Tuesday, May 25, 2010

25 May 1956 “Food, Glorious Food”

family at dinner We started this way.
family at dinner with tv Gradually moved to this.
swansondinner It started out innocent enough.tveating maybe one night a week as a special treat. kidtv To the normal way of life.
On the Forum today, someone asked this question:
“I really like the 50's version of homemaking but I sometimes get wrapped up in the idea of pot roast and potato and cake for dessert type meals.
From what I can tell from my 50's cookbooks they didnt eat a lot of main dish salads or baked chicken, etc.
I guess it's kind of silly but I want to feel "50's" while still eating healthy. Any ideas?
I know food is just one part... but its my favorite! (which is probably why we both have so much weight to lose)”

I thought about this a lot in the beginning of my project and I have come to realize two major things from the 1950’s to today
  1. The proportions were much smaller than today.
  2. Processed Food was just really beginning to be offered.
Though we are often given this image of plates piled with bacon and sticks of butter, the opposite is actually true. In all of my 50’s cookbooks, even the better known Better Homes and Betty Crocker, if you actually look at serving size and also at what was a normal serving size you will see a marked difference. Though the idea for the New World we were making after the war was of plenty, that did not mean that every plate every night was filled with steak. When asking anyone of that generation what a good meal would be, they would probably answer steak, but that was because it was special. People were still eating on some level as they had before the war, with a big dinner on Sunday (Pot Roast or Chicken) and then throughout the week leftovers or smaller versions of food ‘stretched’ with rice or oatmeal (the ever comforting meat loaf.
I know when I started my project I had lovely visions of bacon piled high and mountains of mashed potatoes, and  in the beginning I did do so. But, as I began to pay more attention to the cookbooks and magazines and looking at old photos and reading old articles, I began to see proportion. A child in 1955 may have had a glass of soda or Kool-aid, but it was a 6 oz. glass. That is not even a full cup, compare that with children today drinking endless soda’s or even modern glasses of juice. Most juice is corn syrup and chemicals and rather than a 6 oz glass at breakfast, children may be guzzling 20 oz. tumblers full throughout the day.

