Americas’ Favorite Dessert


Graciela Martinez

November 17, 2016

California State University Dominguez Hills

IDS: 336 Food and Culture

Dr. Perez

                                                            Americas’ Favorite Desert

            Even though Gelatin has a rich history dating thousands of years; it was advertising that made it possible for Jell-O to become Americas favorite dessert.  Jell-O has evolved and transformed to appeal to a wide range of people.  From children to the elderly community, Jell-O is Americas’ dessert.  While my reason for choosing gelatin as my research paper was sentimental and very personal, I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered what a rich history gelatin has.  I hope to help my fellow classmates learn a little bit about history of gelatin, why I chose gelatin for my research paper, and of course I will provide a simple family recipe.  Finally, I will write about how brilliant marketing helped raise Jell-O to the status it holds today.

            Gelatin goes all the way back to the 15th century, Denis Papin a French man discovered it.  Gelatin in its raw nature stage has no color let alone flavor.  It is made from pure protein from animal bones.  “His experiment resulted in a method of removing the glutinous material from animal bones and boiling them” (Wulffson, 1999).  Even though gelatin was first discovered by Papin, he never patented gelatin under his name.  It was not until 1897, when Pearl B. Wait improved the gelatin formula; by adding fruit syrup, it made the gelatin more appealing to a wider number of consumers. He also named his invention Jell-O. “The New business had no completion, but unfortunately, not enough people wanted to try Jell-O. Wait sold the business to Orator Francis Woodward, a neighbor, for $450” (Wulffson, 1999).  Becoming an American favorite dessert was not an easy road for gelatin.  It had more than a few struggles along the way.  Jell-O was popular for a few elite in the early 1900s, it was served as an elegant meal.  By the Great Depression in the 1930 Jell-O had become an affordable meal in most American households.  Brilliant Marketing made it possible for Kraft Foods to catapult into an afortable dessert.

            Woodward was the driving force that made Jell-O a house hold name.  He created a very successful advertising campaign. Poster, picture, and ads in magazine provided fabulous Jell-O recipes.” Over 15 million Jell-O recipes booklets were printed and distributed into American household” (What is cooking America). In the early 1900s immigrants arriving to Ellis island were greeted with a bowl of Jell-O.  This simple act of kindness provided new faithful consumers, guaranteeing Kraft Food increases sells and popularity.  In 1904 the Jell-O girl was introduced to America, in 1934, Jack Benny oversaw advertising Jell-O in the radio airwaves.   Radio jingles was a common practice, they were catchy and memorable.  In 1964, Kraft Foods came out with one of their most successful slogan “There’s always room for Jell-O” (hat is cooking America).  Kraft Food sales were profitable for the most part of the 20th century until 1974. where for the first time they started to decline.  House wives no longer wanted to buy Jell-O for their growing children.  Kraft Food needed to reinvent the company and introduce more creative advertising, for the first time they hired a public figure to promote Americas favorite dessert. 

Gelatin has a few nutritional values, which continues to appeal worldwide sales. For example, sugar free Jell-O is a healthy dessert, it has 60 calories per serving, 10 of the 60 calories are from fat. Another great benefit is that Gelatin is cholesterol free, it has 170mg of sodium, 10 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiver, 1 gram of protein, 10% of calcium, and 4% of Iron. Strawberry Jell-O only has 250 calories in a cup, 90calories are from fat.   Strawberry Jell-O has 5mg of cholesterol, 190mg of sodium, 38 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 190 mg of sodium, 21 grams of sugar, 3 grams of protein, vitamin A and C, 2% calcium, and 2% iron. Gelatin has come a long way from it early origins.  Gelatin beginning was flavorless and colorless, it was meant to be serve to a few elite. Today their Jell-O has several flavors from strawberry, lime, lemon, orange to chocolate and vanilla.  Today Jell-O is served in every household, regardless of social economic status.  Hospitals serve Jell-O to their patients after any minor or major surgery, it is a light meal.  In the United States of America Jell-O is an affordable easy to make dessert in third world countries. The sale of homemade gelatin is a source of income.  Women like my mother and my grandmother have provided food and clothes for their children by selling gelatin in local mom and pop stores.   

My love for homemade gelatins began very early in life.  One of my first childhood memories was my mother preparing a hole batch of gelatins.  She would make a few of every flavor and colors, and on very special occasions she would make gelation made with milk.  As I got older I started questioning my mother how and who had taught her how to make my favorite dessert.  As it turns out my father was the one that taught her how to make them.  My mother had to provide for her young daughters, because even though my father did provide for the family at time he felt just a little short.  He was groomed to be a machista by my grandmother and his sisters.  There was no question he cared for his young wife and girls but when he was influenced into drinking, he would waste the rent money.   By learning how to make homemade gelatins my mother found a way to bring money to the house hold.  My father learned how to make gelatins from his mother.  My grandmother is 84 years old and till this day she continues to deliver her gelatin to a few mom and pop stores.  In the afternoon, she sets up a table outside her house and sells her home-made gelatin to the neighborhoods’ kids.  She has kept her independence by continuing to sell gelatins every morning and every afternoon. 

Now a day one never stops to think how much history there is behind the food we enjoy every day.  We take it for granted, it is as just another thing one must do to stay alive.  The fact of the matter is that food has a rich history behind it.  It has different levels of nutrition and every culture appreciates food to different degrees.  Jell-O was my selection entry for my cook book, I chose it because, every time I eat Jell-O it reminds me of my lovely mother and my grandmother. I go back to my childhood in Mexico, I began to remember my mother and myself in the kitchen. I am sitting on the kitchen table watching my mother boiling the gelatin, adding sugar to it.  Poring it to another pot, adding food coloring and vanilla flavor.  Poring it to a least 100 molds, letting them set through the night.  Getting up in the morning to enjoying my favorite, milk gelatin. 

                                    My mother’s homemade milk gelatin

This recipe would make 50 eight ounces’ milk gelatins

250 grams of grenetina

1 gallon of water

1 gallon of whole milk

2 lbs. of sugar

Sticks of cinnamon

½ spoon of vanilla extract



Barksdale, Nate. “Jiggle it: The history of Gelatin, as and Jellies.” Hunry History, 5 Sept. 2014.

Buzz, Matt. “The fascinating, Untold story of Jell-O Gizmodo.” Today I found out .com, 24 Jan. 2014.

Grey, Sara. “A social history of Jell-O salad: The rise and fall of an American Icon.”, 2015.

Hallock, Betty. “The cocktail you eat.” LA times, 10 Oct. 2007.

“History of Gelatin, Gelatine, and Jell-O.” Whats cooking in, .

Polis, Carey. “The state of Jell-O salad in America.” Huffington Post, 18 Sept. 2012.

Spackman, Chris. “Mormonism’s Jell-O Mold.” Slate, Aug. 08.

 “The Jiggly history of Jell-O.” Today I found Out Feed your Brain, 24 Jan. 2014.

Wulffson, Don L. “Fascinating facts about the invention of Jell-O by Pearl B. Wait in 1897.” 1999.

Wyman, Carolyn. “In Utah, it’s good to be green (Jell-O).” LA times, 13 Feb. 2002.










One thought on “Americas’ Favorite Dessert

  1. That’s great that one of your favorite dishes is jello. My grandmas used to always make jello, but my mom would make us pudding. It’s interesting that yours is made with milk. Love the way it looks, so beautiful.

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