Jell-O Makes the Modern (Mountain) Woman (Gravy Ep. 34)

Jell-O painting by Lina Tharsing.

Jell-O could seem like a trivial food. It’s brightly colored– vibrantly orange, electric green or unsettlingly blue—nutritionally void, and, hey, it jiggles. But in Appalachia, Jell-O marked a transformation in the lives of rural residents.

In this episode of Gravy, Kentucky writer Lora Smith sifts through a trove of oral histories that demonstrate the sea change in culinary that Jell-O represented. It served, for these communities, as a benchmark in a time. Life could be sorted into a pre-Jell-O and a post-Jell-O era.

Jello-website

You can find Lora Smith’s essay “Electric Jell-O” for the print version of Gravy, here.

2016-03-24 Jell-O podcast 1Berea College’s Oral History Archive is here.

I ended up going down an internet rabbit hole of Jell-O commercials while Lora and I were working on this story. Here’s one of the ones I found from the 1950s, or this one from the 1970s.