We Need to Talk About Gelatin Dishes.

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.

  1. 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.
Coke salad…less disgusting than the other examples.

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.

Photo courtesy of Webcooltips

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.

“Candle Salad” my ass.

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.

…you can put anything into gelatin salad!? NO.

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.

Oh yeah!

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.


I start every day vowing to become healthier and end every day by zeroing out my fridge.
That's the kind of self-sabotage that forms the core of my being.
You know what I'm good at, though? Spinning words into a magical skein that envelopes you in success. Let's talk about that first, and if snacks end up happening, so be it.

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  1. Sue Ellen Novak says:

    Your Mosa was given to you from Nanny and planted by your Mom. And, the only Aspic I ever heard was Tomato Aspic. Coke salad was comprised of 1 box of black Cherry jello mix, black cherries, chopped pecan, crushed pineapple, and 1 cup of coke

  2. Very interesting and entertaining! I might need to come up with a new Jell-O “salad” perhaps with Coors light and crawfish?

    1. I think that’s an excellent idea!

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