Jell-O: Few things have captured the Midwestern imagination like Jell-O. Its mysterious jiggling qualities, its Biblical ability to suspend fruits, and its molded shapes that reminded German immigrants of their homeland, all contributed to Jell-O becoming the base of the ever popular Jell-O salad.
My grandmother once told me that everyone in their old farming community had to have the latest Jell-O salad. It was a simpler time, when the space race between the Reds and the Uncle Sams was matched by a furious Jell-O race between Kansas homesteads. It was also a time that witnessed truly frightening innovation, which reached its pinnacle in the “Perfection Salad,” composed of lemon Jell-O, pimiento, celery, cabbage, vinegar, and sliced pineapple.
Cool Whip: Cheers of joy were heard all across the Midwest when NASA revealed that its attempt at entering the hair product market had proven unsuccessful but that its creation, Cool Whip, was tasty and went great with gelatin. It quickly became the bosom buddy of almost every Jell-O salad. And thus Cool Whip made its way onto the dinner table, because Jell-O salads are not dessert.
Mayonnaise: If one is unlucky and fresh vegetables must be prepared, mayonnaise is a sure solution to make them palatable. Considered the Cool Whip of non-Jell-O salads, it is a must in everything from the Kansas Broccoli Salad (3/4 c.) to the Kansas Cucumber Salad (1 c.). According to a scientific study, when Midwesterners view a salad bare of this white miracle condiment, they are 57% more likely to enter Mayo-rage. Few survive.
Sugar: More necessary for the vegetable salads than mayo, sugar is what truly makes these savory combinations come alive and lose their gross savory-ness. Every kind of slaw, be it Chinese or German, and each kind of salad, be it corn or Sauerkraut, by definition must contain at least ¼ cup sugar. In fact, the Midwestern word for sugar actually means “salad spice.”
Leafy Greens: Just kidding. The only truly acceptable version of a leafy green is cabbage, which can be turned into Mayo-slaw. Otherwise, all leafy greens are prohibited from joining the salad party and should be left in the garden as decoration.