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Fascinatingly horrific vintage recipes

We all know there were some weird experimentations and accidents in the 60s-70s. It sometimes gives me a weird pleasure to see things that *absolutely* does not work and I thought some of you might see some humour in it too.

I like to think of it as *anti-cooking*


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  1. OK... you just gave me some flash backs from my youth. I can't say Mom was making any of those recipes, but she she sure put many bizarre meals on the dinner table back then. It's making the hair on my body stand up just mentioning them. When my sister & I get together, we invariably compare memories about several of the horrid, inedible recipes Mom had found. Ewww... like the chopped hot dogs, beans, ketchup, mustard & relish all heated in one pot then lots of large diced, raw onion thrown in just before serving. Yuck... the canned ham she opened with a key & ground up along with an onion & bread, to be made into patties, coated with bread crumbs & fried. Good grief, it was the saltiest thing I've ever eaten in my entire life! But I will take with me to my grave, the memory of when she'd open a can of corned beef hash, slice it into hockey pucks, do the same with a tomato & also an onion. Then she'd layer it onto the bottoms of hamburger buns, topped with a thick slice of Velveeta cheese. She'd slide the stacks (everything raw) under the broiler till the cheese burned. To complete the meal the burger bun tops were nicely burned as well.

    1. Here is the thing. Were these horrific vintage recipes ever popular? I mean. Were they celebrated recipes that families ate? Or were they just some crappy recipes that someone dreamt of? If it is the former, then it is interesting because it shows how taste evolve over time. If it is the latter, then I won't think too much of it. There are always bad recipes in any time and age.

      I believe 5 years ago, Sandra Lee and her team dreamt up the Kwanzaa cake and Hanukkah cake. How will people from 2060 think of us when they saw these cake videos?


      Not only these cakes are "anti-cooking", they are culturally insensitive/ignorance.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

        I have no idea. I'm a baby boomer, and while I certainly cook differently from my mother, she NEVER made stuff like that, and thought it was disgusting when there were commercials for such mayonnaise-based cr*p.

        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

          It depends on the familly I guess!

          I was born in the late 70's so I wasn't alive for most of this.

          I have an american friend whose familly classics include numerous weird aspic concoctions (she cooked a batch of things for us to try and, although she is a great cook, it was more of a social experiment than a gustative discovery.)

          I have a friend whose "working class" relatives doesn't like it when his mom cooks too "weird" (weird for them are apparently things like "foie gras"). To illustrate what they think is great cooking, said aunt brought the frosted ribbon leaf in a pot luck. The mother in question (a fantastic cook herself) was so insulted that she put everything in aspic at the next familly reunion (to the enjoyment of her familly, unfortunately). So I guess a few of these people exist!

        2. Oh ack! I couldn't get past #1 - Tuna and Jello Pie!

              1. re: sunshine842

                I have been enjoying that site for many years now and it never fails to leave me in tears from laughing. "10 p.m. Cookery" is one of my favorites. Glad to see there is finally some new content and more to come in February as well!

              2. re: ttoommyy

                You beat me to it by about 30 seconds. I was in stitches the entire time.

                1. re: ttoommyy

                  yes, Lileks has everyone beat on this topic.

                  1. re: ttoommyy

                    I checked that out and the one on meat was the first i looked at. Much to my surprise it was the Better Homes & Garden Meat Cookbook. One of the first books I learned how to cook from. I made just about every recipe in that, and the other BH&G cookbooks. Many of them were very tasty.

                    1. re: JMF

                      The recipes are probsbly fine in many of those books; it's the running commentary on the horrible photography and dated presentation that is so hilarious. To each his own.

                  2. For the best compilation of recipes that look like they just beamed in from Jupiter, I highly recommend:



                    1. Thanks for the recommendation of http://www.lileks.com/institute/gallery/

                      Didn't know about it!

                      1. # 16, Banana Candle is just wrong. Someone with a devilish sense of humor took that picture.

                        1. When I'm traveling, I love to pick up vintage cookbooks put out by local churches, women's groups,etc. As far as I can tell, all "salads" in the Midwest in the 60's contained Miracle Whip, Jello, Dream Whip, and maybe minature marshmellows and fruit cocktail.

                          9 Replies
                          1. re: marcyfitz

                            I do the same thing. Love those vintage cookbooks from local groups.

                            1. re: marcyfitz

                              For some reason gelatin (Jell-O) was so popular. It's not that it was new to the market (dried gelatin was commercialized in the 19th century), but it seems to have become fantastically popular.

                              I wonder which of today's fads will cause amusement half a century from now??

