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April 27, 2024 38 mins

Today Jell-O and other gelatin foodstuffs are generally relegated to world of desserts, but this wasn't always the case. In fact, gelatin took a long, strange path from ancient history to modern-day grocery shelves -- and got pretty gross along the way. Tune in to learn more about the bizarre world of savory gelatin in this week's classic episode.

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Speaker 1 (00:00):
You guys know, I think cookbooks and menus are a
form of literature. Read a lot of these ridiculous historians
Max Noll and I they called me Ben. We had
a we had a moment in January of twenty eighteen
where we got super into.

Speaker 2 (00:17):
Gelatin Into is maybe a strong way of putting it.
I think jello on its own is a delightful treat.
It's locale, it's squishy, and it goes down easy if
you have a sore throat. Great for hospital days. You know,
I'm a big fan of line personally. I don't know
what you guys's favorite jello flavors are.

Speaker 1 (00:36):
I can't believe we used to be friends.

Speaker 2 (00:38):
Well, I'm sorry, I just I'm a little basically blue,
well blue, what is blue?

Speaker 1 (00:44):
Jealous flavor? Blue? Yeah, we have a blue drink. We
have an episode on artificial flavoring coming up in the future,
in the future of ridiculous history. And gelatine itself is
an amazing technology. I mean, it's it's ancient, but it's
also I don't know, it's still so fascinating. It's so fun.

(01:07):
I'm a person who plays with my food. I love
that stuff.

Speaker 2 (01:10):
Remember Jello jigglers guy, Yeah, itello that you'd cut out
with cookie cutters, and oh man, there was a golden
time when Bill Cosby before we knew too much about that.
Oh boy, he was the guy and he was the jigglers.
All that stuff didn't age very well now that we know. Uh.
But here's the thing. Jello in that form and it's
purest form, the little bit of food coloring and some

(01:32):
sweetener and you know whatever artificial flavoring a delight. Well,
you start mixing in mayonnaise and olives and pickles and
celery and shoot of slivers of meat, oh geez, or
the earlier versions of it with things called aspects, which
would be a gelatine kind of with meat chunks, you know,

(01:54):
sort of suspended there. It really it becomes pretty cursed.
There's an actually what I was looking for and talk
was this guy has a channel called I Spy Antiques.
He does a video where he tries to make a
jello salad that he found in his grandmother's recipe book
and he makes it in like a lamb cake mold
and it ends up being this just cursed green, weird lumpy.

(02:18):
It's got like green peppers in it. He takes a
bite and it's just like he he curses God.

Speaker 1 (02:25):
Essentially, I never understood it, and that's what that's what
comes to the forefront in today's classic episode. If you
like us, are alive in twenty twenty four and you're
wondering why why did gelatine become such a thing. Nowadays
it's relegated to the world the desserts. But once upon

(02:47):
a time, folks, as we will learn together today, gelatine
was considered like a savory medium, a savory path for
a main dish. And it's just it's it's a centerpiece.
Dare we say, you know, we say, yeah, yeah, it's
a It's a cavalcade of culinary catastrophe. Anyway, here it

(03:09):
is ridiculous History. Is a production of iHeartRadio, America's most

(03:38):
famous dessert. There's always room for Jel. Hello, my name
is Ben. I know.

Speaker 2 (03:46):
Yeah, that's gonna take me a minute to wrap my
head around. It's not worth it, No, it is worth it.
You you you kind of just broke my brain. But
I guess I'm Noel and I think this is ridiculous history.
And today we're talking about Gello, but not just any
gel I mean, we're gonna cover, We're gonna run the
game of all gelatinous products, but specifically today we're talking
about meat jello.

Speaker 1 (04:07):
It's a real thing, and it's something that you and
I and our super producer Casey Pegrin have talked about
off air in the past, before we even started doing
this show, which is amazing when you think about it,
You and I and Casey and probably some of you
friends and neighbors have a preoccupation, a morbid fascination with gelatine.

Speaker 2 (04:30):
Yeah, it's true. I mean, I have a very distinct
memory from my childhood, and it was my mother really
prided herself on doing these very elegant table settings, and
she carried on this tradition from her mother, who always
used to make a little side dish with the alarmingly
odd name of gentleman's salad. What is this gentleman's salad?

