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I just finished Lily Koppel's fascinating book about the wives of the original astronauts, The Astronauts Wives Club, and really enjoyed it. I was just born when John Glenn made his historic flight orbiting the earth and my mom wrote about that in my baby book, in the section "Things in the News".
I remember as a child watching Walter Cronkite on TV reporting on all of the flights, and vividly recall all of us sitting around the TV watching Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walking on the moon. It was so exciting and hard to put it in perspective as a seven-year-old, but I knew that all of the adults around me were mesmerized.
Koppel's book puts you right in the living rooms of the wives of these brave men, and the women's bravery was no less important. They waited and watched with America, hoping and praying that their husbands came home safely, all this while reporters were camped out on their lawns and a Life magazine reporter was embedded in their homes. As Koppel succinctly states, they were the first TV reality stars, way before the Osbournes and Kardashians, only they were actually doing something valuable for society.
The wives got together at the homes of the astronauts in space to support the families, and of course they brought food.
The Astrowives learned that they needed to comfort each other during the agonizing minutes, hours, and days they had to be home for their husbands' safe return to Earth. They brought potluck spreads- Jell-O molds, casseroles, frosted cupcakes stuck with little American flags, lasagna, deviled eggs, pigs in blankets, strawberry angel cake, marshmallow brownies, and homemade "Moon Cake", a coconut cream pie topped with meringue swirled to look like the lunar surface."Reading that brought me back to the family gatherings, usually at my Great Aunt Jean and Great Uncle Bob's big house, where we all celebrated graduations, had bridal and baby showers or just a family picnic. Everybody brought something, and we had tossed salad, potato and macaroni salad, corn on the cob, burgers and hot dogs and of course, Jell-O salad.
This recipe is one that in my family we call "Nancy and Cindy's Orange Jello Stuff", which is something you will see at every bridal and baby shower, and named after the creators my Mom, Nancy, and Aunt Cindy.
Nancy's and Cindy's Orange Jello Stuff
3 oz. package of Jello Vanilla Cook and Serve pudding (NOT instant)
3 oz. package Orange Jello
3 oz. package tapioca pudding (NOT instant)
3 cups boiling water
8 oz. Cool Whip
Directions: Put vanilla pudding, orange Jello and tapioca pudding in a large bowl. Add boiling water and stir until completely dissolved ( about two minutes). Cool completely in refrigerator, about a hour but don't let it set. Fold in Cool Whip, stirring gently. Refrigerate until salad is set, about two more hours.
I'm sure if you found your old copy of The Betty Crocker Cookbook, you know the one I mean, the one with the red cover, you would find this and dozens of other similar Jello recipes. Do you have a favorite Jello salad recipe from your childhood? Let me know in comments.
The Astronauts Wives Club website is here.