Is Jell-O Salad Really a Salad?

November 18, 2010 | By | Comments (0)

At lunch with a few of my co-workers today, talk inevitably turned to Thanksgiving…and side dishes…and Jell-O salad. Now, I always thought crazy Jell-O concoctions died out in the early ‘80s, but apparently in some parts of the country—specifically the Midwest (and no, I'm not being an East Coast snob, my lovely co-worker from Kansas City is the one who brought this to our attention)—Jell-O salad is a staple on the Thanksgiving table.



But is Jell-O salad really a salad? It’s a cold, solid mold/block/sculpture/wondrous thing of gelatin with random (and often eyebrow-raising) ingredients in it—cranberries, crushed pineapple, nuts, cottage cheese, marshmallows, cinnamon candies, carrots, onions (??!)…the list goes on and on (just Google “jello salad” and you’ll see what I mean).  Most people at the lunch table agreed—Jell-O “salad” did not really qualify as a salad. Salads should be a gathering of separate ingredients tied together with some kind of dressing, not a mass of disparate things solidified into one quivering object.


However, Merriam-Webster defines a “salad” as this:

1 : any of various usually cold dishes: as 
    a : raw greens (as lettuce) often combined with other vegetables and toppings and served especially with dressing 
    b : small pieces of food (as pasta, meat, fruit, or vegetables) usually mixed with a dressing (as mayonnaise) or set in gelatin


Notice “or set in gelatin.” So I guess, technically, a Jell-O mold qualifies as a salad. The same goes for Ambrosia Salad, which also came up at lunchtime. (Naturally.) In case you were wondering.


Is Jell-O salad part of your Thanksgiving tradition? And do you think it should be called a “salad” or does it fall into its own unique category of food?


(image: Brad Wenner/Getty Images)