I could really use some luck this week…

Pot Luck that is!  (Sorry.  I couldn’t resist)

Some may argue that this post belongs over on my sister site, but I will make my case that this is as much about having ‘bama on the brain as it is about food in general.  As many of you know, I grew up in Mobile, Alabama.  Mobile is “big city” with a small community feel.  A community rich in southern tradition and heritage.  My parents, though, were transplants so I feel as though I lacked exposure to a great deal of southern tradition in my home–no debutante balls, no secret Mardi Gras societies, no enormous amoungs of fried food. 

Food is a big part of southern tradition and, while food certainly had it’s place in my home, southern cooking was dangerously absent from my mother’s cooking repetoire.  In fact, I have a very clear memory of going to my first shimp boil when I was 11 or so with my friend Lettie and her family.  Lettie’s family was well versed in the ways of southern cooking and this was my first real experience with a huge pot of whole shrimp and crawfish boiled with corn and potatoes.  There were lots of families gathered at this dinner feast with many kids much younger than I.  They were all piling their plates high with shimp and crawfish, peeling furiously and much faster than I ever could. Lettie’s dear momma sat next to me and peeled shrimp and crawfish for me because she was afraid I wasn’t going to get any food otherwise!  I’d never had to deal with heads AND legs before at the same time!

Pot Lucks are a big part of any american cooking culture and I do remember a few pot lucks from my very young childhood but I can’t remember for the life of me what kinds of dishes were there (with the exception of layered salad.  I love layered salad)  My current pot luck knowledge has come from my experience as an adult living in the midwest.  Plenty of creamy casseroles, pasta dishes, etc.  Kevin’s family, in particular, has some very distinct pot luck rituals.  Someone always brings cheesy potatoes, broccoli casserole, brownies, and something with jello.

This weekend is a baby shower for my sister in law, Colleen.  A few days ago, Kevin’s mom called to inquire if I would like to bring a green salad (why didn’t I think of the layered salad?) or “something jello”.  At first, I was shocked to be asked such a thing.  I love to cook and everybody knows it.  Why would I be given two options that really didn’t involve any cooking?!  I agreed, however, to bring the “something jello”.  This “something jello” usually manifests itself in the form of a midwestern delicacy known as Strawberry Pretzel Jello. 

I know.  It sounds disgusting but I assure you it is delicious.  And, I’ll have you know, I found the recipe I used this weekend in my “Best of Alabama” cookbook (I was looking for something southern AND jello to make).

Anyhow, my adventure began like this:

First you:

Then you mix these:

with some sugar and the melted butter to make a crust that you put in a pan like so:

You bake, and when the crust has cooled, you mix room temperature cream cheese, cool whip, and sugar together and spread it over the pretzel crust like this:

The key to keeping the pretzels from getting absolutely nasty and soggy is to “seal” the pretzels with the creamy mixture.  You have to make sure it touches the edges of the pan and covers the crust completely and cool again (if you can) before adding what I refer to as phase 3, which is strawberry gelatin disolved in 2 cups of boiling water with frozen strawberries added.  The final product will look something like this:

Can’t you just see that sitting on a buffet table next to a chicken and rice casserole and a tray of cheesy potatoes, or a big pile of fried chicken?  I’m getting hungry just thinking about it.
This really got me thinking that I need some good southern pot luck fare to add to my list.  For instance, if you were asked to bring “something jello”, what would that mean to you?  What do you always bring to family parties? 
Such deep thoughts for a Sunday, I know. 

12 thoughts on “I could really use some luck this week…

  1. Loved your post.I'm afraid I can't help you. I'm learning how to get organized in the kitchen. Never too late!!! But your photos reminded me of a young boy's comment on some TV lessons I was watching yesterday.´– ” A mother like that… what a luck.”
    You know, he's lost his mother at ten. May be I can learn something from you and your friends and cook for him some of your secrets.


  2. Jamey's family always makes potluck potatoes which involve some sort of corn flakes. Also, they make a giant Christmas wreath out of corn flakes and melted marshmallows. I had never heard of cooking with corn flakes until I married into this family! 🙂

    Any potluck on my side and Im hoping my mom brings chicken and dressing – I know its supposed to be for holidays – but I love it.
    Especially hers. Really, hers is the only one I like at all. yummmmmm

    And I also can't tell you how super excited I am to be mentioned on your BLOG! 🙂 Happy SUnday afternoon to me.

  3. Sorry for the double post – but Jameys family also makes what they call “Waldorf (sp) salad” which I tried to make one time to take to a work lunch potluck and everyone else called it the “Green Granny Salad”. You use marshmallows and pistatio jello mix. I was young and quite embarrassed and never made it again. 🙂

  4. Joana, You're right! It is never too late to get into the kitchen. The more you practice, the better you get. Also, what a sweet story!
    Thank you for sharing.

    Lettie, I'm trying hard to picture a giant wreath of cornflake and marshmallow. Is it kind of like a rice krispie treat with a different cereal and shape?

    Jessica, Do not fear the jello.

  5. i'm not much of a day-to-day cook, but my main culinary talent is the big, shiny event dish. i've done thanksgiving dinner almost every year since getting out of undergrad. i also brought the NOLA magic to the super bowl party i went to in DC by fixing honest-to-goodness jambalaya.

    but my go-to potluck mainstay is my great-grandmother's potato salad. it's a mashed-potato salad with bell peppers, vidalia onions, celery and a little pickle relish. the dressing is mustard-based (with tony chachere's these days). it's unusual, and it's been a calling card for me. if i do say so myself, it's been pretty popular, too… 🙂

  6. “something Jel-o” (only one “L” is intentional since the original spelling is actually a re-arrangement of my name. Long story about my youth and Kraft foods.) is definitely something with shredded cabbage in it and usually green. Kinda like the cellulose fibers in the cellular walls of autotrophs.

  7. My grandpa used to always make a peanut, pea and mayo salad for pot-lucks.
    Other than that, Do I belong to the only family who delegates as many cooks to various brandy or whiskey containing beverage as to creamy salad?

  8. When I was over my mom's house last weekend, she sent me home with 4 packs of Jell-O – somehow this woman had accumulated a cupboard of 12 different varieties. Now, I only eat the stuff on 2 occasions 1) when I’m super sick and jell-o & chicken broth are my main diet 2) when made into a pretzel salad which curiously I’ve never had the recipe for until now. (only ever encountering the pretzel salad at family pot lucks of my own.)

    Thanks for sharing- I’ll be making this recipe soon !

  9. In my family something jello is replaced with a southern staple. Banana pudding!

    Lettie, I'm stuck on the wreath. I can't stop thinking about that thing! How does one construct such a thing? Next holiday will you take a picture for us? Is it eaten or just decoration?

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