“Hello! We’re here for the aspic!”
These are words few expect to hear in modern times in the US, much less with sincere enthusiasm.
But it’s true. The moment I discovered a 2021 event called, “The Great Mistake,” I marked it on my calendar and declared to Tore that WE HAVE TO GO. True to form, he didn’t need any convincing. It is aspic, after all. We sign up for all the good events!
Then the event got postponed for an undetermined date in April 2022. I dutifully kept watch for a date to be confirmed and at long last, April 2nd was determined as the new Great Mistake aspic event.
Few things get me up early on a Saturday morning. But aspic in Paris, Texas is one of them. It’s a 1 ½ hour drive, not including stopping for lunch along the way. While we will get to sample the aspic, we won’t rely on it to fill us up for lunch.
We arrived early enough to get a good parking spot and avoid the throngs of people joining us for aspic.
The event was through the Texas Historical Commission and included representatives from 4 different State Historical Sites (SHS) : Eisenhower Birthplace SHS, Sam Bell Maxey SHS, Sam Rayburn House SHS and Starr Family Home SHS. Each representative submitted their own aspic for the competition. They paraded in to the Sam Bell Maxey House and laid out their aspic creations on a neatly set table.
The smell, the jiggle and the glistening of gelatin combined to create a masterfully offensive presentation that will haunt my senses for years. This was a DREAM COME TRUE! I had a blast!
One particular aspic stood apart from the rest. It is what you would think of when aspic comes to mind, as I’m sure it often does when you’re planning your next meal. It was neatly decorated with sliced pickles embedded on top. There was diced meat –I believe it was turkey and ham— suspended throughout the aspic. It was described as sandwich ingredients in aspic form.
We were invited to try each of the aspic creations. There were tiny little cups available to place the gelatinous goo. I quickly realized I made a tactical error. I left my flavored water in the car. Water or beverage of any kind has always been my solution for washing offensive tasting food down. I spotted crackers and used them as a substitute. Aspic will go in first then I’ll stuff an entire cracker quickly in my mouth. My taste buds won’t know the difference. (Note, this is one food experience in my life where it was ok to visibly show signs of trepidation. I believe the cooks didn’t want to try their own creations either. So there was no worry about offending anyone!)
Another tactic when eating offensive food: eat the worst first. There were two tomato aspics and a smoked salmon aspic. Those looked easy. It’s the sandwich ingredients aspic that looked the most offensive and challenging. I must try it first. (But it sure is photogenic!)
Armed with crackers, I scooped the chunks of meat suspended in gelatin in my mouth. I chewed and swallowed. I still had more in my tiny sample cup. Does it count if I don’t eat it all? Armed with more crackers I scooped and deposited the aspic in my mouth. Except this time, I couldn’t do it. I simply couldn’t chew or swallow. Mayday! Mayday! I briskly walked outside for some air.
Next, I tried the tomato aspic with stuffed green olives. I think most of the guests are anti-stuffed green olives so we maneuvered around the offensive things. This aspic wasn’t bad, it had a mild taste. Imagine a congealed cold tomato soup. This one also had the most jiggle.
The next tomato aspic looked much tamer without any meat products or vegetables suspended in the goo. But it did have quite a kick to it with the use of Worcestershire sauce.
Last was the smoked salmon. The cook admitted that technically, it’s not an aspic but was something similar from the time period. This one worried me the least, I have found smoked salmon to be consistently reliable as a food source. I was not disappointed.
Once we tried all the dishes we voted on our favorite, the best presentation, the most jiggly, etc.
When we got back to the car I gulped down as much flavored water as I could followed by Altoids. The “curiously strong” mints don’t work when it comes to aspic. We headed to historic downtown Paris in search of something else to put in my mouth and the first place we found was ice cream.
But it turns out, once you’ve been “aspiced”, it becomes part of you. My only solution was to return home to brush my teeth and use mouthwash. Then I drowned my aspic woes with a Frappuccino.
One week later I was in my kitchen and my mind reimagined the smell of aspic. For a couple seconds I was enveloped by the jiggly, non-edible, smelly, goo. Ah yes, the memories of aspic will live on!
I look forward to returning to the 2nd Annual Great Mistake event armed with water!
I purchased a recipe book at an estate sale a couple years ago that introduced me to aspic. Since that time I have been intrigued, curious and interested in making aspic (not to eat but to photograph). When this event popped up I was thrilled someone is as crazy as I am. Plus it means I don’t have to make the aspic myself. (I don’t cook).
Oddly enough, the event inspired me to cook and this week I made my first basic aspic. I’ll be garnishing it and photographing it in all its glory later this week. Stay tuned!
Last, it should be mentioned we learned why aspic exists. (I assumed it was a form of torture and people deliberately chose the worst possible combination of reject foods to place in gelatin. And most likely they didn’t like the people they were feeding!)
It was in fashion among the wealthy who could afford refrigeration. It was perceived as a cool and refreshing meal. It was a great way to extend and preserve the use of food during lean times. So the next time you have a handful of ingredients in the house, reach for the gelatin and whip up an aspic.