A breakfast of one to two slices of bacon (35 calories each and not that much fat because it is only 2 slices) one egg, one toast and 6 oz of juice and coffee is actually not as bad as two bowls of prepared cereal. We seem to have replaced most of our nutrition with sugar and even that isn’t really sugar but corn syrup. We have increasingly took farming in our country from the small guy who farmed many things for market and his family and now have more corn grown than we can even use, which is amazing when you think of ethanol, corn syrups, fillers in most foods and pet foods etc. IT is all corn and as it is bad for our bodies to only give it one thing, it is equally bad for the land to have the same thing grown over and over. This also increases the strain of damaging insects that feed on that crop and all of that lead to needing to make chemicals to supplement the soil and kill the bugs.
The single most damaging modern dilemma seems to be over doing it. We can’t eat one small hamburger and 6 oz soda as an occasional treat, we have to have a 4 patty burger with bacon, cheese, fries and malts. A simple order of what we would eat of French fries today would be an entire serving for a family of four in 1950s. The fact that parent’s were telling children to ‘clean their plate’ meant it wasn’t just full of fried fish sticks and ‘chicken nuggets’ there were vegetables and other things which they needed to have some nutrition. They could not simply later go to the pantry and grab a bunch of junk food.
Junk food was really beginning after the war. With the increase in production and the vast market of people wanting ease it was a goldmine for such products. But, at first, these would have been supplemented a homemakers work load. When they first introduced box cake mixes they were poorly received because they were so easy. So, marketing had them add to the ingredients, add an egg and oil and people felt more like they were not ‘cheating’. The very concept of how we felt about what was our duty to prepare good food for our family was so ingrained that the ‘ease’ of quick food had to be slowly feed to us (A very interesting BBC documentary on the marketing world basically started by Freud's’ American cousin who invented marketing and P.R.).
Today we seem to want to be on some endless wheel of diets because we no nothing else. Most of these always involve our depriving ourselves of some element while we then overdo another. I know for many vegetarians who hadn’t the time to use and make fresh vegetables all the time, they simply fell into the pattern of buying ‘vegetarian’ premade foods and in fact eating very little vegetables when it came down to it. Processed food, rather it has meat or not, is still that. And the over eating of Soy as the main elements of those diets are now showing up as health problems. Because, again, we over do one thing! Variety is the spice of life and also seems to be the major element in eating properly.
If one really wanted to eat an American 50’s family diet, they would reduce their proportions by more than half. Right there, less calories would lead to weight loss. And many older wives in the 50’s were still making their own bread. When we control our food by preparing it our self, we know how much salt goes in and we are not injecting it with chemicals (other than what is already in the meat and such we buy today anyway).
Even dessert servings are so small. This will still surprise me sometimes. The other day I made a sugar cookie recipe I had not tried before in my Betty Crocker book and was surprised by the small amount and the suggested amount of cookies. While it told me to expect 3 dozen, if I made a modern day size sugar cookie (think Starbucks, grocery store baker, any cafe’) I would have probably made about a dozen. A child having that second cookie in 1950 was not like today. One cookie today at most bakery/cafe’s/stores are about 3 50’s size cookies.
There was also not endless snacking. Though 1950’s was the Golden Age of TV, it was also in its infancy. It was not on all day long and there were not even that many programs. My magazines and books are filled with ideas for having friends over for a TV night. It was a special occasion where you prepared certain food and gathered r0und, like playing cards or scrabble. Even the commercials would be discussed and shared, while today advertising is such a part of us we just sit there, chips in our lap, 32 oz of soda and watch and watch and watch.
So the daily exercise of a 1950’s family is also different from ours. You may have had pot roast, but you didn’t eat it all up and there would be small proportions and your cake for dessert would be small as well. Even coffee cups were tiny compared to modern versions. So take that element of less food being served and mix it with more exercise.
We were just starting to get more cars and become two car families after the war. But many households had one car. That meant the wife had it when she needed to do her errands or had to drop father off at the train station. Walking had been a major part of our lives pre-suburbia, but once we moved out of the cities and into the ‘burbs we had to drive to stores. But, at first, we did not. you either went without or you walked.  Children played outside, there were not video games. They may have all lay mindlessly on the floor to watch Howdy Doody and drink a 6 oz bottle of Coke, but then they were up again and racing around their neighborhood, riding bikes, climbing, jumping ropes. Today the homemaker, the father and the children are so much more sedentary.
That is why one of the main things I have really learned with this project is that many of our ailments of the modern world began in the 1950’s, but still within that time we had not learned them all yet. They were just beginning to show up. If we could have somehow held onto the good neighborliness, and the smaller proportions, but it was too hard .The ease of prepared foods and the power of advertising mingled with the vast increase in passive entertainment has come to be our downfall in weight, food health and exercise.
In some way I am now afraid of the increase in the popularity of the 1950’s because I know it is just going to become another marketing ploy to make us buy more of whatever they want to sell as that image. Here buy more things, eat this new version of bad foods, its from the 50’s but its serving size is quadrupled. We really need to start looking at the whole picture of our lives and how we live. We need to see that transportation and the endless need to always be driving does not have to be. One has to get to work, but maybe if we lived places where we could walk more or if towns and burbs could be laid out more to encourage that, as they once naturally did. But, with Wal-Mart and the Malls, we are only getting further away from the old way of living. Now we drive to a place (using up gas and our money) to walk around inside a place that has to use SO MUCH energy to run all the lights to heat or cook vast spaces large as small towns so we can walk around and wonder if we can get a bargain on another 5 dollar shirt to throw on the increasing pile in our closet. Then we can go home because we don’t ‘have time to cook’ and pop some chicken patties in the micro, open a flavored water full of sugar and veg in front of the tv watching the endless shows or catching up on Tivo. Then, when we are so tire, “I don’t know why I am so tired, I can’t get anything done” even though we have filled our bodies with sugars which give us charges and then exhaust us, sit in cars or in front of the tv and wonder why the housework won’t do itself. Instead of trying to invent robots to clean for us, why can’t we get off our lazy bums and get to work. The only REAL solution to any housework problems is laziness and procrastination. The modern world is a pitfall of such things. Endless entertainment, the computer, the malls, easy to hop in your car and go shopping. It is odd that since the 1950’s food and luxury items are VERY cheap in comparison but housing and healthcare and education is quadrupled. We are somehow lulled into a state of endlessly working to try to keep up with the basics of what is needed, shelter food education, and then to feel better spend more on all the items at the big box store because it is all so cheap! It is a veritable trap to keep us consumers. It is very sad.
People get mad about the BP oil spill, which they should, but then feel no personal responsibility as they drive needlessly around in huge cars using up gas to go and buy products at places that use up petroleum to heat and electrify. Our entire world, all its excesses is run on oil. We put oil on all those birds and sea creatures as much as did they big companies (well not as much, but we are all part of the problem) but it is easier to just have occasional scape-goats then to try and live our own lives differently. To use the car less. Use less electricity. Buy more ingredients and make our own. Try to buy as much local as we can. It is all harder but if we don’t do it we may never even have the choice anymore to try.
Wow, all of this from a 1950’s dinner. You know me, though, I cannot help but rant. But, while on the subject of food here are some interesting finds hubby showed me on a site that I guess is part of some new book (another example of having to make a book of simple common sense of ‘hey don’t eat that entire turkey, just have one piece’ mentality.) It is very interesting. Here are some of the finds of how much food we simply drink!
The link to the 20 worst offenders is HERE. But, some examples.
worstwater This simple SoBe green tea water, which seems a ‘healthy drink’ is equivalent to half an entire cherry pie!
worstsoda This simple 20 oz bottle of soda, which I am sure kids drink more than one of a day, is the same fat and calories as eating 6 breyers ice cream oreo pies. Those are not little oreo cookies.
worstea This ‘energy’ drink is equivalent to 6 pop-tarts.
worst-espresso-drink This Venti Peppermint White Chocolate Mocha with Whipped Cream is the same as 8½ scoops Edy’s Slow Churned Rich and Creamy Coffee Ice Cream. I mean this simple drink, which I certainly had the equivalent of before 1955 is 660 calories 22 g fat (15 g saturated) and 95 g sugars!
worst-margarita This margarita from a chain restaurant is the same as eating 7 almond joy bars!
And the WORST drink ever is this
worst-drink-america Cold Stone PB&C 24 oz ice cream shake is the same as 30 chewy chips ahoy cookies. This one drink has 2,010 calories 131 g fat (68 g saturated) and 153 g sugars
When you consider these are just drinks, it is no wonder we have so much obesity and diabetes today!
So, I really think to honestly cook 1950’s is not bad at all. Many of my cookbooks discuss the importance of a well balanced meal (including breakfast) wherein vegetables and protein are discussed. If one ate 4 oz of meat (normal 50’s serving) and veg and even a starch, a slice of bread and had water and then a simple slice of homemade cake or fruit with whipped cream, that is not bad at all. It is nostalgic and it is also Easier and Cheaper than buying everything made up or at restaurants, take-away, fast food.
I think maybe we should really start discussing on the forum realistic 50’s dinners and their appropriate servings. I almost want to write a cookbook “Cooking 1955 and Healthy” or some such.
Well, that is enough for me today, I have to get to my garden and work on my chicken house. I hope all of you are well and happy homemaking.


