Thursday, June 27, 2013

Food Nostalgia Isn't All It's Cracked Up to Be

I was a child of the 50's and 60's and I remember the "bad old days" of American cooking, before "ethnic" (as it was called back then) ingredients became every day staples in our supermarkets.

No mangoes.  No jicama.  No fresh water chestnuts.  No salsa.   At least, none in our local Bronx markets.

Back then, someone could publish directions for a "Honorable Chinese Dinner" and feel they weren't insulting one of the oldest cuisines in the world. (In all fairness, the article did compare the "art" of Chinese cooking to the "art" of carving fine jade.) Meanwhile, my introduction to "Chinese cooking" was the double decker cans of LaChoy Chow Mein - one can with the chow mein, and a can of crispy "chow mein" noodles that I sometimes made for dinner as a teen -  before I discovered the joys of baking my own bread and cooking in a wok.

I love to look at old cookbooks - but the "Better Homes and Gardens Meals with a Foreign Flair" cookbook from 1963 a blogger recently wrote about shows just how much cooking in the United States has progressed.

In fact, there's a blog devoted to horrible cookbooks of the 40's, 50's and 60's.  (You must read this blog, even if you weren't alive back in "those days" - you owe it to yourself).  No wonder the residents of the United States didn't have a weight problem!

I don't want to insult the "home cooks" of the 50's and 60's who made genuine, "down home" food - including, in this area, spiedies and "hot pies" - just the commercial versions of what someone out there thought we should be eating.

So, my readers, it is true confession time.  'Fess up in the comments:
Did you eat  Swanson's TV Dinners?
Did you make molded food with Knox Gelatin?
Or, worst of all - did your Mom serve you Miracle Margarine? (mine did)

Or, are you nostalgic for those days, perhaps because you never lived through them?


  1. The first meals I cooked for my husband were pretty horrible. I had no idea back then of how to assemble a proper nutritious meal. The cookbooks were pretty basic in Australia in the 60's. Luckily, fruit and vegetables were plentiful, otherwise the family might never have grown up big and strong.

  2. My mom was a great cook (still is) but we ate our share of processed foods when I was growing up . . . nostalgia has pushed me to buy them now and then, and my kids totally turn their noses up at canned Ravioli, Spaghettio's, boxed macaroni and cheese! ha!

  3. Yes all those foods were the rage when I was growing up. Mostly I did not like any of them however that is what we ate. And I was always sick as a kid and young adult. Only now that I eat a Real Food diet do I feel my health has improved. Best Regards, Wendy

  4. We used to eat those canned Chinese meals, too--as an eight year old, I loved them. Now I see them in the stores and shudder! Never heard of Miracle Margarine, though! When I first read it, I worried it might be a spread made from Miracle Whip (my mother's favorite--I never ate real mayonnaise until college!) and margarine! My mother still eats only margarine and carries a stick of it to our house when she visits, because I use only butter!

    I am looking forward to checking out some of those cookbook sites when I have more time!


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