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June 11, 2024 8 mins
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Speaker 1 (00:01):
Welcome to brain Stuff, a production of iHeartRadio. Hey brain Stuff.
Lauren Vogelbam here. If you've never eaten Aspect, perhaps you've
seen pictures of them, clear gelatine molds encasing savory ingredients
in decorative designs. You might have layers of vegetables, perhaps

(00:22):
carved into geometric or floral shapes, slices of hard boiled egg,
or pieces of cooked meat, or even whole small fish
swimming through the transparent, wobbly savory jelly. For the article,
this episode is based on how Stuff Work. Spoke with
Hannah Sellinger, a food writer and graduate of the International
Culinary Center. She said, irrespective of what Aspect actually tastes like,

(00:47):
and it's not for everyone, there's something incredibly compelling about
that jiggle. It's a food for voyeurs. So yes, Aspect
is usually a savory jello mole, a sort of cold
gelatin based salad. Gelatin itself is flavorless. It's just a
type of protein that comes in these long, twisty chains

(01:09):
and is really good at linking up with other gelatine
chains and with molecules of water. However, any flavors or
colors that are in that water will come along for
the ride. Traditionally, you don't make aspect with pure storbot gelatin. Rather,
you make your own by preparing a clear stok, meaning
you simmer the skin, tendons, and bones of beef, poultry,

(01:32):
or fish in water until the collagen in them breaks
down into gelatin. Collagen is a connective protein in and
around animal cells that gives them their flexible structure. It's
especially prevalent in the above tissues. When you boil these
tissues in water, the collagen inside them untwines, leaving you
with gelatin molecules and some meaty flavor from whatever protein

(01:56):
you used. Four aspects. Stock is clarified to make it
as translucent and colorless as possible. This clear stock is
sometimes called by the French term consummee. When it's warm,
it's soup. But the fun functional thing about gelatin molecules
is that they'll stick together and solidify temperatures below about

(02:19):
seventy seven degrees fahrenheit that's twenty five celsius, forming a gel.
With any water and water soluble flavors that you've introduced.
This gel can set so stiffly that you can suspend
other foods. In it as it cools, and use molds
to set it into fantastic shapes. But when you warm
it up again to somewhere above ninety five degrees fahrenheit

(02:42):
or about thirty five celsius, it'll melt back to a liquid,
meaning that it melts in your mouth. Aspect is a solid,
decorative soup. Celinger said. Obviously, aspec has spurred passionate defense.
Over the course of culinary history, gelatin is as a
whole has gone through a lot of permutations. A chilled

(03:05):
savory gelatin based dishes go back to at least the
thirteen hundreds. Before industrial era innovations in cooking and refrigeration,
these were seriously time consuming, difficult dishes to make, and
Europe's upper classes showed off at feasts by presenting gels
festooned with expensive spices and meats, a layered in different

(03:25):
colors and decorated with gold leaf. During the medieval era,
people also sometimes shaved down deer antlers to make hartshorn gelatine,
or made a type of gelling agent called eiesenglass from
the swim bladders of certain types of fish. By the
mid sixteen hundreds, people in Japan and Ireland had developed
the seaweed derived gelling products agar and karagenin, which are

(03:50):
still used as vegetarian alternatives today. Around this time people
started experimenting with sweet gelatin dishes too, but that's a
different episode. Aspic went in and out of fashion over
the centuries. Its true heyday may have been in the
seventeen and eighteen hundreds, when improvements in technique and technology
allowed for wealthy households to present show stopping centerpieces a

(04:14):
picture whole pigeons roasted with sprigs of myrtle stuck in
their beaks, encased in clear gelatine, or a gelatin fish
pond made with large and small colored gelatin fishes in
clear gelatin, or a hen's nest made with shreaded lemon
peel set in gelatin, filled with gelatin eggs molded in
real eggshells, or with molded gelatin chickens. By the early

(04:38):
nineteen hundreds, inexpensive instant gelatine sold in packets brought the
magic of aspect to the masses, where it remained popular
until the nineteen seventies. You could buy savory flavors from
the brand Jello, like celery and Italian salad, Houstuffworks also
spoke via email. Ken Albala, professor of history at the

(04:58):
University of the Pacific INCA in California, an author of
the book of the Great Gelatine Revival. He said, as
often happens, the fashion started at the top socially and
was imitated by those below until it went completely out
of fashion and fine dining, which is where we are now.
I do predict in my book that it will come
back again. Aspect does differ around the world, both in

(05:22):
taste and popularity. It's still pretty common in Eastern Europe
and Germany, especially with cold meat aspect and head cheese,
though Allballa says it's not very prevalent in Western Europe
or North America anymore a quote, except of course, in
home cooking and for intrepid cooks on the borders who
like doing strange things. As Sellinger says, she thinks there's

(05:44):
a certain appeal to aspect that has more to do
with a retro enthusiasm and how it looks, not how
it tastes, because aspect can taste like whatever you want
it to. If you made your aspect from meat, it
will have a meaty flavor. If you make it from
unflavored gelatine. You can add whatever you like, celery, tomato, cream, mayonnaise,

(06:04):
and either way you'll also be adding flavor with whatever
foods you can jeel into the aspect, anything from meats
to vegetables, to fruit to eggs. You can work in layers,
filling a mold with a bit of gelatin and a
few ingredients, letting it set, and then adding another bit
of gelatin and stuff to the mold. To serve, it's
usually sliced or scooped out with a serving spoon. Aspec

(06:27):
is also used to coat and glaze foods such as
cold meats and fish, eggs, poached or roasted poultry, and vegetables.
A plain aspect, chopped or cut into shapes, is also
used to garnish cold dishes. The two most common uses
of aspect today are likely as toppings for treens and patis,
which are made from fine ground meat and sort of

(06:48):
like a small chilled meat loaf. But perhaps the most
entertaining thing about aspec in these are modern times are
the online communities dedicated to its jiggly consistency. While working
on his Aspect book, Albalis says it was a and
I quote perverse aberration that for about a year or more,

(07:08):
I made an aspect almost every day, became obsessed with it,
and then stopped completely when I finished writing the book.
It was a lot of fun, though a great technical
and gastronomic challenge, mostly for the entertainment of a Facebook
group called show Me Your Aspects that apparently adored what
I was doing. There are, in fact, many online communities

(07:29):
devoted to aspect. If you're on Facebook, I personally recommend
aspects with threatening auras, which I think is self explanatory.
Today's episode is based on the article aspect There's just
something about that jiggle on how Stuffworks dot Com, written
by Katie Sprattlejoyce a brain Stuff is production of iHeartRadio

(07:52):
in partnership with how Stuffworks dot Com, and it's produced
by Tyler Klang. The four more podcasts from my Heart
Radio visit the iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you
listen to your favorite shows.

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