Thought for the day: many recipes involving Jell-o came from the thirties through the postwar era.
During that time, especially during the ’50’s, women were (and still are, but not as strictly) expected to conform to restrictive standards of behavior or risk losing everything. The frustration and angst were drowned by cocktails or stilled with pills.
All that unhappiness had to go somewhere. Could it be that the creation of some of these recipes and and inflicting them on the family could have been a desperate unconscious cry for help clothed in socially acceptable terms?
Or could it have been a way to express one’s creativity stifled by the suffocating expectations?
My mom had been on track to become a concert pianist until World War II broke out. Being that kind of a woman, she changed her concentration from performance to music education so she could help returning soldiers and differently-abled children after that. Which she did, and her work at a rehab hospital introduced her to my dad who worked there as an orderly. That part wasn’t so bad.
The bad came as the post-war vacuum drew her into the hyper-domesticated world of the ’50’s. She could make Jell-o salads with the best of them. Not a great cook otherwise, but give her a box of Jell-o and she could rule the world, a trail of shredded carrots in her wake. But it was not the world where she belonged.
Mom belonged on a stage where she could share her gift and getting loving support so she didn’t have to deal with the mundane world. She played organ and piano for our church or school events, and taught sometimes, but it never really soothed the ache in the places emptied by doing what she thought was the right thing at the time.
Eventually, the collective heartbreaks conspired with her cigarettes and estrogen pills to end her life too soon.
Perhaps when faced at family dinners with some Jell-o creation like this over the holidays, the polite thing to do would be to eat a couple of mouthfuls, and then encourage some art or writing classes so their legacy of creativity lasts longer and gives more joy than a salad course.