                              1. re: drongo

                                Jell-O enjoyed a surge of popularity when the refrigerator became a common household item.

                                1. re: sandylc

                                  Being able to make Jello was a status thing, it showed you had a refrigerator.

                                  1. re: weezieduzzit

                                    I think that's also where menu terms such as "chilled grapefruit" came from...

                                    It was only recently that I discovered room-temperature grapefruit - it's SO much better!

                                    1. re: sandylc

                                      I think most, if not all, fruit tastes much better at room temperature!

                                      1. re: BobbieSue

                                        Agreed. Many things we refrigerate in this country taste better at room temperature. I discovered this after traveling to Italy for the first time over 10 years ago.

                                        1. re: ttoommyy

                                          Heh. I just got back from a few weeks between Naples & Salerno and so true. Went to the buffalo mozzarella farms where they decry refrigerating the mozzarella because it destroys the taste and texture...you just leave it out on your patio in 50-60 degree (F) weather and it's delicious for days....

                                2. re: drongo

                                  I was reading in a cooking history that in the 1920's and 1930's an electric refrigerator was still a luxury purchase and you had to have one to make Jello set so serving fancy Jello salads and desserts was a snobbish show-offy thing to do. Also, in the first three decades following World War II the US began to see a steady supply of new convenience foods like Cool-Whip and it was at the same time that paid help disappeared from most US homes so it's not surprising that homemakers put these two social phenomena together and came up with a zillion ways to combine convenience foods into ...combinations that today we are less impressed with. All of these dishes are signs of their times just as wartime "Victory" recipes made without meat, sugar, butter etc (in short supply during the war) now sound disgusting.

                              2. Just as Western society was defying the "rules" in other areas of life beginning in the '60s-70s (and maybe even the late '50s), so we did with cooking. No longer were we required to follow our mothers' recipes or stodgy "establishment" cookbooks. We were liberated!

                                1. I remember my mother making that horrible frosted sandwich loaf thing for bridge club.

                                  She had to order an unsliced loaf of white bread from the bakery, which she painstakingly sliced horizontally and filled up with a layer each of (if I recall correctly) ham salad, tuna salad, and egg salad. All mushy, mayonnaise-y stuff.

                                  Next came the whipped cream cheese to frost it with. I don't remember if she decorated the thing or not.


                                  What were people thinking?

                                  3 Replies
                                    1. re: ttoommyy

                                      My mom made that too, and I thought it was delish!

                                    2. Funny, fond memories. My mother is a really great basic home cook, we had sit down family meals almost every night of the week. Growing up in the 1960's and 70's my parents would sometimes attend dinner parties held by my aunt and uncle. Now Aunt "J" was "highfalutin" and served all kinds of fancy dishes like aspic and fancy molded "salads". My mother would come home from these parties and rave on and on about how beautiful the table looked, and, added almost as a side note, that most of it tasted horrible.

                                      (I still occasionally make Aunt "J's" recipe for "fancy" pineapple stuffing to be served with ham...it is basically a bread pudding.)

                                      1. I agree that the meatloaf igloo is kind of cute.

                                        1. Really enjoyed these. What was the fascination with gelatin? I don't like the idea of someone handling my food that much in order to carve out a potato igloo.
                                          I have a friend who is dear who still cooks classic 50's - she still lives in the same house she grew up in and the interior hasn't changed either. She serves jello salad and then doesn't understand why I don't want a big glop of mayo on top of it.!?

                                          8 Replies
                                          1. re: foodcompletesme

                                            not even mayo -- Miracle whip was the dollop of choice on most of those recipes.

                                            My grandmother's favorite "salad" (her word, not mine) was a single leaf of iceberg lettuce, a half a banana (sliced lengthwise), a spoonful of Miracle Whip, sprinkled with chopped walnuts, with a cherry on top.

                                            I ate them as a kid, but I can't imagine that now.

                                            1. re: sunshine842

                                              My Mom's favorite 'salad' was a slice of canned pineapple, topped with a scoop of cottage cheese. I'm sure she considered this *healthy*.

                                              1. re: mwhitmore

                                                clearly you have forgotten the "diet plate" in diners - a burger without the bun and a scoop of cottage cheese on a piece of lettuce. maybe some canned fruit slice if it was fancy. I'm all for jungle burgers (or whatever you call the lettuce wrapped version) and fruits paired with meats, but would never really call that 'diet'

                                                1. re: hill food

                                                  but yeah, it was -- for years and years.

                                                2. re: mwhitmore

                                                  One slice of pineapple (even in a sugar syrup) and one scoop of cottage cheese is not necessarily bad for you.

