The Great Jell-O Mold Caper

Never mind that  no one, nobody, not any living human being has made a gelatin mold since the late sixties or early seventies—the early seventies only if they didn’t get the message any sooner that molded Jell-O scares babies and small house pets,  and are usually made with things no one would otherwise eat.

I remember hearing the cook at my parents’ opulent California house talk about the gelatin molds that my mother insisted on serving to my parents’ equally snooty nouveau riche upscale circle of wannabes and friends. We kids were considered too unsophisticated and unworthy to have any, to our relief. Of course, she had to put her own pretentious twist on the dessert so that only those who were trying to impress each other would dare to eat it.

Lemon Jell-O with a ring of black caviar on a bed of salmon in a mold shaped like a fish.  Orange gelatin with truffles shaped like a pig. There was no limit to what my mother insisted could be done with Jell-O.  According to the cook, if it was stinky and expensive, it got featured in gelatinous form.

When Barbara, the cook who lived with us until my early teenage years, told me about the lobster bisque gelatin mold, I just knew I’d never look at sea food the same way again.

Well, here we are years later. It’s nearly forty years since those copper and aluminum forms have disappeared from the back corners of second hand stores.

A few weeks ago, my dad got a call that some things from the house in California were in storage and that no one had claimed them or inquired about them since my mother died. Oh. Yeah. Her precious things that she didn’t want harmed while she was plotting the destruction of my family and trying to financially ruin Lex.

A crate arrived at my dad’s and we all convened in his garage to see what was inside. Why my father didn’t just have it burned…but, he said, “There might be some things of value, or from your childhoods that you might want to keep or pass down.”

Excuse me for sounding ungrateful, but these are things that my mother had safely locked away while she pillaged and plundered our emotional well beings for the last decade of her life. Okay. Fine. Let’s see what there is in—gelatin molds?  A crate full of molds. All shapes and sizes. Gelatin molds. Really? A crate full of gelatin molds. I hate to speak ill of the deceased, but my mother had been bat-shit crazy for years!

Martha, who seemed to be the only one who knew what to do with the things, took one of the larger ones home and promised to make a dessert we would all like. And she did. It had lime Jell-O, whipped cream, a light sponge cake, more whipped cream, more Jell-O and cherries dotting swirls of whipped cream on the top.

Well now, if it’s going to be like this, I say, bring them back! Let’s have more desserts like these. No shrimp or shredded carrots in my Jell-O. I want whipped cream and sponge cake.

We were gathered around the dining table, “mmming” and “awing” over the light, yummy dessert, when Eddie started making sounds like a race car. Everyone was distracted by their desserts, so no one noticed that he was sitting in his high chair, spinning a bowl of Jell-O upside-down on his head. “Vroom, vroom”.

I pretended not to hear either Eddie or the mumbled curse words that Lex uttered when she realized that I was not about to abandon my dessert to clean the little guy up.  Lex cleared her throat a time or two, but I pretended to be so lost in the dessert that I was beyond reaching.  Lex went to the kitchen and returned with a towel and dampened washcloth, armed to do battle with our son’s jello covered head and, now, torso, since he managed snag a bit of his sister’s treat and rubbed it on his tummy.

He’d already finger painted the wall next to his high chair with the whipped cream and cherry juice.  And a glob of dessert, just right for his little bare feet, had landed close enough to the chair so that when he was taken down, he was able to plant his feet in the mess and squish it between his itty bitty toes.

Oh what the hell.

Lex will clean him up.


“Mmm? Isn’t this a wonderful dessert? Thank you, Martha.”

“C’mon, Amanda. Are you going to make me clean this mess up all by myself?”

“But you know, Martha, it comes no where near your apple pie and peach cobbler? Think we could have some any time soon?”

Martha was snickering and Charlie was pretending to scrutinize the ceiling’s paint job.

“You’re not fooling me, Missy!”

“Of course, that would mean I’d make that fried chicken you like so well, Charlie.” I am a horrible, horrible woman. But I’d had my turn already that day when it was cottage cheese and peaches in the bowl that spun on Eddie’s head.

Suddenly, Lex leaned in very close, until she was close enough to my ear to nibble on it.  I shuddered. She always has that effect on me. Zero to ninety in a split second of her touching me.

“You know, Amanda. I may just be too tired tonight to go any further.”

She chuckled as my eyes widened and Martha leaned into Charlie and whispered, “She’s toast”.

“Why, Master Edward Walters! What have we here? Lex, why don’t you go finish your dessert and I’ll clean our son up.”

I hurried off with our little guy and, for the second time that day, plopped him down in the tub and started running the bath water while undressing him.

I could hear the laughter from the dining room at my expense, but I really didn’t care.  If my wife ever bit gently on your ear the way that Lex nips on mine and whispered what she whispers to me, you’d know why.