One of our younger cooks was taking inventory of the dry storage area in our kitchen, and walked over to me at one point carrying a jar. "What's this mint jelly stuff for, chef?" That jar had been sitting there for quite the time. We'd had one before, then gloriously chucked it in the can one day... and there was much rejoicing. Soon afterwards, another one somehow appeared there. It sat there for another long extended period of time in an old fish box mixed with some other miscellaneous pantry items. Now, it begged to be seen again, but only so to raise my awareness of its long obscurity.
It occurred to me that it had been at least 3 years (or more) since I could recall anyone requesting a ramekin of that nasty stuff to accompany their order of lamb chops. Those cooks working in free-standing restaurants may not be aware of this (and in fact a whole new generation of cooks may be spared this bit of culinary digression), but there was once a time when almost everyone who ordered lamb... and this is regardless to the preparation or ethnic flavor combinations... asked for some damned mint jelly to spread all over it. This usually caused the chef to cringe in disgust... partly due to the nastiness of that sweet crap and also because it was a slap in the face to the preparation that the chef had created which probably did not compensate for a quarter cup of mint jelly smeared on top a la minute. For some reason, I have been exposed to this phenomenon many many times in my career, and I whole-heartedly believe that it's because hotel restaurants attract a great deal more of these by-gone diners than the hip cool restaurant in the Design District. Plus, a few years back it was difficult to find a hotel that didn't have an executive committee comprised of more than a handful of these older guys hooked on the jelly. Times are a changing.
Now, I am well aware that there was once a classic 'mint sauce' that was traditionally served with lamb... like all the freakin' time. The strange thing is how this mint-flavored green food-colored apple jelly substance was deemed the appropriate and necessary topping to all things lamb in this world, and was allowed to shadow out it's original self. It's like ordering a steak of A5 wagyu and spreading Heinz ketchup all over it... no wait, it's actually far worse than that.
Some spontaneous internet hopping reveals some interesting aspects of lamb's place in our culinary history. Why isn't lamb popular here as it is in the slightly-more eastern portion of the globe. If we're so entranced with such things as blasting a royal wedding over every channel, paper, and internet site then why don't we eat the lamb as well? (Yes, people here do eat and enjoy lamb, but it never shows up on the school lunch menu or on the McDonald's marquis as a lamb-burger... or is that all just kangaroo meat anyway?). We're talking mainstream here. It seems this break is the result of all or some of three factors: 1) in the 1800's cattle ranchers often used violent means to protect their grazing grounds against sheep herders to much success 2) American servicemen returning from those World Wars had more than their fill on the cheap flavorless dry mutton that was fed to them in Europe and placed a moratorium on the meat in their homes once they returned 3) the cattle lobby for the beef industry is very very powerful and has done a great job at making beef "What's for Dinner."
Whatever the reasons, lamb is not so taboo anymore (except for my wife who will not eat it because her Taiwanese mother warned her that women should never eat it). Thank God that mint jelly did not hitch an unwanted ride along the woolen coat-tails of lamb's resurgence. Good-bye mint jelly. You really do suck. Perhaps you quietly dissappeared while we weren't looking. Maybe as pork bellies were on the rise and veal chops started vanishing from every menu in the United States, you slipped away undetected... without so much as a slimy neo-green trail. You did it without hoopla and fanfare and I'm glad you at least had the respect to spare us a second coming.