LIANE HANSEN, host:
It shimmies, it shakes and it glides down your throat, bringing back memories of a cool treat on summer evenings or easing the sting after a tonsillectomy. Baby boomers may think it's a thing of the past, but WEEKEND EDITION food enthusiast Bonny Wolf knows better.
Jell-O is back. At least that's the word in New York and on the Food Network and at yoga class. Of course, Jell-O has never lost its hold, so to speak, in school cafeterias, hospital kitchens and roadside diners. But in highbrow food circles, Jell-O has been dissed for decades, that is if it ever enjoyed any respect from the sophisticate in the first place.
Now retro food is trendy. Try this for a weekend dinner party: deviled eggs for an appetizer, meat loaf, mashed potatoes and a wedge of iceberg lettuce with blue cheese dressing and a Jell-O dessert that encases slices of banana and mandarin oranges. Tres chic. Trendy 30- and 40-something New Yorkers are taking Jell-O salads to pot luck dinners.
But there are standards. Nouveau Jell-O salads look little like their forbearers. Gone are the mini-marshmallows, fresh mango has replaced canned fruit cocktail and Cool Whip has given way to creme fraiche. These creations are served in elegant glasses or cut-crystal bowls. An oh-so-hip Manhattanite friend of a friend swears she was at a party where dessert was a Canadian flag made of Jell-O.
But some old favorites linger. Andy Oakland, aka Chef Andy of the Internet, is the cyberworld's Jell-O king. He says the most common request he gets on his Jell-O Pages Web site is from people trying to find a childhood recipe. Andy himself makes a strawberry pretzel gelatin dessert that he says always get raves. Bet no boomer had that as a kid.
And then there are Jell-O shots. Shots of vodka and other booze congealed into brightly colored gelatin cubes have come out of the frat house and into the summer beach house. Low-carb diets get some of the credit--or blame--for the Jell-O revival. For a treat, they recommend sugar-free J-E-L-L-O. And then there are the style setters. Martha Stewart has a recipe for blackberry red wine gelatin, the Food Network offers pomegranate gelatin and Bon Appetit contributes cranberry port gelatin with crystalized ginger and celery.
Like all culinary trends, this one, too, will inevitably slide away, but for now, as the old advertising goes, it seems there is always room for Jell-O.
HANSEN: Bonny Wolf is working on a book of food essays to be published by St. Martin's Press. "Recipes for Jell-O Salads" can be found at npr.org.
(Soundbite of vintage ad)
Unidentified Men: (Singing) J-E-L-L-O!
HANSEN: It's 22 minutes before the hour.
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