                                                  1. re: mwhitmore

                                                    We had either cottage cheese in pineapple ring or canned peach slices. I do still love my cottage cheese and boiled egg with tomato though

                                                3. re: foodcompletesme

                                                  There was a push during WWII to get people to eat undesirable "meat" cuts, ie: organ meats, off cuts etc. Jello is a meat byproducts. Many of these weird dishes use processed meats that were made from these undesirable cuts. There were meat shortages in the US during the war. Maybe you couldn't get people to eat tripe but they might eat some sort of processed meat product containing it.

                                                  Some of these probably persisted after the war to improve sales of things that would have otherwise been waste. Most of these really weird foods were the invention of food companies or places that tried to influence housewives. Housewives making Jello everything sells more Jello. I remember a bunch of these free cookbooks that came from the company that produced whatever food product (spam, jello etc) when I was a kid.

                                                  1. re: blackpointyboots

                                                    ever read "Cruddy" by Lynda Barry? at one point a character says another is involved in "by-product processing" and there it goes darker.

                                                4. Can we go back even farther? I am sitting here with "Marion Harland's Complete Cookbook " (1903) that recommends the following breakfast dishes: Barbecued Lambs' Tongues, Mince of Mutton, Stewed Calf Brains, and Stewed Tripe. Back a few years more to "Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management" (1861) and we are instructed in the preparation of plovers, ptarmigan, fallow deer, widgeons, and turtles. And, trust me on this, you do not want to be responsible for the deconstruction of a turtle. So: time passes, tastes change, ingredient availability changes, and cooking changes.

                                                  3 Replies
                                                  1. re: Querencia

                                                    Everything you listed sounds delicious to me though!

                                                    1. re: Tokyoite

                                                      No problem. You take the Stewed Brains for breakfast and I'll have a bowl of cornflakes.

                                                  2. You know, looking at some of this stuff - which was the height of haute cuisine when I was growing up - or at least commonly seen at the dinner table - perhaps I wasn't such a picky eater after all.

                                                    Perhaps I just had better sense than some ...

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: CookingForReal

                                                      I have reached that conclusion for myself, as well. I was poked fun at as being picky in my family. Now, as adults, I am MUCH less picky than anyone else in the family - I eat a wider variety of foods. Fresh, well-prepared? I'll try it!

                                                      Them? Ooh, I don't like that. Have you tried it? No!

                                                    2. I have to say that I found the instructions for fancy cut hot dogs really intriguing. When my nephews were younger they would have thought that a very fun thing to do!

                                                      2 Replies
                                                      1. re: meatn3

                                                        My mother used to score hot dogs before broiling in a lesser "fancy" way, but still fun. I remember a spiral cut that was particularly appealing to me as a child.

                                                        1. re: ttoommyy

                                                          They would be great in a kids bento box lunch. The creativity and whimsy utilized in these things makes me wish I had a kid to surprise at lunch!


                                                      2. I'm sorry, but I want to try all of them. It's just my natural curiosity. Sure, I might find some of them revolting, and I doubt any of them would end up in my regular repertoire. But just as I'm interested in trying unusual foods from different regions and cultures, I also want to know what unusual dishes I might be missing out on simply because they are no longer fashionable.

                                                        2 Replies
                                                        1. re: weem

                                                          I LIVED through it. Once was enough.

                                                          I'll stick to pad gai king, dan dan noodles, plantain curry, and any of the many other much more palatable dishes I enjoy from all over the world, NONE of which involve tuna or green jello. Especially not simultaneously. "Fashion" has nothing to do with it, LOL!

                                                          1. re: weem

                                                            Absolutely agree, @weem. I am no food snob, by far. I just like food!

                                                          2. The banana candle is just... perfect. For the right party, that would be the best potluck offering ever!

                                                            3 Replies
                                                              1. re: BobbieSue

                                                                It's a perfect pairing with alcohol and lewd dancing.

                                                                (For people finding this mysterious, allusions sourced from this other thread: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/959062 )

                                                                1. re: 4Snisl

                                                                  Lewd desserts... Hmm, another thread to start, perhaps?

                                                            1. When I see dishes from decades ago that seem horrific today, I can see two themes:

                                                              1. Dishes that exploited technology that was then new and hence became fashionable. For example, several posters here have suggested that the molded gelatinized dishes were made practicable at home by the domestic refrigerator. Also, the fascination with bright unnatural colors may have been driven by excitement over then new synthetic food colorings (of course, we're much less excited by those today).

