Posted by: Erica Retrochef | May 20, 2009

Pie Plate Salad


Credit where credit’s due — the image is originally from jbcurio’s Flickr set. There’s lots of crazy old stuff in there.

Venturing back into the realms of probably-horrible, this week I decided to try Pie Plate Salad. It’s a pretty typical-looking example of vegetables put into gelatin, and also seems to strongly support the theory that gelatin was just a way to flaunt the fact that you could afford a refrigerator. Why else would you want mixed vegetables and lemon Jell-O in the same dish?


When shopping for ingredients, I was taken aback to actually find Veg-All on the shelves. I’d never heard of it before seeing the ad, proving I’m not an expert in canned mixed vegetable brand names. (Nobody’s perfect.)


Making this is only slightly harder than making plain lemon Jell-O… so, really really (not) hard. Mix water with Jell-O and pour in vegetables… and wait.

If you get something that looks like the Jolly Green Giant sneezed on your plate, you’ve done it right.


The most surprising thing about this recipe was not that it was disgusting — I fully expected that. But it wasn’t the Jell-O that was bad. It tasted… well, edible, if you concentrated on the carrots and corn. Unfortunately, the Veg-All brand of mixed vegetables doesn’t stop with just carrots and corn; it also has peas, green beans, lima beans, potatoes, and celery, and possibly a few other vegetables that are too traumatic for me to remember. And lima beans, bad enough on their own, are incredibly revolting when paired with sweet citrus slime. Don’t even get me started on the mushy celery.

And that’s something about vintage recipe advertising that I never really understood. After making Pie Plate Salad, I will never, ever, under any circumstances, buy Veg-All mixed vegetables, even if I’m shopping for a food drive. Claiming that Pie Plate Salad is a great use of your product is a quick way to convince me you’re a liar and possibly also dangerously insane — is that really the image you want your product to have?



  1. You are the bravest woman I know. You truly are.

  2. The worst part was the lima beans. I don’t especially care for them normally, but these were just awful. Unlike the other vegetables, they were rock hard, and their flavor just didn’t go with the jell-o at all. The first time I bit into one, I wanted to throw up. I thought that maybe Veg-All had changed their recipe—that they didn’t have lima beans originally—but no, there they are in the picture, leering back at me.

    Some of the other vegetables weren’t ideal either (the mushy potatoes and slimy celery, primarily), but most of them seemed fine to me. Although I would only venture to call the carrots in the jell-o good. What was worse than anything save the beans, however, was the salad dressing. The mayonnaise based dressing was simply disgusting on the gelatin! (I’m glad we were out of tartar sauce and didn’t try that.)

    However, unlike with some of our grosser recipes, we ate the whole thing. I insisted on wiping all the dressing off with a paper napkin before I finished it though.

  3. Oh dear. Thanks for sharing. I’ve always wondered about those gelatinous recipes. Also enjoyed the tomato soup cake experience. Buzz is a good sport.

  4. I know this is a very old post, but I was truly surprised that a restaurant that otherwise had good food served Veg-All as their vegetable side to me a couple of weeks ago in a restaurant.

    I ran across a 75-year-old ad for it here, including the very optimistic claim that children like it. That was just one page in the wonderful Gallery of Graphic Design.

  5. Oh my… Veg-All may be a balanced mix of vegetables, but I’d hardly call it gourmet! (Children may well like it as long as it isn’t encased in lemon jell-o…)

    Thanks for the link to that site, I love it!

  6. I actually use Veg-All in my cooking (this is as close as I get to eating my 5 servings of veg) but this is not right–vegpie?! I’ve never understood the use of gelatin except as desert. To reinforce Sea-of-Green’s comment–You truly are a brave woman.

  7. WOW! That is just sick and wrong!

  8. I’m so happy you did this! Every time I see vintage recipes for veggies-in-jello, I wonder if it’s really good. Why did they do that? And I’m not brave enough to attempt such a crazy stunt myself, so… you did and you confirmed my fears! Thanks!

