Gettin' Jiggly With It: Jell-O Molds

Jen Brown


Salads, molds, pies, and, yes, even shots, past to present, that's how we gel. Let’s reflect on adventures in aspic.

Gelatin, that shapeshifting wonder food, made midcentury housewives masters of orderly yet over-the-top prepared food presentation. And perhaps no other ingredient has been so influential on potlucks and church picnics. 

Most modern tastebuds may find sweet layered desserts dotted with suspended fruit, a charmingly nostalgic addition to a party spread. However, a fish mold comprised of canned tuna, mayonnaise, onion, pimento, cucumber in a lemon gelatin base, with or without a strategically placed olive serving as the fish's eye, is likely to be considered unpalatable. And could even have today's party-goers questioning your sanity and your taste buds.

The savory period of gel cookery came to a close in the 1970s, and the Jell-OTM brand eliminated flavor offerings like celery, mixed vegetables and "Italian Salad." However, as it has since medieval times, gelatin endures. 

Beyond the standard rainbow salad of potlucks, jiggling kids' snacks and bubble tea, there are elevated gelatin offerings in line with today's tastes and trends. The timeless gelatin mold gets a modern makeover as a raindrop cake—a transparent, round gel dessert that looks like a drop of water with optional injected flower shapes. Even Jell-O shots have gone upscale with the addition of wine or champagne, sparkling sugar garnishes and creative molding.

So, not all old traditions are bad, but can we please make a promise to keep gelatin sweet?

Images: courtesy of The Hellmann’s and Best Foods/Unilever and Starkist/Dongwon Industries // Tupperware mold courtesy of MegsandMomsFinds/ebay // courtesy of The A.1. Sauce Company/Kraft Heinz

Jell-O is a trademark of Kraft Heinz