It’s nearly kickoff time. Do you know where your jellied cucumber-olive salad is?
Super Bowl LVI is coming up, and like all the other big games from years past, it’s expected to be a bad day for wallets and stomachs. Many homes across the nation are going to make mountains of food, including party staples like chicken wings, Lipton-soup-based dips and maybe some guacamole.
In the video above, you can get a closer look at American party food over the past few decades. In the text below, you can read us revolt in disgust about some of the weirdest bits of that history.
If you’re a picky eater or reading about weird foods kills your appetite, you have been warned.
Savory gelatin dishes
The proliferation of powdered gelatin and a home-ec fixation on neatly presented food led to “gelatin salad” becoming popular in the '60s, author Laura Shapiro wrote in “Perfection Salad: Women and Cooking at the Turn of the Century.”
A decorative Jell-O mold could show off the presentation skills of the host, and boxed mixes made savory gelatin dishes easy to make while evoking a Victorian-era noble’s dinner table. And they were mostly mess-free.
Across food magazines and websites, you’ll see mentions of jellied eggplants, a cucumber olive mold, a tomato aspic ring with minty peas. There was salmon mousse arranged on a plate in the shape of a fish, with a little decorative olive eye. The possibilities for slimy, wobbly vegetables, meat and seafood were seemingly endless.
Pistachio pudding, pecans, whipped cream and pineapple came together for this lumpy, neon-hued “salad” of nebulous origin.
While the Waldorf salad can be traced back to the menu of the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York, the Watergate Hotel did not invent the Watergate salad, according to NPR. But it’s not 100% clear why the Washington hotel’s name got assigned to this bright green monstrosity of a dessert.
Maybe it’s because of Watergate cake, which is also green? Or maybe it’s because Kraft supposedly launched its pistachio flavor of Jell-O around the time Richard Nixon's cronies were convicted.
Sandwich cake, aka sandwich loaf
Remember that weird trend on TikTok where everything seemed real but was actually cake? Well, before that, Super Bowl spreads had cake that was actually a sandwich.
Just picture an entire loaf of bread cut horizontally into layers. Then each layer is filled with egg salad, chicken salad, tuna salad, cheese spread or something worse. The whole affair is frosted with cream cheese and garnishes are added.
Look at this sandwich loaf photo seen on its Wikipedia page. Why is it pink? What were we doing? What did we have to prove and why not just go the British route — individual sandwiches, no weird colors?
Maybe this is just an American take on the Scandinavian Smörgåstårta. We’re not going to knock that specifically because we already dissed most of the region’s national anthems that you’ll hear at the Winter Olympics.