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O' Moldy Night

Published: 04/18
J-E-L-L-O can't be stopped.
It just keeps on jiggling - foremost in the cafeteria canon and high priestess of the K&Ws, Piccadillys, and Morrison's. It's a salve for the sick, cut into cubes and served on a hospital tray, and the gem of a lunch box, worthy of song. Aspic was the centerpiece at medieval feasts, presented to royalty with elaborate garnishes, and is the gel of community cookbooks. It's a gag (take Jim Halpert sealing Dwight Shrute's stapler in a Jell-O mold on "The Office").

But Jell-O is also serious - a thing Kentucky native Lora Smith argues made the modern mountain woman.

And damn if it ain't pretty.

As for the three of us, our relationship with molds began with the campy - '70s recipes and good "mold-fashioned" wordplay: A birthday cake with the slogan "I'm old" started our endeavour. But our obsession with the molded eventually expanded to reflect our combined careers in art and food. We wondered about the rise and demise of shaped and gelatinous foods and became enamored by their aesthetics. So, what began as a years-long joke to elevate aspic to a pedestal eventually solidified (as gelatin is wont to do) into a pop-up museum project deemed "O Moldy Night," which displayed the works of some 40 chefs, home cooks, grandmas, and artists at The Durham Hotel in our North Carolina town. Materials ranged from tomatoes and carrots to pig's feet, chicken tenders, and crushed pineapple.

As entrant Ashley Melzer put it, "Blame it all on my roots, I showed up with fruits."

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