Hello, all–as a follow up to my review of How to Cook a Wolf as a guide to managing a home kitchen in hard times, I thought you’d all enjoy James Lileks’s “Jell-o Confronts the Depression.” It’s mocking in tone, as is the rest of his “Gallery of Regrettable Food,” and book by the same name, but he makes serious points along the way about the inexpensive “glamour” that Jell-o tried to sell home cooks during the depression, and the impossible thinness and somber expressions of the people used to illustrate these Jell-o cookbooks. Don’t miss the boast in the 1932 cookbook that the “new” Jell-o doesn’t require boiling water–another sad reminder that the scarcity of cooking fuel was a real issue for home cooks in the 1930s and 1940s.
Lileks seriously appreciates the work of the artists who illustrated these books–I’m not all that bowled over by some of the images of Jell-o molds he highlights, but I appreciate his appreciation for their work. One of my grandfathers was a commercial artist from the 1930s until his death at age 38 in 1953. He was fortunate to have his talent–he made a decent living for his family with just a high-school education at the end of the Depression and through World War II.
(H/t to reader KV for showing me Lileks’s website.)