(04:54):
You might ask?

Speaker 1 (04:55):
What is this gentleman's salad?

Speaker 2 (04:56):
I thought you might ask. I'll tell you what it is.
Ben is a thing that was very in all the
rage of the highest of fashion in the fifties and sixties,
mid century and beyond, fell out of fashion a closer
to the late seventies the early eighties. But we'll get
to that. But what gentleman salad is is a molded

(05:16):
gelatinous I don't know if it's a dessert. It's not
really served in the place of a dessert. It's sort
of a pre meal thing like you'd eat a salad.
But it's not a leafy green No, it's a weird
little gelatinous mound of lime green stuff that's kind of
full of nuts, chopped nuts and marshmallows, I want to say,

(05:39):
and topped with a dollop of crim fresh or horseradish, oh,
if you want to get spicy right exactly. And it's
one of these things that as a kid, my mom
insisted that I take a bite, even though I just
it was just one of those things I just didn't trust.
My little kid brain kind of recoiled at it. It
didn't taste awful, the horseradish, but that was apparently I

(06:02):
was missing out on the full impact of the dish.
But this was a thing, and not just meat jella,
but jello in general. Gelatin salads was a very easy
way for home cooks to show kind of like opulence
and class and elegance.

Speaker 1 (06:19):
And today, we often think of a salad as something
with leafy greens, right, with fresh herbs, fresh vegetables, a
little bit of cheese, and maybe some protein in the
form of nuts or tun or whatever. But a salad
essentially is only a mixture of different ingredients. So when
we're saying gelatine salad, we are accurately describing this strange

(06:45):
phenomenon of throwing everything and the kitchen sink into gelatine.
And gelatin is a very strange thing when you think
about it. We know that it's ancient, that traces of
gelatin were found in ancient Egypt, and we generally in

(07:05):
the West trace the use of gelatin as a food
stuff to medieval England.

Speaker 2 (07:12):
That's right. I actually found a gelatin recipe from seventeen
forty seven from a London cookbook, from an author by
the name of Hannah Glass. And we'll go into a
little bit more of the modern ways of making gelatin,
but this is the old school way. I'm going to
read this verbatim because it is delightful. So first, take

(07:33):
out the great bones of four calves feet and put
the feet into a pot with ten quarts of water,
three ounces of horse shorn, three ounces of ling glass,
a nutmeg quartered, four blades of mace. Then boil this
till it comes to two quarts and strain it through
a flannel bag. Let it stand twenty four hours. Then
scrape all the fat from the top very clean. Then

(07:56):
slice it and put to it the whites of six
eggs beaten to froth. Boil it a little and strain
it again through a flannel bag. Then run the jelly
into little high glasses. You may add orange flower water
or wine, and sugar and lemon if you please. But
this is all fancy.

Speaker 1 (08:13):
As you can see. We are fans of collecting recipes
from olden days, and we have found that the measurements
get kind of iffy and ad hockey. But this is
this is a real recipe. And if you have these calves,
hoofs or some orange water. Was it orange water or sugar?

(08:34):
It was orange flower water, orange flower water. If you
have this, please feel free to make it. Please send
us pictures. I know all three of us would love
to see it. Nowadays we use the term jello synonymously
with gelatin, but Jello is a name brand with a
history of its own. The mix up here the conflation

(08:58):
is similar to the way that people say google as
a verb when they're referring to any Internet So.

Speaker 2 (09:04):
Like Kleenex for any kind of tissue.

Speaker 1 (09:07):
Or like xerox for copiers or gelatin itself brand names
aside is a translucent, colorless and flavorless thing on its own,
and you make it using collagen from various animal parts,
as we saw in our recipe with calves hooves. It's

(09:28):
not just used in food. It's commonly used as a
gelling agent in food, but it's used in a bunch
of non food applications as well, photography, vitamin capsules.