                                                              2. Dishes that look elaborate but that are really inexpensive. We laugh at the entrees made with hot dogs, but they would be inexpensive. Even though we think the economy today is tough, average family budgets were much tighter during much of the 20th century.

                                                              16 Replies
                                                              1. re: drongo

                                                                You talk as though these recipes are from the Great Depression. We're mainly talking '60s and '70s. Refrigerators had already been around a long time (and now in Mustard Yellow and Avocado Green!).

                                                                1. re: LorenzoGA

                                                                  But the parents of the 60s and 70s grew up without many of these modern conveniences (or at least with substandard versions), so they were the perfect marketing targets for modern appliances and the foods made possible by them.

                                                                  1. re: sandylc

                                                                    I would have to disagree and say that parents of the (late) '60s and into the '70s mostly grew up with refrigerators, which became common in homes after WWII. I think it's more the 1950's in which housewives were Depression babies who were more familiar with the iceman and icebox than the refrigerator. Anyway, I'm not a historian--it's just my off-the-cuff estimation.

                                                                    1. re: LorenzoGA

                                                                      I grew up in the 60s and 70s. My parents both grew up without refrigerators.

                                                                2. re: drongo

                                                                  Exploited technology? Please explain your opinion. I definitely do not understand that statement.

                                                                  1. re: Jeanne

                                                                    Jeanne - I get it, I remember once in 1973 my 3rd grade classroom had a conventional oven and one day someone's parent hauled in their relatively new microwave the size of a small minivan for a muffin bake-off among other things, exotic then. think of how these techno steps change how we cook, how often does a recipe call for a bell jar or a kettle in the fireplace on a swing arm? I don't think I've ever been served anything under a cloche now that the mechanical systems required for kitchens allow them to be placed near dining rooms.

                                                                    by exploiting technology we no longer have to make mayo on an as-used basis, ever use frozen vegetables? in the post-war era everyone was exploring what the new appliances could do. tomato aspic (just V-8 and Jell-o really) was considered a salad/soup course.

                                                                    1. re: Jeanne

                                                                      Here's what Merriam-Webster says about "exploit":

                                                                      ex·ploit transitive verb \ik-ˈsplȯit, ˈek-ˌ\
                                                                      : to get value or use from (something)
                                                                      : to use (someone or something) in a way that helps you unfairly

                                                                      I meant the first usage, not the second.

                                                                    2. re: drongo

                                                                      Drongo, good points.

                                                                      Hand in hand with them it helps to remember very few people had air conditioning. These chilled dishes could be made in the cooler morning hours and served later.

                                                                      This period also ushered in large numbers of Home Economic professionals. Many home makers were influenced by "modern" methods disseminated through magazines, cooperative extension offices and schools.

                                                                      1. re: meatn3

                                                                        Oh My Dog, save me from Home Economic Professionals! None of whom know how to cook, or even enjoy delicious food.

                                                                        1. re: mwhitmore

                                                                          Oh I loved my Home Ec teacher in High School! She taught me how to sew. Young people have lost this skill today : (

                                                                      2. re: drongo

                                                                        The styling for many of the dishes were also inspired by haute French cuisine. French food had been considered the pinnacle of fashionable cooking since the 19th century and one of the ways it manifested itself was through elaborate molded dishes.

                                                                        Of course when you substitute the original ingredients with inferior versions you end up with something quite different.

                                                                        One of my favorite dishes from the time which my grandmother made frequently for bridge and cocktail parties was crab pizza. A thin layer of cream cheese for the base, topped with marina sauce and sprinkled with crabmeat and oregano. You scoop up bits of it and smear on crackers. It's actually quite good.

                                                                        1. re: Roland Parker

                                                                          Good observation. One might describe the home culinary scene in the '60s-70s era as American packaged convenience foods colliding with new-found knowledge from Julia Child.

                                                                          1. re: LorenzoGA

                                                                            "One might describe the home culinary scene in the '60s-70s era as American packaged convenience foods colliding with new-found knowledge from Julia Child."

                                                                            That describes to a T my mother's way of cooking in the 60s and 70s (that is aside from the traditional Italian-American dishes that were a staple of her menus). And you know what? I loved it all!

                                                                          2. re: Roland Parker

                                                                            jeez Roland I'm not captain buzzkill but that sounds like a deconstructed Crab Rangoon. there has been chatter about this beast on CHound,

                                                                          3. re: drongo

                                                                            I grew up in the 60's and early 70's, but my parents were European, so their food was European...none of this stuff...although I do remember my mother's fascination when she discovered frozen vegetables...so much better than the canned. (I wouldn't eat fresh veggies...I was one of those kids.) Funny thing is, my parents were eastern European (Russian mother, father from Galizia which he considered Austria rather than Poland) by way of Germany. As a child, and even now, I've never had a taste for German or any eastern European food. Now if my parents had come from Spain, France, or Italy..........

