created by an actual human being (or Jell-O marketing executive) and published somewhere so other human beings could read about it and make it for themselves. Maybe even your grandparents!
Spoiler: It wasn't pretty.
First, we tried this "Frosted Ribbon Loaf."
Alison: It's sour? Why is it sour?
Jess: It's whatever comes after soggy. Like the bread gets uncooked inside your mouth. Maybe everyone had softer teeth back then?
Mallory: And yet the ham is somehow hard to chew.
Alanna: It's like if a sandwich were a salad. Too many types of creams in one place. That said, I didn't really hate it? Like I was expecting to vom but instead I just kind of urked it down.
Mallory: You know those pastel after-dinner mints that every grandmother seems to keep a stockpile of? It felt like the bread was dissolving like one of those. I could visualize it fading away into oozy mush on my tongue.
Alison: Eating this felt like throwing up but in rewind.
Next up: a "Sequin Salad."
Jess: Food shouldn't be allowed to squeak on your teeth without your consent.
Rachel: This is, without question, the most bizarre thing I've ever eaten; the combination of textures just…doesn't make sense in my mouth. The vegetables are strangely fresh, and I find lime Jell-O nasty in general. The aftertaste is actually the worst part.
Alanna: I could totally fuck with this. It's sort of savory and tangy.
Mallory: It's refreshing!
Alison: The consistency makes me wish I didn't have a mouth.
Nicole: I LOVE THIS. The cauliflower is definitely questionable, but the bell pepper and lime jello combo is surprisingly good.
Alanna: Pepper jelly is like $8 at Whole Foods! This is just the budget version.
Grade: C+, average
Then came the "Olive-Cheese 'Porcupine.'"
Jess: How do you even ruin cheese? If you've ever said "there's no such thing as too much cheese"...you should be forced to eat this whole thing.
Mallory: It's fouler than foul: like a roadkill porcupine that has been roasting on hot tar for several hours. That being said, I'd love for animal-shaped foods to make a comeback. I plan to jumpstart this trend by bringing a jellyfish-shaped dish to the next party I attend.
Alison: You know when you remember that cheese is actually just fungus? Well, there is no forgetting that fact while eating this. Just a big ol' fungus ball.
Alanna: I didn't want to eat it because a) the smell and b) look at that little punim!!!
Grade: D for taste, C for cuteness
Then it was time for the "Seafood Mousse II."
Literally, the cheapest seafood product we could find.
Mallory: It tastes like bananas? You get confused by the crunchiness of the celery and forget that it's disgusting. And as the celery melts away you are confronted with the almost buttery taste of…ocean brine. I'm sorry, "imitacion" ocean brine.
Alanna: I had to hold this for ~2 minutes while we took a photo and then someone hastily took it away from me because I was very definitely going to drop it out of disgust. Would have served it right, IMHO.
Alison: I only had a tiny taste because the sight of it was enough to make me dry heave...it kind of tasted like what someone might have sucked out of their body during lipo.
Mallory: It doesn't smell like crab.
Jess: Well, technically it's not crab, it's cramb.
The crowning glory of the feast was, of course, the "Ham & Banana Hollandaise."
Nicole: It's kind of like a banana split made a baby with a hot dog? Oh, it's very sour! I'm crying. I can't do it anymore. How did people live this way?? This is sort of what I imagine trash tastes like.
Jess: Even the bits of banana that graciously don't have slop on them have absorbed the scent of lemon and mustard in a very aggressive way.
Alison: Oh man, this is really something. It's like I'm eating a fetus. It feels like there's a heartbeat in it.
Jess: Seeing these in stylized, campy vintage photos is one thing, but actually shopping for and assembling these heinous combinations was an abuse of the word "cooking." By far the most alarming sensation was watching an entire bowl of creamed soup with seafood chunks gelatinize almost instantly. If this is what housewifery was like 50 years ago, I'm almost certain I would have joined a convent. Unless they also made their communion wine into Jell-O, which at this point wouldn't even surprise me, tbh.
Alison: Have you ever eaten a dish and said to yourself, Wow, I am a broken husk of my former self? I hadn't either...until I ate these meat experiments and all of my self-respect came into question. The flavors, the textures, the smells: Every angle ranged from gross to putrid. I am forever a changed woman.
Alanna: I'm a recently reformed picky eater and thought I'd been doing well vis-à-vis trying new things, until I caught a whiff of some of these (especially that seafood thing) and realized that there was no way I could chew and swallow it. That said: I really liked the sequin salad and ate like two bowls of it during the shoot. If my 8-year-old self could see me enjoying cauliflower suspended in lime Jell-O, she would throw me out a window.
Nicole: I am a vegetarian and sadly would not have survived this decade, because every dish has secret meat, *including* anything with gelatin, which FYI uses animal collagen. Turning cheese into adorable porcupines, meat bits into layered loaves, and bright liquid into a solid gelatinous mass takes WERK. I respect that. But I will never (ever) eat your food again, people of the '60s.
Rachel: I've been collecting vintage cookbooks for a while and love weird/terrible vintage shit. But facing them IRL was just another reminder that romanticizing the past is typically a very bad idea. (I mean, this is not news to me. Had we really done this the 1960s way, I'm pretty sure Nicole and I would have had to cook all these recipes and then serve them to the white ladies?) TBH, though, I think future generations are going to look back on our obsession with Nutella, bacon, and pizza mashups (OH HI, BUZZFEED!) like we look back on their egregious abuse of aspics.
Mallory: There's someone out there who used to beg their mom to make them a seafood mousse for their birthday dinner. How have our tastes changed so much? It's a mystery, but I'm so thankful for the evolution.