Virtual Tuesday Talk—Dainty Desserts for Dainty People: The Feminized History of Gelatin
Gelatin desserts are today considered retro and even low-class, but when industrial gelatin was first developed, gelatinous foods were the labor-intensive purview of the upper classes. Calves’ foot jelly and blanc mange were the height of fashion, but coexisted with terrines and head cheese. The discovery of granulated gelatin in 1845 was an accident – the inventor had been experimenting with recipes for glue. The patent languished unused for 50 years until Pearl Wait bought it in 1895. A year earlier, Charles Knox developed a gelatin recipe to make his wife’s life easier. By the 1900s, Jell-O and Knox Gelatin were huge successes, changing American cuisine at a time when society was also changing significantly. Once the purview of children and the sick, gelatin desserts became increasingly associated with ladies’ tea rooms, luncheon parties, and more. Along with the development of commercial rennet by Christian Hansen Laboratories to create Junket, Jell-O and Knox dominated the market. All three companies were also founded in New York State, along the Erie Canal corridor. Food historian Sarah Wassberg Johnson traces the origins of these companies, their influence on American food and society, and how gelatin desserts went from labor-intensive delicacies to school and hospital cafeteria standbys.
Speaker: Sarah Wassberg Johnson, The Food Historian
This event is taking place online only. The speaker will not be present at the DAR Museum.
Institution or Organization name - DAR Museum