And I mean, we NEED to. Because, as I found out completely by accident last night, Jell-o has a very seedy underbelly. An underbelly that they probably would have made a salad out of in the late 50s.
It started as have many things these last few weeks – with research for trivia. The topic was very broad, and very general – “food.” Just food. I could have gone a lot of directions with it. In fact, another project we’re doing, for home “school” this week, is a Little Debbie Snack Madness bracket, and so I had it in the back of my mind to talk about snack foods. But then I thought no, let’s do some vintage recipes from the 50s and 60s.
I swear I had nothing more in mind than to have a question about Jello salad molds in there – that was IT. I might have talked about little tea sandwiches, even what a big deal TV dinners were when they hit the mainstream.
As it turned out, though, the gelatin salads were a category far more widespread than they honestly had any right to be.
As a self-assigned reporter of the vintage gelatin dish movement, it is my duty to let you know what I discovered.
- Gelatin dishes weren’t afraid to get even unhealthier. Exhibit A: The Coke Salad, one that I had actually heard about and maybe even tried at any one of an assortment of potlucks or family reunions in my wild youth. From Mental Floss: This sugary confection calls for a mixture of Coca-Cola and pineapple and cherry juices to be used in place of boiling water, to activate the gelatin. The carbonation in the soda sticks around in the finished product, for a very strange take on fruit salad that seems to pop and fizz in your mouth.
2. I learned that aspic, a word I’ve heard MORE THAN ONCE, means a savory jelly made with meat stock, set in a mold and used to contain pieces of meat, seafood, or eggs. WHAT IN THE EVERLOVING HELL.
3. People played fast and loose with the word “salad.” Many of the atrocities I have uncovered were not salad, and I don’t care what weird-ass definition you may have uncovered that proves me wrong. Look at Exhibit C and come at me with that mouth afterward if you still have the salad fire stoked in your belly.
4. Jell-O execs weren’t stupid. While I’d love to believe that they weren’t behind this full-meal-in-gelatin movement, they sure jumped on the marketing bandwagon, as evidenced with this little absolutely real ad.
5. People didn’t understand what some easily-defined words meant. Case in point: the word perfection. To me, perfection means that something has achieved the pinnacle of greatness. There is no way it can get better. And yet, Perfection Salad was not only a thing, the lady that invented it won an award AND A NEW SEWING MACHINE.
Well, I’m gonna get back to writing trivia questions now, but I hope that I have filled your mind with as much wonder and revulsion as I have mine.
Tree of the day: mimosa. My mom tells me that I used to call the mimosa tree in our front yard “MY mosa.” I bet that was pretty cute when I wasn’t a sullen woman in her mid-40s. Anyway, now we have a baby in our front yard because Josh bought it because he’s cool. Also, it’s a drink.
Movie of the day: If you like Bruce Springsteen even a little and have always believed that he knows your soul, as well as the blue-collar plight and hometown blues in general, watch Blinded By The Light (2019, Hulu), a flick about a Pakistani kid who feels like he’s all alone in the world until The Boss filters in through his borrowed Walkman headphones.
Television Show of the Day: Cheers, Netflix. It’s hard to beat Cheers. It has multiple seasons, and it’s surprising how much early-80s fashion in this show looks much like current fashion. That Coach, though…he’s something special.