I laughed so hard last night, I got a cramp in my jaw. Just thinking about it makes me chortle.
It was brought about by green Jello.
I grew up with a lot of Jello. My Mom made it often, dissolving the packet of raspberry or strawberry Jello in boiling water, then stirring in fruit cocktail and cold water. And then she put it in the refrigerator and waited for it to jell.
Watching her put the bowl of bright red liquid in the fridge, I developed a deep-seated fear. What if, this time, the Jello didn’t jell?
None of my fears came to pass. Mom’s Jello always jelled. I’d open the refrigerator door, and there would be a happy little bowl of the stuff, jiggling as if to say, “Welcome to the fridge!”
When I was in high school, Mom fixed a Jello fruit salad for me to take to a school potluck. It was a hot, humid spring day in Ohio, and over the course of the evening, my offering melted into a puddle of fruit cocktail and red liquid. I was so embarrassed, I wanted to abandon it! I knew I had to take the bowl home, so I slunk over to the potluck table with my head down. I was afraid people would point at me and say, “Oh, that one was yours?”
The joke that backfired
A couple of years later, I was a college student living on the cheap. Free food was always welcome, so when someone gave me a box of lime Jello, I made it and put it in the fridge.
My two best friends were coming over for the afternoon, and when Robert arrived, we came up with a practical joke to play on Dave. I was to give him a welcoming hug and in the process, slip a Jello cube down the back of his shirt.
Somehow, Robert and I thought this would be funny.
But Dave did not think it was funny, and his reaction was like a bucket of cold water. His puzzlement turned to dismay and then to a very gentle anger. After removing the offending blob of green Jello, he put his coat back on and left, shaking his head at the immaturity of his so-called friends.
I learned my lesson. I would never do something that dumb again.
Scaring my spouse
The story above explains why I was laughing so hard last night. Last night, I made a batch of plain green Jello for the first time since that incident in 1982.
Barry was in the other room when I made it, but when I took it out of the fridge, he came into the kitchen to see what I was up to. Often, when I’m rustling around in the kitchen, it means something yummy for him, so he has a kind of Pavlovian response.
The Jello came out of the fridge, in its green, jiggly glory, looking for all the world like congealed Kool-Aid. Barry looked a bit disappointed.
But I had a completely different reaction. First of all, I was delighted to see that it had jelled, alleviating my deep-rooted childhood fear. Second, since I hadn’t eaten Jello in so long, I was actually looking forward to tasting it. Without thinking, I reached in the pan and picked up a piece with my fingers.
What a wonderful feeling! Sort of squishy and solid at the same time.
But I had committed a major tactical error, because Barry was still standing next to me. Had I used a spoon, he wouldn’t have freaked out. But he had heard the story of Dave and the green Jello, and here I was, picking up a cube of the stuff with my fingers.
Barry panicked. First, he backed across the room. Then he buttoned his shirt all the way up to his chin, and just for good measure, zipped his fleece up all the way, too. He stood across the kitchen, keeping the table between us and looking like a deer in the crosshairs.
That’s when I started laughing so hard I got a jaw cramp. The truth is, I had no intention of putting it down his shirt. I simply wanted to snarf a piece of Jello with my fingers!
There’s something really hilarious about standing in the kitchen, holding a jiggling blob of green Jello in your hand, and watching your spouse run away in terror. At that point, he started laughing, too. But you know what? He laughed a lot harder after I ate my blob of Jello and put the pan safely back in the fridge!
We may think of Jello as 1950’s (or 70’s) retro, but it actually goes back much further than that. These boxes, in a Newfoundland museum, date back to the early 1900’s. As a result of intensive advertising (I’ve seen one of the ads in an old Harper’s magazine), Jell-O sales in 1906 reached $1 million.