It took me a long time to write this post today, because it took me a long time to steel myself up for what I had to eat.
Corned Beef Loaf.
This recipe comes from a 1931 pamphlet entitled Thrifty Jell-O Recipes to Brighten You Menus. This booklet is largely characterized by illustrations of supremely elegant ladies dining upon Jell-O, including Jell-O entrees. Take a moment to imagine what Jell-O entree entails. According to this pamphlet, it could be “chicken mousse;” it could be “molded crab meat;” but today, it will be beef. Corned Beef.
Of course I was intrigued to try this recipe; something so bizarre and unthinkable in today’s culinary world begs to reexamined, brought to light for the wonder or horror it truly is. So I bravely dissolved a packet of lemon Jell-O in hot water, beef stock, and Worcestershire sauce. After chilling it for 30 minutes, I folded in Dijon mustard. And then I un-canned the corned beef.
Although I have access to an incredibly diversity of products in my neighborhood, I’ve always had trouble tracking down fresh corned beef. And since Jell-O is designed to be the ultimate convenience food, it didn’t make sense to me to make corned beef from scratch. However, my grocery store does have an impressive selection of canned meats, and I selected one of several brands of tinned corned beef.
When it came time to fold the corned beef into the partially set jello, I cracked the can open. To my horror, it smelled exactly like cat food. I wasn’t sure if that made me sad about canned corned beef or envious of cats.
The canned meat was already ground, so I spooned it into the Jell-O, mixed it together, and poured it into a loaf pan. It went into the fridge overnight to get good and hard. And today came the fateful day when I had to eat the thing.
For various reasons, this has been an emotional week for me. And all of my emotions came to a head as I decanted my Beef Loaf on the kitchen table, and shakily lifted a spoonful of wobbly beef and Jell-O entree to my lips.
I had a little freak out. My eyes teared up. “Eat it!” my roommate yelled at me, waggling his finger with conviction. “You have to!”
“I don’t want to!” I pleaded. My mind was reeling–what had I done? Why was I doing this to myself?
I gently let the gelled meat touch my lips, and sucked in just the tiniest nibble nibble of beef loaf. The first taste was vaguely reminiscent of miracle whip, or a ham salad sandwich. I would like to say that after that first taste, the Corned Beef Loaf was a delightful surprised. That it tasted much better than it looked or smelled.
I would like to say that, but I can’t. I swooshed around the lemon Jell-O and ground meat in my mouth. The texture and taste are difficult to describe, but imagine if you made lemon Jell-O AND THEN PUT GROUND MEAT IN IT. I gagged.
It’s all over.
Tomorrow, what Jack Benny has to do with Jell-O.