Fantastic Find at the Bookstore #11: Gelatin Gems from the Past

As a kid, I thought Jell-O was a generic term. Although I remember seeing Royal gelatin and pudding mixes at the store, my mom was a loyal Jell-O consumer.

I love finding these cute vintage recipe booklets at the used bookstores or antique shops and snagged this one dated 1942. I even wrote in the back where and when I purchased it, which I often forget to do: Hancock, MI, August 28, 1991. I lived near there, in the Upper Peninsula, for many years.

This booklet contains recipes for puddings, “ice box” desserts, pies, ice creams, candies, soups, gravies, fruit salads, main dish salads, and of course, gelatin desserts! Here’s one that looks rather refreshing for a hot day like today…

Whenever I see a “fancy” gelatin recipe like this, I think back to a major Jell-O fail I experienced in my youth. The spring I graduated from high school, I was supposed to take a dessert to the Junior/Senior Banquet at school. My parents and younger brother were going out of town, I think to pick up my older sister from college. My mother told me how to make the dessert out of Jell-O, fruit, and something to make it creamy…maybe Kool Whip? She warned me to make it well in advance so it would have time to set. Well, that didn’t happen, and I took a very soupy dessert to school that evening.

No one at my table ate any of it, and I certainly didn’t admit that I had provided that particular dish. The next day, we were supposed to pick up the washed plates and bowls from the cafeteria, and I was embarrassed to do that, thinking the workers would connect my face to the disaster in the bowl. I think maybe I told Mom it was nowhere to be found when I went to check. Possibly I never told her the truth. Knowing me as she did, she may have guessed something close to the real story.

Speaking of gelatin, I’m reminded that this particular product is made from animal parts. Now eating as a vegan, this bothers me, so I looked into some likely vegan gelatin substitutes. Several of these are brand name products that may or may not be available at the grocery, health food store, or online. A few of the suggestions are more generic, however, and can be found in many shops. If you know of any similar products that are easy to find, please let us know in the comments.

And if you have any “Jell-O fails” you’d like to share, we’d love to read about them!