Wednesday, May 5, 2010 at 11:39 a.m.
In the world of ubiquitous American desserts, one can always rely on the chocolate chip cookie, the apple pie, chocolate cake and Jell-O. Hell, Jell-O has earned the honor of being the go-to term for any gelatin-related, or simply jiggly, dessert. It's the Kleenex of the cafeteria.
Jell-O -- especially the green variety after it was featured on a Winter Olympics pin -- even became the official favorite snack of Utah. Now that's some popular snack.
And Kraft -- with its depot that fills central Garland with the smell of barbecue sauce, salad dressing or fruity things, depending on the day and production schedule -- the purveyor of all things Jell-O, has put forth many a product under the much-loved moniker. Gelatin mix, pudding mix, frozen pudding pops, dessert cups, no-bake pies and that spring- and summertime fave, Jell-O 1-2-3. Remember it?
Kids could heat and mix up that one magical powder into a smooth solution and pour it into a parfait glass -- or what have you. Then the wait began. As it cooled, the mix became a crazy suspension of, you guessed it, three separate layers. The tri-tiered result begged for one of two fates: for the OCD child, each layer would be gently, nay, carefully scraped away and savored; for the casual kid, that spoon would dive down through all three layers and come up with the full flavor explosion. It was an adventure. It was outstanding.
Only problem is, for the last, say, 15 years, Jell-O 1-2-3 has proven elusive. That festive numerically festooned box has largely been absent from grocers' shelves. If your nostalgia took on the persona of Bill Cosby it might lament, "Oh, these kids with their Jell-O 1-2-3 of delicious layers and jiggle-giggle-wiggles and nom noms and where did it go? Camille! Pudding Pop!" And so it goes.
But all hope is not lost. Kraft apparently knows how much food-lovers value their taste memories and has now offered a recipe for DIY Jell-O 1-2-3 using the Sugar-Free variety of Jell-O mix and Cool Whip Lite dessert topping. As long as you've come to terms with what gelatin is made of (if you don't know, TLC will oblige your curiosity right here. And Aters, if you can supply a vegetarian alternative recipe for 1-2-3, it is very much welcome in the comments!), you're set for a trip to the grocery store for a couple of ingredients and a trip down memory lane. There's no explanation as to why the company discontinued the one-pack mix, but with the recipe available, there's really no need.
After all, in this age of insta-food, it's slightly refreshing that -- even if it was a financial decision to rid one under-performing product in favor of promoting two well-shopped ones -- a company dumped a product that essentially just removes two whole prep steps (!!) and then when consumers were outspoken in their upset about this (just look around on the Internet and you'll find them), they didn't bring it back, but instead told consumers how to do it themselves with actual appliances and not-even-basic culinary skill.
Refreshing...kinda like a suspended parfait on a 90-degree day, perhaps?