Mid-Century Menu Contest Finalist #1 – Summer Salad Pie

Posted on Jul 21 2010 - 12:46pm by RetroRuth

Ladies and Gentlemen! Boys and Girls! Mid-Century Aficionados of All Ages!  Let me present to you the first Finalist for the Worst Mid-Century Menu Contest: Miss Marwood and her horrible Summer Salad Pie!

*Muted cheering. Some gagging*

I know, I know.  I said I wasn’t going to start the contest until August, but I got so excited by all of the horribly awesome entries we received, that Tom and I got right to it and picked the Four Finalists.  And since they were already picked, it was only natural that I would want to make the vile, wicked things as soon as possible.  To get them out of the way. And make Tom eat them.

So, here is the very first one! This disgusting little pie comes courtesy of Kathrin, aka Miss Marwood, who sent along this helpful little intro:

Dear Ruth,
After days of going through all my MC recipe booklets and books, I have made my choice for my entry: Betty Crocker’s Summer Salad Pie from her delightful book “Dinner in a Dish”, published 1963.
This book is brimming full with great contenders for your contest, but the Summer Salad Pie has everything going for it: a combination of ingredients to make your spine tingle, a picture to turn you green in two ways – the thought of actually having to eat it, yet full of envy because you so want that basket serving dish. It’s set in gelatine and does not miss its pimientos. It’s got tuna with lemonjelly in a cheesy shell. If that ain’t pretty I don’t know what is.
Hope you enjoy 🙂
Best wishes,
Really, Kathrin? Really??? After sending me this, you still wish for my well-being and happiness?  After looking at this unholy creation, I tend to doubt that! 🙂
Holy smokes, good gravy and god save me!  And any other non-offensive expletives I can think of!  And even some offensive ones!  This is a crazy, crazy thing.   A cheese crust with a tomato-lemon gelatin center (of pure evil!) and a tuna salad top.  The cheese crust and tuna salad are just fine with me, but that center.  Ohhh…gives me the shivers.  It is almost cartoonishly evil.
But, I asked for it, so here we go!
Since it was so hot outside, this crust ended up pretty wet.  I only added a small amount of additional water.
A crust-rolling secret courtesy of Alton Brown: Slit the sides of a large plastic bag and roll the crust out INSIDE of the bag.  You use less flour, and it is easier to get it into the pie pan without cracking!

Off to the oven!

Meanwhile, the scared veggies prepared to meet the evil filling:

Hmm…not too shabby! And it actually smelled good!


Ahh! No, stop!  It’s hideous!

Oh god! Please have mercy!

“Neva!”  *A lemon-tomato evil laugh*

*Sniff* Those poor, little veggies.  Never even had a chance!

It’s tuna-salad time!

Ha ha ha ha ha ha! Aaaaaaaaaaaaahahahaha!

The tomato garnishes, to make it that much better.  You KNOW those are going to miraculously make it taste better. Somehow.

The first, gooey slice.

Wow, I am actually gagging a little bit while I am typing this.

Tom, The Man With The Iron Stomach.

“So…how awful is it? Really?”

“It’s pretty bizarre.  Not horrible, just really weird.”

I took a bite.  He was right.  It didn’t taste disgusting, but it definitely wasn’t right at all. The cheese crust was actually good, as was the tuna salad, but the gelatin was from a different planet.  If it wouldn’t have been sweet, it wouldn’t have actually been that bad of a dish.  But the sweetness of the jello just sliced through your mouth at the wrong time, making it taste completely inappropriate.  It kind of tasted like tuna salad on a cheese cracker that has been covered with ketchup.  Not nice.

I chewed thoughtfully.  “But I think this is the best tomato gelatin we have made yet.” More chewing. ” And I can’t believe I just said that sentence.”

Tom snorted. “Tell me about it.”

The Verdict:  Unnatural.  The cheese crust and the tuna salad was a great combo.  In fact, I would actually suggest making the crust and putting a tuna or chicken salad in it.  It was good together.  But the gelatin…BLARGH.  Way, way too sweet to be paired with olives. Gross. Gross. Gross.

Thanks, Miss Marwood!  Be sure to come back next week, when we will be featuring Finalist #2 in the Contest!

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I love everything retro, vintage, mid-century, kitsch and all things atomic! A 21st century housewife just trying to fit in...to the 50's. I have a passion for vintage recipes and an enormous vintage cookbook collection that I keep testing, even though by now I should know better. Creator of Mid-Century Menu (www.midcenturymenu.com), No Pattern Required (www.nopatternrequired.com), and I Ate The 80's (www.iatethe80s.com).

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27 Comments so far. Feel free to join this conversation.

  1. Thriftgoddess! July 21, 2010 at 1:32 pm -

    OMG! It looks….okay, but taking that first bite….now that’s bravery. What did you do with the rest of the pie? Certainly you didn’t consume it all?

