Hey, whats that jiggling on my plate?!
by Mad Dog
Theres no question a 100th
birthday is cause for celebration. Think about it, there arent many people in this
world that last that long, its hard to believe any marriages have made it through
that many years, and even though Buffy The Vampire Slayer feels that long, the truth is it
only lasts sixty minutes (86 if you were one of the four people who saw the movie).
So why arent I a bit happier to hear
that Jell-O brand gelatin is celebrating its centennial? Maybe its because it feels
strange knowing the wobbly, unearthly substance is nearly half as old as our country,
shakes more than Anna Nicole Smith on a jogging track, and has all the substance of
Supermodel Week on Jeopardy. But more than likely its the memory of looking down
after dinner and hoping for a piece of pie a la mode but instead seeing a bowl of
twitching strawberry Jell-O with canned fruit cocktail suspended in it like some kind of
Obviously Im in the minority here.
After all, Kraft Foods claims that in the United States they sell a box of Jell-O every
four seconds. Thats fifteen a minute, 900 an hour, 21,600 a day, and enough in one
year to encapsulate the Statue of Liberty and give it back to the French who like
It all started in 1897 when Pearl Waite, a
carpenter in upstate New York, vowed revenge on the world for being given a womans
name. Just kidding. Actually, being a carpenter, he came up with the concept of nailing
Jell-O to a tree but since he couldnt find any of the stuff in the store he sat down
and invented it himself. His wife named it, he started selling it door-to-door, and once
the fish-shaped gelatin mold was invented the stuff took off like a space shuttle without
the computer glitches and liquid oxygen leaks.
So, being a red-blooded American who hates
to waste precious TV viewing energy by chewing his dessert, whats the best way you
can commemorate this momentous occasion in culinary history? By going to see the traveling
exhibit those fine folks at Kraft have put together. But dont worry, if you
dont catch it when it comes to a town near you all is not lost. Knowing that people
will never tire of seeing old ads, vintage recipe books, and something called the Jell-O
Brick Road (which would have been in the Wizard of Oz had the studio heads been taking as
many hallucinogenic drugs back then as they do now) the exhibit is going to settle down in
a building in LeRoy, NY, which will become....the Jell-O Museum.
To what do we owe the popularity of this
semi-solid substance that even Stephen Hawking wont pretend to understand? It could
be the flavors, which started at four and now total 23, including the about-to-be released
White Grape which is supposed to be made with soda water, ginger ale, or as Im sure
will happen very quickly, beer and champagne. I guess this is better than the cola,
celery, chocolate, coffee and apple flavors they put out in the past and dropped once they
found out that no one with anything resembling taste buds wanted to eat it.
Face it, Jell-O is for kids. Its the
playability factor. It shimmies, it shakes, it bounces and it slides down without having
to chew. What an ideal food! If theyd put lots of vitamins and minerals and other
things they tell us we should eat in addition to our usual diet of fat, chemicals, and
snack foods that come in colors not found in nature, then we could live on Jell-O and
Jell-O alone. But until that happens were just going to have to fill in the
nutritional gaps by eating pizza-flavored corn.
Thats right. Scientists in London,
not content to work on finding a cure for the common royalty scandal, are busy
artificially flavoring frozen vegetables in the hope that it will get British children to
eat better. They started this project after reading a study which said children in that
country eat hardly any fruit or vegetables, unless you count fruit roll-ups as fruit and
potato chips as a vegetable. Thus they came up with such tasty combinations as
chocolate-flavored carrots, cheese and onion-flavored cauliflower, and baked bean-flavored
peas. For reasons only they understand, they decided not to go with bubblegum-flavored
This is all quite a revelation for a
country which thinks the word food and boiled are synonymous.
Remember, this is also the country that has farmers painting their lambs with foul tasting
glow-in-the-dark paint so foxes wont want to eat them, is proposing to put
commercial sponsors on street signs (I cant wait to drive down the road and see
"Fleet Enema Street"), and had a political candidate for the Monster Raving
Loony Party who vowed to tow the whole island to a warmer climate if he won. It makes one
wonder whether the Royal College of Psychiatrists in London was onto something when they
recently complained that there werent enough hospital beds for psychiatric patients
So lets hoist a bowl and give a toast
to the dessert that launched a thousand spoons. In the words of grocery store owners
everywhere: "Theres always room for 509 million boxes of Jell-O a year."
©1997 Mad Dog Productions, Inc. All
These columns appear in better newspapers across the country.
They're almost as fun to read as a Jell-O box.