Who knew “jiggle-ability” could be measured? And who knew Jell-O was the focus of so many consuming surveys and experiments? Visiting the Jell-O Gallery — less than an hour’s drive from Buffalo — in LeRoy, New York, I learned more than I ever knew there was to know about the bouncy kid-pleaser. As a child of the late ’60s and early ’70s –– the halcyon days of Shake-A-Puddin‚ Space Food Sticks and Jell-O 1,2,3 — I was thrilled to steep myself in the sticky past of the first dessert I ever learned to make.
Wiggley-wobbley-ness, it turns out, can be measured by a Jellometer, a metal contraption that gauges the seismic swings of the shaky sweet. The Gallery, housed at the end of the Jell-O Brick Road behind historic LeRoy House, welcomed wiggle-meister and product endorser Bill Cosby last year. It is filled with tasty bits of Jell-O lore, samples of old ad campaigns (by artists such as Norman Rockwell and Maxfield Parrish) and a thorough history of the product. Invented in 1897 by Pearl Wait, a LeRoy carpenter and packager of herbal teas, she sold the rights to patent medicine salesman Orator Woodward for $450 in 1899. By 1925, Woodward sold his Jell-O stock for $60 million.
I also learned that it’s made with the long bones and connective tissues of cows (“no hooves, hides or horns,” stressed Lynne Belluscio, museum director). Salt Lake City eats the most lime-flavor Jell-O in the country and it has been served on the Russian Mir Space Station. One scientist even proved people have a strange link to the jiggley stuff. Dr. Adriane Upton, Associate Professor of Medicine and Neurology at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, attached an EEG machine to a bowl of Jell-O and found the waves recorded were identical to those of a human brain. Yikes! You can even by a brain mold in the gift shop (small, $4.50, large $8).
Admission $3 for adults, $1.50 for children. Call for hours: (585) 768-7433 or visit Jell-OMuseum.com.