  1. What an absolutely spot on post about what ails us. I talk about this all the time myself and you put it into words with pizzaz and eloquence. I detest the marketing, the constant need to purchase things, more stuff, bigger stuff, stuff, stuff.

    I live out in the country and think twice always about getting in my car. If I need to run errands in a large town, I group them all together and do them at one time. Living so far from stores I have learned to stock up and do without if I need to. No running to the store for a single item.

    I love this post and agree with everything you said 100%. I think we could be fast friends. :))

  2. What a great post, thanks so much! As you know, I have been making my way through my vintage cookbooks making "redux" where necessary and I, too, am struck by the smaller portion sizes. No wonder we're in such trouble nowadays!

  3. I love your rants.

    when I was in elementary school, there was one soda machine in the school. It cost one nickel for a small paper cup of soda. None of us kids ever had nickels though. It was mainly used by the principal to reward classes and it was a real treat when Mr. Vernon bought everyone a Coke.

    These were little cups- juice cup size or so.

    how things have changed .

  4. Amusingly enough, Starbucks now has reasonably sized baked goods available. You probably haven't been in one since they were introduced though. Last time I looked they had mini scones and 'treat size' cookies. The thing that really gets me is the pricing. You can buy just one for something like 95 cents but you can also buy three for maybe $2.50. I've been known to go sit in Starbucks for a while, it's next to the hair dresser so the boy and I make a little field trip of it and have a cuppa out after getting our hairs done. I've heard several people order them and I've never heard someone ordering just one. Some day I'll order one just to see what they say. I'd say there's a good chance that I'll get the "but it's cheaper to buy 3" talk.

