Sis just e-mailed for Mother’s Pretzel Salad recipe, and I confessed that I never had made it, and had never even had the hankerin’ to. And then I had to remind her of the dreaded Blueberry Thing which made the rounds of Garden Club luncheons and Rehearsal Dinners in the early eighties, appearing on everything from treasured Royal Daulton salad plates to the almost-ethereal styroform saucers so beloved of church kitchen suppliers and school lunchrooms.
I still think of it as THE DREADED BLUEBERRY THING, though it was usually billed as Blueberry/Black Cherry Salad, and though it gives me a bit of a quease to speak of the stuff, if weird salad HAS to have a place, it's probably HERE, in my ramblings about little Southern quirks and curiosities. I know the stuff COULDN’T have been as bad as I remember it---too many nice people made too much of it---gallons and bowls--- and there was probably no Pyrex 9x13 in nine counties that hadn’t cuddled a clumpy thick black sheet of the stuff.
Church Suppers were rampant with it, for a while there---one Second Saturday I counted SEVEN of the glass oblongs on the table, each set down with a flourish and a JUST SO nudge to the angle, so as to appear better and more beautiful than the next.
Impossible. And that was out of a total attendance of perhaps forty---had it
not been for Miss Bessie Kiihnl and her always-anticipated BIG pot of Chicken
and Dumplin’s and Mrs. Kilgore’s huge Magnalite of Spaghetti and
Meatballs---well, there woulda been many a stop at the Arby’s drive-through
THAT night. Mission
And quite a few Feed-the-Young-Folks-Before-BTU evenings in Fellowship Halls featured little rounds of Styrofoam cushioning a leaf of iceberg with a square of the quivering blackish grue set neatly to the side of the dinner plate. You could tell the kids whose Mamas Had Raised Them Right by their merely pushing the block with a tentative poke, then hiding the furtive wipe-of-the-fork on their napkins. The truly unmannered let their EWWWWWs be heard, and a couple with No Raisin’ a-Tall actually uttered, “Not AGAINNN!” for all to hear.
The unfathomable-to-me conglomeration was a mixture of Black Cherry Jello and CANNED Blueberry Pie Fillin’---despite the proliferation of gorgeous blueberry patches and the bounty of the fresh ripe fruit, the recipe CALLED FOR CANNED Lucky Leaf, and the lemming cooks plopped that gluey blue-black clump of sparsely-fruited thickening right into the mix as confidently as Miz Paula with butter. The whole thing assumed the look and demeanor of the Oil Slick That Ate Tasha Yar.
Time and therapy have dimmed whatever other ingredients went into the dish, but the colors and the texture remain---the flavor kinda between the tang of an old penny and a mouthful of wasp-bitten persimmon ferment, embedded with the too-earthy uuumph of old beets, is forever embedded in memory---a testament to follow-the-leader cookery which has led so many otherwise wonderful cooks astray.
Do not try this at home.