When I was in college, I belonged to a very silly geek social organization called KGB. We did a lot of weird things, including some which were worked into the structure of our weekly meetings. One of these was Things Not To Do: You’d get the floor, say, “Things Not To Do,” and share an experience that hadn’t turned out so well. I have a collection of TNTD from my time as recording secretary, which I’ve always thought would make a cute little book, kind of the opposite of Chicken Soup for the Soul. I’ve also mulled the idea of making TNTD a regular feature here in The Earthling’s Handbook . . . and now I am inspired. This Works-for-Me Wednesday, I’ll tell you about something that spectacularly didn’t work for me!
Things Not To Do:
- When signing up for what you will bring to the employee picnic, don’t choose a category of food just because nobody else signed up for that category so you feel like it’s the helpful thing to do. It’s not helpful if you can’t make something good in that category.
- Don’t sign up to bring a dessert in August if all the good desserts you know how to make are baked ones. I don’t have air conditioning, so I figured (when signing up, which was three weeks in advance for some reason) that if it was hot the week of the picnic I’d make some kind of cold dessert.
- Don’t delay your decision about exactly what “some kind of cold dessert” until the night before the picnic when you think you are probably getting a migraine. If you have done this, please, for everyone’s sake, just give up on bringing something homemade, take good care of yourself for once, and buy something ready-made to serve at the picnic. The world will not come to an end. (I am writing this primarily so that I will read it again. Apparently I still have not heard this sensible advice often enough to learn anything.)
- Don’t make a recipe called Fruity Whip from the Prudential Preferred Realty Make-a-Wish Foundation fundraiser cookbook of 1998. Please don’t. Sure, it sounds so simple and convenient: Just mix up some Jell-O in one bowl, mix up some instant pudding in another bowl, use the electric mixer to turn the Jell-O into froth, stir the pudding into it, and chill overnight. It is simple and convenient. The trouble is, it’s not food. Not only is it not Real Food up to the standards of today’s trendy food snobs, but it is . . . well, see below.
I went to bed last Tuesday night having done all four of those things, and I awakened to a Wednesday that emphatically, horribly, undeniably did not Work For Me. The migraine had me completely in its clutches already (it’s very unusual for me to wake up with a headache, but this time I did) so that I couldn’t eat breakfast, couldn’t do much of anything, and soon decided to call in sick to work and go back to sleep until time for the picnic, which I still hoped to attend because my five-year-old son was looking forward to it so much and it’s always been a fun time for me, too. But the migraine was still getting worse at picnic time! I finally managed to swallow my prescription drug only 15 minutes before a wave of pain made me vomit. There was no way I could go to the picnic. Eventually I managed to get back to sleep, and in the evening I started to feel better.
My son was disappointed but fairly gracious about it, especially once I pointed out that we would now have the Fruity Whip all to ourselves; he had helped make it and was excited to eat it. But when I got up in the evening, I noticed a large serving of Fruity Whip with just a few bites taken out, sitting covered in the refrigerator. When I asked my son about it, he said, with a worried, confused expression, “It’s too sweet. Or something. It’s . . . you try it!” I didn’t feel up to trying it until Thursday, after my nausea threshold had returned to normal.
Now, let me say that I do kind of like Jell-O, I do kind of like instant pudding, and I actually really enjoy most varieties of those fluffy Jell-O salads other people make. Those aren’t foods we keep around for frequent eating, but I think they have their place, in moderation. I had expected that if I combined a Jell-O flavor I like (raspberry) with a pudding flavor I like (vanilla) and the combination sounded reasonable (raspberry and vanilla, yum!) then that would taste pretty good, and I hoped that the frothing step would turn it into a fluff. The misgivings I’d felt while making the Fruity Whip were just effects of the nervous mood and aesthetic hypersensitivity caused by the migraine, I thought.
But it wasn’t just me. It wasn’t just the migraine. Fruity Whip is an abomination even a five-year-old cannot choke down!
First of all, the color of the Fruity Whip was more alarming than I had remembered. Apparently the intense red of the Jell-O had combined with the yellowish white of the pudding to create a vibrant orangey pink that seemed almost to emit an evil glow.
It was not a creamy fluff; it was a gelatinous shlump which nonetheless was an acceptable dessert texture on the macro level, but once you’d had it in your mouth for a few seconds you’d notice the graininess or tiny fat globules or whatever was going on there, some kind of failure of the ingredients to combine with one another.
Worst of all was the flavor. Mix real raspberries and real vanilla, and you get something good. Mix raspberry Jell-O and vanilla pudding, and apparently the two sets of artificial flavoring go to war, each trying to climb on top of the sugar molecules, and the debris of conflict so upsets the milk that–oh, I don’t know what the chemistry could possibly be, but it was awful!!! Too sweet, too fake, tangy stuff prying up your gums while icky stuff curls under your tongue, too many flavors arguing with your taste buds.
I literally could not stand to eat it. I hate wasting food–I’ll eat plenty of things that are dirty or burned or slightly moldy or I just don’t like them–but I could not eat this or ask anyone else to eat it. Much as I regretted having put two cups of real milk in there with the two packets of fakeness, I had to admit that this stuff was not food. Friday, when we were rushing around getting ready to leave for a weekend trip, I scooped the Fruity Whip into an old coffee canister and set it next to the trash can.
And then, the following evening, minutes after the startling revelation about the grilled cheese, I had another startling revelation which sounded like another Thing Not To Do: Don’t put food that contains two cups of milk out at room temperature in August!! Duh, I should have left it in the fridge until time to take out the trash! Well, at least we had fun in the moment, 300 miles away, laughing over the prospect of coming home to Fruity Whip exploded all over the kitchen by whatever terrifying gasses it might form in putrefaction!
But we came home to no odor, no explosion, nothing. I opened the coffee can and got an overwhelming whiff of the ongoing battle between fake raspberry and fake vanilla, without a hint of sour milk. There was only a tiny patch of mold on the stuff. Even scarier than food that’s gone bad is “food” that can’t.
God works in mysterious ways. That was a really dreadful migraine, but at least it saved my co-workers from the horror of the Fruity Whip.
UPDATE: My mother tried a different dessert recipe using scary foods, with similar results.
UPDATE: Three summers later, I’m sharing my dire warning against this dastardly dessert with the Hearth & Soul Blog Hop.