Did you have those foods when you were a kid- those things you loved so much but weren’t really allowed to have? And did you say to yourself,
“When I’m a grownup, I’m going to eat that every single day. And no one’s going to stop me!”
That’s kind of how I felt about jello.
And now that I’m a grownup, how often do I eat jello?
Not often enough, I tell you.
Last month, when I was in the hospital, I ate four bowls of jello in the 24 hours I spent there. It was orange jello, which was unfortunate but passable. I never asked for it- the nurses just kept bringing these little bowls of perfectly balanced orange squares to me. It was like I had a secret message painted on my forehead- “Bring this girl some jello. She is a jello-lover, and she just doesn’t get enough of the stuff!”
It seems that even as a grown up, I have to go to the hospital to eat jello. Of course I’m not going to buy that red powder in the box. I will occasionally add a box of gelatin to a bottle of juice (like Paige taught me), but I will not buy that box. I am a make-it-at home kind of woman, and I don’t let my children eat things that are that color unless they are strawberries, or raspberries, or, come to think of it, beets.
I wonder what my children are dreaming of eating every day when they are grownup?
Last week, we ended up at on a dear friend’s porch on a very hot and sticky afternoon. We were hot, and thirsty, and wilted. Her eyes sparkled a bit when we got there, and she ran to the fridge.
“I made lemon balm jello. with basil cream.”
Lemon balm jello! Glory be!
It turns out that she had been in Brooklyn the week before, and she had had one of those Brooklyn experiences where she and her hot wilted children had been pounding the pavement when they finally found their old babysitter who is now working in a pie bakery. There was a flurry of blissfully consumed gluten-free pie, and then an invitation–“why don’t you come next door for a hip rooftop garden party where everyone will be lovely and artistic and interesting?” That is exactly what they did, and what were all the lovely and artistic and interesting people eating?
Oh, yeah baby, you know it.
And as my dear friend let that jello (lemon verbena, in this case, topped with basil cream) slide down her throat with ease and refreshment, I am honored to say that somewhere in the back of her mind, she thought of me.
Like I said, I’ve got a secret message on my forehead.
And that is how I came to be eating lemon balm jello on a hot afternoon last week. And although sometimes a hip Brooklyn rooftop party would be nice, with the right snacks, we can bring the party right here to the country.
So yes- the Brooklynites made lemon verbena jello, which telephoned into lemonbalm jello, and I made mint. The real moral here is that the herb is up to you. Whatever sounds good or whatever you have running rampant in your back yard. Go crazy. But do the basil cream. Totally lovely. Totally artistic. Totally interesting.
Maybe I’m not all grown up yet. Maybe I can start the promised jello regimen. Maybe I can be just who I thought I’d be.
Mint Jello with Basil Cream
for the jello:
4 cups water
4 packets gelatin (you could also do a vegetarian version with agar agar)
One big bunch of mint (mine weighed about 3/4 ounce)
1/2 cup sugar
for the cream:
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon sugar
6 leaves fresh basil, minced fine
Boil 3 cups of the water, and put the remaining cup of water into a mixing bowl. Once the water is boiling, pour it over the mint and let it infuse for 20 minutes. Strain and mix in the sugar until it dissolves. Sprinkle the gelatin over the cup of cold water and let it sit for one minute. Stir in the sweet minty water until thoroughly combined and no gelatin is visible. Pour into six bowls, containers or jars (or anything! go wild!) and refrigerate for about 3 hours, or until firm.
Just before serving, make the cream. Mix the sugar, minced basil and cream. Whisk by hand until just barely thickened. Pour over the jello, and serve cold.