Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Don't trifle with my dessert - Laura Ashwood

I'll never forget the first time I met my mother in law. It was Thanksgiving and my husband (then fiance) was bringing me to the family meal. It was the first time I would meet his parents and his family. His mother assured me that I didn't need to bring anything, but my North Dakota German background insisted that I did. So, she told me I could bring Jell-O.

I spent the next two weeks searching for the "perfect" Jell-O dessert recipe and finally found one that would be guaranteed to impress. I showed it to my husband, whose only comment was, "Don't you think that's a bit much?"

The answer to that, as you may have figured out, was a resounding no.

Early in the morning, the day before the big meal, I began working on my masterpiece. Seven layers of Jell-O and fruit with creamy whipped topping. I would surely make a big impression on his family.

Unfortunately, this was long before taking pictures of food was cool, so I don't have photo proof (which is probably a good thing) of the dessert, but the photo here is just a small representation of what it actually was.

Picture a large, clear glass trifle bowl. FULL TO THE TOP with layered Jell-O in seven different colors/flavors. The layers were perfection, the topping creamy and glorious.  I think it weighed close to 10 pounds.

I'll never forget the look on her face when I presented her with my creation, or the long pause while she tried to find something nice to say. I think it was something along the lines of, "Oh my, isn't that...colorful." But, she set it on the food table in its proper place at the end with the bars I later found out she'd made as back up.

To make a long story, short - I took a nearly untouched, almost completely full trifle bowl back home with me. There were two spoonfuls taken out it. Hers and my husband's. I was mortified. I asked him about it on the way back to my house and he said it wasn't that it wasn't good, it was, it was just that they had never seen anything like it before and were not comfortable asking me because they didn't know me.

I later found out his mother had told me to bring Jell-O because "how can you mess that up?" Well, I found a way. In trying too hard to impress, I ended up creating something they were afraid to try. If I had stayed true to myself, instead of trying to be over the top, the end result would have been a lot less stressful.

I was lucky enough to marry into that family (so lucky) and had a very close relationship with my mother in law until she passed away in 2013. It was a running joke between us every holiday when we discussed the menu for the family meal. I volunteered every year to bring the Jell-O and she would laugh and laugh. There isn't a day that goes by that I don't miss her. But my favorite memory of her hits me hard every holiday when I make a simple bowl of Jell-O for our family.

Do you go over the top when you are trying to impress? Was there a time you had to bring a dish for an important meal and it went sideways? I'd love it if you'd share. It's all good after the fact.

Enjoy the rest of the month and I'll see you at the Cafe!

xo, Laura

P.S. If you click here, it will take you to the recipe I used that has a much more accurate photo (copyright laws being what they are, I couldn't use their image) of what the end result looked like.


  1. Thank you for sharing this heartwarming family story, Laura!

  2. I loved this, Laura. So heartwarming.

  3. Laura, thanks for sharing that story. Since my husband's family lived hundreds of miles away, I never had to bring anything for family meals. We just brought ourselves.