                                                                          4. Note to self: more loaves.

                                                                            I have somewhere a fairly recent recipe that is essentially mashed potatoes mixed with canned tuna and poured into a terrine mold, served with capers. It's not sold enough to loaf, but it has an honorable mention here I think.

                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                            1. re: ennuisans

                                                                              potato flakes is a good trick to keep your tuna salad from going runny.

                                                                            2. I can't believe that nobody has cited the song "Green Jello Marshmallow Cottage Cheese Surprise"---google it and give it a listen. Fits right in here.

                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                              1. re: Querencia

                                                                                I think we had collectively blocked that particular tune out.

                                                                                1. re: hill food

                                                                                  No, I want to hear it! (pause to Google) Ummmm...maybe I didn't.

                                                                              2. Of course, we don't have any recipes like that today....

                                                                                The Lady's Brunch Burger

                                                                                5 Replies
                                                                                1. re: Antilope

                                                                                  Haha. I was wondering which of today's fashionable dishes would be looked at with amusement and/or scorn some decades in the future. But everything I could think of (e.g. elaborate cupcakes, cake pops, Luther burgers) are already looked at that way by many people.

                                                                                  1. re: drongo

                                                                                    Not recipes, but imo, there's a lot of food out right now in that category.

                                                                                    Deep fried oreos
                                                                                    Deep friend twinkies
                                                                                    Ramen noodle burgers

                                                                                    1. re: BobbieSue

                                                                                      "Not recipes, but imo, there's a lot of food out right now in that category.

                                                                                      Deep fried oreos
                                                                                      Deep friend twinkies"

                                                                                      Absolutely agree. I would rather eat a few things on that other list than these 2 items, which I have never had; they just don't appeal to me. A "natural" oreo or twinkie, yes. But deep fried? I'll skip that. Can't comment on the burger because I have no idea what it is.

                                                                                      1. re: BobbieSue

                                                                                        Modern-day atrocity on PBS Globe-Trekker visit to Scotland, where deep-fried everything is as popular as in the American South: deep-fried Mars Bar, with tomato catsup for dipping.

                                                                                        1. re: greygarious

                                                                                          well it's Scotland. I've met plenty of Scots and hey - they get bored in the perpetual winter dwimmer.

                                                                                          fine folk AFAIK.

                                                                                  2. That is pretty yucky food. I was born in '47 so growing up in that era was a lit of fun looking back on it. I do not remember my mother ever cooking anything like these recipes. She did use miracle whip a lot instead of heavy cream. And my mother in law (I've know my husband since high school) did make a lot of jello salads which she and I only ate. My mother was a pretty simple cook but everything she made was delicious. Oh I do remember a gross sandwich with cut up bologna, relish and other stuff that was put on buns, wrapped in foil and heated in the oven.

                                                                                    I've catered for 20 years and before my mother passed away I use to go up to Tennessee and make food for her valentine bible study she would have each year. She was always so proud for her friends to try the new and different things I would make. My dad was the best "bbqer/smoker" around and I feel like even though they cooked simply I got my love of food and cooking for them. I have on occasion made things that could go down in that totally gross category. Of course I know it's gross and would never make again and that banana candle was pretty gross.

                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                    1. re: Cflower5

                                                                                      I enjoyed reading about your reminiscing and about how family influences us! I also grew up in a household of simple meals, but my Mom was an excellent homemaker. She baked our bread and pizza dough from scratch. Pizza night was special because it was the only time we were allowed to have soda (tall glass refillable bottles from Stewarts if anyone knows that place). I was the only kid in school with "brown bread" (wheat) in the 70's. Great memories of having corned beef hash from a can when my parents had a date night and we would have a baby-sitter.
                                                                                      Like your Mother's pride in your cooking, my Mom tells everybody "she's a gourmet cook!". Because I use fresh, varied ingredients and like international cooking. Times have changed. I think my Mom only used dried oregano, parsley and garlic powder.

                                                                                    2. I can't resist a game of "would you rather" ...

                                                                                      -- Would you rather eat the liver sausage pineapple ...

                                                                                      - or -

                                                                                      the spam and limas?

                                                                                      (The banana candle is staying out of this post, lol. )

                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                      1. re: BobbieSue

                                                                                        Spam and limas for me. I like both, so why not? Plus, as the ad states, "Spam hits the spot!"