I mentioned yesterday that when I have recovered from one of my bowel obstructions, I have to slowly work my way back to eating regular food. Generally, while still in the hospital, I start with clear liquids, move to full liquids, finish with regular food.

For a long time I wasn’t clear about the difference between clear liquids and full liquids. For once thing, coffee is included in the clear liquid category. Thank heavens, by the way. But coffee is certainly not clear in color. What I learned is that clear refers to the thinness of the liquid. So coffee is clear; milk is full.

The other clear liquid that shows up regularly on my regime in the hospital when I’m taking my first food baby steps is Jell-O. Also not clear in color, but definitely clear in texture. And for reasons about which I am uncertain, the Jell-O is always green or orange. Not that it makes a lot of difference, because they all frankly taste about the same, but it would be fun to see some blue or red show up once in a while.

Jell-o tastes bad. Maybe it tastes fine if it is accompanied by vodka. I’ve never taken a Jell-O shot, so I can’t confirm or deny. But when you haven’t eaten for a few days and you’re starving, Jell-O is definitely not the answer. Jell-O makes the ubiquitous chicken broth taste like beef wellington.

I’ll tell you what does taste good is cranberry juice. I’m not sure why, but after taking nothing by mouth for two or three days, the tart flavor of cranberry juice tastes wonderful to me. Like Jell-O, it would taste better with a shot of vodka and a lime, but I am very happy when cranberry juice shows up on my initial food tray.

When I graduate to full liquids, I’m guaranteed to have a little dish of orange sherbet. Orange sherbet makes me happy. It doesn’t need to be accompanied by vodka. A little vanilla ice cream, perhaps.

But back to Jell-O. The trade name Jell-O was trademarked in 1897 by Pearle Bixby Wait and his wife May. Someone else came up with the idea way back in 1845 to add flavoring to sugar and granulated gelatin. I don’t know who came up with the original idea, because apparently the idea went nowhere until the Waits stepped in.

The Waits never sold a single box of Jell-O, however. Instead, they sold the idea and the name to  Orator Francis Woodward who owned Genesee Pure Food Company. Woodward marketed the product by calling it America’s Most Famous Dessert. The French would shudder.

This led to that, and finally the dish ended up on every American Thanksgiving table filled with fruit cocktail, mandarin oranges, or (God forbid) shredded carrots. Not necessarily as a dessert; more of a special salad treat.

My mother’s holiday table was no exception. She never EVER used shredded carrots. Instead, she used fruit cocktail. She also never owned a Jell-O mold. She did, however, always make a Jell-O salad for Thanksgiving. She made it in an 8×8 square pan. She would put the little squares of Jell-O on a small salad plate, nesting on a piece of iceberg lettuce. She always put mayonnaise on hers. If you were lucky, your Jell-O square included the red maraschino cherry.

I’m pretty sure I have never served Jell-O at any of my holiday meals. And I certainly will not start now. For the rest of my life, Jell-O will always mean hospitals to me.

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