Monday, May 7, 2012

The Very First Kitchen Dancer

Green Satin by Les Elgart
Les Elgart wrote the theme song from "American Bandstand."  The Les Elgart Orchestra has all sorts of music that's always great background music for cooking and entertaining.  You just can't beat that big band sound!  Green Satin has an exotic feel to it and is a pretty kicky song.  iTunes informs me that I've purchased the clean version of this song - huh?!  The drums must go pretty crazy in the explicit version - or maybe it's the saxophones.  ANYWAY!  The song is great and you really do feel like a sheet of satin as you listen.  Green Satin is a good nickname for this Jello salad recipe although I have to admit that to get my kids to even try it I had to come up with a nickname that wasn't so elegant - green slime!  It was the days of Nickelodeon and that game show where the contestants got "slimed" with a green goo.  It was the highlight of the show and my kids thought it was cool.  So when I made this and they asked, semi-snarling, "What's this stuff?"  I quick-wittedly came up with "Green Slime Jello!"  They ate it right up - and even requested it again and again!  But, for today, it's going to be Green Satin - or Aunt Dort's Salad, which was good enough for me growing up!

Aunt Dort is my grandfather's sister, Dort being a nickname for Dorothy.  I don't remember her living close by when I was growing up in Pennsylvania.  She would come for visits occasionally.  I remember one visit in particular - the one during which I met her for the very first time.

I had strolled up through the woods (the shortcut) to my grandparents' house and had positioned myself at the breakfast table with my grandpa.  Grandma was busy bustling around the kitchen fixing breakfast.  Grandpa was in the middle of his usual round of teasing when, all of a sudden, out from the back bedroom area and through the dining room, this woman came dancing and twirling in the prettiest peignoir set I had ever seen.  For those unfamiliar with this term - it's a robe and nightgown set that is usually nylon and lace and, oh-so-delicately configured and flows like fluid.  You look and feel like you're on a cloud!

This woman sang as she swirled on into the kitchen and my eyes were as big as pancakes!  Who WAS this woman?!  My eyes darted about at Grandma and Grandpa, seeing if they had any idea that this crazy lady had snuck in through the back door!  Why they weren't fazed in the least!  They were acting like this was what happened every day at their house!  Now, I didn't live with them, mind you, but I lived close enough to know that this most definitely didn't happen every day at their house!

The lady continued to dance and sing about for a minute or two.  I'm quite sure I didn't blink or swallow for the entire performance.  When she stopped singing and dancing, and my grandparents stopped laughing at my reaction, they introduced me to my Great Aunt Dort who was visiting from Seattle.  I saw the resemblance to my grandfather immediately and, now knowing that she was family, my shock turned to the keenest intrigue and curiosity.  I absolutely love and adore the vivid characters that make up my family tree.  I always have appreciated ancestry and the stories that make up who I am and why I am.  And, boy, was I excited to know that I had such a creature as this amping up my gene pool!  I would have to credit this single, solitary experience for my penchant for dancing in the kitchen.

When I skipped back home and very animatedly recounted the whole story to my mom she just laughed and laughed.  She assured me that "That's Aunt Dort alright!"  She had affection in her voice as she said it and I glowed with warmth with this new connection.  I couldn't wait for the chance to see her again!

I didn't see her much at all, though, since she lived so far away, and I wasn't able to form as close of a bond as I had hoped.  I now live in Washington state and a few years ago, while my mother was out here for a visit, we drove over to the Seattle area to visit Aunt Dort.  I asked if she recalled the dancing incident.  She did - very clearly - and we had a good laugh again.  She still had that vibrancy about her and it cemented in my mind the notion that seeking happiness and finding the humor in life can take you a long, long way.  Aunt Dort celebrated her 100th birthday last year.  Bless her heart.  This salad has made it's way to many a family gathering throughout my life.  With family gathering season beginning in earnest I thought I'd share it with you.

Aunt Dort's Lime Jello Salad
Printable Recipe Card
serves 12
2 - 20 oz. cans of crushed pineapple
2 T. sugar
1/2 t. salt
1 lg. package of lime Jello
1 - 8 oz. package of cream cheese
1 - 8 oz. carton of Cool Whip
1 c. chopped nuts, I used toasted pecans

In a saucepan, bring the pineapple, sugar, and salt to a boil.  Add the Jello and cream cheese and stir until dissolved and the cream cheese is blended well.  Stir in the nuts.  Place the pan in the refrigerator and cool for one hour.  Stir in the Cool Whip and blend well.  Pour into a 9X13 cake pan and chill until set - about 3 - 4 hours.  Cut into squares and serve with a dollop of whipped cream.

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