Whenever I go over someone’s house, I take a look in the fridge. The flavor of jelly that I find often tells me a great deal about where I’m at, about just what kind of person I’m hanging out with. Some people say this is nonsense, that it’s impossible to deduce a personality type based solely on a flavor of jam. But I say that those people are crazy. Not only crazy, but in denial. Because jelly tells all.
Regular. Strawberry jelly walks into a deli and says, “I’ll take a baloney sandwich on white bread please, just a little mayo, a glass of milk to drink, and maybe some chopped up carrot sticks for dessert.” This is definitely the most boring jelly. It’s the default option. Whenever you go to a diner and your omelet comes with toast, the waitress always puts down that little bowl full of individually packed portions of butter and jelly. It’s always strawberry jelly. And you have to flag her down, but she’s really busy and you can’t get her attention, and so finally a bus boy notices you. He comes over, “Yes?” and you’re like, “Is there any other type of jelly? Something other than strawberry?” and the bus boy’s intentions are good, but he’s just not that comfortable with the language, and so he comes back a minute later with another jelly tray, even more strawberry jelly, and he’s like, “Here you go sir. More jelly.” “Thanks,” you tell him, realizing that now you have to eat all of this jelly, these two bowls of boring plain strawberry jelly, and you only have two slices of toast.
The alternative jelly. Still pretty regular, but just different enough to make you feel like you’re doing something different. Sometimes you’ll find grape jelly packets at the diner. Not always, actually, not ever, but once in a while somebody will tell me they came across some grape. I never believe it, but that’s probably speaking more about me and my inability to trust anybody, anything, like it’s this character deficiency that I’m burdened with, and I’m trying to make up for it by giving these people the benefit of the doubt, including their crazy grape jelly sightings in this grape jelly paragraph. But who am I kidding, really? Grape jelly is just as regular as strawberry, one of the big two. It’s just grosser. Because in what way does grape jelly remind you anything at all of grapes? It’s purple, sure, but weirdly so, like not purple like a grape is purple, but like a purple crayon is purple. And does it really taste like a grape? Or is it just what other fake grape-flavored products taste like? Like grape soda, like grape Big League Chew, like Dimetapp.
Man, there aren’t really a lot of options when it comes to jellies are there? Every once in a while I’ll be at the grocery store and I’ll make a motion to pick up a bottle of apricot jelly, but then my hand will get close to the bottle and I’ll notice that the label doesn’t say “apricot jelly” at all, but “apricot marmalade.” Marmalade? Why is this stuff in the jelly aisle? And notice how I’m not starting one of those fake “jelly vs. jam” debates. Marmalade is a whole different beast here. I’ll recoil my hand, unable to imagine what this marmalade tastes like, whether or not is has the same mouth feel as jelly. Do I have to mix it up upon opening? Might there be some separation that occurs between marmalade solids and marmalade liquids? I can’t.
One year for Christmas my mom got me this jam tree gift set. It was three little bottles of artisanal jam and it came in this Christmas tree shaped box. Inside were three flavors: Maine blueberry, raspberry peach, and Champagne. Delicious. I felt like such a big shot, me, an adult, living in my own house with my own kitchen. And look, three different types of craft jellies. For a while I was too afraid to even open any of them up, not wanting to disturb their placement, the decorative elegance they graced upon my kitchen. But one day I found myself super hung over, like hurting so bad that I couldn’t even imagine myself putting on clothes, let alone leaving the house to forage for supplies. But hungrier and hungrier I grew, until I toasted up some stale bread and popped open the jar of Champagne jelly. Wow, it was so delicious. Or so I thought. After a few bites I remembered, wait a second, isn’t Champagne just a fancy French word for grape? I looked into the jar. Sure enough, grape jelly. And I don’t think this stuff was bubbly on purpose; I think it was because somebody at the artisanal jam factory didn’t properly seal everything shut. The rest of the jam tree went straight in the trash.
So yeah, I guess that even though I try to make all of these relevant jelly-based judgments, I think I’m really just typecasting almost everybody I know as either a strawberry or a grape. There was always apricot marmalade at my grandparents’ house, so maybe it’s a generational thing. As for the niche jellies, I tried. I really wanted to like them, to be a part of something different, a genuine jelly subculture. I guess I’ll just stick with my jar of half jelly, half peanut butter. It’s regular, sure, but at least it looks cool, all swirly and stripy. My mom never let us get that stuff when we were kids, but guess what, I’m an adult now. I can buy whatever I want.