For many, the idea of ââgelatin desserts conjures up images of the retro novelty that appears at church potlucks and in school lunch boxes. But in Mexican culture, gelatins like the surprisingly lifelike flowers Angelica Aguilar makes in her Englewood kitchen are not just a sweet treat, but an art form.
âThere is no limit to what you can do with gelatin. In fact, transparent gelatin is like your blank canvas. Koi fish, birds, flowers, butterflies, bees, whatever comes to your mind you can put it in a gelatin, âAguilar said.
Aguilar was born in Mexico, but she only developed an interest in the art of gelatin as an adult in Chicago.
âI started in the spring of 2008, when my father was a general contractor at the time,â Aguilar recalls. âHe was in backyard drug rehab here in Chicago. And there were vendors walking around selling these jellies. And my dad brought some home and when he showed them to me, I was completely blown away.
Despite her request, the vendors weren’t willing to teach her how to make them – so she started looking for ways to teach herself.
âI saw pictures of gelatins, but there was no reference to the recipes or the tools you can use. So knowing only the basic gelatin recipe, I like it, I did my job by experimenting and just pricking the gelatin, and seeing what the reaction was, âAguilar said.
While she was impressed with the beauty of the gelatin flower her father brought here, she was disappointed with the flavor – and she looked for ways to enhance that as well.
âI started working with aromas and experimenting with them until I found the right consistency and flavor. I like to use more tropical flavors like pineapple, guava, strawberry, peach and coconut, âAguilar said.
Aguilar finds inspiration for his gelatin garden right outside his back door in his garden. In order to faithfully render the unique frills and frills of each gelatin flower, Aguilar has handcrafted stainless steel tools that she calls âGubia needlesâ that she attaches to a syringe.
âThe word gubia is an Italian word for chisel. And it actually works a bit like a chisel molding the cut inside the gelatin.
Today, Aguilar manufactures personalized gelatin desserts for events such as weddings, party favors, baby showers. She also teaches gelatin art, and says many of her students find the practice relaxing.
âA lot of people find it therapeutic. They just relax by biting the gelatin and they do, you know, wonders with them. They come here without knowing how to draw and they can actually create something, you know, so realistic with it, âshe said.
âWe all have problems in life and you can’t change that,â she continues. “But by making flowers, youâ¦ can control what you do there, and you end up with something beautiful and delicious to eat.” “