How To Make Jell-O / by Altman Studeny

1.) Dissolve one package of any fruit flavored Jell-O Gelatin in one cup of boiling water. Begin to recollect your personal memories of eating Jell-O: the pleasures, the challenges, the anxieties, the joys.

2.) Drain one can fruit cocktail of juice, reserving 3/4 cup syrup while considering the regional history of unironic Jell-O salad consumption which you are, in some small measure, laboring to preserve by unironically making a Jell-O salad to consume. 

3.) Add reserved syrup and one tablespoon of lemon juice to gelatin. Chill until very thick, about two hours, time that can be used to reflect upon the shifting perceptions of Jell-O from a dish of refined elegance and economic privilege in an era of limited refrigeration to a symbol of the perceived limited cultural experience of a hinterland so unsophisticated as to still use cream of chicken soup as sauce and crushed potato chips as garnish, and strive to define whether you are critiquing that perception or, in fact, inadvertently perpetuating it.

4.) Fold-in fruit and 1/4 cup of coarsely chopped nuts. Pour into a one quart mold and chill until firm, another two to three hours. While waiting, consider the amount of time and effort required to make what has through its history been touted as a simple dish for the housewife of Middle America to prepare and serve to her expectant family; how that amount of time and effort required was not nor ever has been seen as equivalent to the secret mythic power of an artist laboring in his studio; how that perception of artist’s secret mythic power, led, during the 1950s, to artists such as Jackson Pollock and Willem deKooning being heralded in a purpose-starved post-War culture (the very culture most closely associated with the making of such Jell-O salads as you are now laboring to make...) as “heroes” for enacting a phallocentric drip and flick performance upon a symbolically supine canvas; and how culture has not yet adapted its mythologies to accept a definition of “hero” that neither rabidly embraces nor actively rebels against these signs and signifiers but is instead completely indifferent to the terms of the debate. 

5.) Unmold carefully, ruminating on the essential absurdity of making Jell-O when, in two-point-three billion years, the Earth and every solitary remnant of the culture which brought about Jell-O; saw Jell-O as class; saw Jell-O as kitsch; used Jell-O as cultural critique; put fruit cocktail in tins; cared anything at all about Jackson Pollock; painted, in addition to “Lavender Mist” and “Guernica” and “The Beethoven Frieze” and “Young Corn,” glistening Jell-O molds to be printed in booklets to sell more Jell-O; perpetuated arbitrary concepts of perfection with four-color lithography; fully embraced those arbitrary concepts of perfection because, “hey!, at least it’s something”; established gendered roles and family structures; created and abandoned gods; created potato chips; crushed up potato chips to sprinkle over cream soup and ground beef; domesticated cattle; made the skins and bones of those cattle into a powder which allowed deserts to hold the shape of pinwheels; defined the concept of “irony”; had nervous systems developed enough to recognize distinctions between irony and sincerity; had feelings to be hurt when the two collide; were advanced to the point of needing a term like “phallocentric”; never advanced much beyond the idea that their phalluses were really something special; et cetera, et cetera, yes, THAT Earth, will be reduced to nothing more than a charred husk failing into the surface of the rapidly-expanding sun. 

6.) Serve with whipped cream.