For the one-year anniversary of the site we needed something celebratory. Ideally, for the Owl, it should also incorporate some of the recurring topics… for example, science, the military, history, libations, music, and odd products.
In consideration of all of that, we bring you the man credited with creating the Jell-o Shot, Tom Lehrer.
Yes, THAT Tom Lehrer. Before he became famous as a comedic musician, he worked toward a doctorate in math (which he never completed) and served a two year stint in the U.S. Army. It was during that time that necessity, as she often has in the past, birthed invention. From the liner notes of The Remains of Tom Lehrer:
“The only thing I did contribute to the war effort was vodka Jell-O. I was assigned to a naval base, even though I was in the army. We wanted to have a Christmas office party, but the rules forbade all alcoholic “beverages,” so a friend of mine and I decided to confront this challenge. Of course there’s plum pudding and the like, but you have to eat too much to produce any effect. So she and I experimented with various flavors of Jell-O, various alcoholic ingredients, and various proportions. Obviously, you can’t experiment too extensively, because you soon lose your powers of discrimination, but we settled on vodka in orange Jell-O — same recipe as on the box, only with vodka instead of the cold water. I have heard that daiquiris are good in lime Jell-O. We filled little paper cups with the final product, took them into the base past the guards, and nobody said anything. It was a very nice party.”
It is worth noting, for accuracy, that food historians (yes, there are such people) have identified a handful of gelatin/alcohol mixtures which occurred prior to Lehrer’s 1955 invention, but none of them seem to have had the effect of Lehrer’s concoction. Between the people who enjoyed them at the party and others hearing about it from Lehrer’s interviews and lectures after he grew famous, the current popularity of the Jell-o shot seems to stem directly from the attempt by Army people to get alcohol onto a Naval base.
So, next time you have a Jell-o shot, give a little toast to the 91 year old, still lecturing Tom Lehrer. But not tonight, if you have to get to work in the morning. Feel free to raise a glass to the first year of TNB, but it should probably be something more along the line of milk or 7-Up.
If you’re really expecting to be awake for a while, though… here’s one of his full albums, starting with his famed “Poisoning Pigeons in the Park”.
Question of the night: What’s your favorite dessert to make at home (with or without alcoholic components)?