Jell-O: A Biography - The History and Mystery of America's Most Famous Dessert
3 journalers for this copy...
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!
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.
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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.
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