  2. Miss Marwood July 21, 2010 at 1:36 pm -

    HAHAHAHA… Fantastic!! Thank you both for testing this GREAT pie! Isn’t it delicious! Loved your finishing touches with the tomato swirls.
    I so laughed at Tom’s expression. My god, I cannot believe you actually ate this, it’s just so wrong. Yet it somehow looks quite appetizing on your plates, I must admit. And that crimped pastry would have made old Betty proud 🙂


  3. Amy July 21, 2010 at 2:45 pm -

    *shudder* i just can’t imagine using gelatine in any dinner

  4. Miss Marwood July 21, 2010 at 3:01 pm -

    Just looking through my “Joys of Jello” booklet from 1963 to see what I can come up with for the in-laws this Sunday and found two more Lemon-Jello+Tuna recipes. Not one, but TWO! One is called “Ring-around-the-Tuna”. LOL!

  5. Sara in AZ July 21, 2010 at 3:07 pm -

    Wow! Way to pick ’em Miss Marwood! This one does sound truly terrifying. Gelatin, in a dinner like that, just sounds sooooooo bizarre! Good Luck in the contest!!!

  6. Kristen July 21, 2010 at 3:50 pm -

    Wow. You and Tom are my heroes. Seriously. 🙂

  7. Kelly July 21, 2010 at 5:57 pm -

    I can in no way see how Jello fits into that recipe. Ewww…My god. And the idea of it with tuna makes my stomach go all knotty. Excellent entry, Miss Marwood!

  8. Barbara July 22, 2010 at 11:17 am -

    I honestly believe that the people at Jello (and colluding companies) made these recipes up and laughed, laughed, laughed that people might actually eat them.

    Anything with tuna makes my stomach ache, so that pie is a barf ready to happen!!

    • Cynthia Martinez January 10, 2014 at 3:07 am -

      I think that you are right. They laughed and laughed. I was born a few years after this and thank God my Momma thought Banana Splits were the way to go with me. lol

  9. RaviTX June 28, 2012 at 6:59 pm -

    wasn’t jello once packaged sans-sugar?

  10. Ben January 9, 2014 at 6:54 pm -

    I wonder if the tuna was changed to chicken salad and the gelatin was an apple flavor with bits of apple?
    Ham salad with a pistachio pudding?

  11. Beeb January 9, 2014 at 8:41 pm -

    I just had to leave a comment and say how much I love this post! I love that you actually made this and blogged about it! Vintage cookbooks are my favorite, and oh boy, do they have a lot of strange Jell-O recipes in them.

    • RetroRuth January 10, 2014 at 12:22 pm -

      Thanks, Beeb! Glad you liked it! 🙂

  12. Mikko January 10, 2014 at 11:08 am -


    I believe the biggest problem is how you created this dish. The recipe asks for lemon-flavored gelatin, not sugar-infused jell-o. I would have gotten some plain gelatin (or even Agar Agar), dissolved those and added some lemon juice (squeezed straight from a lemon). That way the internal jelly doesn’t have any sweetness in it (no added sugar) since the recipe does not ask for any.

    • RetroRuth January 10, 2014 at 12:21 pm -

      Hi Mikko –

      Actually, when Betty Crocker calls for a 3 oz package of flavored gelatin, they mean a 3 oz package of flavored gelatin, aka Jell-O. Besides the fact that unflavored gelatin is packaged in smaller portions, there are plenty of recipes where they required you to make an unsweetened lemon gelatin, like a potato salad mold I recently made, and in that case the ingredients to make the unsweetened gelatin are specified in the recipe.

      But yes, I agree, it would have been much better without the sugar!

  13. Andy C January 10, 2014 at 3:08 pm -

    Hey, I got here from the buzzfeed site that featured the same recipe. Glad they actually cited you. I just made this dish, am going to try it out this evening. Cool site, am really enjoying reading through all of the experiments and results.

    • RetroRuth January 11, 2014 at 9:39 am -

      Thanks, Andy C! Glad you like it. 🙂

  14. kathleen diegel January 10, 2014 at 4:01 pm -

    i still have that cookbook.

    • RetroRuth January 11, 2014 at 9:39 am -

      It’s a fun cookbook!

  15. Cara January 10, 2014 at 11:49 pm -

    I HAD that cookbook! (It was from my mom’s kitchen.) I agree that the summer salad pie is atrocious and gag inducing, but there are several good recipes in that book. The meatballs for spaghetti are my go-to as is the shrimp Creole recipe.

    • RetroRuth January 11, 2014 at 9:41 am -

      Thanks, Cara! I will have to try those meatballs.

  16. Aunt Crankypants January 11, 2014 at 9:03 am -

    I now challenge you to tweak it until it’s good. In fact, I challenge you to do that with all the finalists.
    And as a sidenote, I once had a few jars of an caramelized onion and Meyer lemon marmalade which sounds horrible, but I loved. It had to be half price to convince me to give it a go, but glad I did. Sadly, it is no longer available.

    • RetroRuth January 11, 2014 at 9:46 am -

      That marmalade actually sounds really interesting. Glad you gave it a try!

      Nah, someone else can tweak it until it is good. I am too busy trying out other vintage recipes. 🙂

  17. LaVida January 11, 2014 at 7:04 pm -

    If anyone else tries this recipe, please use unflavored gelatin (Knox) and some lemon juice (maybe a tablespoon or two). I think you might like the results.
    I used the Joy of Jello cookbook years ago, and if you want something horrible, there’s a recipe that I think uses cream of asparagus soup straight from the Campbell’s can and Jell-O. I tried it because I thought it was so strange that it would either be awful or terrific. It was awful!
    If I still had the book, I would submit the recipe and win the contest! 😉