Aspic. When was the last time you ate it? Have you ever? Maybe not. It’s not really popular these days.
How about gelatin in general? When was the last time you had gelatin (as a major part of a meal, not just a minor ingredient) that wasn’t some brightly-colored fruity-sweet hue? (Heck, I can’t even remember the last time I ate Jell-O.)
As a child, I had Jell-O a lot. (And I use the brand-name here because brand-name Jell-O was what we ate. Orange. Cherry. Lime. Whatever.) It was always dessert of some sort. Plain, much of the time, or other times with whipped cream on top or as part of some fruit salad mixture at a family or church get-together. (Few things said “1970s church picnic” like a Jell-O fruit salad.)
What I didn’t know at the time was that these gelatin salads were sort of a last vestige of a gelatin salad craze from a few decades earlier.
The 1920s, if the cookbooks can be believed, were gelatin-crazed. Salads, particularly, were not complete without the clear, jiggly stuff. The Silent Hostess Treasure Book from 1930 says, “With a supply of salad greens, a jar of dressing, and some tomato or lemon aspic in your refrigerator you will be able to prepare a great variety of delicious salads on short notice.” To the 21st century cook, only the greens and dressing would be necessary. But the 1920s homemaker would need aspic to be acceptably chic.