Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Fun Finds: The New Joys of Jell-O

Now don't be confused. Forget about all the previous joys you have known concerning Jell-O. These are the NEW joys of Jell-O! During another one of my endless trawlings through vintage bookstores and the like, I came upon this 1975 edition of a 1973 recipe book for the princely sum of $0.29! Of course, I had to have it and, of course, now I share just a few of its contents with you!

I have something of an aversion to Jell-O. I will eat it, usually with a squirt of whipped cream on top, but generally I avoid it and can't understand its appeal. It might have to do with going with my grandparents to Morrison's Cafeteria and seeing squares of it, with petrified whipped cream lying atop, covered in plastic and sitting there unwanted next to the various pies and cakes being offered. Adding fruit inside it seems even more strange to me. As Sophia Petrillo once said on The Golden Girls, "If God would have wanted peaches suspended in mid-air, he woulda filled 'em wit helium!"

The actual recipes are not really the point here, but it's the series of photos found dotted within. It's a delightful time capsule of the delirious early-'70s trends in clothing and decor. One thing I found interesting in this shot (aside from the little girl licking her hands!) is the fact that the two older kids are half done with their own parfaits as mom is entering the room with Dad's and hers!  Manners......! But since they were given wholesome milk to go with their concoctions, I'm sure they at least turned out healthy in the end.

Get a load of the outfit on this lady! Her husband is all blah brown and taupe, but she is color and pattern coordinated to match the physics-defying dessert she's brought. I assume this was a key party, in which wives drew sets of car keys out of a big brandy snifter and went home for the night with whichever husband the set of keys belonged to?  LOL  Suburban scintillation.

Wowza! Look at this far-out get-together.  Interesting that every dessert on the table involves Jell-O. You know you've seen it happen so many times, right?  The creations are so amazing on their own that no one has even bothered to pour coffee into those fun see-through cups on the left. Take note of the walk our terrace that these loft owners have in their home!

You know, I'm down with pudding-based pies in a crust, such as banana cream, chocolate, lemon and so on, but I really cannot say that I would enjoy Jell-O in a crust! It just seems icky for some reason. Can you imagine the work that went into arranging the bits of fruit in these little tarts just so?!  Jell-O take the wheel.

Gawd... I just cannot imagine heading to the dessert table and finding these things. The strawberry pie seems like it might be all right, but the other conglomerations make me almost gag. I wouldn't be likely to enjoy any of these items very much, but I can honestly say that the one on the far left atop the cake stand might actually make me vomit if I had to ingest it. Is that CORN in it??

Nope... still can't do even this one, which has been diced into cubes and arranged with avocado and lettuce. What's with the charred rolls, too? Were they warmed up in a brick pizza oven or something?!

This hideous concoction being served for lunch would cause me to hit the nearest Wendy's (or anyplace!) immediately after. Don't neglect to check out the interesting rolled napkins and how each person has his or her own pat of butter on the bread plate (for the strangely labian muffins! Were we at Georgia O'Keefe's house?)

Now we come to a section on low-cal creations. Frankly, I'd already have been on a diet had I been served most of the dishes on the previous pages! The loaf featured in this photograph has hard-boiled EGGS in it! No. There just is no way possible I could eat that (but I don't even eat eggs like that without the gelatinous encasement...)

Woe is me the day I attend a wedding and am greeted with Jell-O salmon salad or Jell-O tangy cheese salad! Thank goodness they have champagne (and I guess I could pilfer some of the apple or pineapple slices that are garnishing that football-shaped thing in the foreground!

Perhaps I'm a kid at heart because I could probably choke down the things shown here in the children's section!

Well, the caption is right for this segment. I definitely "never thought of" the items depicted here! Jell-O on crackers!!! Candied orange peel!!!! Looks sorta like strings of beets, broccoli and carrots (or Cheetos!)

I thought I should at least show one two-page spread of recipes from this 128 page volume. These were among the most putrescent combinations I could locate upon a brief glance through. My apologies if any of this food actually sounds appealing or appetizing to any of you!

Rooting around the Internet for more Jell-O information, I stumbled upon this old ad for a new flavor they used to offer, Apple. Perhaps Apple Jell-O wouldn't be the worst thing I ever tasted, but the photo for the promotion shows OLIVES in the mold!!  Gaack!

I also came across some ads for Jell-O gelatin and Jell-O pudding prior to Bill Cosby's famous association with the brand and, presumably, prior to them being offered in "sugar free" variations, for Kate Smith was the face of the brand during the 1940s! Here, she refers to Jell-O pudding thusly, "You know, these made-from-milk desserts do a lot to bolster up today's slimmer meals." Then her supper tray is shown with a massive bowl of chocolate pudding on it!

In this ad, she has a wartime message for readers about the horrors of wasting food. (I'm sorta doubting that the rather hefty Miss Smith tossed too much out or had to scrape her plate with much frequency.) And remember, "There's always room for Jell-O!"

