The second week in February is National Jell-O Week. For many, this will seem like a blast out of the past, as Jell-O has decreased in popularity. It has, in fact, become a bit of a joke: looking down at someone living in a trailer park, eating Jell-O, or as an old-time traditional dish to take to church potlucks, or as shorthand for hospital food. Personally, I still like Jell-O, though now I use sugar-free, and put fruit in it to make it healthier.
National Jell-O Week started in Utah when Salt Lake City students started a petition to have the state of Utah declare Jell-O the official state snack. The product itself didn’t start there, however, but in Le Roy, New York, a charming little town in the middle of the state, where the product was created in 1897 by a carpenter and cough syrup manufacturer, Pearle Bixby Wait. Two years later, he sold the rights to Jell-O for $450 to a Le Roy businessman, Orator Woodward of the Genesee Pure Food Company. The product was only marginally successful until in 1904, in a stroke of marketing genius, Woodward sent armies of salesmen into the field to distribute free Jell-O cookbooks. In less than 10 years, Jell-O was grossing $1 million a year. The brand is now owned by Kraft Foods.
Jell-O currently comes in more than 25 flavors of gelatin and 30 flavors of pudding products. Some of the more interesting discontinued flavors are: celery, coffee, root beer, Italian salad (yes, really!), mixed vegetable, maple syrup, seasoned tomato, chocolate (the gelatin, not the pudding), concord grape, and watermelon candy.
The Jell-O museum in Le Roy has a Webpage you can visit. It tells the history of the product, has a lovely selection of gifts, in case you have a Jell-O lover in your life, and offers a few recipes, including Grown-Up Cranberry Jell-O, which contains port wine.
Quotes about Jell-O
“I don’t think Kitchen makes this. What’s it called again?” “Jell-O Surprise.” Link grinned. “What’s the surprise?” Ridley examined the red gelatin more closely. “What they put in it.”–Kami Garcia
Molded salads are best served in situations where they have little or no competition … Like television, gelatin is too often a vehicle for limp leftovers that couldn’t make it anywhere else.–Peg Bracken
It’s as if we spend our entire lives avoiding Jell-O but it is always there at the end, waiting.–John Grisham
I, for one, would much rather swoon over a few thin slices of prime beefsteak, or one small serving of chocolate mousse, or a sliver of foie gras than indulge to the full on such nonentities as fat-free gelatin puddings.–Julia Child
Whoever said nothing is impossible obviously hasn’t tried nailing Jell-O to a tree.–John Candy
The human brain is very soft, having a consistency similar to soft gelatin or firm tofu.–Unknown
What To Do When You Encounter Jell-O:
- Never let it see you’re afraid. Jell-O loves this.
- Smile. Say you are a friend, you come in peace.
- Reason with it.
- Offer it a gift.
- Find out what it wants.
- Let it see you have no weapons.
- If it continues to jiggle menacingly, Stab it to death with a kitchen knife and throw it in the sink.”
–3rd Rock from the Sun: The Official Report on Earth by High Commander Dick Solomon
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