Speaker 2 (09:40):
Sure, and the way it's made today is obviously much
more of an industrial process. And just to kind of
give you the quick and dirty of how it's made today,
it's made using largely washed pigskins that are then cleaned.
I actually found a video online where it shows the
process in reverse from a nice little gummy bear being
popped into someone's mouth, backward to all the different steps

(10:01):
of the manufacturing process until it ends up with a
cute little piggy looking you in the eye. I think
it was kind of designed to make you feel bad
about eating gummies, but we're not here to tell you
what to do. We are here to tell you how
gelatin is made. So these cleaned pigskins are washed and
then they are soaked and they're given an acid treatment,
and the idea is to break down the tissues so

(10:24):
that the collagen is kind of made into smaller chunks
in these strands of gelatin that they call it gelatin noodles.
In the manufacturing process, they thicken when they're cooled, and
then various stages of hot water extraction is done, and
it's done up to six or seven times, with the
temperature of the water being raised for every step. And

(10:48):
the earliest extractions are apparently the more powerful, or I
guess they hold their shape better, and the subsequent extractions
it becomes a little bit weaker.

Speaker 1 (10:58):
And one of the things that baffles us about this
process is that most people growing up don't know the
gelatine or your favorite flavor of jello does derive ultimately
from these animal proteins. I think, you know, it's not
quite on the level of Santa Claus spoiler alert everybody,

(11:20):
but I think a lot of kids have no understanding
of the origin of gelatin that we just walked through
and today we're asking why jello and gelatin fiend food
dishes became so prevalent for a time. It was a
fat They rose and they fell, and you can find

(11:42):
different cookbooks or different articles citing this rise. But we
wanted to track down the answer. And I want to
give a big shout out to Dan Myers over at
the Daily Meal. In January of last year, he tackled
this question about why there were so many gelatin based
dishes in the nineteen fifties and the nineteen sixties. And

(12:04):
you know, you and I have looked through these old
recipes and it's true jello today is treated mainly as
a dessert, but during that time period it would be
the entire meal. You would have the sweet and the
savory together in this mold. There's really no other way
to say it.

Speaker 2 (12:21):
Yeah, and those molds themselves were staples of mid century
kitchens and all kinds of shapes. But this goes way
way farther back than the nineteen fifties and sixties, far
back really to medieval England.

Speaker 1 (12:36):
And while while we're here in the medieval era in
Western Europe, we need to add a we need to
add another aspect to the story another aspect to the
story gross, I'm proud of that one. So one of
the one of the most important things about gelatine, aside
from it being a luxurious food stuff, is that it

(12:57):
was a pretty effective preserve. We have to remember that
this was centuries before anything like refrigeration existed totally.

Speaker 2 (13:07):
And also not to mention an article from history dot
com called Jiggle It The History of Geladin's Aspects and Jellies.
The writer Nate Barksdale mentions the fact that, you know,
we've talked about this in the Protestant Reformation and Butter episode.
Catholics were not allowed to eat meat on Fridays, so
there were late medieval cooks who came up with ways

(13:28):
of making jelly out of fish, and that was like
they would boil fish stock, even use the swim bladders
and an eels were ways of making these meat jellies.
And there was another fish jelly product called icing glass
that was made using sturgeon. So this was a way

(13:50):
of being able to preserve that food and also you know,
not eat pig products.

Speaker 1 (13:56):
And jellied eels, by the way, are a traditional English
dish that is still popular today. And I really want
to try it. Have you ever tried jellied eals? Just
on the off chance we didn't talk about Oh no, no, no,
you're not into.

Speaker 2 (14:09):
It, not for me, thank you?

Speaker 1 (14:11):
Well, well, you know, let's put a pin in it.
I don't want to pear pressure you, but you know,
what is life if not to be lived my old friend.

Speaker 2 (14:20):
One more little story in Japan, even in the late
sixteen hundreds, from the same hisstory dot com article, there
was an innkeeper from Kyoto named Minoya Tarizoman who found
some congealed soup, some fish soup that had been thrown
away and discarded, and noticed that it was congealing. So
that kind of became the inspiration for seaweed jellies that

(14:42):
became quite popular throughout.