  5. Wow! I am so glad that you covered the concerns I posted in the forums. I am going to pour back over this post and realize my image of the food then and the reality may be different.

    I am so thankful for this blog. :)

  6. Oh and if you wrote that book, I would be first in line to buy! ;)

    Proportions, proportions. I was born in 1980 and I grew up with unlimited amounts of junk food. I was certainly overindulged in food and every other way. I never learned proper proportions of food.

  7. This post really has opened my eyes! While cooking last weekend at the Casablanca it took me nearly 2 hours to make breakfast (due to the piles and piles of french toast, bacon, eggs, sausage. I couldnt help but think it was crazy! There was no way in the 50's they made all this ( I was cooking for 4) and until you said it i never realized that the "cokes" and most drinks were 6oz. But its true, and I think there will be some DRASTIC cut backs... Because another thing i was thinking of Was how then (with prices varrying) you could feed a whole family for a week with $20 (as an outrageous MOST) and now it seems like we have to spend almost $100 per week....

    I agree with you, I think its time to clear the foggy haze that surounds midcentury stero types and get back to the basics!

  8. Most folks have no idea what the 'serving size' of something is. It is VERY interesting to read it. You look on a box of cereal, for example. It will list the serving size as something like 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup normally. Yet, we just pour into the LARGE bowls we have now till they are nearly full and add milk. I did an experiment and measured out my cereal (mini-wheats) and milk to the correct serving size. I was not left wanting.

    I have been cuttng back on portion sizes lately, walking around 1/2 an hour daily in addition to my regular stuff, and I have lost five pounds in a week. That, and I am cutting out sodapop. It is nothing but bad for you. I love juice and especially just plain water. Happy with them. Coffee once in a while, but I try not to have too much caffiene...not good either.

    Thanks for a VERY interesting post. The pictures in the beginning we very powerful. Makes us see what we have lost.

  9. Loved this post! It's something I need to work on, but it's getting better. I've cut my husband's lunch down to one sandwich instead of two and he says he's just fine with it and not overstuffed now. It's amazing what we think we need as apposed to what we do need.


  10. Wow, I just popped in from the garden for another glass of iced water and saw 8 comments already! I see food is as much concern to all of you as it is to me.
    It is interesting to me how much this year my project has really become heavily focused on food and it's origins and the misconeptions we have of 'those bad bacon eating 50's' while we guzzle down a cherry pie in our 'SoBe' flavored water.
    I really do want to continue researching foods origins and also looking at 'vintage meals'. In seems if we simply cut out the 'pre-packaged' only offered then (which is nothing compared to today) and drink water coffee tea and occasionaly juice (preferably fresh squeezed because you only need 6 oz.) we really have something. I just keep coming back to basic core ingredients Diary (milk and butter even going to start making some simple cheeses) Flour, sugar, baking needs, protein (meats) Veg and some Fruit. With these simple basics all our food needs CAN be met AND in a fun vintage way, I think. Maybe I really will start working on a 'book' of sorts. Hubby, since he has fallen prey to the digital book, has shown me how easy it is to make and produce a book online to provide for people to download and read on their computer or digital book. It might be fun to make a history/social/cookbook about now vs. 1950s. We shall see. But, for now, back to my garden. I was excited to purchase three gooseberry bushes from our local farm the other day, where I normally buy (hand pick) my gooseberries. The food source is growing her on my little 1/2 acre farm.
    Oh, and Rue, that is good. My hubby's lunch today was one piece of cooked chicken (from last nights dinner) rice and beans a slice of my homemade white cake and about 10 grapes. He only eats my three meals a day and dessert and no snacks and has lost weight during my project.

  11. Wow, this is some post, 50's gal. You've touched on the food issues before but this one really shows what you experiment has taught you the past 18 or so months. And you are so right! If we just eat REAL food at REAL MEALS we'd all be healthier. The picture of the boy eating chips on the couch was just too common and very sad.

    Regarding pot roast- I never thought of it as a fattening meal. It's just meat and veggies. But I suppose if you're a victim of the Fat Free craze pot roast can be scary. The irony is the processed junk people ate, and still eat, to avoid fat is worse than a good pot roast!

