Fried Lettuce & Peas, Cottage Cheese Lime Gelatin

Posted on Oct 6 2010 - 7:00am by RetroRuth

Whew! This post is ANOTHER entry from the Mid-Century Menu Worst Recipe Contest.  It is the second to last one, and am I ever happy about that! You guys really came up with some doozies for us to choke down. This horrifying combo comes from Gabrielle, who writes:

I wanted to submit an entire meal that my mother remembers vividly from her youth (late 1950’s/early 1960’s) as “the most horrible tasting dinner”   She grew up in Western Massachusetts so I am unsure as if these were regional recipes or something found in a nationally available cookbook. Either way, the main dish seems very bland and just all around odd.  The Jello side dish just seems wrong in every way possible. 

Main Dish: Fried Peas and Lettuce

1 head of iceberg lettuce sliced in rounds
1 can of peas (drained)
Vegetable oil (I don’t know the amount, but my mother says it was A LOT because the final dish was floating in oil…I am guessing maybe 1/2 cup?)
Prepared Minuit Rice
Fry up the lettuce rounds in vegetable oil until they are wilted.  Add peas and cook until warm.  Serve lettuce and pea mixture (with all of the oil) over a bed of Minuit Rice.  *Any salt and pepper were added at the table by whoever was eating the food
Side Dish: Lime Jello Salad Mold

1 package Lime Jello
1/2 cup boiling water
1/2 cup salad dressing
1 cup evaporated milk
1/2 pound of cottage cheese
2 stalks chopped celery
1/4 minced onion
1/2 teaspoon of salt
Stir Jello mix into the boiling water and mix well.  Add remaining ingredients, mix well, and pour into mold ring.  Chill until solid.  Un-mold and serve.
(Note: I did find this online with more vegetables like carrots and peppers, but my mother says that my grandmother did not include them in her recipe.  I do not know if the additions would make this better or worse)
Happy Eating,
Ummm….*Copious throat clearing*  Ummm….thanks?  Way to come in on the mark on this one.  Nasty. Jeez, I feel terrible for your mom, Gabrielle!
So, this is pretty typical of a classic Mid-Century recipe, and I will tell you why. No, no, I have a better idea.  Instead of telling you, I will re-write the instructions of this recipe to ILLUSTRATE a classic Mid-Century recipe.  It will be like dinner theater, except less fun and only slightly less disgusting.
Ready?  Ready?  Ok.
Get a perfectly good pile of ingredients.  Make sure they are reasonably healthy, so you can FEEL like you are feeding your family well, even though it is a lie.

Make Gelatin. (Every good Mid-Century Meal should include gelatin)

Add non-sensical and disgusting things to your gelatin, like cottage cheese, onion and celery, which you wouldn’t even eat if they accidently got mixed together on your plate let alone dumped into something sweet.

Pour into a mold designed to make a pile of barf look edible.

Congratulations.  You have just ruined your jello.

Okay, on to step 2.

Take your vegetable and cut it in a way that will be awkward for everyone to eat.

Now, cook vegetable until it is limp and half dead in the pan.

Now add an ingredient that is unnecessary and makes no sense whatsoever.

Serve over some form of white starch.

Congratulations.  You have just ruined your vegetables.

Now, it’s fun time. Find an unsuspecting (or innocent) family member.  Tell them dinner is ready, and watch their faces while they try to figure out what the heck dinner is supposed to be.

Say something clever and inspired like, “It’s a salad” or “Vegetables are good for you” until they are suckered into eating it.

Now, this is the  most important step.  DO NOT LAUGH while they are eating it. Even when they make faces like this:

Or, in the case of lime gelatin, faces like this:

Now, make yourself a huge martini with triple olives, since you aren’t going to be eating much dinner. Move food around on your plate until it looks like you have eaten something.

Repeat nightly.

THE VERDICT: Gross. The lettuce pea thing didn’t taste like much except canned peas, but it was really greasy.  The lime gelatin salad was disgusting.

This one’s for you, Gabrielle!!!

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I love everything retro, vintage, mid-century, kitsch and all things atomic! A 21st century housewife just trying to fit 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 (, No Pattern Required (, and I Ate The 80's (

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

  1. Lorie B October 6, 2010 at 1:59 pm - Reply

    You should have modified the recipe and added tapioca to that Jell-o mold. That would have just pushed it right over the top. LOL

    NASTY, once again. Thanks for the laugh.

