Bizarre Food Trends from the Past

By Jack Ripley | June 11, 2024

Retro Revival: The Rise and Fall of Congealed Salads

Throughout history, culinary trends have ranged from the delightful to the downright bizarre. As societies evolved, so did their tastes, often leading to peculiar food fads that seem almost unimaginable today. These strange culinary experiments reflect the adventurous spirit and sometimes eccentric preferences of past generations. From gelatin-based concoctions to unexpected flavor combinations, these food trends offer a fascinating glimpse into the ever-changing world of gastronomy. Dive into the odd and intriguing world of historical food trends that once captured the public's imagination.

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During the Great Depression congealed salads were an oddly popular trend. Dubbed Jell-O salads, these gelatinous concoctions promised a semblance of cheer and creativity during bleak times. With the versatility of Jell-O, almost any ingredient could find its place in these wobbly molds, leading to adventurous recipes like the "Oriental Compote" and the "Spanish Jell-O Salad." However, beyond their curious names lay an even stranger reality. The National Museum of American History delved into Depression-era cookbooks, uncovering a treasure trove of gelatin-based oddities such as chicken salad olive mold, tomato aspic, molded mayonnaise salad, and the enigmatic "surprise loaf."

From Glue to Gourmet: The Curious Case of Fish Bladder Jam

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When it comes to the Victorian era, one delicacy reigned supreme: fish bladder jam. Derived from the gelatinous substance known as isinglass, extracted from sturgeon fish bladders, this unconventional preserve found its way onto the tables of 19th-century households. Originally utilized as a thickening agent in glue production, isinglass underwent a surprising transformation into a sweet spread. We wish we could tell you who essentially ate glue for breakfast, but that hero is lost to time.

Fish bladder jam became a staple in no time at all, accompanying confectionaries and delighting palates with its unique texture and flavor profile. Eventually supplanted by the advent of cheaper gelatin alternatives, isinglass found a new niche in the brewing industry, where it aids in the sedimentation process of ales. So maybe you should let your veggie and vegan friends know about this fishy information.