Saturday, March 6, 2010
My 5th grade class was so enormous that we actually had two teachers, Mrs. Reed and Mrs. Black. There was another, smaller class also, with one lone teacher, but, as my older sister had told me years before, the lucky kids got Reed & Black. There were reasons for this.
First was the issue of sheer entertainment value. Mrs. Reed was a short, voluptuous redhead who loved to experiment with hairstyles and crazy outfits and gaudy make-up. We kids would arrive every morning, having no idea what kind of glitter-bombed treat was in store for us. Mrs. Reed would prance into class like some exotic bird, and our jaws would drop, awestruck. It was like La Cage Aux Folles, without the gays.
The second reason for the superiority of Reed & Black was the fact that both women were, in fact, incredibly nice human beings. They weren't yellers and they laughed easily and liked to have a little fun, which isn't a common trait in teachers of the 5th grade.
But the most compelling virtue of that classroom was that both teachers loved to eat. And they encouraged festivity. Every two months, the class of Reed & Black would have a group pow-wow. The important topic at hand? What to serve for Theme Lunch.
Theme Lunches were hoo-boy fun; we'd pick a theme, like Mexico Day or Italy Day or Barbecue Day and run with it. We'd decorate the room accordingly and enjoy a potluck lunch in keeping with the theme. Every two months, after we'd decided on a theme, letters went home, asking parents for contributions to the meal.
I don't think this kind of parent participation would fly nowadays, but in the late 70's, parents were game. Everyone, from tall to small, thought Theme Lunches were the bee's knees; I never heard anyone complain.
Every time Theme Lunches rolled around, Mrs. Reed would call me up to her desk a few days prior.
She'd smile her fuschia-lipped smile and bat her glittery eyelashes and pat her teased, bouffant bun, and say, "Sweetie? Would you please ask your Mama if she'd make those Jell-o squares? You know how much I love them."
Which made me pleased as punch. I was the only kid who got requests. And, let's face it, Mama's Jell-o Squares were rockin'. They didn't fall apart, or wobble precariously, or melt...even when packed in a Springtime lunchbox. They had a toothsome texture and were a staple around my house growing up.
In fact, Mama's Jell-o Squares were so popular that, when I had them in my lunch, kids would offer to trade me Chee-tos for them. Yeah. I know.
That whole 5th grade year, I was Mrs. Reed's Jell-o Square Pimp. I'd bring them to Theme Lunches and she'd shake her plump little rear in excitement. When the school year was almost finished, I was beckoned to her desk again.
"Sweetie," she said, batting her 4th of July eyes, "would your Mama part with that Jell-o square recipe? I'll just be so sad without them when you're gone."
The next day I came, recipe in hand. God forbid a girl deprive such a magnificent creature of her Crack Snack.
Mama's Jell-o Squares
5 tablespoons Knox gelatin
2 1/2 cups cold water
2 cups cold water
4 (3-oz) packages Jell-o
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup clear juice, such as white grape
Sprinkle gelatin over 2 1/2 cups cold water. Let dissolve.
Mix 2 cups cold water, packaged Jell-o and sugar in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Remove from heat and add softened gelatin and juice. Mix well.
Pour into a 9x13 inch pan and refrigerate overnight. Cut into blocks.
Posted by TKW at 7:15 PM