Speaker 1 (14:44):
Asia and remain popular today. So we're doing pretty well
going chronologically here. Let's look at the first patent. The
first patent for the manufacturer of gelatin arrives in seventeen
fifty four in England and at the time kind of
a novelty, but everybody knew about it. It's just now

(15:05):
somebody got the rights to it and it took off,
especially with the upper crust.

Speaker 2 (15:12):
Yeah, that's true, and it wasn't the patent that was
going to really win the day for gelatin based products.
That comes a little later, but we do have the
introduction of kind of someone you could consider to be
the world's first celebrity chef, a man by the name
of Marie Antoine Karame, and in an NPR piece by
Nicole Jankowski, she kind of describes how Karame really revolutionized

(15:38):
the use of gelatin for these opulent culinary creations. He
was actually born the sixteenth child of very very poor
parents in Paris in the late seventeen hundreds, either seventeen
eighty three or seventeen eighty four, and was abandoned by
his parents during the most violent days of the French Revolution.

(16:00):
Worked his way up from a kitchen boy to a
apprentice of a well known pastry chef named Sylvan Bailey,
and then found his way to having his own shop.
And that was largely because he created these insane edible
replicas of late eighteenth century buildings, some of the most
famous buildings, things like the ancient ruins of Athens or

(16:24):
Chinese fortresses and things like that, and they were quite
tall and were displayed in the window of his bakery
and he turned some heads, folks like Napoleon Bonaparte and
French diplomats like Charles Maurice did telerand Paragord decided to
employ him, and Paragord actually got him to make a
full menu for his own personal estate. And it was

(16:46):
later when his creations made it to Europe when the
Prince Regent, George the fourth asked him to come over
and prepare a menu for a party that he was having.
You see, was a huge fan of aspic, and I've
kind of been asking myself, like, what's different in aspec
and gelatin in general. It turns out aspec specifically involves

(17:08):
using like a meat broth, like it's called a consumme,
and it typically is savory, so it can include things
like vegetables or sliced beef or chicken or anything you
could think of. And Krame coined this term chou freu,
which was French for hot cold, and the idea was
that parts of it would be cooked and then it

(17:29):
would be served cold. But the whole idea was it
was a big it was a show. It was a
culinary display of that opulence that you talked about. This
is not something that anyone could have. You had to
have a whole staff to be able to prepare this thing.
I mean it was a pretty serious, almost scientific process
of straining and setting, and in a time before industrialization

(17:51):
and refrigeration, it was a really big deal to be
able to make this stuff. And it caught on in
New York high society as well, and even Thomas Jeffer
Senators Monticello Estate, was a huge fan of having wine
gelatin served with meals.

Speaker 1 (18:07):
And that's a very interesting point there about the luxurious
nature and the luxurious origin of this food stuff, of
this application of food, because later we're going to see
this change to a matter of convenience as well as status.

(18:28):
We left off the story with Thomas Jefferson, Let's fast
forward to eighteen forty five when we meet a fellow
named Peter Cooper. Along with being the inventor of the
first American built steam locomotive, Pete I'm gonna call him.
Pete created a way to make gelatine more accessible to
the masses by making it a powder. This is where

(18:51):
we see another patent come into play. He called this
stuff portable gelatine because all you had to do was
to add hot water and Unfortunately, although it's sure caught
on later, Pete did not have much success marketing it,
and he didn't really pursue his invention. Occasionally he sold

(19:12):
it to cooks, but he didn't commercialize it beyond that.
He was actually more into powdered glue. Believe it or not.

Speaker 2 (19:20):
Why don't you think it caught on? It seemed like
it was such a to do to make this stuff
and for someone to be able to be like, hey,
I got the quick fix right here for your gel cooking.

Speaker 1 (19:29):
Right. That's a good point and it's a great question.
So let's go to Rochester, New York, a little town
outside of there, in fact, called Leroy. This is where
we meet a couple by the name of Pearl and
may wait two at the time that we find them
are running a not entirely successful cough syrup and laxative business.

Speaker 2 (19:51):
It's a good combo. They should make a combination cough
syrup laxative from when you can't poop and you have
a bit of a group that they can have that
that can the tagline.