Next we see more horrific recipes (Tomato Aspic, Jellied Vegetable Entree or Prune Whip, anyone?!) The tomato creation calls for "Cola" flavored Jell-O, another one whose time has long since gone. Smith's disembodied head sings the praises of the product at the bottom of the ad. These types of yuck-factor dishes, by the way, are a mainstay of The Kitsch Bitsch if you happen to be a Facebook user.

In this one, we get an artist's rendering of Kate Smith as a child as she remembers the pudding her grandmother made (since equaled or even outdone by today's Jell-O, of course.) One of the recipes shown calls for a layer of Jell-O chocolate pudding topped with one or two tablespoons of heavy cream (!) and then more pudding. Another suggests putting walnuts and dates into the butterscotch pudding.

This final ad, the one with the biggest and best photo of Miss Smith, announces that "Cola flavor not yet available West of the Rockies"!! If you are unfamiliar with Kate Smith, might I recommend that you pay a call on the fabulous website The Redundant Variety Hour and check out her festive and fun latter-day rendition of "It's Today" from the Broadway show "Mame." It's a camp delight, but I warn you that you may find yourself addicted to the array of performers on hand there and get stuck for a while. I'll be back soon with more hooty fun, but for now just nibble on the Jell-O creation of your own choosing...


Knuckles Girlyskirt said...

I'm going to a Valentine themed party this Saturday, where everyone has to bring some red food.

So, this morning, I decided one of the things I would bring would be cherry Jell-O. I went to the store and purchased it for the first time in I-don't-know-how-many years!

This afternoon, I open your blog and POW!!!! Once again, it's like you're inside my head!

Psychic connection???...or just another example of great minds thinking alike???

Anonymous said...

Jell-O was always dessert at home, but I vaguely remember having some salmon (or tuna?) aspic at a party; can't remember if I liked it or not (chances are I didn't).
Love the retro look of the boxes.


A said...

Great post. I do have a question, though: Where does jello come from?

Love Kate Smith, and love the TRVH!

Dave in Alamitos Beach said...

I grew up on the fringes of The Jell-O Curtain (Utah). Those folks go crazy for their jello. I remember being at a big church function and being excited about the green jello dessert covered in whipped cream. I took a bite and it was lime jello covered in mayonnaise. Revolting!

My Mom used to make it with celery and carrots until we all begged her to stop. Maybe it was a WW2 thing or something? We finally got her to just use canned fruit salad which was delicious in comparison.

PS Jell-O take the wheel made me laugh out loud.

EricSwede said...

Great post. To answer the earlier question-Jello contains gelatin which comes from "an animal product rendered from the hides and bones of animals, typically pork skins, pork, horses & cattle bones, and split cattle hides" but not cow or horse hooves, which was the story when I was a kid-they don't contain animal collagen.

Poseidon3 said...

Knuckles, that has happened more than once, hasn't it?? One of us should be scared... LOL Maybe our cyber-friendship is just gelling...

Armando, I was such a picky child (and am only marginally better now), so I can't grasp the idea of trying salmon in aspic! Wow...

A, I'm glad you enjoyed this. And another poster was kind enough to answer your question!

Dave, you poor darling! How amazing about all the Jell-O. And "I" laughed out loud about "The Jell-O Curtain!" Imagine Julie Andrews saying it the way she does in "Torn Curtain" with Paul Newman, "But that's behind The Jell-O Curtain...!"

Eric, I'm not sure whether to thank you or stone you for digging up the origins of gelatin!!! I may have to think twice about having that in the future, though I am far from vegetarian. It just sounds hideous! (Though knowing where plain gelatin comes from somehow makes some of the savory recipes seem less weird than they initially did.) I think the biggest surprise for me is finding out that, by nature, gelatin and Jell-O would then not be considered vegetarian/vegan food, right? That's rather shocking for some reason. I always thought the stuff was somehow vegetable based and that it could be an option for those who choose to follow that eating course.

I'm happy that y'all enjoyed this comparatively brief post! Cheers!

Gingerguy said...

Wow, old favorites in a gay new dress! I sometimes collect dessert cookbooks and they always have amazing creations. The tomato aspic thing I have seen before for "Ladies lunches" and also the vile combo of vegetables. I guess the vinegar makes it taste like lunch food and not dessert? Awesome to find out it isn't made from hooves, but I will keep telling people it is. I thought I was the only one who thought about this stuff!

Dave in Alamitos Beach said...

I had a nasty reaction to the recipes Poseidon included too. I think it's that you don't expect all those savory ingredients to go with bright green lime jello. It probably looks vomitous, no?

Dave in Alamitos Beach said...

Oh, and the love of Jello in Utah is fairly well known:


That doesn't make it taste any better though!

