A little while ago, the Mrs. and I were sitting on our respective sides of the couch secured in fuzzy blankets. It got pretty cold in Florida for a few weeks there, so my wife was also wearing a completely horrendous fuzzy sweater that she pulls out of the closet on particularly chilly evenings. It’s horizontally striped in various shades of pink. Just hideous.
She held up the sleeve and said, “This looks like Jell-O 1-2-3. Do you remember Jell-O 1-2-3?” I laughed and said of course I did. I had it quite a few times in my youth. My mom was always good with the Jell-O and the Jell-O pudding.
Then the part of my brain that is forever holding onto my dream of being a full time vintage food blogger lit up. I took to the eBay, and sure enough, there was a box of unopened Jell-O 1-2-3 for sale. I got into a minor bidding war with some other lunatic somewhere that was also trying to buy old Jell-O for some reason, but eventually I prevailed. “Jell-O 1-2-3” is now a saved search term on my account, and I’ve since noticed that this stuff does not come up very often. I’ve only seen one other box since winning this one. So clearly the food blogging gods were smiling on me that evening. (That other box was older and Raspberry. I tried to snag that one as well but was sniped at the last second.)
Now sadly, my two previous attempts at capturing some of the magic of the days of food gone by didn’t end very well. But both of those were cereals. I had hopes that because Jell-O 1-2-3 was a powder, it would hold up better against the ravages of time. That’s just good science.
If you are unaware, Jell-O 1-2-3 was a product produced from 1969 to 1996. It came in Strawberry, Raspberry, Orange, Cherry, and Lime. It was a single bag of powder like regular Jell-O which you prepared with the aid of a blender. After blending, you’d pour the frothed concoction into glasses and in a few hours, and with the help of the immutable laws of physics, the Jell-O would separate out into three layers of brightly colored goodness. There’s a bottom gelatin layer, a middle layer that’s a little lighter, and then a very airy top layer. C’est magnifique!
The Jell-O 1-2-3 Wikipedia entry is frustratingly short, coming in at only 78 words. Sixteen of which are used to point out that Jell-O 1-2-3 was prepared in an episode of The Nanny.
There’s a petition online and sad little Facebook fan page advocating the unretiring of Jell-O 1-2-3, but nothing seems to be catching the attention of Jell-O. Though weirdly enough, Kraft does have an official recipe on their website if you would like to attempt to recreate the magic of Jell-O 1-2-3. I tried it and only got a layer of one. But I think I used the wrong kind of Cool Whip, so I can’t say for sure if it’s legit. Lite Cool Whip is a thing, apparently.
According to the eBayer I transacted with, this box dates to the late 80s. She mentioned a personal anecdote involving moving to a different house at that time as a point of reference. I’ll have to take her word for it, so I’ll place it conservatively at 1989. It could be later. Who knows.
The box is in excellent condition and is currently being preserved for future generations in the same box that houses my complete line of seaQuest DSV action figures. The inner bag was also intact. Upon opening it, there was a very powerful strawberry nosegrope consistent with regular strawberry Jell-O. Hope was starting to build! I boiled the water, blended, and poured. And in a few hours I was able to once again witness the layering majesty of Jell-O 1-2-3. The layers weren’t as thick or even as the box would have you believe, but who cares? Layers are layers, and they were beautiful!
Sadly snacklings, my vintage food blogging dreams are slipping away. This Jell-O 1-2-3 still retains its wonderful strawberry flavor but it has been tainted by whatever it is that is lurking menacingly in the inner bag packaging. It’s both cardboardy and plasticky. The chemical flavor is not quite as strong as it was in the Batman and Bill and Ted cereals, but it’s there and it ruins all three parties.
In a world of on-demand everything, there is no reason we shouldn’t be able to order new batches of food from our past. Ecto Cooler, Crystal Pepsi, Clearly Canadian. Like they wouldn’t sell. And I don’t know if you’ve been keeping track, but there are currently 19 varieties of Jell-O available and 24 varieties of Jell-O Pudding. If Kraft is selling enough boxes of Margarita Jell-O and Flan flavored Jell-O Pudding to keep them on shelves, then surely they can make some Jell-O 1-2-3. Come on Kraft. Flan? Seriously.
Sorry to dash our collective 1-2-3 dreams, everyone. But I haven’t given up hope yet! And neither should you. I just may have another powdered food up my sleeve. Soon.