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How Jell-O Marked a New Era in Rural Appalachia & the History of the Hip & Trendy Mason Jar

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On this week’s episode of Inside Appalachia, we’re talking about two things you’re likely to find on a supper table in Appalachia: Jell-O and mason jars.

Jell-O might not seem like the most appetizing addition, with its garish colors, lack of nutritional value -- and that trademark jiggle. But in Appalachia, it marked a transformation in the lives of rural residents. What can Jell-O tell us about changes to life on the farm in the 1950s Appalachia? Writer Lora Smith takes us to Ohio, West Virginia, and her home state of Kentucky, to find out.

And these days mason jars are everywhere from your fancy cocktail bar, to your down-home country restaurant and in the hands of farmer’s market shoppers and 7-Eleven Slurpee drinkers. How did they come to be embraced by the DIY canner and the hipster brewery? Gabe Bullard takes on the cultural politics of the mason jar, how it became hip, and what that hipness means.

We had help producing Inside Appalachia this week from the Gravy podcast, which is produced by The Southern Foodway Alliance.

Music in this episode was provided by Dinosaur Burps, Andy Agnew Jr., Ben Townsend, Jake Schepps, Driftwood Soldier, Blue dot sessions, Poddington Bear, Lashe Swing and Weenland, and Computer vs banjo for Diagram Collective. Gravy’s theme music is by Wendle Patrick. 

Inside Appalachia is produced by Roxy Todd. Our executive producer is Jesse Wright. Our audio mixer is Patrick Stephens. Molly Born is our web editor. You can find us online on Twitter @InAppalachia. You can also send us an email to InsideAppalachia@wvpublic.org.

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Jessica can be heard on Inside Appalachia and West Virginia Morning the station’s daily radio news program. You can reach her at jlilly@wvpublic.org
Roxy Todd is a reporter and producer for Inside Appalachia and has been a reporter for West Virginia Public Broadcasting since 2014. She’s won several awards, including a regional AP Award for best feature radio story, and also two regional Edward R. Murrow awards. You can reach her at rtodd@wvpublic.org.