Sunday, June 17, 2012

The ecumenical possibilities of Jell-O

I'm headed for a church potluck today, bearing a large bowl of orange Jell-O to which orange juice concentrate, mandarin oranges and crushed pineapple have been added. Frustratingly, my mother's recipe for "mandarin orange salad" has vanished, so this formula came from the Internet. I'm a little nervous.

In the interests of safe car-pooling. the suggested fluffy topping of Jell-O instant pudding and Cool Whip, also a Kraft Foods product, has been eliminated. Yes, I know Hy-Vee produces slightly less expensive generics of all three foundational products. But I'm a gelatinous fundamentalist.

As an adherent of a highly-liturgical expression of Christianity, I try to live by a self-imposed rule that the Jell-O served at a church potluck  be of the proper color for the liturgical season, now green since the passing of Pentecost and the return to ordinary time. But there wasn't time yesterday to melt and blend into lime Jell-O the marshmallows, plus Cool Whip, needed for "green magic" so this will have to do.

Don't recall ever attending a church potluck, from Roman Catholic to Unitarian Universalist, fundamentalist Baptist to Community of Christ, at which Jell-O was not served. We can't agree on the nature of the sacraments, the authority and authenticity of various holy scriptures and the magisterium, what it means to be "born again" and all sorts of other things, including how to deal with the "other" when the "other" declines to be poured into our favorite molds.

But we do seem to be united on the merits of Jell-O, suggesting that this might be the place to begin our ecumenical efforts rather than fussing about other stuff. I'm even willing to bend the seasonal color stipulation.

Yes, I know that gelatin generally is derived from animal products best not thought of while enjoying aspics and lemon Jell-O with shredded carrots and pineapple. And that causes difficulties for vegetarians, vegans and others. But most kosher gelatins are vegan and both agar agar and carrageen, based upon seaweed rather than boiled bones, are available. So there is hope.

Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with Jell-O.

By the way, if you eat any ready-to-serve Jell-O product --- say those little cups of pudding or fruited desserts --- you're tasting Iowa. They're all produced in a Kraft Foods plant in Mason City. Really.

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