Updated: Oct 13
Sometimes I wonder how things get invented.
Some mad scientists long ago decided to boil the hooves of pigs and cows and, a century later, presto, Bill Cosby appears on your tv screen advertising Jello Pops and Jigglers.
At first, this gelatinous stew was used as a primitive glue. How did it get from glue to favorite dessert of kids and grandmas the world over?
My grandmother loved Jell-O. She ate it every night after dinner. There was always some prepared in her fridge and packaged back-ups in her cupboard.
In my grandmother’s day, Jell-O was considered modern and futuristic. Somehow pieces of fruit, vegetables, and even mayonnaise suspended in a jelly-like substance meant you were real hip. The number of Jell-O molds you owned - a status symbol.
Imagine if just owning a collection of fancy Jell-O molds meant you climbed the socioeconomic ladder.
Still, gelatin seems miraculous. It has no flavor, color, or odor, and it can take on any shape.
It’s a clean slate, a blank canvas.
Sometimes, I wish I were like Jell-O.
On days when I feel like I can’t hold it together. Days when I’m on the verge of melting into a shapeless puddle on the kitchen floor. Days when life seems unstructured and ill-formed.
I wish I could pour myself into the mold of my dreams and, a few hours later, reemerge with enviable bounce-back - sweet and cool and refreshing, too.
I don’t know.
I know people who are flavorless and colorless. They might be odorless, too, and that could be good, but man are they a bore. A real yawn, you know?
To be honest, I hate Jell-O.
It's a snooze of a dessert.
There is, however, a gelatin-based dessert that I love. Think of it as Jello’s much more glamorous and interesting cousin. Creamy and velvety, infused with liqueurs, and real, seasonal ingredients.
Instead of being slippery and weebly-wobbly, filled with artificial flavors and ingredients that don’t make sense, the gelatin in panna cotta holds its shape and yields the most amazing consistency.
My friend, Johnny, describes its texture like this, “Imagine if crème brûlée and pudding had a baby.”
Now, who could hate that?