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Hot Stove Cooking with the Cardinals: Salad for dessert

We’ve reached the dessert course. Or maybe the salad course. It was the ‘80s. It’s hard to tell.

Whitey Herzog Shouting

Of all the chapters in Cooking With the Cardinals - the 1980s cookbook published by “the St. Louis Baseball Cardinals Wives” - none more clearly came from another era than the Salads chapter.

Leave your lettuce and assorted vegetables at home. You want to make a salad, 80s style? Get your hands on some jello, some canned fruit and maybe some marshmallows.

Today, I’ll take a look at two recipes, one from the Salad chapter and one from the Dessert chapter. Can you tell which is which?

Mary Lou Herzog’s Coke Cherry Jello

This was the first recipe that caught my eye when I opened the cookbook. Whitey Herzog’s wife and a recipe that includes Cherry Coke and Jello? It doesn’t get more 80s than that.

Whitey, of course, was the auteur of the titular Whiteyball Cardinals. Mary Lou met Whitey when they were both high schoolers in New Athens, Illinois. They were married in 1953.

Coke Cherry Jello

1 large pkg cherry Jello
1 can (#2) pineapple tidbits and juice
1 can (#2) Bing cherries and juice
14oz warm Coke
1 cup walnut pieces

Drain juice from fruits (2 cups) into pan and bring to boil. Pour over Jello in bowl; stir until Jello is dissolved. Add Coke, then pineapple, cherries and nuts. Refrigerate.

“Can be topped with Cool Whip. Very good with Mexican food.”

Holy shit is this a lot of sugar. Just to put it in context: The directions on a box of Jello instruct you to mix it with warm water. Here, you mix it with fruit juice... then add Coke. The walnuts are the only thing in this recipe that doesn’t include sugar.

Oh, and you can also add Cool Whip.

Now, here’s the thing: Sugar is delicious. Whereas modern cooking often seeks to balance flavors: Sweet, savory, bitter... this just turns the sweet up to eleven. And it’s not an unpleasant experience.

A few questions, though:

Why call this “Coke Cherry Jello” and not “Cherry Coke Jello?” Perhaps putting the words Cherry and Coke in sequence would incur the wrath of the Coca-Cola corporation.

What’s with 14 ounces of Coke? Did Coke come in some 14oz vessel in the 80s that I don’t remember? My guess is you’re supposed to crack open a 16oz bottle, take a few healthy swigs, then dump the rest in.

The “#2 Can” thing is interesting, too. To be honest, in several of the recipes I’ve shared, the authors put an amount in parenthesis that no longer corresponds with the size at which these goods are sold now. I’m sure back in the day, everybody knew what a #2 can was. I had to look at this website.

This dish was actually universally praised. But a few days later, it still sat in my fridge, with only about six spoonfuls out of it. This one was a little too sweet for my tastes, but for an 80s throwback on your picnic table in the heat of summer... you could do worse.

It’s also worth noting, we did not try it alongside Mexican food. I kind of suspect we weren’t so much talking about Mexican food here as we were about browned hamburger with a package of taco seasoning.

Natasha DeLeon’s La Fresca

Jose DeLeon was traded to the Cardinals just after the 1987 World Series season, and spent five years as a Redbird. He was really good.

DeLeon struck out more than 200 in his first two seasons, and that was back before everybody in the league struck out 20% of the time. He still ranks in the Top 10 all-time for both Hits-Per-9 and Ks-Per-9 among Cardinals pitchers.

According to Cooking With the Cardinals II, Natasha DeLeon met Jose while she was studying medicine. It appears they were divorced in 1989.

La Fresca

1 can fruit cocktail
1 can crushed pineapple
1 can sliced peaches
1 cup heavy cream (Nestle)
1 cup sour cream
1 can condensed milk
Crushed almonds for garnish

Drain all fruits well and mix together. Combine cream, sour cream and milk. Mix into fruits. Add almonds. Refrigerate for two hours before serving.

This recipe was the one unmitigated disaster of my Cooking With the Cardinals experiment. I’ll let Site Manager Emeritus Ben Humphrey describe the dish:

“The dairy taste overpowered the fruit and left behind the unwelcome aftertaste of milk on the morning after its expiration date. That taste, combined with the texture of various fruits in the dairy equivalent of a Little League concession stand suicide was gross.”

VEBer Bookowl called it just: “Mala leche.”

Now, in fairness, I do think it’s possible some of this recipe was lost in translation. For example, the Nestle heavy cream appears to refer to a shelf-stable cream that is/was sold primarily in Latin America and the Philippines. I could not track that down, though a few folks online said I could substitute fresh cream, which I did.

Perhaps some of the other dairy ingredients were also not quite right. Cream, sour cream and sweetened condensed milk? Yikes.

Any guesses which of these recipes is a salad and which is a dessert?

La Fresca, with it’s three different dairy products and three different canned fruits... is a dessert. Coke Cherry Jello, where every ingredient includes sugar, is a salad.

Several of you have said nice things in the comments, which I appreciate. I really enjoyed cooking these recipes and writing these posts. That’s all for now, but I hope to be able to cook some more in the future.