Don’t You Dare Spit That Out: The Story of Christmas Eve Sea Foam Salad
Is it truly Christmas Eve without Sea Foam Salad? It’s a question I grew up asking myself. I’m referring to a type of wiggly, jiggly, lime-green concoction that begs to be poked by little ones when their parents aren’t looking. Just a slice will do you, and all that’s asked is for a teeny bite to be taken—for Grandma, they would insist.
I grew up in Florida, which is from where I assumed this coastal-sounding dish came. There were plenty of specialties on Grandma’s Christmas Eve sideboard but, over the years, Sea Foam Salad became the most infamous for one reason or another.
The ingredient list was simple: canned pears, mayonnaise, gelatin, cream cheese, green jell-o, and cool whip. The resulting sea foam, if you will, was then poured into a molded bundt pan to be placed in the refrigerator and chilled until after Christmas Eve mass service when the family would barrel through the heavy double doors of Grandma’s rambling rancher for a night of eating, drinking, and merriment. The evening always ended in the wee hours after mounds of wrapping paper had been torn through and nearly everyone had suffered through at least one bite of that pale green jell-o mold.
There were some who we believed actually enjoyed Sea foam Salad—Dad being one of them. He would take a hefty scoop, you know the kind that you just can’t fake. Well, it turns out you can fake it if you have a stomach of steel. I did not. Each year I would put that one fateful bite in my mouth with a face that must have chameleoned into the very same sea foam green hue as soon as it hit my taste buds. “Don’t you dare spit that out, Patricia Ann,” a passerby would inevitably chirp as I gulped it down.
It wasn’t until I was grown with a family of my own that I happened to mention to Grandma her famous Sea Foam Salad. I can’t remember what was said other than her air of “Oh, that old thing?”
I instantly recalled all those festive Christmas Eves sitting at the kid’s table in her kitchen surrounded by my cousins as we each took a bite, one by one. We did it for Grandma, as we were convinced this was the source of her greatest Christmas joy. It turned out not to be her favorite either. She picked up the recipe at some point and thought everyone liked it so much that she just had to keep on making it. Funny thing—Dad was on the top of her list as to who would be most disappointed if ever there was a Christmas Eve without it.
I could have saved myself years of forced bites of that gelatinous mold if Grandma had clued me into her impartiality sooner, but one very wise lesson would have been missed. Turns out, you can tell a lot about a family by what they’re willing to go through for each other, and it seems the Weigel family is as thick as Grandma’s sea foam green jell-o mold.
WATCH: Nana's Lime Delight
Sea Foam Salad
1 (29-oz.) can pears
1 tablespoon unflavored gelatin
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 (3-oz) packaged Lime Jello
1 (8 oz.) packaged cream cheese
1 small container Cool Whip
Drain pears. Add water to syrup to make 1 cup liquid. Pour pear syrup into small saucepan. Add unflavored gelatin and mix. Heat to boiling. Add to Lime Jello in blender. Blend. Add pears and blend until pureed. Blend in cream cheese and mayonnaise. Chill in refrigerator until slightly congealed before folding in Cool Whip. Pour into lightly greased 6 ½ cup ring mold. Chill.
Makes 10 – 12 servings.