Orange Jell-O mystery remains unanswered

Depending on who’s making the lists, February has been variously designated as Canned Food Month, Great American Pie Month, Cherry Month, Grapefruit Month, Snack Food Month and Hot Breakfast Month.

And there’s more. This year, Feb. 2-18 is Jell-O Week. Although the Jell-O company’s invention originated in New York state, Utah officially declared national Jell-O Week in 2001. I don’t quite know how Utah gets to designate national celebrations but the Beehive State, per capita, eats more Jell-O than any other state in the Union. When he was in his heyday, Utah even made Bill Cosby an honorary citizen.

And there’s more. A senator from Utah often hosts a weekly Jell-O social for his Capitol Hill constituents. In 2002, when the state hosted the winter Olympics, a commemorative pin depicted a bowl of green Jell-O. I didn’t quite believe this latter detail but found a pewter pin with the dish of very green Jell-O on sale at ebay for $22.04. I was able to resist.

Somebody should check Utah license plates.

The jiggly dessert’s major ingredients are sugar and gelatin. Not mentioned is that gelatin is a translucent, colorless, flavorless, food ingredient, commonly derived from collagen. Collagen is extracted from the skin, bones and connective tissues of animals such as domesticated cattle, chicken, pigs and fish.

Deep mystery: A package of orange Jell-O has a note: “Do not use with fresh or frozen pineapple, kiwi, gingerroot, papaya, figs or guava. Gelatin will not set.” There is no such note on other Jell-O flavors.

Feb. 1, 1933, Skippy peanut butter went on sale for the first time. Developed in 1890 by a St. Louis physician as a high-protein food, by 1990, Americans were eating 800 million pounds of the sticky stuff each year. I don’t know how one could check the Internet claim that this is enough spread to cover the floor of the Grand Canyon, but in any case, it’s a lot of peanut butter.

And here’s an apple story. On Feb. 19, 1878, Thomas Edison received a patent for the phonograph, which means “sound writer.” The idea for this machine came to Edison while he was working on a telephone transmitter, hoping to improve on what Alexander Graham Bell had produced in 1876.

A friend bet him a barrel of apples that his phonograph idea would never work. Edison succeeded, and his invention created a sensation.

“I shouted ‘Mary had a little lamb,’” he recalled, “and the machine reproduced it perfectly. I was never so taken aback in my life.”

Everywhere that this machine was demonstrated people crowded in to hear it cough, bark and speak French. It remained one of Edison’s favorite inventions, and he worked for more than 40 years to improve it. In 1927, at the age of 80, he developed a double-sided, 80 rpm, 1-inch record that would play for 40 minutes.

Whether or not Edison received that barrel of apples remains a mystery.

The National Park Service provides a link to the Thomas Edison National Historical Park, with lots of pictures of his journal notes on this device, as well as pictures of the device at

Suggestion: Celebrate National Don’t Cry Over Spilled Milk Day on Sunday, Feb. 11, and then on Feb. 12, come to the Charlotte Senior Center where a delicious meal awaits you. Take note of how cleverly (and deliciously) the volunteer cooks represent the upcoming Valentine’s Day.

Monday Munch
Monday, Feb. 12, 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
Italian wedding soup, three hearts salad (romaine hearts, artichoke hearts and hearts of palm), heart-shaped cookies.

The wonderfully named (and delicious) Italian wedding soup comes from minestra maritata, or married broths, referring to the blending of meats and broths. To make your week splendiferous, you can also sign up for the special Valentine’s Day meal on Wednesday, Feb. 14, provided by the Residence at Shelburne Bay. Don’t delay signing up. Space is limited.

Valentine’s Day meal
Wednesday, Feb. 14, noon
Accompanying beverage: sparkling raspberry and pear punch. Starters: meat and cheese boards for each table. Entree: beef ravioli with brown butter and goat cheese. Side: classic Caprese salad with balsamic dressing. Dessert: assorted petit fours platter (raspberry thumbprint, petit fours, chocolate covered strawberries).

Monday Munch
Monday, Feb. 19, 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
American deli sandwiches, picnic potato salad with chips and good, old-fashioned birthday cake.
With the long string of gray days we’ve been having, we definitely need “You Are My Sunshine,” copyrighted in 1940 and recorded by just about everybody: Gene Autry, Bing Crosby, Doris Day, Frankie Yankovic, Ray Charles, The Simpsons, the movie “O Brother, Where Art Thou” and many more. I remember my dad singing this as my bedtime song, although I always requested “Abdul Albulbul Amir,” too, because it was long, and I loved the names.

“There are heroes in plenty, and well known to fame
In the ranks that were led by the Czar,
But the bravest of all was a man by the name
Of Ivan Potschjinski Skidar.”

With the COVID lockdown and choir rehearsals canceled, British choirmaster Garet Malone offered singers and music lovers a new opportunity and a safe way of singing in a group. As a choir, accompanied by the London Symphony Orchestra, they sang a wonderful “You Are My Sunshine.” Here it is.