Technology facilitates interviews yet I enjoy meeting face to face with authors when possible.
I did my third 'in the flesh' interview of the year with Victoria Belanger aka The Jello Mold Mistress of Brooklyn whose gelatine based creations are featured (50 of them) in her book Hello, Jell-O! (Ten Speed Press, February 28, 2012).
We met at now closed Mojo Coffee in New York early evening on a sunny day with rocking (punky) soundtrack playing.
Q: Victoria, did you choose Jell-O as your medium because it allowed you to be creative without breaking the bank?
When I started my blog The Jello Mold Mistress of Brooklyn, the economy was on the skids and many people in my circle of friends were income challenged. We started eating home rather than going out. Instead of bringing a bottle of wine to parties, I started experimenting with Jell-O and making edible treats that could also be conversation pieces.
Q: B.Y.O.J, bring your own Jell-O, do you know restaurants, cafes that allow it? Do they charge a Gelatin fee?
I brought some of my creations into bars as celebration pieces, instead of a birthday cake for example, they did not mind as they did not carry that type of things. They did not charge a Gelatin fee. For special occasions i create something for that theme. Seasons also influence what I use. My recipes tend to be creamier, heavier during the winter and fruit based in the summer.
Q: Do you see Jell-O wave as a sign of the times, the need for thrift and also an illustration of DIY ethos?
It definitely fits the Do It Yourself gifts niche. Jell-O is also more accessible because of low cost of ingredients. It also does not require a ton of baking skills.
Q: What is the vegetarian alternative to Jell-O (gelatin)?
Yes, Agar which i feature in last chapter of the book is vegetarian, it is seaweed based and used in many Japanese sweets.
Q: You include your twist on creme brulee and a chai tea panna cotta in the book so your book is not just about 'traditional' Jell-O offerings, correct?
My editor suggested we include new versions of classics. Think of Hello Jell-O! as a grown up version of childhood treats.
Q: Are drink recipes like Raspberry Cosmo an insurance for people who are afraid to spill drinks while serving them?
They are definitely good for accident prone individuals, other positive is they are lower in alcohol. Too much alcohol does not work in these recipes, flavor wise.
Q: Is there a big difference in working with Jell-O and Agar?
Agar is more mealy than gelatinous (rubbery) texture of Jell-O. To clarify things in all my recipes I use plain gelation and use natural flavors.
Q: Can you recommend places where to buy molds, online and at brick and mortar stores?
Online, Ebay and Etsy are best for vintage molds, flea markets and thrift shops are best for brick and mortar option. My family always know to look for new finds to add to my growing mold collection.
Q: Select 3 recipes from Hello Jell-O! from easiest and quickest to most elaborate and time consuming?
Easiest must be 'Coffee Kahlua' (10 minutes), elaborate, 'Peaches and Cream' with 2 layers (30 to 40 minutes), hardest must be 'Rainbow Jello' all of 10 layers, it took me 3 hours of nerve wrecking work.
Q: Safest way to carry your creations to their destination?
Either in a pie carrier or wrapped in plastic wrap, summer weather makes it a challenge to keep it together.
Q: What is your biggest hit so far?
Anything with alcohol ('boozy molds') and especially 'Champagne and strawberries'
Q: When you are not swimming in Jell-O, what do you cook/bake?
I do simple things like salads. I was not much of a cook before I started on Jell-O path. Besides my fridge, oven and the rest of my small kitchen have been taken over by Jell-O molds.
Thanks Victoria for 30 minutes in Jell-O land.
(* Illustrations reprinted with permission from Hello, Jell-O!: 50+ Inventive Recipes for Gelatin Treats and Jiggly Sweets. Copyright © 2012 by Victoria Belanger. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, Berkeley, CA. Photo Credit: Angie Cao)