Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Remember the 1950s?

By Deana Nall
Baytown Sun

Published March 8, 2006

Remember the 1950s?

I don’t. But I’ve seen a few episodes of “Leave it to Beaver,” so I have a pretty good idea of what the decade was like.

Houses were spotless, husbands smoked pipes, and moms were completely fulfilled getting dressed up every day to do laundry.

And the food was utterly disgusting.

It’s true. This was the same generation that thought carrots and raisins tasted good together, especially if you washed it down with a tall glass of buttermilk. Something was going on with peoples’ taste buds back then, and it wasn’t pretty.

And now, this culinary phenomenon has been captured in a book called “The Gallery of Regrettable Food.”

(My brother Brian, who, like me, is always scanning the Internet for inane information with which to fill brain space, ran across the book this week and passed it on to me.)

This fascinating book details, in full-color, stomach-churning photos from actual 1950s cookbooks, every conceivable culinary nightmare to grace American tables during the Eisenhower administration.

There are meat and Jell-O recipes guaranteed to turn anyone into a vegetarian. There are recipes involving coffee that shouldn’t be legal. There’s a recipe for 7-Up salad that calls for lime Jell-O, vinegar and hot apple sauce.

Here are some other offenders:

• “Meatballs in Pink Sauce.” What makes it pink? If you find out, don’t tell me. From the Knudsen Dairy Products Cookbook.

• “Corned Beef Salad Loaf.” Another horrifying meat and Jell-O concoction. Also from the Knudsen company.

• A recipe that begins with “Wash and dry rabbit, cut into serving portions.”

• “Chicken Salad Upside Down.” This treat from a picnic cookbook is made and served in Dixie cups.

• And my favorite: “Dr Pepper Jell-O with Olives.” It looks just like it sounds. I would include a photo, but this is a family newspaper and I don’t want to scare the kids.

Speaking of kids, I found something just for them in a

7-Up cookbook. The classic children’s treat, “7-Up in Milk.”

Yep, mix equal parts 7-Up and milk to make a “... delicious blended food drink,” the cookbook says. Hey, I’ve seen children ingest some pretty wild stuff. Even I was known to knock back some Elmer’s Glue once in a while. But milk and 7-Up? Just say no, kids!

These recipes reminded me of something that happened to my dad in the ‘50s. He was having a dinner at a friend’s house when his friend’s mother served something she called “Olive Pie” for dessert. The pie consisted of green olives entombed in a glob of bright green Jell-O. He still has a hard time talking about it. For years, I thought my dad was making this story up. I’m sorry, Dad. I believe you now.

I realize that not all food was this scary in the ‘50s. My grandmother was a homemaker back then and she had a heavenly chicken and dumplings recipe that didn’t call for any vinegar, olives or Jell-O. These cookbooks are giving ‘50s-era cooking a bad rap.

The truth is that I’ve always wanted to travel back in time to the ‘50s. The music and cars from that era remain unsurpassed. But I know one thing. If I ever find my time machine, I’m taking a sack lunch.


  • At Wed Mar 08, 05:28:00 AM, Blogger "Snapshot" said…

    Amen on the sack lunch. Why do you think this is? Supposedly these women did NOTHING but house clean and take care of their families. I've been a stay at home mom, a work from home mom on a part time basis and now a full time basis, but I have to say if I was doing NOTHING but cleaning and cooking, I think I could come up with something to eat that looks better than that picture. Could it be that these ladies had TOO much time on their hands or not enough? Hmmm...?

  • At Wed Mar 08, 06:12:00 AM, Blogger Paige Robins said…

    So that's the secret to getting as thin as those women in the 50s movies! Make disgusting food that you'll have no desire to eat!!! Maybe I should get me some of those cookbooks...

  • At Wed Mar 08, 06:59:00 AM, Blogger Brian said…

    I can't look at this website directly before or after lunch.

    However, if you're on a diet, that might be a good way to curb your appetite....

  • At Wed Mar 08, 08:01:00 AM, Blogger Chad said…

    Remember the crazy old aunt in Christmas Vacation who made a jello loaf and put catfood in it. I'm wondering if the 50s weren't the inspiration for that movie moment.

  • At Wed Mar 08, 08:02:00 AM, Blogger Chad said…

    Remember the crazy old aunt in Christmas Vacation who made a jello loaf and put catfood in it. I'm wondering if the 50s weren't the inspiration for that movie moment.

  • At Wed Mar 08, 08:28:00 AM, Anonymous Emma said…

    I love it! So funny...Makes me not want to eat today!

  • At Wed Mar 08, 08:45:00 AM, Blogger Sarah P said…

    Maybe I'm not an average cook after all! Thanks for the kitchen self-esteem boost today.
    Oh, and SICK!

  • At Wed Mar 08, 11:17:00 AM, Blogger GraceSaves said…

    Note to self: Don't read Deana's blog while eating lunch!!!!!



  • At Wed Mar 08, 11:25:00 AM, Blogger Melanie Morales said…

    I guess that was in the days before "test kitchens" eh? Brought to you by the same era where women were totally dressed up with hair and make up perfect complete with skirt and high heels in order to vacuum that day!

    "Nice place to visit; but ya wouldn't want to live there!"

  • At Wed Mar 08, 11:27:00 AM, Blogger Deana Nall said…

    Everyone -- if you've been wondering why none of your comments showed up until now, it's because I accidentally activated the "moderate comments" function that emails comments to you so you can decide if they should be published. Since I did this without meaning to, I also failed to enter an email address. As a result, I've been wondering why no one has been commenting for two days. I guess I need to stay away from the blogger dashboard late at night.

    Anyway, everything's back to normal!

  • At Wed Mar 08, 01:21:00 PM, Blogger Hoots Musings said…

    My guess on the nasty food of the 50's...the adults were children in the Depression?

    My mom and dad grew up during the depression. I remember one time my mom made these corn dumplings with ham. The corn dumplings were the size of a softball. Very gross and we teased my mom about it for years!

  • At Wed Mar 08, 01:31:00 PM, Blogger Diane said…

    Don't forget the raisins & carrots IN Lime Jello - Jello at my house comes in cool shapes & is eaten by hand. Those recipes would make for interesting "jigglers" recipes!

  • At Wed Mar 08, 01:32:00 PM, Blogger janjanmom said…

    Are you trying to insinuate that it is not fulfilling to get dressed up and do laundry? I have always found it delightful.

  • At Wed Mar 08, 04:45:00 PM, Blogger elizabeth said…

    Oh, this one had me laughing out loud! Thank you, Lord, that I wasn't a child of the 50s!

  • At Wed Mar 08, 08:29:00 PM, Blogger Tracy said…


  • At Thu Mar 09, 07:46:00 AM, Blogger Coping said…

    What! No hot Dr. Pepper with lemon - served in a cup and saucer with raisin cookes?

  • At Sat Mar 11, 05:51:00 PM, Blogger Kyle said…

    I guess it was the invention and subsequent experimentation that led to these blunders.

    If you've ever seen the office, you know that anything can go in jello.


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