Speaker 1 (20:02):
It could be like that combination Pizza Hut and taco
bell song. I think we just figured out their marketing
for them.

Speaker 2 (20:09):
So what's the scoop, Ben, What did old pearl in
May come up with?

Speaker 1 (20:14):
I'm so glad you asked, Noel, because fortunately for this episode,
it wasn't all mediocre laxatiff business, especially because we're a
family show. According to the Chemical Heritage Foundation, the Weight
couple was looking around for something they could do differently right,
a way to evolve their business into a more successful entity,

(20:37):
and they obtained that earlier patent for powdered gelatin. They
also encountered one of the big cons of gelatin at
the time, which is that it was tasteless. It was
just sort of like this translucent.

Speaker 2 (20:49):
Goop or you see a con. I see a blank
slate rife for innovation, and luckily.

Speaker 1 (20:55):
They did too, because they realized that they could add
syrups to this, and the gelatine, while it may not
have a flavor of its own, is an excellent platform
for other flavors. They blank slated it just as you said.
They added sugar fruit syrups like raspberry, strawberry, lemon, orange.
No word if it's orange flour, but orange that's close enough.

Speaker 2 (21:16):
Orange flour is so vague. What kind of flower are
we talking?

Speaker 1 (21:19):
About I guess literally any flour that is orange rosewater.

Speaker 2 (21:22):
Yeah, it's interesting too, Ben, because before the Weights came
into the picture, your buddy Peter Cooper, he didn't just
patent the gelatin. He patented a gelatin dessert mix of
his own creation, which was a powdered mix with lemons, sugar, eggs,
and various spices. But he just didn't have that marketing
prow ass that was required to really sell this to

(21:44):
the world. And there was a zeitgeist, the element to
this stuff too, that we'll get into in just a second.

Speaker 1 (21:49):
For now, you're probably wondering, folks, where did this name
jello come from? We'll tell you. So the Weight couple
had this gelatin idea right, and that they flavored it,
made it about eighty eight percent sugar, but they were overjoyed.
Nobody was worried about the sugar content at that time.
They were overjoyed because it tasted good. And may wait

(22:11):
named this new favorite dessert jello. It's important combining the
words gelatine and jelly, both of which derive from the
Latin meaning to congeal or to freeze.

Speaker 2 (22:23):
And oh man, it's good.

Speaker 1 (22:24):
There we go.

Speaker 2 (22:25):
Yeah, that's mine.

Speaker 1 (22:26):
I thought that was good. As for the O part,
historians attribute it to just a naming trend. It was
apparently very popular to add oh at the end of
your product name.

Speaker 2 (22:38):
Whammo, there we go, bingo.

Speaker 1 (22:42):
I feel like you're on a roll tally ho which
I give us that that last one is?

Speaker 2 (22:46):
I was old. Yeah, do you think of anything? No,
you're right there, like Wizzo, like not only product names,
but even like company names, right.

Speaker 1 (22:52):
Sure, yeah, Blinko, Rinko, et cetera probably had a futuristic vibe. Apparently,
according to the Dictionary of Trade Origins, which is a
real book, the practice began because adding oh seemed visually appealing.
In addition, you could take a common word and easily
modify it to make a trademark. An example would be graino,

(23:15):
real thing.

Speaker 2 (23:16):
Oh, draino. That's a legacy one too. And it's cool too,
because one thing that's neat about the jello thing I
mean needs not the right word. But it's sort of
like our buddy Edward Burnees who sort of figured out
how to show the pork industry how they could sell
this disgusting byproduct we now know as bacon and make

(23:36):
it like the number one breakfast food in America. Gelatine
was just a way of like using these discarded scraps
and bits from the meat packing industry and turning it
into something you could then sell back to the public.
But the most important aspect of it that had been
missing up to this point was that marketing win that
Edward Burnees who is the godfather of advertising. That's sort

(24:00):
of spin, yeah, exactly. So Pearl and May were great
at making Jello, but they weren't super fantastic at selling it,
and they didn't have the capital to push it out
successfully in the market. And that's why on September eighth,
in eighteen ninety nine, the couple sold the formula, patent
and the name entire Jello, the entire brand of Jello

(24:23):
to their neighbor, a man named Frank Woodward, who at
the time was the owner of the Genesee Food Company,
and they sold it for about what was it, four
hundred and fifty dollars. Yeah, and with our handy dandy
inflation calculator, that equates to roughly eleven grand by today's standards.

