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June 14, 2014

Culinary Conversation: Jell-O still a cool summer choice

NEW CASTLE — Turning on the stove or oven in hot weather is not appealing.

It’s summer, and lighter meals consisting of salads and lots of fresh fruits and vegetables are easy and healthy.

We’re all looking for no-cook, minimal-cook recipes. And we’ve come through with some easy selections

What are yours?

We’ve heard your comments about trying recipes that appear in Culinary Conversation. And we want to keep including your recipes in this column that runs every Friday. Culinary Conversation has always been about trying to feature as many contributions from readers as possible.

Sharing recipes is fun, so spread the word and keep those emails and letters with your recipes coming.

Meanwhile, let’s talk cool, easy and tasty.

Summer and Jell-O are the perfect pair.

Jell-O has been around for more than 100 years. It is versatile and makes a pretty salad or dessert like the one included today.

Here’s a little background.

According to a 1904 edition of the Ladies Home Journal, Jell-O was called America’s favorite dessert.

Gelatin, the main ingredient in Jell-O, was an-after dinner delicacy for the wealthy dating to at least the 15th century.

Skip ahead a few centuries and Thomas Jefferson — who was always ahead of his time — was known to serve gelatin desserts at official banquets in his Monticello, Va. home.

In 1845, Peter Cooper, who invented the steam locomotive, The Tom Thumb, was granted a patent for finding an easier way to make a gelatin dessert powder requiring only the addition of hot water. But he never actually commercialized it.

But the married couple of Pearl and May Wait of Rochester, N.Y. did. They found and obtained the patent for powdered gelatin and added sugary fruit syrups for flavoring.

They sold the powder to cooks on occasion, but never commercialized it beyond that. However, the combination of gelatin and jelly, and the popularity at the time to end the name of a product with an “O” led to the word Jell-O. The Waits sold the formula and the name to the owner of the Genesee Food Co.

With smart advertising, recipe books telling homemakers how to prepare Jell-O and the introduction of Jell-O Girl who proclaimed, “You can’t be a kid without it,” Jell-O wobbled its way into almost every kitchen in America.

Because of brilliant marketing, it became one of the most well-known brands in American history. Norman Rockwell even drew illustrations depicting Jell-O. And Jack Benny sang, in 1934, the new jingle  — J-E-L-L-O.

Another celebrity, Bill Cosby, became the spokesperson by the mid 1970s when sales began to decline. That relationship lasted more than 30 years.

Two of today’s recipes use Jell-O products.

The photo for the chocolate icebox cake has me staring at it over and over again. It looks luscious and I can almost guarantee that it would be a major hit at a picnic, family reunion or summer party.

Before you get dessert, though, try some of these great salads. There is quite a variation using fresh ingredients.

And remember, Culinary Conversation is your place to share recipes, and cooking tips, stories and suggestions.

Fresh Veggie Pasta Salad

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