NotFelixUnger said...

I love Jell-O. Strawberry-banana is my favorite flavor.

But, like most, salty-gelatin does not do it for me. While studying French cuisine the first thing I ever made was Ouefs en gelee, aka eggs in aspic. After trying it I turned my back and never looked back.

"vomitous" says it for me also.

Oh, for the veggie-minded, Irish sea-moss is a handy substitute when a recipe calls for Jell-O or gelatin.

DevilYouKnow said...

Oh, Dave...lime Jell-O covered in mayonnaise?!? Carrots and celery in Jell-O?!? You poor dear, it's a wonder you can even be in the same room with Jell-O!

To me, Jell-O is one of those foods that is good in theory but never quite translates into deliciousness but I keep trying it anyway. Like Cream of Wheat. In Jell-O's case, I know it's the colors and the molds that convince me that it will be tasty and not some weird, slimy concoction someone threw together.

I do love, love, love these retro recipes. Some of the best (read: bizarre) ones are found are in old magazines. I have a few Life magazines from the 50s/60s with recipes that will make you vomitious just reading them - mock apple pie made with cream of tartar with a Ritz cracker crust, hot Dr. Pepper with lemon (probably not terrible but boiling Dr. Pepper seem sacrilegious somehow), scrambled eggs with Campbell's cream of mushroom/cream of celery soup mixed in and more weird ways to serve V8 than you shake a stick at.

Poseidon3 said...

I'm really enjoying all the funny/recollective comments on this post. Who knew that a post about Jell-O would jiggle everyone loose?!

Gingerguy, I wish I would make even a 20th of the recipes I think I will whenever I read any sort of cookbook. I tend to gravitate to one or two in a book and make those again and again!! (Oh, and Wikipedia has a graph on gelatin that shows Pig Skin, Bovine Hides, Bones and then 1% "Other" so you may still be right!!)

Thanks for the link, Dave! Utah is interesting. They like things their own way (like fry sauce!) and some of it doesn't verge beyond the border (curtain?)

NotFelix... eggs in aspic! Aacck! I truly do appreciate you suggesting Irish Moss for our vegetarian friends, but "handy?" Well.. I wouldn't want to have to dart into Quickie Mart and ask for that in a pinch! ;-)

DevilYouKnow, that FB site I mentioned has people who recreate those ghastly Jell-O concoctions from time to time and they post them there for all to see. Amazing... But I personally recall Ritz "Mock Apple Pie" and a grade school teacher made it for us all once! (No memory of how it tasted, but I'm sure I didn't love it because my grandma made homemade apple pie with lard crust that was TO DIE FOR, so I'm sure I was spoiled.) Ritz used to offer that recipe on the back of their crackers for years and years!

Dave in Alamitos Beach said...

In my family's defense, my oldest sister was put in charge of the jello once. We got cranberry/orange flavor (it sounds awful, but it was an improvement). My sis managed to come up with a way to blend Cool Whip into the jello without having it all break apart into a wet goo. It was kinda delicious at the time.

Of course I don't think there was a single natural ingredient in that dessert other than water.

No wonder Julia Child was such a hit when she came on the TV (and in books) with real food and real ingredients.

Of course, none of my friends or family could be bothered with that kind of stuff. Better living through chemistry and all that.

DevilYouKnow said...

Oh, Poseidon! You've tried the fabled Ritz mock apple pie? I'm jealous and impressed by your bravery! I'm very tempted to make it but Ritz give me wicked heartburn and I just can't reconcile myself to making something with cream of tartar. I'm sure cream of tartar isn't as disgusting as it sounds (I believe my mom made a cake or something with it at some point in the 80s and I didn't complain), but I just can't bring my mind around to it. And lard pie crusts!?! To die for!

Dave, my mom used to make a "fruit salad" with strawberry Jell-O, Dream Whip and fruit cocktail (in extra heavy syrup!). Aside from the nasty pears and slimy grapes, it was good. It ruined me for future fruit salads though. I was always perplexed that actual fruit salads were a mixture of fresh fruit and not a pink, sludgy mixture with canned fruit cocktail peeking out.

Poseidon3 said...

Now that y'all have dredged up so many Jell-O memories, I seem to recall a "salad" that my grandma made that wasn't bad. It was some conglomeration of lime Jell-O, Cool Whip, mini-marshmallows, pineapple chunks and maybe some diced walnuts? It's still something that I would eat because it was there, never MAKE!

Devil, cream of tartar is a wine by-product, so it can't be all bad! LOL Probably sounds worse than it is, though I know I have never purchased any.

DevilYouKnow said...

Sounds like your grandma made a variation of what is called a "Heavenly Hash Fruit Salad".

And you're right about cream of tartar. I finally looked it up the name derives from tartaric acid. It still sounds like something a dentist would use or yell at you for having.