Speaker 1 (24:40):
So Woodward knew his business. He was already successful at
selling packaged food and he took the techniques he learned
and applied them to jello. He had his salesforce dressed
in fancy suits and go around to houses offering free samples,
right just like the bad kids do in every drug
war PSA the first one's free. And they would do

(25:05):
so many things to convince grocery store owners to stock
shelves with boxes of this powdered gelatine jello. And they
still had the original four flavors strawberry, raspberry, lemon, and orange.
But it didn't succeed. Still, like three people have tried
this now with you know, middling success.

Speaker 2 (25:27):
And a great article on Sirius Eats by Sarah Gray
that kind of chronicles the history of the jello salad
mentions a little book by the name of the Jungle
by Upton Sinclair. It came out in nineteen oh six
that essentially single handedly helped establish the Food and Drug Act,
which created the FDA, the Food and Drug Administration that

(25:48):
we know today. And it became a big deal for
food to have labels and for things to be seen
as safe and pure. And Jello really jumped all over
that and started using terms like the safety bag and
the repeated the word pure, according to this article, no
less than three times, even adding it to like the

(26:09):
company's slogan.

Speaker 1 (26:10):
Right, So let's take a closer look at Woodward here.
So he's doing his best. He's got the expertise. It
was around nineteen oh four when he and a new
employee named William Hummelbaugh had a brilliant idea. They put
ads for Jello in The Lady's Home Journal, a nationally

(26:32):
syndicated magazine, and they featured smiling, fashionable homemakers in spotless
white aprons, proclaiming that jello was quote America's favorite dessert,
and along with the worries of safety that were also
in the zeitgeist at the time, jello was propelled to

(26:54):
the mainstream. Annual sales jumped to two hundred and fifty
thousand dollars that would be around six a little over
six million today, and kids were begging for the dessert
because I'm sure, as you know, folks, if you can
convince kids to want something, the parents will usually follow

(27:15):
the lead. And as Noel said, the cookbooks began to
take off. World War One did affect rationing, and after
World War Two, Gelatin's success persisted, it became seen as
a creative cooking tool, and at this point, finally, after

(27:38):
numerous people had tried to market gelatine, it began to
take off. And it took off in the craziest way.
We found some weird examples.

Speaker 2 (27:49):
Yeah, it's true. A guy named Charles Knox who had
his own I don't know. I look at it as
sort of the utilitarian cousin of Jello. It was just
the Knox Gelatin company, and just to pack it looks
very much the same today as it did then, very
little bells and whistles, no flavors. He took it to
the World's Fair in nineteen oh four and had a
competition where anyone could submit their own recipes using gelatin,

(28:14):
and a woman who here in this Serious Eats articles
only referred to as missus John Cook from Newcastle, Pennsylvania
one third prize in the competition with a thing that
she created called perfection salad. Not gentleman salad. Perfection salad.
And I actually found a recipe for this thing. I'm
gonna describe it to you. It is a mountain of

(28:38):
molded orange, kind of foggy gelatin, filled with an assortment
of shredded ruffage, and the recipe goes like this, two
envelopes unflavored gelatine, a half cup sugar, one teaspoon salt,
one can apple juice, a half cup lemon juice, two
tablespoons vinegar, one cup shredded carrot, one cup sliced celery,

(29:00):
one cup finally shredded cabbage, a half cup chopped green pepper,
and one can chopped pimento. And it is if absolutely
foul looking, but it caught on. People loved it. They
wanted to be part of the jello wave of the future,
and this really kind of created this demand. And another
era we're using jello showed opulence because we were entering

(29:23):
the time of refrigeration.