  2. Magnarama October 6, 2010 at 2:47 pm - Reply

    Y’know, I used to often think that Tom’s face looked a little gaunt in the tasting photos — but in this post, he seems a bit more robust and healthy-looking. Must be all those great vegetables his loving wife is feeding him!

  3. Angela October 6, 2010 at 4:36 pm - Reply

    Oh, Ruth! Poor you and Tom! That looked godawful! You must have some serious poker face to be able to to get through watching Tom have the first bite without laughing.

    The sad part is, my ex-husband once got me to try something called a “Plum Roll” at a sushi restaurant using this same technique. Sadly, to this day, I can still TASTE the plum roll in my mind…shudder…

  4. Sara In Az October 6, 2010 at 11:51 pm - Reply

    Eeeeee, this looks totally insane! Sign me up for one of those triple olive martinis – I am ALL over that one girl! Maybe Mexican peas would have made it taste better? 😉 hee

  5. Miss Marwood October 7, 2010 at 6:52 am - Reply

    Yikes, this is my own personal winner of the contest. What the heck? Why on earth would anyone want to fry salad? Crispy green turned into greasy sludge is just diabolic. Yet apparently here in UK people still serve peas boiled with shredded lettuce. Bah. And the jello… beyond words, as usual. Thank you Gabrielle, I feel terribly sorry for your mum.
    Triple Martini for me too, Ruth! It’s good for you, with all those healthy olives in, who needs dinner!

  6. Chris Candor October 10, 2010 at 5:54 pm - Reply

    My mom still makes wilted lettuce and serves it with vinegar (like any wilted greens) but she never added canned peas or served it over rice. Barf!

    The Jell-O salad recipe is very similar to one we always had at family gatherings but my aunt used pineapple chunks (and sometimes pecans) instead of onion with the cottage cheese and celery. Mmm?

  7. BlueRoc85 November 20, 2011 at 3:36 pm - Reply

    Hilarious Narration!

    • RetroRuth November 21, 2011 at 4:13 pm - Reply


  8. Josh February 20, 2012 at 3:14 am - Reply

    1- you should have minced the lettuce, but iceberg ruins everything, so I doubt it would have helped. 2- I have several French cookbooks with minced loose leaf lettuce, peas, and pearl onions (or leeks since I grow them); you don’t have to use lots of oil. 3-That jello recipe is awful. Salt, onions, and sweet- mmmm. Try the recipe that (hopefully you can see) I linked to as my “website”. The cottage cheese (Nancy’s 1%) just makes it creamy. I also mix cottage cheese with highbrow organic “Kraft dinner” to add protein. And come to think of it, peas for veg.

    • RetroRuth February 20, 2012 at 10:09 am - Reply

      Thanks for all the suggestions, Josh! However, part of the deal of this blog is to make everything exactly the way the recipe specifies as much as we possibly can. And yes, sometimes that means doing ridiculous things that we know will ruin food. Such is life.

      But, I have heard from several people that lettuce and peas cooked the correct way is actually very good! 🙂

  9. llamalluv April 27, 2013 at 11:29 am - Reply

    I know that this post is over two years old, but the fried lettuce looks a lot like fried cabbage, which is really delicious. Especially with a roll of breakfast sausage crumbled and cooked the same way you prepare ground beef for casseroles.

  10. nicksmom2007 November 30, 2013 at 10:15 am - Reply

    I hate and despise hot lettuce. Of any kind. I am the bane of busy fast food restaurants because I order food sans lettuce. And warn them that I can tell if they just pick it off a sandwich that is already ready. When I was just starting out I was invited to my boss’s home for dinner. His wife served a hot cream of lettuce soup. I had to gag a couple of spoonfuls down. I have forever lived in fear of ever being invited for dinner anywhere again ever!

  11. Melissa Sinner April 19, 2014 at 12:13 pm - Reply

    Another husband & I discussion. I am the youngest, he is the oldest – his parents are close in age to my eldest siblings, so that should tell you something… We often debate whether gelatin is a salad or dessert (he gave up desserts for Lent one year and I made Jello for supper – gasp). I grew up with it on the dinner table surrounding a copious glob of Miracle Whip – is Miracle Whip not called a “salad dressing”? Hence gelatin=salad! I wanted to show this to him, but he went sidling off to do some “yardwork” Yeah, right. a likely story.

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