The Tuna Delight Salad Mold (see the full recipe) is a two-layer gelatine-loaf consisting of a salty tuna layer (with egg, peppers, worchestershire sauce, mayo, etc) and a sweet jello layer (with pineapple and cucumber). This was one of those recipes so strange, it is not only readily aparrent why it never made it beyond the 50's, but my curiosity would not rest until I had actually made and tried it.
Now the first thing most people say when they look a the list of ingredients is: "What the hell was wrong with people in the 50's?" This is something I've been puzzling over: did the notion of mixing tuna and jello not raise any eyebrows back then? Were they so caught up in the thrill of modern living that they saw this recipe and said "Golly! I can't wait until Gladys and Bill come over for bridge and get a load of this humdinger!" I mean, look how happy that little 50's illustration woman looks as she prepares to inflict this modern marvel on her family and friends! It's even described in the book as "Food for the gods on a summer Sunday night!" Unfortunately, however, most of my friends are mortals.
I invited my cousin Blake and friends Micki and Jee over for dinner to try the recipe out on them. Knowing that this dish would be a hard sell, I tried to sneak it in as a side with an otherwise normal dinner. The recipe called for a lot of ingredients and was fairly time-consuming to execute, but I managed to make it without much complication. The reactions to the dish, however, were interesting. As soon as I unmolded it and started sawing through the jiggling mass with a knife, Blake ran out of the room in horror, looking like he was going to vomit. Micki consented to try "just a taste." He put a forkful of the tuna half into his mouth, started waving his arms around frantically, ran to spit it in the garbage and shouted "OH MY GOD THAT'S DISGUSTING!" Everyone else politely declined to sample.
Being the bold researcher that I am, I ate a big chunk of it and this is what I thought: It's really not THAT bad. I mean, it's probably not something I would ever make again, but it was interesting. The juxtaposition of sweet and salty was not particularly gross and kind of interesting, sort of like when you mix cranberry sauce and mayo on a turkey sandwich. Texturally, the bottom half was kind of like a gelatinous, tuna-y meringue and that's probably what grossed out Micki so much. It doesn't taste particularly awful, but it doesn't taste particularly great, either. I did like, however, how the fresh veggies kind of tied the whole thing together. I was surprised by how good cucumbers in Lime Jello actually is. I ate all of the top part, but ended up throwing half of the bottom part away.
I suppose if I had to try to adapt this recipe into something actually servable to contemporary diners, I would nix the whole tuna part and just do a jello mold with pineapple and cucumber.