Basic Main Course Salad – A Mid-Century Gelatin Recipe Test

Posted on Aug 21 2013 - 6:46am by RetroRuth

Have I ever mentioned how much I hate tuna in gelatin? I haven’t? Well, I hate it. Hate!


So when Stephanie sent me a recipe (a dieter’s recipe, no less!) for this fishy gelatin salad for our Glistening and Jiggly contest, I almost gagged.

Stephanie writes:

Ok, I just found this in a magazine I bought at a recent estate sale. Dell no. 15 – 1959 “1000 Recipe Cookbook”. It’s listed in the “dieters” section.



Basic Main Course Salad
  • 1 envelope Knox unflavored gelatine
  • ½ cup cold water
  • 1¼ cups very hot water
  • 4 tbsp vinegar
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ cup diced celery
  • 2 tbsp diced green pepper
  • 2 tbsp finely diced onion
  • 1¼ cups flaked cooked lean fish
  1. Sprinkle gelatine on the cold water to soften. Stir the softened gelatine into the very hot water until thoroughly dissolved. Add vinegar and salt.
  2. Chill to unbeaten egg white consistency. Fold in vegetables and fish carefully.
  3. Turn into one large mold (3-4 cup) or 6 small molds. Chill until firm. Serves 6.
  4. Note variations: Use 1¼ cups flaked salmon; 1¼ cups whole shrimp plus 1 tbsp mayonnaise; 1¼ cups flaked tuna fish -reduce vinegar to 2 tbsp and salt to ¼ tsp. Use any one of the above in place of cooked lean fish in recipe.



Tom, however, was almost clicking his heels together.


“What’s that ‘Ha’ for?”

“Finally something that you hate in gelatin! And no American cheese in sight!”


“Yeah, well. I’ll get you for this. Eventually.”

“Eh, Future Tom can worry about that. Right now, I am happy.”

“Are you excited to eat this, then?”

“Nope. It’s probably going to taste like crap.”

Tom TastesIMG_0298

I almost threw down the camera. “Seriously?”

“Yep. It tastes like tuna salad without mayo. Not bad at all. I might actually go as far as saying this tastes good.”

I took a bite, and was shocked. It completely blew my tuna-and-gelatin hating mind. “Oh my God. This thing is completely edible.”

“I know, right? Craziness.”

The Verdict: Actually Good!

From the Tasting Notes:

Tastes like tuna salad sans mayo. Surprisingly edible. I would add a thin layer of mayo to this just to make it completely taste like tuna salad, but mayo is optional with this one. Would be a good choice to serve at a retro or themed meal. You can scare your guests a bit and still give them something they can eat!

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

  1. Dan August 21, 2013 at 8:09 am - Reply

    I also gagged at first, but when I read through the recipe I became less nauseous. I think the key is that the ingredients are not suspended in a sweet/fruit gelatin but in a savory one. To me that puts this more in the early-20th-century aspic category than in the mid-20th-century Weird World of Jello category. I could actually see this as a first course at a summer dinner party, perhaps made in small, decorative molds and served on individual plates with a garnish of cucumber. You could also use a more expensive fish, something such as flaked salmon, or even tiny shrimp. Of course, it’s also possible that I too have gone crazy.

  2. Yinzerella August 21, 2013 at 8:41 am - Reply

    They really got creative with the name of this dish.

    • Lassie August 22, 2013 at 9:12 am - Reply

      What are we having for lunch?

      “Basic Main Course Salad!”


      Rather vague!

  3. Ae August 21, 2013 at 1:32 pm - Reply

    I can not believe that this tasted ok!

  4. Mia August 21, 2013 at 4:42 pm - Reply

    You know, I love you…but nope!

  5. disneypal August 21, 2013 at 4:58 pm - Reply

    That Tom is one brave soul. I do not think I could have tasted that but glad to hear that it actually got a thumbs up.

  6. Stephanie August 22, 2013 at 8:33 am - Reply

    Hah! I wondered if you’d gotten around to trying that, and I’m amazed it wasn’t truly awful.

  7. Eartha Kitsch August 22, 2013 at 9:17 am - Reply

    I’m stunned that it tasted good. Few things make me gag on appearance alone and there was something about those first photos that really got to me. It just looks kind of sludge-y.

  8. Cristina August 22, 2013 at 1:11 pm - Reply

    I am so shocked it tastes good! I am not a seafood lover, wonder if this would be good with shredded chicken.

  9. Sara In AZ August 22, 2013 at 2:17 pm - Reply

    Wow…..excuse me while I pick myself up off the floor…..I am AMAZED this tastes good!!!

  10. amy August 22, 2013 at 3:09 pm - Reply

    But it looks so bland!

  11. Jess October 1, 2014 at 1:52 pm - Reply

    Just throwing this out there…but do you think perhaps y’all’s taste buds have been warped by doing this blog?

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