When Gelatin Was a Status Symbol

A good article on a food that most of us grew up with.


Gelatin dishes as we know them date all the way back to medieval Europe. From that period up until the mid-nineteenth century, jellied dishes were foods of the elite, served as elaborate molded centerpieces on the tables of nobility. The reason was simple: the process of rendering collagen from animal bones and then clarifying it was exceptionally time-consuming, even by the slower-paced standards of the day…

Few home cooks bothered with such labor-intensive dishes—gelatin indicated to dinner guests that you had a kitchen staff large and well-appointed enough to spare the hours. This remained the case in the American colonies, where elites adapted European customs to their own tastes. Gelatin dishes were a delicacy in New York high society, where the size of one’s household staff was a status symbol; and on the plantations of the South, where enslaved cooks labored in the kitchens. At Thomas Jefferson’s estate, Monticello, 

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