Jell-O

As Vaseline is to petroleum jelly, so Jell-O is to gelatin: a brand name so dominant that people use it to refer to any gelatin. First named in 1897 (although gelatin desserts were eaten for decades before that), Jell-O grew to become a staple of the American table, from hospital sick rooms to exclusive dining clubs. One of its appeals is how easy it is to make. Another, perhaps more important factor in its popularity is how it inspires creativity. For example, on many southern menus, the term “congealed salad” is Jell-O, but Jell-O taken to another level: a world of fun recipes in which the gelatin is threaded with carrots or coconut shreds, dotted with Funmallows, fruit cocktail, or nuts. And instead of it being clear, it may be opaque, thanks to the addition of cream cheese, sour cream, cottage cheese, or Miracle Whip. Jell-O’s tremendous mid-20th century popularity waned as American eaters yearned for foods that seemed more natural and/or more sophisticated, but it has remained a pantry mainstay in many homes and an expected presence in the dessert area of cafeteria lines. Jell-O’s image as a definitive family food (touted by Bill Cosby when he was thought of as America’s best dad) suffered some with the popularity of Jell-O shots, which add vodka or rum to Jell-O molded into shot-size cylinders.

Restaurants With This Dish

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Durgin-Park

BOSTON, MA

Martin’s

MONTGOMERY, AL

Sugar Bowl

SCOTTSDALE, AZ

S&S Cafeteria

AUGUSTA, GA

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