Speaker 1 (29:29):
As the United States enters this industrial boom, the world
of two point five kids, a car in every garage,
and endless suburbs, people wanted to keep up with the Joneses,
and one of the best ways to do it was
to have the latest appliance. Right is similar to microwave cooking.

(29:53):
A little bit later in history, people wanted to have
refrigerators and if you were bringing a jello salad to
the pot luck or to the party, that I don't know,
the kid's birthday party, the barbecue. It showed that you
and your family had one of those new fangled refrigerators.
And we cannot, we cannot overestimate Missus Cook's effect on

(30:16):
the demand for jello.

Speaker 2 (30:17):
Food.

Speaker 1 (30:18):
Historian James Beard observed in his in his book American
Cookery that Missus Cook's victory at the World's Fair unleashed
a demand for congealed salads that, according to Beard, this
is in nineteen seventy two. He says, this a demand
for congealed salads that has grown alarmingly, particularly in the suburbs.

Speaker 2 (30:38):
Alarmingly the invasion of the jella mold. Yeah, he went
on to as well, he did, he couched it. He
went on to say, quote, the jellied salad does have
its delights, though, and it is without question an American innovation,
no doubt about it, mister Beard here here.

Speaker 1 (30:54):
So now we've set the stage. We've got knocks, we've
got jello. We've got people nowadays arguing that you can
follow American social history by looking at the history of jello.

Speaker 2 (31:07):
As I know, we haven't really talked about this much,
but there was a whole kind of iconography associated with
jello packaging. Some of the early ones used illustrations by
Norman Rockwell, right. And then there was what was it
ben the jello girl, sort of like a.

Speaker 1 (31:20):
Spokes thing, introduced in nineteen oh eight and instrumental, crucial
in making American consumers connect the idea of jello with
again the purity, the innocence of childhood. And although sales
of sugar and you know, therefore jello were rationed during

(31:43):
World War One, between the twenties and thirties, the popularity
of gelatin salads soars and there were pragmatic reasons behind this.
The depression forced homemakers to stretch ingredients as far as possible.

Speaker 2 (31:58):
That also included things like sugar that you would have separately,
and many recues require you to add sugar. You didn't
have to do that when you're using jello because the
sugar was already part of the mix.

Speaker 1 (32:08):
Yeah, that's that's a really good point. And so now
we see not just the idea of refrigeration that comes
into play later, but we also see the idea of status,
of proving to your friends and neighbors that you can
still do some top notch entertaining despite the rations despite
the shortages. I've got a recipe for all of relish

(32:30):
which I've been to save you the save you the
trouble here, folks, it seems kind of gross. Olives, pickles, celery,
and vinegar all in a lovely a lovely amalgamation with
lime jello, right right, But now we see kind of
a Bernesian if I could use that word, a Bernasian

(32:51):
approach to marketing here, or an aspect of it, because
we have to ask ourselves, did people genuinely like this
stuff or did they instead like being people who could
make it?

Speaker 2 (33:04):
Well. It's like I said, with my mom and the
gentleman salad, her mom would have come from that original
time where this was something that was seen as a
status symbol, and she was all about these status symbols.
That's where my mom got the whole idea of having
a lovely table place setting. It was all very, very
important during times where things were much more scarce to
show that you were kind of above the fray. I

(33:27):
guess I mean it seems a little, I don't know,
a little shallow to me personally, but I can see
how it would have felt important to kind of keep
your spirits up and to make your family feel like
you had you know, you were one of the halves,
I guess. But of course, like things do, these kind
of Jello salad aspect meat monstrosities fell out of favor,

(33:50):
and Jello kind of took it was its original place
as an easy to make dessert. You had Bill Cosby
swooping in, you know, back when he wasn't persona non
grata advertising Jello jigglers. Remember Jello jigglers. Sure for kids
they used like a little cookie cutter and they were
a little They used a little bit stiffer gelatine, I think,

(34:12):
so you could pick them up and play with them.

