Jell-O: A Biography - The History and Mystery of America's Most Famous Dessert

by Carolyn Wyman | Nonfiction |
ISBN: 0156011239 Global Overview for this book
Registered by wingeponine38wing of Winchester, Massachusetts USA on 7/12/2016
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3 journalers for this copy...
Journal Entry 1 by wingeponine38wing from Winchester, Massachusetts USA on Tuesday, July 12, 2016
Another fun book by the same author as Spam (see ) which I read a few years ago. I’d almost forgotten about Jell-O. We didn’t have it too much in this house, as my mom had several hospitalizations where that was all she was allowed to eat, so she ended up hating it. I think she did sometimes make a jell-o fruit mold occasionally in the summer.

I actually like Jell-O but don’t eat it because I try to stay away from artificial flavorings. But after reading the book, I did stop by the Jell-O section in the supermarket to see what they sell these days.

Enough rambling; now to the book…

It covers everything you always wanted to know about Jell-O…and probably a lot more, from its history, past spokespersons (unfortunately, Bill Cosby was one of them), molds, Jell-O art, Jell-O wrestling, Jell-O in entertainment media,… some of the trivia here is really quite disturbing ;-). And, of course, there are several recipes, ranging from the cringe-inducing to the somewhat appealing sounding.

One of my favorite parts was the description of new immigrants being introduced to Jell-O for the first time at Ellis Island. What must they have thought? Then again, aspic dishes were popular in some parts of Europe…but they probably weren't fruit flavored or quite as jiggly.

I enjoyed the alternate names for Jell-O, such as “Shivering Liz”, “Shimmy”, or my favorite, “Nervous Pudding”. And as for its real name, please don’t spell it “jello”!

The General Foods factory where Jell-O was made (1964 – 2014) was in the next town over. I do remember the very unpleasant smell emanating from the plant as you passed close to it on Interstate 93. The book (published in 2001) mentions, “Today [the gelatin] all comes from General Foods’ own suburban Boston Atlantic Gelatin plant, which is indirectly responsible for that Nancy Kerrigan-Tonya Harding knee-knocking incident (since Kerrigan’s ice-skating lessons were partially funded by her father’s Atlantic Gelatin welding job) and more directly responsible for certain not-so-sweet smells that have been the subject of numerous citizen complaints and local newspaper stories.” It goes on to say, “Without gelatin, Jell-O would merely be Kool-Aid.” Can’t argue with that!

With lots of short texts and numerous sidebars, the book is perfect for reading in small chunks. It’s a lot of fun!

Journal Entry 2 by wingeponine38wing at Winchester, Massachusetts USA on Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Released 2 yrs ago (7/13/2016 UTC) at Winchester, Massachusetts USA


Journal Entry 3 by wing6of8wing at Silver Spring, Maryland USA on Sunday, July 31, 2016
I grew up in a state and culture (Utah Mormon) where Jello is a staple. At one time, Utah consumed more Jello per capita than any other US state, by a good margin. Even now, I am sure it is near the top. At my home for holiday dinners, the rules for the extended family were that you had to bring a dish in addition to your Jello recipe, and you had to make your usual recipe to avoid duplication of variants among attendees. I'm not sure if reading this book would elicit nostalgia or mild PTSD flashbacks to family dinners. ;)

This book was in the book box when I opened it up tonight. I am taking the contents of the box to meet-up tomorrow because some of the locals have expressed an interest. After that, we shall see what happens.

Journal Entry 4 by wing6of8wing at -- Mail or by hand-rings, RABCK, meetings, Maryland USA on Friday, January 20, 2017

Released 1 yr ago (1/20/2017 UTC) at -- Mail or by hand-rings, RABCK, meetings, Maryland USA


This book is in the Biography of Things BookBox and is off to travel the country.

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Journal Entry 5 by wingGoryDetailswing at Nashua, New Hampshire USA on Sunday, February 26, 2017
I enjoyed Wyman's Spam, and thought I'd give this book a try - though I admit I always looked at my Mom's attempts at Jell-O salad with embedded carrots and raisins as Not A Good Idea! [For some really high-end molded-gelatin dishes, check out Jellymongers.]

Later: Quite informative and a lot of fun - with plenty of sparks of nostalgia. The 1902 recipe for a Shredded Wheat JELL-O Apple Sandwich was... interesting? And I'd never heard of Amiri Baraka's one-act play "Jello", in which he gave a rebellious rewrite to the character of Rochester, Jack Benny's much put-upon chauffeur.

One of those little nostalgic bits involved Jell-O 1,2,3, a product I dimly recall being fascinated with: it set into three distinct layers, regular Jell-O, a kind of mousse, and a kind of foam (none of them especially *good*, mind, but it was pretty and unusual). This book includes a workaround for making your own, as it does for several other out-of-production Jell-O "models".

In the "Jell-O Art" section there's a nicely droll description of the kinds of dioramas one can make - the obvious water-based ones involving blue Jell-O, but one could venture farther afield: "for the night sky orr the aftermath of a forest fire mix orange and grape". Aftermath of a forest fire, eh? Hmmm...

I was vastly entertained to learn that Jell-O had a special issue of the "Journal of Irreproducible Results" (origin of the hilarious Ig-Nobel awards) dedicated to it, including one on "Preserving Books with Jell-O". (Don't think I'll try that, but it's very funny.)

And I was tickled to find one of my favorite purchases listed, on the page about Ken Sibley's creation of anatomically-correct molds for body-parts. The "Qwiggle-jel brain mold" is a proud possession of mine, producing a life-sized and very accurate-looking brain, especially if you use the recipe provided with the mold. I made one for a Halloween party once, putting it on a platter to present to the trick-or-treaters, and it was the talk of the neighborhood!

The book didn't *quite* make me want to dash out and get some Jell-O (though I do have a few boxes of Jell-O pudding mix in my cupboard), but it was fun to read.

Journal Entry 6 by wingGoryDetailswing at Whetstone Station in Brattleboro, Vermont USA on Sunday, February 26, 2017

Released 1 yr ago (2/26/2017 UTC) at Whetstone Station in Brattleboro, Vermont USA


I plan to leave this book in or near the Whetstone Station brew-pub this afternoon; hope the finder enjoys it!

*** Released for the 2017 Keep Them Moving release challenge. ***

*** Released for the 2017 Wine+Food release challenge. ***

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