midcenturymeals

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

The Mid-Century Housewife

on March 7, 2012

Lately I have gone back through some of my 125 + mid-century cookbooks and re-read some of the introductions, suggestions and basic commentary. It is such a window to a time when being a good housewife and mother was what men aspired to marry and women aspired to be. I found that to be the case in both 50’s and 60’s cookbooks. However, by the mid 60’s you begin to see changes. The books start talking about “The busy working mom.” This was a huge change from the earlier part of the mid-century when the woman stayed at home and took care of her family.

The women in my neighborhood followed this pattern. We were your traditional, middle class, blue collar neighborhood. Until the mid to latter part of the 60’s, the mom’s were at home. I remember being at a friend’s house and about 4:00 in the afternoon, (just before Dark Shadows started!) you could smell the beginnings of “supper.” Then I remember my mother going to work for a while, and so did some others. Mrs Van Driel next door began a day care service for the children of the mom’s who worked. I don’t know if it was because women going to work was a neccesity or just a sign of the times.

In the 50’s, cookbooks would make comments like, “Greet your tired husband, just home from work, with an appetizer as simple as a fruit juice cocktail.” or warning women to carefully prepare the main dish, left-overs, casseroles, and souffle’s. “Poorly made main dishes have a bad reputation among men, as a substitute for meat.” Seriously? Then there is, ” A woman knows how to be a thrifty shopper.” and “The woman MUST be prepared for times when the husband comes home unexpectedly with his boss.”

The 60's "career" woman

Then in the 60’s you see a change happening. “In the rapid pace of modern living…you are likely to be combining cookery with a career.” or “Today a woman’s food choices are based on whether or not she has a career.” New conveniences: Dried foods, (potato buds, dried soup mixes, or instant coffee, for example,) canned foods and frozen, gave the housewife more time to pursue those careers, or new hobbies.

With all of the changes during these two decades, one thing remained constant. The family ate together virtually every night and there were absolute hard and fast rules on etiquette, whether you were entertaining the husband’s boss, or having the typical family meal. For the most part, we have lost sight of those rules over the years. Yes, today family means different things to different people, but whatever or whomever  your family consists of, maybe one night soon you can play “mid-century” housewife, (you don’t necessarily have to be female to do this…), make a wonderful meal of comfort food, set the table properly and greet your mate at the door with your pearls and apron on (maybe you should be female for this..), a big smile and fantastic mid-century smells wafting from the kitchen!

Tomorrow’s recipe: Comfort food at it’s best. My mother’s Shepherd’s Pie. This was my mom’s very simple, all-American version and not your standard British Fare.

Did you know??? The Wizard of Oz was shown on T.V. for the first time in 1956.

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2 responses to “The Mid-Century Housewife

  1. Ann says:

    Loving this post.

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