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General Discussion

The Mystery of the Molded Salad...

barcelonabites | May 24, 201004:09 AM     12

All of my vintage cookbooks have several pages each dedicated to savory molded salads using aspic or gelatin and containing very strange casts of culinary characters. As an adult though, I've never been to an event where thes kind of salad was served. I'm actually a bit surprised that they haven't become popular again in recent years. Consider the following reasons that molded salads SHOULD HAVE made a comeback:

-The increasing availability of agar-agar means that we don't even have to use rendered animal body parts to make savory gelatinous salads. The vegetarian "Japanese gelatin" is one of the most accessible ways to bring molecular gastronomy techniques to the home kitchen but its appearance on food blogs and recipe sites has still been sparse.
-The current obsession retro foods and all things mid-century in general.
-An economic crisis. One of the reasons that savory molded salads were so popular was because it was a great way to use leftovers or to disguise foods that were somewhat past their prime.
-a prolonged and tearful scene featuring aspic in the hit movie "Julie and Julia."
-new trends in sweet savory combos (i.e. desserts with bacon, salted caramel, etc)

Have society's taste buds permanently moved on OR could it be, perhaps, that molded gelatin salads just weren't ever that good to begin with? This would be the case according to my battered copy of Peg Bracken's celebrated classic "I Hate to Cook Book" which was published in 1960, at the height of the molded salad craze. Her section on molded salads has the subtitle "What should you tell your children about molded salads?" She goes on to write that "you'll have to tell them that in spite of the vast numbers of molded salads made daily, not so many people enjoy them as the children might think..." and that "molded salads are best served in situations where there is little or no competition."

What do you guys think? Do you like molded salads? If so, why haven't they become trendy again? If not, why do you think they were so popular in the first place?

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