2007.07.04 Cat food in the Jell-O

By DAVID GREEN

We attended a niece’s wedding recently and I got into a rather strange conversation with the bridesmaid at the reception.

It went something like this:

Jillian: “I remember the first time I met your family. It was a Thanksgiving at Lisa’s house. You brought squirrel and Jell-o with cat food in it.”

Me: “         .” (A brief period of silence. What did she say?) “What?”

Jillian: “You brought a squirrel dish and Jell-o with cat food. I’m from Massachusetts and you eat some different stuff out here, but that seemed pretty strange.”

Jillian and my niece, Lisa, both attended Purdue, where they became best of friends.

I wasn’t exactly disbelieving. We’ve done some odd things over the years, but I had no recollection of that.

My son Ben was nearby so I had her repeat the story. It didn’t sound right to him. My wife Colleen wasn’t too far away so we ran the story by her. It didn’t ring any culinary bells with her, either.

Jillian, who works as a pusher of wine for a well-known wine company, had obviously enjoyed a little too much of her own product.

Cat food Jell-o is a strange item, something I might read about in one the odd-ball food articles I run across. I’m not going to spend any time with “Gourmet” or “Bon Appetit,” but give me Salon’s “Eat and Drink” series or the Guardian’s Food Blog.

There I’ll read about dark chocolate going green, about someone’s love for scummy spirulina, about a Minneapolis restaurant called Hell’s Kitchen, about five decades of the fortune cookie in America, about the joys of raising and slaughtering your own Thanksgiving turkey.

A Salon article about Annie’s All-Natural Macaroni and Cheese resulted in more than 100 comments, ranging from “What do you expect from a processed product in a box?” to “At least you can pronounce all the ingredients compared to a box of Kraft’s.” Great stuff. The reading, that is.

The Guardian lists titles such as “I’m a gooseberry fool,” “Flights of Fancy” about airplane food and “Glasto Gastro: the all-day breakfast baguette.”

The Guardian recently published an article called “Champagne with potato chips?” written by a woman who matches food with wine.

Q: What would go with a big Mac?? I imagine it would have to be red.

A: You'd think red because of the meat but the fat gives the perception of sweetness, as do the secret sauce and relish... Therefore I’d try an off-dry riesling... with fried food, you also get the perception of sweetness, so the riesling works with it, too, though my favourite choice is bubbly to cut through the fat and cleanse the palate.

Q: What about North African tagines and suchlike? I was faced by this conundrum when I whipped up a bowl of Tunisian stodge and couldn't work out what would go with bitter, spicy preserved-lemony food... a dry Riesling? (I plumped for beer.)

Natalie, the wine adviser, agreed with Riesling. She can’t think of a better choice, actually. I don’t even like wine (Don’t tell Bridesmaid Jillian), but the forum exchanges are most entertaining.

I should bring some closure to the Thanksgiving story. Everybody was denying Jillian’s recollection until the bride wandered past. Jillian grabbed her, posed the question, and of course she remembered.

Yes, Lisa said, there was Jell-o with cat food mixed in. And a squirrel’s tail hanging out one side. We took the dish to her house, she claimed, for one of our food contributions to the Thanksgiving dinner.

I suppose it’s plausible. Ben had a squirrel taxidermy kit and we had collected a couple roadkill specimens.

All right, Jillian, you win. All that wine has made your mind clearer than ours. But tell me, what wine should be served with Cat Food Jell-o ê la Squirrel?

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