By Diane Ako
Firstly, let me say I cannot believe I spent a Friday night researching the history of savory Jell-o cuisine in America. But, Husband is ill and Kid is at her grandparents' for the night, so I'm home with some rare time on my hands. Since I became a mom, I can count on one hand all the instances in which I've had time to kill. It's so refreshing and yet so foreign to me now!
When I was growing up in the 70's, my mom made a lot of Jell-o. My favorite gelatin treat was rainbow jello. I nagged her all the time to make it.
Probably sometime in high school or college, she stopped making it, and I stopped loving Jell-o. It just became a not-cool thing to eat, especially when I had a choice of ice cream, cake, or some other more fattening dessert. Pretty soon, I forgot all about her well-loved layered Jell-o. I wouldn't even feel like eating Jell-o served at parties.
Since I became a mother, I've been reconnecting with the simple pleasures of youth. I've blogged before on my desire to make fancy cakes, or food shaped like animals. Recently, I became reacquainted with Jell-o, and I remembered how much I liked it. One weekend, I let Olivia help me make a box of it.
We had a good time making and eating that, and that's when I remembered the rainbow jello. I mentioned it to Super Neighbor Vicki that I wanted a recipe for that. Before I even had a chance to ask my mom, Vicki had dug up some old recipe books and brought them over.
One is from 1977. The other is undated, but it may be even older. It sells recipe books for just 25 cents+any 6 fruit illustrations from Jell-o packages, if that gives you any idea. With the advent of the internet, I forgot companies actually used to sell recipe books via the postal service.
As Olivia and I sat down to look at the books and ooh and aah over the "silly" and "funny" pictures, while picking out which to make, I came across a startling section: savory jello recipes. There are recipes for Vegetables in Sour Cream, Cauliflower Radish Salad, Tangy Cabbage Salad, and the like. In one photo, shrimp are placed atop.
I am kind of grossed out. I always think of Jell-o as a sweet dessert. "That was a big thing in the Midwest in the 60's," posits my friend Jen, knower of most all things, particularly anything food-related.
Is this so? I couldn't find much on a cursory search, but I can accept Jen's answer as the probable truth. She is, you know, super smart.
I will tell you that I was surprised:
-to remember that gelatin is a protein produced from collagen extracted from the boiled bones, connective tissues, and intestines of animals;
-to learn that Green Jell-O was declared the "Official State Snack" of Utah;
-to read that a bowl of wiggly Jell-O has brain waves identical to those of adult men and women. That would explain the behavior of some people I've encountered before...
I also came across a very cool website dedicated to Jell-o, which makes the gelatin dessert pretty trendy-seeming: http://jellomoldmistress.com/
I still look forward to making my rainbow Jell-o - and now, some gelatin-suspended fruit cups!
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