  9. After showing this to my boyfriend, he informed me that his elementary school served them veg-all! (In the 90s). To quote him:”cheap crap! tastes terrible–all the vegetables fight for supremacy…”

  10. This is giving me some PTSD flashbacks to childhood in the ’70s. All pasta was called “macaroni,” and anything remotely edible could be improved by suspending it in Jell-o, as long as the color of the Jell-o matched the color of the food.

    We’ve come so far. But we’re not there yet.

  11. Veg-all is the quick way to make chicken pot pie with leftover or canned chicken or turn tomato soup into stew, but jell-o?
    I’ll stick with tomato aspic if I get the craving for gelatinous alien food.

  12. Oh, ick. Mushy canned vegetables are bad enough, but why on earth would you want to combine them with *lemon*??

    My mom makes Veg-All Casserole that everyone in my family (except for me) just loves. Heat 2 drained cans of Veg-all, a stick of butter, a jar of Cheese Whiz together and pour into an oven-proof dish. Top with crushed Ritz crackers and bake until bubbly.

  13. […] Unfassbar, was Kochbuchverlage und Rezeptschreiber damals für appetitanregend hielten – Gelatinekreationen aus Dosengemüse und Tomatensuppe, Schinken in 7-Up-Marinade, aufrecht in Kartoffelpü platzierte Knackwürstchen, Barbecue-Burger […]

  14. Emily, you are a brave woman. I am in awe.

  15. Back in olden days, before there was fruity flavored Jello, there was plain gelatin used to make aspic, a dish made with elaborate molds filled with any variety of minced food, held together with plain gelatin, then unmolded. Just watch a few episodes of Upstairs Downstairs. As time went on, Jello was invented, the plain gelatin (which had to be made from boiling bones and was labor intensive) was passe, and every housewife in the country went absolutely wild for it. Surely you must know of the thousands and thousands of molded Jello salads invented over the years! There are many tasty vegetable salads, too. (The Veg All is indeed horrible stuff, that recipe was doomed from the start). Lemon was the default binder for making them with vegetables as lemon just goes with veg moreso than strawberry or cherry. I don’t get why you think anyone was flaunting the fact they had a refrigerator. Maybe the above recipe came about in an attempt to get children to eat their vegetables, it certainly was a pretty picture in the illustration. Your finished product looks like crap.

    • I don’t get why you think anyone was flaunting the fact they had a refrigerator.

      There were a lot of influences that simultaneously contributed to the Rise of the Gelatin Salad. Powdered gelatin (and its flavored gelatin descendants) saved everyone the time of boiling animal feet. I’ve also read that it was an attempt to beautify the plate — instead of having vegetables and leaves unpredictably moving about, they were all neat and tidy in their gelatinous package. However, the refrigerator link I got from “The Old-Time Brand-Name Cookbook,” by Bunny Crumpacker (1998):

      Jell-O, and jellied food in general, became status food: You had to be able to keep it cold. That meant you had an ice box, and that was, for a while at least, a mark of status.

      The link between “molded salad” and “ha, I have a fridge” wasn’t one that lasted terribly long, since refrigerators rapidly became more and more common (at least among people who were affluent enough to afford both the occasional dinner party, and a refrigerator).

  16. […] Unfassbar, was Kochbuchverlage und Rezeptschreiber damals für appetitanregend hielten – Gelatinekreationen aus Dosengemüse und Tomatensuppe, Schinken in 7-Up-Marinade, aufrecht in Kartoffelpü platzierte Knackwürstchen (ein Schelm, der […]

  17. OMG! My mom used to make this with lime jello. She called it “Mormon Wedding Salad.” Her “Jewish” family picked it up in Utah when the army stuck them there during the 50’s. Truly a childhood trauma.

  18. […] pressured to abandon their wartime jobs, crank out babies, and make lovely concoctions out of lemon Jell-O and Veg-All.  (All of this, of course, was dependent on whiteness.) And no, not everybody subscribed to this […]

  19. […] frightening to me personally. From the same canned vegetable company that invented the revolting Pie Plate Salad I made one time: Veg-All Tuna Upside-Down […]

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