In for a spot of fun today? My grandparents owned in the late 50’s and 60’s and served a mess of salads that would be considered today horrifying, yet a few were quite tasty. They served these along with fresh squeezed orange juice, polite sandwiches and even more salads. The restaurant was tucked away at the feet of a giant Bell Telephone building in Wichita, KS and served a large group of phone company operators who, apparently, were into these salads made of Jell-O and mayonnaise.
I call out granny, but she really could cook. But there were disturbing trends of the times, and they were a bit unsettling.
Let’s take a peek at the things of our ghastly food history that attempts a return every few generations. Some good, but mostly bad. By the way, these recipes were perpetuated by women’s magazines of the time such as McCall’s and Family Circle. If anyone is to blame, beside the gelatin industry, blame these dinner-starved editors. We don’t just call out Jell-O, but rather a host of nasty food makers pawning their goods off to unsuspecting mid-century mothers.
And oh, these types of dishes weren’t relegated to the middle and lower class. There was also something called Aspic. Same song all prettied up.
This mayonnaise mold from the 1970s was the height of impressive hosting in its day. Looking like the result of hours of work in the kitchen, it actually comes from a recipe box that shows you exactly what ingredients to use. A masterful meal or masterful marketing from Knox?
An old-country feast, Green Beans Gretel was published in Family Circle in 1963. Del Monte green beans are cooked in butter, onion, pimento, horseradish and mustard, and served with chicken and noodles. So far so good. But the presentation with the whole roast chicken on top? It’s a little barbaric and probably makes carving and serving difficult too.
This 7-Layer Casserole published in Good Housekeeping in 1958 may look good in the picture but just imagine it after everyone at the buffet table has stuck a fork in. Uncooked rice is topped with sweetcorn, Hunt’s Tomato Sauce, seasoning, chopped onion, green pepper, raw beef mince (ground beef), a second tin of tomato sauce and bacon, and baked in the oven.
Lemon mayonnaise sounds appealing served with canned pears and lime jelly, right? Not really. What about lemon Jello with stuffed olives, grated carrots and the zingy condiment? In 1965 a Kraft Mayonnaise advertisement in Look magazine wanted us to try these recipes, insisting a touch of lemon juice was just the ticket to perk up flavor. The crafty advertising team at Kraft certainly lived up to their name with this campaign.
This creamy chicken dish was popular throughout the 20th century and a Swanson recipe for it published in Family Circle in 1953 even received the Good Housekeeping seal of approval. White bread is spread with margarine, baked in the oven and topped with a can of Swanson Chicken à la King. A recipe for how to pour a can over toast – it does make you question things, doesn’t it.
This alarming hot dog plate was seen in a 1942 McCall’s magazine feature that wanted its readers to try out a new type of skinless frankfurter. It describes them as tender and nourishing, urging home cooks to serve it tonight with fried potatoes and chili sauce.
For cooks that stay as cool as the company, this Patio Platter from Miracle Whip and Knox published in Reader’s Digest in 1965 was the dish to make. The fruit cocktail and mayonnaise gelatin was said to pair perfectly with cold cuts of ham, chicken or turkey and Kraft cheese slices. And no one will ever know the secret ingredient: frozen lemonade concentrate.