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Memories, Minted

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Jell-O reminds me of visits to my grandmother’s house as a child. Is that unsurprising?

When I was young, there were a few things that would get me psyched for weekend visits to my grandmother Nancy’s house in Greenwich. First, my uncle would come in from the city to stay with my sister and I. An artist and old movie afficionado, he’d draw us pictures for coloring (we never wanted for a coloring book) and he’d watch Shirley Temple, White Christmas, and any movie involving Marilyn Monroe with us for hours on end. Then there was Nancy’s (Nana’s) backyard. She had the most elaborate, beautiful garden, complete with a rocky hill that led into a patch of woods, separating her street of houses from the one a block away. In my mind back then, it reminded me of what the world looked like during prehistoric times. Everything was so green; in fact, earthy green is the color that I still associate with my grandmother and her dreamland of a backyard. 

And finally, most importantly, every time we’d visit, there would be an enormous bowl of Jell-O waiting for us. Studded with juicy, impossibly sweet grapes, apple cubes and strawberries, it would sit in her refrigerator, emanating a soft rouge welcome as we eagerly opened the double doors, asking, “what’s there to eat?”. Some kids wanted ice cream or cookies for dessert, but when I went to Nana’s, that Jell-O, topped with a dollop of billowy whipped cream, was the answer to all sugar-related quandaries.

Which is why I couldn’t help but smile when I found this recent recipe for Mint Jell-O with Basil Cream on Eating From the Ground Up. It’s one of my fondest childhood memories in recipe form, with none of the powdery chemicals of yesteryear: herbal, minty-green homemade Jell-O topped with a pile of soft, basil-infused whipped cream. The backyard bounty of summertime meets playful, youthful dessert. I emailed the link to my Nana, who no longer lives in Greenwich, but across the country in Arizona; and when she sees it, I know she’ll smile, too.

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