In a lively and unapologetically Southern talk at the Magnolias and White Linen gala luncheon, James Farmer III said so many memorable one-liners that I pulled out my pocket notebook and started writing. He was talking my language. Family stories. Southern food. Old timey recipes.
“In a small town, you know someone in your family has died when the Jell-O salad shows up.” I laughed because I had just created a real gelatine (not Jell-O) dessert for my grandkids like Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings served her guests in Cross Creek.
The posh event was my introduction to Farmer, a Southern cook well known to Georgians,
Floridians and even New Yorkers. The author- gardener- interior designer-cook tells great Southern-style stories, sounds like me, and writes beautiful books. Plus, his downhome humor delivered in a melodious Southern accent keeps you listening and laughing. He doesn’t apologize for that accent either, as he says, “ ’cause that’s the way I really talk.”
Like James Farmer, our family tells Jell-O stories, too. The funniest one is from our Texas friends who graphically describe a main course they were served in Arkansas – a congealed Jell-O lime casserole made with chopped green pepper, boiled eggs and corned beef hash. It took plenty of courage for them to swallow the cold green concoction while feigning approval to the hostess. And then there’s the difficult decision to add bananas that might turn black or sticking with the tried and true Fruit Cocktail.
But Marjorie’s “Orange Jelly” dessert in Cross Creek Cookery is perfection. Her gelatine (she prefers the British spelling with the “e” on the end) calls for gelatine, sugar, water, orange and lemon juice. I try to make authentic Marjorie recreations, so I used satsumas an Optimist club member picked and brought to the Optimist Christmas tree lot. What the tree crew didn’t eat, I tucked away in my refrigerator. Two months later I squeezed them in my tribute to Marjorie’s 75th Anniversary of Cross Creek and its companion recipe book.
My grandkids had never tasted real gelatine, and it had been decades since I’d actually torn open an envelope of Knox. Sadly, the recipe only produced four small custard cups. Since I don’t have an authentic Dora the Cow grazing in the backyard, I used Reddi-Wip for topping. Ten-year-old Max mixed his all up and said it tastes like a Dreamscicle – his favorite flavor. Dreamscicle Jelly and Reddi-Wip is fodder for a great family story.
I think James Farmer would approve – and sigh a breath of relief that nobody died.