Sunday, January 12, 2014

How Feminism Killed Gelatin

This morning I pored over this BuzzFeed list of 21 Truly Upsetting Vintage Recipes and it made me think. What was going on in the world that made people want to add grated onion and vinegar to lime jello?
The list was heavily weighted to loaves or molds. Gelatin figured in most of the recipes.
I didn't even know bologna came in a loaf you could hollow out into a shell. The idea that somebody would think to do that, then go on to add dissolved gelatin to mashed peas and push it inside this shell is anathema to me, let alone that they would them pat themselves on the back, photograph it, write it up, and publish it.

Yet as I proceeded down the list I found myself admiring the person who chose the words "partly bury 8 or 10 slices of Spam" for a recipe with precooked lima beans. And then they hit me with the banana candle.
Crescent Books / Via
OK, what the fuck? How is that food? I mean, how would you even eat that? If you went at it with a fork and a knife it would just fall over. You'd have to just... ewww! I didn't even think it could get worse and it just did.

I forwarded this link to my friend and said the Banana Candle was my favorite, and by favorite I mean most appallingly absurd. He replied. "OK, I don't know if I just have a prurient mind, but that banana candle looks more like a penis than either a banana OR a candle. So, kudos, chefs from the '60s."

I don't think it could be a prurient mind because that's the exact same thing I thought and I'd wager I have the least concupiscent outlook of anybody I know. That's just straight up observational awareness.

The whole thing makes me want to get inside the mind of the target audience for this stuff. What was really happening in the world that made this normal? I'm envisioning a James Burke's Connections style story about the food of the '60s.

Here's my vision: Housewife finishes the breakfast dishes, sits down at the Formica kitchen table with a cup of coffee, a cigarette, and a magazine. Husband calls from the office. "Hi honey, I'm about to sell Frank two hundred units of widgets. I'm bringing him home for dinner tonight to make the final pitch. Wow us!"

Wife looks at an ad for a loaf shaped thing in her magazine and sees her day coming together. She gets the jello mold in the refrigerator in time to sit down and watch the soap operas. She's not going to miss As the World Turns to debone a chicken, to hell with that.

Kids come home from school, they drink a glass of milk, eat a store-bought cookie, then play outside while she sets the table in the dining room and vacuums the wall-to-wall carpet that is the latest status symbol. She folds chintz napkins into frogs from a diagram in her magazine. She feeds the kids dinner at the kitchen table -- mac and cheese with weird shaped chunks of the bologna she scooped out of that loaf this morning. She shoos the kids upstairs, changes into her fancy dress that is very likely made of the same chintz as the napkins. She puts on lipstick.

Husband comes home with Fred and they start drinking heavily while Wife puts the loafs and canned fishes on the table. Ta fucking da.

Next thing you know the surgeon general reveals that tobacco is bad for you. They put warning labels on cigarettes. The housewife sits down at the kitchen table for her cup of coffee and opens the magazine, but now she's all wired on caffeine and her nerves are hot from giving up smoking. She innocently turns the page from a presentation of bright pink protein whorled into a shrimp flavored yule log to a picture of a goddam banana candle and she says, "What the actual fuck?" She goes out in the yard and uses the Zippo she still habitually carries in her apron pocket to set fire to the magazine. She drops it in the ash can and watches it burn as she maneuvers her bra out from under her house dress. She pulls the whole thing out through her left sleeve and delicately drops it into the fire, pinky held out like it was a tea cup. She gets a job and cancels her magazine subscriptions. Sales of gelatin plummet because nobody is home in the morning to make a dinner that has to set up all afternoon.

Next thing you know strip clubs proliferate and men close business deals there instead of at the dining table over loaves of processed food frosted with gelatinized mayonnaise. Feminism hits a wall.

With the decline of molded entrees horses are rendered into food for zoo animals instead of being made into gelatin. Zoos go through a rebirth in the 70's and '80s.

The last soap opera is cancelled.

In 2013 Sea World exposé Blackfish undermines public support for zoos.

Unemployment hits all time high at the same time 3d printers are so affordable there is an Etsy store with a mold of every conceivable pop culture icon. Gelatin makes a huge comeback to support population of hipster freelancers who are home all day.


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