My mum had found me a salmon-shaped mould earlier in the year, and I decided to build my party around a classic 70s salmon mousse.
So, because I don’t like to just try retro recipes, I like to understand the whys (and often the WTFs when it comes to 70s recipes), here are a few facts about the good old salmon mousse.
Savoury gelatin-based foods were important for two reasons. Firstly, there’s some status involved in being the sort of housewife who was able to present a gelatin salad at a dinner party. Not everyone had or could afford a fridge, and a fridge is a necessary component for getting jelly to set. Secondly, it was equally a way for the housewife to stretch the household budget because jelly salads could be filled with leftovers and/or canned goods, they were quick and easy to make but had an ‘impressive’ look which was great for the housewife who, as the years marched into the 70s, were increasingly working as well as running households. And, “Jellied salads, unlike tossed ones, were mess-free, never transgressing the border of the plate…” (Grey, 2015, Serious Eats).
Neat, cheap, and easy were definitely things I associated with making my first salmon mousse. I have a lot of retro cookbooks, but none included a salmon recipe, so I used this one found on Good Food.
The biggest worry I had was that it would stick to the cling wrap (which it didn’t, thanks to the recipe’s suggestion that the wrap was oiled), and it did take two blasts in boiling water for it to dislodge from the mould, but came out in tact and gorgeous.
Now, for taste. I was super impressed that everyone who wasn’t a vegetarian or allergic to dairy gave it a go, and surpisingly, there weren’t that many leftovers. It lacked a little salt, but overall it reminded me of a salmon pâté or the fish paste that we grew up eating in the 80s and early 90s. Actually, it reminded me of fish paste so much that for an hour after I served it, I was talking about how nice it would be for breakfast with hot buttered toast — which was what we did (as well as adding eggs scrambled with leftover olives and cheese from the canapé plate).
The big thing is that it wasn’t offensive or gross tasting, and if you like fish and mayonnaise, then you likely will like this.
Also on the table for NYE were bread canapés (bread cut into shapes and fried ’til crispy, then topped with whatever you like. We did avocado and smoked salmon and cream cheese and smoked salmon); a retro cheese plate using oranges to hold toothpicks with green cocktail onions, pimento stuffed olives and cheese cubes; and deviled eggs made by a friend.
It was a lovely way to end 2017 and a good way to get started with 2018 — a year that I hope is full of a lot more retro recipes and parties.
(Jello-history reference was from Serious Eats: Grey, Sarah. August 2015. ‘A social history of Jell-O Salad: The Rise and Fall of an American Icon.’ http://www.seriouseats.com/2015/08/history-of-jell-o-salad.html, accessed 3 January 2018).