Jello Days by (2 Stories)

Prompted By What We Ate

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Growing up in a small mining town in California’s Mojave Desert, we didn’t have access to a lot of variety when it came to grocery shopping.  But my mom, in true post-World-War-2 fashion, was an enthusiastic supporter of every new thing that came on the market.  So despite our little store’s limited potential, we kids sampled the best that America could offer in ingenious new foods.

Was it convenient?  It landed in Mom’s shopping cart.  Was it fast?  She was on board.  If Uncle Ben could make rice cook in half the time, that’s what we were having.  Aunt Jemima offered pancake mix that already had all the stuff included; you just added water.  Were Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben married?  It seemed likely.  Was Mrs. Butterworth a distant relative, or a little something-something on the side?  You had to wonder.

Dad didn’t get involved in the kitchen very often (being the outdoor barbecue expert), but he seemed as pleased by these fantastic new time-saving foods as Mom was. As a Marine accustomed to eating Spam, Dad was more than happy to see the green Jello salad with its suspended bits of fruit cocktail, or the orange jello mixed with cottage cheese.  It was colorful, it was fun, it doubled as a dessert, and despite its rather low-rent image now, there was no meal Jello could not brighten.

The novelty of Jiffy-Pop, the ease of mixing up Tang orange drink, outweighed any lack of taste in those years.  No one expected Tang to taste like fresh-squeezed orange juice.  It was more about saving labor.  Who wanted to squeeze a bunch of oranges?

Many of Mom’s favorite products of the 50’s and 60’s later fell out of favor, to be replaced with new trends in cooking (I was glad to see the most frightening thing in the kitchen – the pressure cooker — go to the garage). No more canned strawberries; no more boiling vegetables till they were soggy.   But Mom retained her love of the newest and latest all her life.  She had no less than six Swiffer products in her pantry at last count.  And she passed along her embrace of American ingenuity to her daughters, who now squirt Crystal Light into their water bottles and are always ready for the next new thing.

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Characterizations: been there, funny, right on!, well written


  1. PZ says:

    OMG, did anything taste worse than the first iteration of Tang? I so wanted to like it, it was so easy to make and astronauts drank it—how cool was that? And fruit suspended in jello and pressure cooked veggies, thanks for the memories!

  2. Constance says:

    Now you’ve got me to wondering about Aunt Jemima, Uncle Ben and Mrs. Butterworth. lol

  3. Suzy says:

    I love the idea of Mrs. Butterworth as “a little something-something on the side”! We too had jello with fruit suspended in it, and at the time it seemed pretty great. Now, of course, jello is something you eat the day before a colonoscopy. 🙂

  4. rosie says:

    This was fun to read. Brought back memories. Did you realize that the astronauts supposedly drank tang on their voyages into the dark beyond?
    We had Mrs Butterworth for awhile, but as we moved on into the sixties, my mom provided more healthier selections, altho she still appreciated shortcuts.

  5. jcaen says:

    Of course you had to drink Tang! Who didn’t want to try the same drink as the astronauts had in outer space?! I also had to have Quisp cereal!! Guess I had a theme going on!!

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