You Are Welcome Here

Peeps peeping through office window

My first (and possibly last) hack during a brief moment of structural integrity.

For my first Jell-O dish, I decided to do something fun and pretty. Today’s dish is partly inspired by an attempt by a few of us in the Lab to do the old “stapler in Jell-O” prank, which quickly escalated in the planning stages (this is MIT, after all) from a stapler suspended in a simple single-flavor block of Jell-O to a stapler in a rainbow block of Jell-O.

My co-conspirators were a research specialist who had recently finished his master’s thesis with us, and a doctoral student, and as it turned out, these young men had little interest in my fairly extensive experience with Jell-O and my limited experience with hacks. (I once attempted to fill the sidelight window of a co-worker’s office with a rainbow of marshmallow peeps, but I was insufficiently rigorous in my approach. I was not careful enough about measuring the dimensions of the window and of the peeps. Also, I failed to take into account the fact that hundreds of peeps actually weigh something. Rookie mistakes.) The guys quickly lost patience with the Jell-O layering process, and demonstrated that even MIT graduates can fail in spectacular fashion with Jell-O:

Jell-O mess

This is what happens when you get impatient with Jell-O

Ever since then, I’ve wanted to do a rainbow jelly the right way, carefully preparing and chilling each layer, and giving it time to set up properly to give it a fair chance of unmolding with integrity. So here was my opportunity. I spent an afternoon and evening watching Harry Potter and making six layers (twelve cups) of Jell-O (strawberry, orange, lemon, lime, berry blue, and grape) for my rainbow. As you can see, it was not terribly successful.

overhead shot of rainbow Jell-O

Maybe this is what Judy Garland was thinking about when she sang “Over the Rainbow”.

rainbow pattern in Jell-O, side view

From the side, the rainbow pattern is visible.

I’m starting to think that this ring mold is a bit of a lose when it comes to layered gelatin. I’ve had this happen to me before with this mold, where the layers slid apart when I unmolded the dish, or some time thereafter. Also, I didn’t happen to have any nonstick cooking spray on hand when I was preparing this last night, and that makes a difference. It sounds gross, but you can’t taste it in the eating, and it’s better than the warm water bath method for loosening the Jell-O, which can leave it kind of melty.

Note that the smaller, solid molds have remained intact. Bryan and I each ate one of those after we took the photos (Bryan exlaiming, “…and the snozzberry layer tastes like snozzberries!”) and as I was spooning up slices, I noticed that they were perfect little rainbows. Visually, it was actually rather delightful to eat. Almost makes up for the cloying aftertaste.

Jell-O on spoon showing rainbow pattern

This is what they used to call a “lovin’ spoonful”.

I served this with whipped cream flavored with Grand Marnier because we don’t have any vanilla extract in the house. Could someone please tell Bryan that vanilla extract is a pantry staple that should be on hand at all times? Thank you.

As I was thinking about this recipe, I was reminded of the “You Are Welcome Here” campaign at MIT that went on for a couple of years. lgbt@mit mailed out some informational material and postcards that we were to consider posting in our workspaces to indicate that we’re welcoming to the LGBT community. To be honest, this made me a little uncomfortable, because there seemed to be an implication that if you failed to post the card in your workspace you might be homophobic. Or, at least, people might think you are. It just felt a bit coercive. Maybe that’s why they stopped doing it. (Or they ran out of funding for the campaign.)

Nevertheless, I felt it would be fitting if I voluntarily, in my own way, did a blog post to confirm that, indeed, all are welcome here, and I’m cool with people letting their freak flags fly. At first I felt a little sorry that the Jell-O mold didn’t come out better, but I think the message here is that everyone is beautiful and tasty, including those of us who can’t or won’t conform to the shape of a mold.

You Are Welcome Here

3 responses

  1. Hey, Bryan. Vanilla’s totally a pantry staple.

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  2. […] layers slid apart in transit. Instead, I used a three-cup mold and four 1.25-cup molds, since my rainbow mold last year seemed to work out so much better in smaller molds. My plan was to bring the larger mold to a party […]

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  3. […] terms, the Republican convention was Molded Ham and Egg Salad, and the Democratic convention was a rainbow Jell-O mold. The Republican convention was so dismal in tone and so badly run that it made the Democratic […]

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