Speaker 1 (34:14):
They wanted a gritty reboot. You're absolutely right. By the
nineteen seventies and nineteen eighties, the golden age of Jello
had sort of passed, and that's why in nineteen eighty
six they decided to rebrand. They got Bill Cosby, phenomenally
successful comic at the time, and it was sort of
the world made new because Americans were no longer as

(34:37):
readily familiar with the concept of aspects. And if you
had brought a perfection salad or a couple of other
really choice gelatin dishes, that will probably read off at
the end. If you brought those to a pot luck
in the seventies or eighties, people would be like, what
are you doing? I thought we were friends. Why can't

(34:58):
you just tell me you don't like me?

Speaker 2 (35:00):
Yeah, it's sort of like bringing someone a fruitcake for Christmas.

Speaker 1 (35:03):
Oh yeah, we did do an episode in the Oldest Fruitcake.
Remember that, I do.

Speaker 2 (35:08):
And it goes back to that that question you asked earlier, Ben,
did people really like the way this stuff tasted? Or
was it just like the placebo effect of kind of
associating it with status and therefore you could choke it down.
I like all kinds of stuff, Ben, I'm a relatively
adventurous eater, but literally every single one of these things
seems absolutely inedible and disgusting to me. And I don't

(35:29):
think I could ever convince myself otherwise, you know.

Speaker 1 (35:33):
Yeah, but we also have to remember that that numerous
folks in the audience wrote back about vinegar pie, and
you were all absolutely correct. I'm kind of converted. Oh
it sounds great, but I'm not gonna tell you what
I'm not gonna try. Let's let's read off some of
these gross recipes you want to for sure. All right,
So emeralds candle lope is not that bad. You put lime,

(35:54):
jello and canned pineapp on the candle.

Speaker 2 (35:56):
It's fun.

Speaker 1 (35:57):
Yeah, it's fun.

Speaker 2 (35:57):
It fills the it, it fills the gap.

Speaker 1 (36:00):
Mm hm.

Speaker 2 (36:00):
There's another one with a melon. You can do that
kind of You cut a half a melon and a
half and you put jello in the in the hole
and that you know, you can scoop it out, so
it's sort of like double texture for your money.

Speaker 1 (36:09):
Tell you what though, salmon and cottage cheese with boiled
eggs as a garnish. Nah, no, sir, no, I I've
just thought it's a jellied lamb salad. No, it's a pass.
I know we talked about lime jelly salads, but do
we talk about lime cheese salad.

Speaker 2 (36:27):
Nope?

Speaker 1 (36:28):
Do you want to skip that with it? Yeah? How
do you?

Speaker 2 (36:32):
Oh? You know, I do have that that I think
is a modern example of this actually working and for
me personally, there is a place here in Atlanta called
the Spotted Trotter that makes their own pataise, and a
lot of patais will have a little layer of aspect
on the top, so it's just like a small layer
of like a ginger aspect, so that it's made with
like a consume or a beef broth, but it's flavored

(36:54):
with ginger. And when it's almost like a jelly or
a chutney of some kind. So it's really good for
like you know, mixing with a pet or putting on
a piece of toast or something like that. It sort
of mixes the savory with the sweet. But to me,
it's when you really go full board down that you know,
savory jello thing that's just just I like it, maybe
as like a garnish or as an additive, but you know,

(37:17):
all on its own. Oh boy, and the photography and
some of these cookbooks, it's just like who gave the
green light to that picture?

Speaker 1 (37:24):
You know. We invite you to check these out firsthand
and send us some of your favorites. And favorite here
is a tricky word. It can be the one that
you were most fascinated by or the one you have
actually tried. We of course, are not knocking anybody's personal taste.

Speaker 2 (37:43):
You can send us that stuff to ridiculous at HowStuffWorks
dot com or hit us up on the social media
the Facebook, the Instagram, where we are also Ridiculous History.

Speaker 1 (37:51):
As always, we'd like to thank our super producer Casey
Pegram as well as author Maria Trimarchi, who wrote Ridiculous History.
What's for Dinner Meet Jello available on howstufforks dot com.

Speaker 2 (38:04):
Also thanks to our pal Alex Williams for composing our theme,
and most importantly, thanks to you guys for tuning in
and hanging out with us for another episode of Ridiculous History.
We'll see you next time. For more podcasts from iHeartRadio,
visit the iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen

(38:27):
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