I put the spoon in the bowl. I put my bowl on the table. I look into my bowl. My mother’s generation called it salad. It contained fruit, and you served it on a slab of lettuce: salad. In the austere post-Twiggy 90’s, it is dessert. I blame Jesse Helms. Newt Gingrich, Jesse Helms and several of their cronies are systematically doing to art and creative expression in general what Cosmopolitan magazine did to Jello and other forms of previously acceptable food like cheese. These fitness guru politicos are turning something sound, healthy and wholesome into an indulgence, unnecessary and morally suspect. Those with real willpower choose not to indulge in art, remaining artistically slender, enabling themselves to feel superior to the flabbily creative. But people who make easy choices regarding dessert have never understood the struggle of those to whom hot fudge sauce genuinely calls.
Jello parallels creativity in more ways than in its mere sensual temptation. Jello, for instance, like art, is boundless in its variety. Perhaps an infinite number of grape and banana slices in an infinite number of Jello molds would eventually produce identical Jello slices, even as the same number of monkeys and typewriters would, theoretically, duplicate “War and Peace”.
Jello requires heat, and the gas fire of passion, grief, and deadline-stress warms the creative saucepan in which the colored powder of imaginative intelligence dissolves. These packaged powders of innate creativity come in a wide panoply of flavors and sizes, and bless each recipient with the joyous choice of molds. The shape into which one forms one’s spark depends, in large part, into what media one pours the liquid artistic impulse. The same artistic sensibility will express itself differently in dancing and in painting. Grape Jello is different in a copper fish mold than it is in a freestanding, quivering, cube.
As pristine and beautiful as Jello is on its own, however, it is not until you begin to stir in fruit that Jello truly shines. These succulent citrus gems are the actively sought and accidentally realized trinkets that learning and living and experience-seeking yield to the creative person. Dumped into our Jello-lives from above, it is our experiences and thoughts that, when added to the creative powder and shaped by our choice of form, are stirred around within us to yield surprising new combinations of taste and pleasure.
Finally, into the fridge. This is the step, the jelling time, that the corporate fogies do not understand. The Jello only sits there. It cannot do it faster. It cannot do it more proactively. It is only sitting. And yet it is working magically hard. It is knitting its fruity experiences together within its colorful creativity. It is learning to truly inhabit its shape so that when the mold is removed it will retain its form. It is growing in internal consistency and surprising clarity. No longer a soupy, sticky jumble of half-formed ideas and uncoagulated emotions, it is becoming art. It is becoming lunch. It is becoming gone.