Admit it, you’ve been wondering. Okay, the back story. It was the 1990’s, and I was heavily into a band named They Might Be Giants. (Still am.) One day, inspiration struck. “What’s the Difference Between Jam and Jelly?” seemed exactly like the type of song that TMBG might record. But first, I had to be accurate. TMBG fans will note that accuracy is key if you listen to songs like “Why Does the Sun Shine?” and its snappy if not correcting followup “Plasma.”

So, I set about getting the details from the Big Three in the peanut butter accompaniment business at the time: Smucker’s, Welch’s, and Bama. For some odd reason, I didn’t save a copy of my letters to them; rest assured they were clever and designed to get some important insider information. Sure enough, the results came back quickly:

I really liked this answer. To me, it seemed, it was just a matter of how much room there was in the jar. Why, if that fruit wasn’t so “jammed together,” it’d be jelly! Just as I suspected. Then more answers started rolling in, jamming my mailbox, ha!

NOW, I was getting somewhere. This seemed to be more precise, more scientific. However, what on earth was I ever going to rhyme with “pectin?” I liked this letter for another reason:

Coupons are ALWAYS good! Though obviously, and inexplicably, I never used it.

Finally, it was time to hear from Welch’s:

Aha! So it must be all about the pureeing! I hope that cleared it up for you, because that’s all the followup I did on the subject. I think I was expecting snappy answers or suggestions that I find better things to do with my time than pester the Pectin Puree Department. Alas, the project ended, I never wrote the song, and I never used the coupons. Although, in all fairness to Smucker’s, they very well may have sent a coupon that I used. Now, did I use it on jelly or on jam? Who can know. Maybe it was marmalade… say… how do you suppose they make THAT stuff? Hmm.

G. Applegary

P.S. If I ever hear the song “What’s the Difference Between Jam and Jelly?” I will expect some royalties headed my way. We’re on the honor system here at

POSTED ON May 26, 2011 BY Gary Applegary

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