Probably because I am not a 7-year-old, I did not initially understand the appeal of slime.

The stuff is everywhere now, oozing out of all corners of the Internet. I’m told by friends who have children that there are YouTube slime celebrities, and that kids sell each other special slime. That might sound pretty ridiculous, but then I remember when I was in the fourth grade, people paid actual money for colorful cardboard discs called Pogs, and we had Floam, a type of moldable ooze filled with Styrofoam balls. Every generation needs a pointless, dumb, messy, squishy, disgusting substance to work its tiny grubby fingers into.

There are so many types of slime. Glitter slime, magnetic slime, glow-in-the-dark slime and the most deeply disconcerting: edible glowing blood slime. Many kids make theirs from recipes they find online (the main ingredient is borax solution for the nonedible kind and cornstarch for the edible variety). But Jell-O really knows how to capitalize on a trend, so in December, it released a powdered slime mix that would be easy for kids and parents to make. It comes in two flavors: monster slime (lime) and unicorn slime (strawberry). It’s very easy to make: Just dump three scoops of slime powder into a bowl and add one scoop of water, according to the instructions. We found that a scoop and a half of water worked best.

And then, once I was wrist-deep in strawberry slime, I started to see the appeal. This stuff is a weird science project! It’s somewhere between a solid and a liquid: You can roll it into a ball, but once you let it sit on your palm for a few seconds, it will melt right through your fingers. If you pull it taut, you can rip it in half, but you can also stretch it like a stringy, melted cheese. I had no idea how the heck it works, and this explanation from Jell-O doesn’t really help too much but sounds very cool.

“In chemistry, this is what’s called a ‘non-Newtonian fluid,’ which means the way the slime flows and moves in your hands depends on the amount of force you use,” Lynne Galia, spokeswoman for Kraft Heinz, which owns Jell-O, said in an email. “This unique characteristic of the recipe is what makes it so fun the play with, and gives it both a solid and liquid state.”

But this is not just play slime — it’s edible slime. And if you choose to treat this questionable substance as a food product  — okay, fine, it’s mostly just food starch, sugar, gelatin, and artificial flavors and colors — you’ll find a similarly confusing array of textures. It’s gloopy but tastes powdery. The lime flavor is sort of like crushed SweeTarts. And the strawberry flavor reminded me of my childhood but not for the reason you might expect: It tasted like pink liquid amoxicillin. Yes, the ear-infection medicine. The best-tasting medicine! But still: medicine. I loved the flavor of that sickly sweet chalky bubble gum liquid and was both alarmed and a little bit delighted to be reminded of it when I dribbled a hunk of slime into my mouth, like a preschooler’s version of throwing back shots.

I did not eat a lot of slime, because it doesn’t taste as good as other candies out there, and I can’t imagine what large quantities of it would do to your stomach. But I played with the slime for way longer than my professional duties required, mashing it up and dribbling it out of my fists and generally acting like a kid again. I get it now.

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