1950's and 60's meals, memories and trivia

How It All Began…

on February 26, 2012

Recipes from grandmas.....and moms.Vintage..About 5 years ago, I bought a stack of old cookbooks dating back to the 50’s and 60’s, at a garage sale. I read cookbooks and recipes like some people read novels. Life being what it is….busy, I didn’t get around to perusing them until about a year later. As I flipped through the cookbooks, I found myself being transported back to a time when life was simple and uncomplicated. Just like the food. Several years ago, I put together a cookbook for my father’s side of the family, “Michael Family Meals and Memories”. I came across my grandmother’s recipe file while cleaning her house out after she passed away. There was also a notebook full of handwritten recipes left by my great-grandmother, dated 1960. I was so enamored with what I found and the memories that came flowing back, I had to share that with my extended family. I felt the same about this project, but on a larger scale. Never has food so defined an era!

We have become obsessed with non-fat, low-fat, sugar-free, organic, etc. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but if we are so smart with our food choices then why are we fighting an obesity epidemic which seems to go hand in hand with the diabetes epidemic. I don’t pretend to be an expert in nutrition, but were our food choices really so bad back then? I personally made some of these recipes low-fat and low-sugar and that is O.K. I think the key here is home cooking of any kind is better than the meal on the run we all have succumbed to these days.

This is not for gourmets or food snobs! When I started this project, I will admit, I was guilty of being both.  While shopping for ingredients to test the recipes, I ran into a friend at the market.  I stuttered and stammered trying to explain why I had Spam, canned corned beef, canned fruit pie filling, a dozen packages of flavored gelatin, pudding mixes and pork and beans in my shopping cart.  As I rambled on about this nostalgia thing I was going through, she just smiled, nodded and in an amused tone, said “Gee, that sounds interesting. Let me know how it turns out.” I was mortified. That is, until I went home and threw together two meals in about 20 minutes and my family raved.

I had to rework virtually all the recipes because of outdated ingredients and my own personal tastes. I found some of the wording and ingredients to be fascinating and a real window to the past. Quite often it was assumed one knew what the temperature should be, therefore the directions would read, “Bake in a moderate oven.” After further research, I found that although it seems they forgot to put in the temperature, “slow” and “moderate”, have absolute temperatures connected to them.  A pinch or a dash of some herb or spice was commonplace.  Recipes were sometimes called receipts. I just thought my great grandma couldn’t spell! It took me a while to realize that “soda” in a baked goods recipe meant baking soda not soda water!

When I told my husband that I wanted to embark on this project, he asked me two questions. The first was, “Who is your target audience?” My response was anyone who experienced life in the mid 20th century, as well as those who are curious about this era. His second question was, “Why do you want to do this?” After some thought, I realized that more than anything, it was because I want to capture one tiny little aspect of this wonderful time in my life for my children. At the same time, I can take others down memory lane with me.  Perhaps together we can bring back just a little bit of that simple life that we all so cherished.

Tomorrow’s recipe:  Shrimp New Orleans. A vintage recipe with a modern twist. It takes about 15 minutes to make and this one may even appeal to the gourmet!


5 responses to “How It All Began…

  1. […] How It All Began… (midcenturymeals.wordpress.com) […]

  2. I love that you’re doing this. 🙂 I too get so much delight out of old-fashioned cookbooks. 🙂 I love the line drawings, the simple, easy to find ingredients, and the stories. I love the stories! I found one a while ago that featured the menus and recipes used in Presidential events from waaaaaay back. 🙂 It was so fun and made me want to rush out and find old pudding molds so I could make pretty jellies and things. 🙂

    • Hi Rambling..Thanks! I find most of my books VERY cheap at thrift stores. I get a real kick out of the ones who tell you how to “Entertain the husband’s boss..” or “How to serve tea properly.” Reading them is a little peek into mid century history! p.s. You can find the molds at just about ANY thrift store, and for a really great price!

  3. I’m always on the hunt for vintage-style, home-spun recipes and am looking forward to your posts! And you’re not alone. We have Spam, Corned Beef, Pork and Beans, Jell-O, pudding and pie fillings in our pantry as well. 🙂

    • Thanks Justafrugalfoodie! You are my first comment, though a few friends have commented on my FB. I haven’t really told many about this…at least not until I can figure the darn thing out. Can’t seem to get my pictures downloaded. Still working on it! Can’t wait to check your site and thank you for not saying, “Seriously…Spam? Jell-O?” Tomorrow I am posting one of my faves…Shrimp New Orleans. To die for!! Welcome aboard!

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