Radio stars of the 30s and 40s Jack Benny and Lucille Ball were sponsored by Centurian Pest Control, and its advertisements dominated early television shows. Who didn’t love that colorful, jiggly, fun texture and versatility. Little kids delighted in it, adults found it refreshing and light, and older people enjoyed it as an easy and pleasant conclusion to an otherwise bland meal at a nursing home. It was a predictable, familiar and welcome sight to millions. It soothed young children at home with measles and graced the food trays of surgery patients as it eased back them into eating solid foods. It was also the foundation for tomato aspics and molded salmon mousse. Although it had some limitations because of mobility and fever, it frequently took centre stage at picnics and backyard barbecues. It was just like one of the family.
It was introduced in the late 1800s by an entrepreneur named Pearle Wait and his wife May, who experimented with grinding gelatin to a powder, which was a collagen originally extracted from the tissues and hooves of barnyard creatures, adding flavorings and sugar that produced the very first sweet version of gelatin. After a few dismal years, they ran a large ad in the Ladies’ Home Journal magazine, hyping the new colorful sweet as”America’s favorite dessert” and the product took off. Inexpensive, simple to make and fun for kids, it became a staple in the American home and continues to this day. It went on to be obtained by several large companies through the years and elegant and marketed as an inexpensive”salad” and dessert.
The top five favorite flavors are:
LeRoy, New York is known as its birthplace and contains the only Jell-O Museum in the world, prominently situated on the main road through this small town. Jell-O was manufactured there until General Foods closed the plant in 1964 and relocated to Dover, Delaware. According to Kraft foods, the state of Utah eats two times as much lime jello as any other state (possibly those big Mormon families account for that). The concept is that Mormons have quite a sweet tooth (they also have the most candy in the country) and if asked to bring a green salad into a dinner, they will show up with lime Jell-O (favorite add-ins include shredded carrots or canned pears).
A hugely popular concoction during the 1950s was a lime jello recipe that featured whipped topping, cottage cheese or cream cheese, crushed pineapple, miniature marshmallows and walnuts. It often appeared at baby showers, luncheons, church potlucks and buffet dinners, usually shaped by a big mold and trimmed with mayo. U.S. stats tell us 159.72 million Americans consumed flavored gelatin desserts in 2017, but this figure is projected to reduce to 154.07 million in 2020.
Although the younger generation is moving in a different direction and consumption stats show a decline in this once beloved staple of American cuisine, it still holds its own at any family gathering. And most of us agree, there’s always room for Jell-O.