Don’t you hate to admit it when your mom is right? I know I do! After all, I am a grandmother myself, so shouldn’t I know a thing or two? In the “maiden-mother-crone” trinity, I am passing into the Age of the Crone (and “crone” is a term I truly use with highest regard!) Crone is that time in a woman’s life beyond fertility and menopausal changes. It is the time of deep reflection and introspection. Crones are esteemed matriarchs who are wise, knowledgeable, and sharing of their wisdom. (I’m hoping to grow into this role, lol) Still, a neophyte Crone needs to respect a veteran Crone or, as my dad would say, “Don’t be getting too big for your britches, girlie.” Sometimes a newbie-crone just needs to defer to her mother!
It began with the annual Christmas gathering for my aunts and uncles. My dad came from a family of ten children, most of whom married, effectively doubling the group size. Each year they gather as family to celebrate and, while the numbers have reduced with the passage of time, they continue to brave the weather and their aches and pains to gather around the holiday table. Some no longer drive and must rely on a lift from a younger volunteer to get them to the party. They take turns hosting the gathering and this year is my mom’s turn, so I offered to help with the preparations. This means I, too, get to attend the gathering, a task I am privileged to accept, feeling I have now joined the sacred circle of elders.
As we were reviewing the holiday menu, my mom said, “We should have a jello salad too.” I groaned in disgust, “Does anyone really eat those things?” Sure, I ate them when I was a kid, rather enjoying the sugary sweetness and the mush of the marshmallows – the exact reasons why now I abhorred jello salads…too sweet, too soggy. But then I realized that my favourite snack for the last few months has been Sour Gummy Chews, a lemony treat made with gelatin! If I loved that, maybe I could add vegetables and fruits and it would be just as yummy?
Having found a recipe for gelatin salad in Nourishing Traditions* (my absolute favourite cookbook), I began experimenting. I took my first trial salad to a pot luck with friends and they liked it! Was it just because we are all “older” or was this stuff actually tasty? For me, the gelatin part was still too soft, perhaps because one has to unmold the salad by dipping the bowl in hot water. So for the next trial, I increased the gelatin, as I wanted a firmer, chewier texture. This time, even after unmolding in hot water, it held its shape better which I liked, but others may not enjoy so much chewiness. (This rubbery chewiness is the stuff that, in my opinion, makes Gummy Chews so much fun!) Therefore, for the Christmas gathering of the aunts and uncles, I will make the standard recipe with the gelatin not quite as firm as I personally like it. Here’s the recipe.
So, nutritionally, why eat gelatin? It is an important aid to digestion as it helps heal the digestive tract and it also improves the digestibility of other foods eaten with it. This is particularly important as we age, since nearly 40% of older adults have digestive problems**. Gelatin is also beneficial for healthy joints, skin and hair. It contains proteins – arginine and glycine – in large amounts and these proteins are easily absorbed. This is important as seniors may have protein deficient diets. The glycine plays an important role in detoxification of the liver especially for food additives like sodium benzoate or meds such as acetylsalicylic acid or aspirin. (If someone is taking aspirin as a preventative, gelatin would help support the liver.) Glycine also acts as a neurotransmitter, has a calming effect, is needed for hemoglobin and collagen, is useful in healing wounds, and helps clear uric acid (associated with gout) and blood fats.***
So mom, you were right…we should have jello salad! I know I’m looking forward to it. Maybe I should bring some liver and onions too? What do you think, mom?
* Sally Fallon and Mary Enig, PhD, Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats (Washington: New Trends Publishing Inc., 2001), 189.
*** Elson Haas, MD, Staying Healthy With Nutrition (Berkeley: Celestial Arts, 2006), 50.