Tennessee Mountain Stories

Silly, Wiggly Jell-O

Is fruit flavored gelatin part of your childhood memories?  It certainly is in mine.  My Grandma always had a box on hand and she used it in all kinds of recipes.  But I find I never make it myself until the marketing department at Royal Gelatin cleverly added Spiderman’s image to the box.  You guessed it, my son spotted that right away and I couldn’t think of a good reason to say no that time.

Well as I mixed up the sweet blue stuff I remembered learning to make gelatin with Grandma and always finding a red or orange bowl in the refrigerator.  Images of the bowl of Jell-o on the table beside a plain cake and whipped topping surfaced. I never really cared for Jell-o on my cake but Grandma thought it was a great combination.

I assumed the popularity of gelatin was relatively recent since it does require refrigeration to set-up.  Imagine my surprise when Wikipedia reported that “the first use of gelatin in foods is attributed to Medevial Britains”.    It was even once considered something of a health-food for its high protein content.  Now, the box I mixed up this week shows only 1 gram of protein, but I suppose the kind they made from boiled cattle hooves would be significantly higher.

As early as 1845 dried gelatin was exported from Scotland to the United States.  Now gelatin is used to produce not just the instant dessert from my childhood but a host of other foods from marshmallows to yogurts, gummy candies and ice cream.

It didn’t take long for America’s sweet tooth to create the fruity dessert we are accustomed to.  In 1895 Pearl B. Waitand his wife May began experimenting with adding fruit juices to gelatin.  They would name it Jell-O.

The company’s slogans through the years are part of our American jargon and we all know you “can’t be a kid without it.”  Aren’t you glad “there’s always room for Jell-O!”