Why Were 1950s Cookbooks So Focused On Jell-O?

What's the first thing that comes to mind when someone mentions the 1950s? Historians could tell you all about the revitalization of the middle-class or the baby boom, the advent of television, or the birth of rock and roll. While these are all interesting events, the 1950s is also known for revolutionizing how we prepare our food.
Indeed, many staples of the modern-day kitchen came from innovations in the 1950s. According to Popular Mechanics, the microwave can be traced to an accidental "eureka moment" involving a Raytheon scientist and his melted candy bar. The frozen TV dinner offered suburban families a full-course meal in under an hour, with aluminum trays offering pre-portioned meat, potatoes, and even desserts (via Smithsonian Magazine). Our kitchens would look much different without these once-futuristic inventions.
But not all culinary innovations from those "happy days" were something to admire. According to Insider, a forgotten "treat" of the chrome-lined kitchens was the "Jell-O Salad." Cookbooks of the time raved about mixing Jell-O with everything from mayonnaise to pineapple chunks to radishes to meat. Salad made from Jell-O? Had the confines of suburbia driven housewives to the brink?
What actually sparked this brief-but-surreal dive into the world of Jell-O cuisine in the 1950s? Was it a nation eager to get back to normalcy after a war? Or was it simply a case of being caught up in the frenzy of modern innovation?

Jell-O salads were born out of modern convenience.

Let us ask you a question: How hard is it to make Jell-O? It sure isn't rocket science. Preparing Jell-O is fast and simple and, according to Serious Eats, housewives in the 1950s thought so too. Gelatin salads had been around long before that, but it was only after the extensive rationing and scarcity of World War II that Americans began to fully embrace the convenience of Jell-O and other pre-packaged foods.

But there was a problem. Just like replacing daily cooking with fast food makes some see you as lazy, some began to view housewives as shirking their duties to their family by making these quick meals. How can a dinner be made with love if it was just dumped from a box? To circumvent being seen as a "bad" housewife while still enjoying the benefits of a quick and easy dinner, women began to experiment with Jell-O, focusing more on presentation and adding ingredients to give their meals a "hand-made" appearance. 

The allure of Jell-O salad was also rooted in its symbolism, explains The Daily Meal. A housewife could prepare a Jell-O salad made of carrots, mayonnaise, and lemon-flavored gelatin using fancy, expensive molds and a brand-new, "ultra-modern" refrigerator. To prepare a Jell-O salad was to demonstrate success and wealth. However, as the 1970s approached, Serious Eats notes that Jell-O salads began to lose their appeal, as cultural and technological changes  ushered in an era of "tossed salads and a fad for sun-dried tomatoes."