Friday, June 3, 2011

Why the Jell-O Salad (with Carrots) is Green!

If you didn't already know, green Jell-O brand gellatin with grated carrots is one of the icons of Mormon culture left over from the 50's and 60's along with those big, plastic grapes and weird politics. And fusing two of those three, the Utah State Legislature has designated Jello-O as the official state snack. And I finally figured it out! This is from  my own personal observation, but it just might be the explanation why the famous Jell-O is green!
The strawberries would help a lot!!
I clearly remember that my mom always had a stack of those little Jell-O boxes in the cupboard. The boxes were of various flavors- cherry, orange, grape, lemon, lime. And they were of various colors generally matching the color of the fruit of the respective flavor. Occasionally, Mom would make a Jell-O treat for our dinner. If we were around during the dinner preparatory stage, she would ask what flavor we wanted. We would choose by color interpreted as flavor, and red, purple, and orange were always popular. I imagine that when Mom went to the grocery store, she bought a pile of those boxes to get a variety of the various flavors without thinking about what was still in the cupboard. So unintentionally, the green, lime boxes stacked up at home. When the call came to go to a church pot-luck or take some salad to a home on Relief Society assignment, Mom would reach in the cupboard and on the law of averages, most likely the option would be green. And it was good to use up those boxes of green elsewhere as we kids didn't seem to like that color. So, it's not that green was the most popular color of Jell-O, but that it was the most public.

Now, you might be saying, "What about all the lemon Jell-O left behind?" But when developing cultural icons, they need to be noticeable unlike the rather bland and transparent yellow Jell-O (although I suppose you would see the carrots better).

And why carrots? I can only imagine the obvious that when a "salad" is necessary, a mother would try to sneak in something nutritious where it might not have been otherwise. Even if technically tubers rather than official, leafy green vegetables, carrots are healthy for you and always readily available (at least in my mom's and now my own family's fridge). And, of course, the surrounding green gives further hint of the possibility of vegetable.

Now that I've got that mystery solved, guess I'll get back to trying to figure out the Utah legislature.

2 comments:

  1. Oh, solve the EASY one first, why doncha?!

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  2. (Anon/M)In the Utah food groups of the '50's and '60's, the Jello was bright green but the peas were a shade of army-camouflage. My mother-in-law (from Tooele) used to boil canned peas to death. I guess bright, crisp veggies looked a bit sinful in those days...and so terribly European.

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