This gelling agent is a processed version of collagen, the elastic in our skin and tendons. It's made by grinding up the bones and tissues of cows and pigs, which weakens collagen protein bonds. Pouring gelatin powder in boiling water breaks the weak bonds. As the concoction slowly cools in the fridge, some bonds don't reconnect. These gaps are filled with water and give the dessert its wiggle.
The picnic favorite didn't take hold until Pearle Wait, a carpenter in Upstate New York, added a dose of sugar, artificial fruit flavoring and color. His wife, May, named the concoction Jell-O.
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