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To acquire wisdom, one must observe

Is Jell-O actually good, or are we fooling ourselves?

This article is part of an ongoing collaborative column by Gonny Nir and Jamie Trope. In this column, the authors explore questions big & small, worthwhile & worthless, obvious & absurd, all for the humble pursuit of knowledge, truth and sanity (or lack thereof).

 

Greetings, Gonny!

 

First and foremost, I would like to invite you to Google aspic. This “delicacy” revolves around submerging various food items in Jell-O, sweet and savory, and presenting the final product as in a perverse bundt cake shape. Yes, we are fooling ourselves. We must be. Jell-O is not good. Once symbolizing that you owned a refrigerator, Jell-O’s time has come and gone. It is no longer impressive to put an aspic on the table for dinner (and I wish it never had been seen as impressive). 

If you ever wanted to know what that ominous dyed-blue water at the miniature golf courses tasted like, or if you ever wondered what plastic could feel like, Jell-O is the right substance for you. It comes in a variety of absurd flavors, such as Concord Grape, Melon Fusion, Cotton Candy and Fruit Punch. Jell-O flavors would be better enjoyed as a drink instead of with a spoon. 

Texturally, I find Jell-O revolting. It is a unique texture not found anywhere else—and for good reason. It is smooth. It is absolutely void of texture. My only pleasant experience with Jell-O was in fourth grade, when one of my classmates brought in a lime Jell-O and pineapple combination concoction for a birthday party. From what I can piece together, the dish was prepared by taking a can of pineapple rings, draining the liquid, filling the can up with lime Jell-O instead, and setting it in the fridge. Finally, the can is removed from the fridge, the contents disemboweled from the can, and the cylindrical structure cut into slices. I do not anticipate ever attempting to recreate the dish, but I look upon the memory with fondness.

Of all the desserts in the world, I would never choose Jell-O first. Let the record show that I do not enjoy cheesecake, and yet I would eat cheesecake instead of a slice (cup? scoop?) of Jell-O. The substance only exists to boast how cool the powers of gelatin can be, and we know how gelatin works. We do not need to see the same science experiment repeated again and again and eating the results afterwards.

You must make an active choice to eat Jell-O, to take the small rectangular box off the grocery store aisle or the cups from the refrigerated section. There is no other place you would run into a Jell-O cup. They do not occur naturally in the wild (thank goodness). 

It is time to move on from Jell-O. There are so many other cool and enjoyable desserts. So, ditch the Jell-O cup and try something new. Please. I implore you. 

 

Warmly, Jamie

 

Dear Jamie,

 

Firstly, Feb. 18, 2023, marks the last day I act on Google suggestions from you. Aspic is an absolutely revolting substance, and I was likely a much less disturbed and troubled soul before I had been made aware of its existence. Dear readers, take it upon yourself—if you can save yourself from the curiosity—to not Google this abomination. Thank me later.

Anyhow, you’ve stumped me with this one for sure. As a child, I thought Jell-O was the hippest thing since sliced bread. You can’t blame simple-minded Gonny for that one. Putting the taste and texture of Jell-O aside just for a moment, you must admit that it’s amusing to look at. Jell-O jiggles, it’s transparent, it comes in all kinds of neon colors, and as a child, one cannot be blamed to be amused by this alien-looking substance. Further, I was raised by a so-called “organic mother.” Hence, I—unlike many of my former classmates—did not enjoy desserts which were not directly derived from fruits or simple baked goods.

One could say that I was sheltered from the all-American diet of Little Debbie’s Twinkies and Hostess cream-filled cupcakes. The closest thing I ever got to a milkshake was those little applesauce pouches from Costco. And yes, let the record reflect that I’m absolutely convinced that applesauce just tastes better in a pouch. But anyway, I’m getting distracted­—back to Jell-O. I think that Jell-O is less about the taste and more about the experience. Allow me to explain.

I speculate that when one goes through with purchasing Jell-O, one is not expecting to undergo a Remy-eats-fine-cuisine moment from Disney’s “Ratatouille.” One is not expecting to take a bite, close their eyes, and see every color visible to the human eye, swirling against a black background. I would argue that when one purchases Jell-O, they are doing so with the intention to enjoy its textural peculiarity. I think that precisely because this strange concoction is so unlike any other form of food, many enjoy it precisely because it is so strange. Jell-O exists beyond our organic conception of texture, flavor, etc. It’s a supra-natural food.

Now, I think that it is perfectly fine to be opposed to the notion of Jell-O. Afterall, as I underscored, it’s objectively weird and not what I would classify as a “normal” food. However, we all have our flavor and textural preferences, and I will not antagonize one’s personal tastes.

Consequently, I think that on this most pressing of queries, we ought to defer on our personal judgements and let folks enjoy their Frankenstein concoctions of pineapple, cotton candy, cherry or whatever else one decides to flavor their gelatin.

Yours affectionately,

Gonny 

 

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