    As a culture we have to get a handle on this and reclaim our bodies. What we put into them directly correlates to our overall health. We have to choose healthy foods, in reasonable amounts, and demand that the food is safe. It's just scary what passes for "food" these days.


  12. I have 2 items I want to share.
    1. Did anyone happen to watch "Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution"? Sad. My DS won't eat school lunches, not that I would let him anyway. They are disgusting. My Mom worked for the school lunch program while I was growing up (70s & 80s). They actually made the food back then: the bread for the hamburgers, real roasted chicken, spaghetti sauce, sloppy joe sauce, right down to the ketchup. (Best ketchup ever and before ketchup counted as a vegetable!). I remember Mom going in early and staying late right before Thanksgiving and Christmas because the kitchen staff was roasting whole turkeys.

    What passes for food these days in the school lunch programs is sad. All because of the food companies lobbying D.C. and looking to make a bigger profit. The worst part about it is that for a lot of the kids that is the only "healthy" meal they eat all day. The food today is so processed that it doesn't even look like food. I used to attend the food shows with my Mom. This is where all the vendors got together and had a convention/show. Schools and restaurateurs would come to sample the "new" foods. There was one vendor that tried to convince me that the block of 100% cholesterol/fat to fry with was a great alternative to veggie oil. Sad.

    2. I have two Betty Crocker party/celebration books. One is from 1960 and the other 2004. Both list ideas and recipes for holidays throughout the year. The 1960 book's recipes do rely on using can soups, Bisquick and such. The 2004 book is much worse. An example of this is 3 Bean Medley with Bacon, you are to use a quart of beans that you get from the deli, fry some bacon and add it. Seriously! Even the cookbooks are against healthy eating.


  13. My goodness, Jean! I don't even consider that 3 bean medley cooking.

    Interesting about school lunches in the 70/80's. I assumed it went downhill before then. Depends on the school I suppose.

  14. Enjoyed this post Donna. I agree with it all, crazy portion sizes, endless snacking, endless dieting, little incidental exercise, a whole raft of illnesses and lack of good health because of what so many shove into their mouths or gulp down without a thought. It is madness and so many think it is someone else's fault rather than take responsibility for their own poor habits.

  15. It really is amazing how many calories people consume and aren't even aware of it. I don't understand the whole energy drink craze anyway. Never have, never will.

    I do freely admit to a Coke addiction, but the calories in are not ignored. I factor it in with the rest of what I eat. I also have more-than-occasional tummy problems that are tied to my fibro and nothing calms it down better than a cold Coke.

    One of my cousins has two daughters. The older one is four. She drinks whole chocolate milk ALL DAY LONG and neither of her parents can figure out why she won't eat her supper. My cousin's wife is seriously overweight. There's enough of her to make 3 of me. My cousin is overweight too, but he's in nursing school now and has really slimmed down and is looking good again. With the track he wants to take when he's done he has to lose the weight. Working on the life flights and being on helicopters for transports.

    My husband does not understand the concept of portion size and all of my previous attempts to try and subtly make changes on that were met with great resistance and a lot of anger on his part. He eats entirely too much and couldn't figure out why he was putting on weight. He's not overweight or anything, just doesn't understand what healthy eating really means. There's a whole lot more to it than just using fresh vegetables in a meal that's quite literally drowning in corn oil.

  16. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this post and agree with it. Great job!

  17. Great, great post!!! I love reading your blog and everything you have to say, and I think you definately should look at doing a book - all the issues you raise are SO relevant. Have you heard of 'New Urbanism'?? It is basically a movement started in the 80's I think - you pretty much summed it up when you said:
    "One has to get to work, but maybe if we lived places where we could walk more or if towns and burbs could be laid out more to encourage that, as they once naturally did."
    New Urbanism is all about bringing back those old walkable neighbourhoods. Do a search on You Tube, you will find some fascinating stuff on there!!
    Thanks again for this post - as I said, LOVE your blog!!

  18. Very, very well said. Please send this to Huffington Post and let millions absorb it's compelling message.

  19. I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.



  20. Great commentary about food today!! I grew up in the 60's/70's, we always had a big garden and in the summer my mom and grandma would count how many things were on the dinner table that came from the garden. I think of the biggest changes in how we eat is the # of fast food places and their drive- throughs. For e.g., as a kid, going to McDonald's was a big deal for us, and it was several miles away. When we did get a McD's in town, it didn't even have a drive-thru until about 1978. I'm not "picking on" McD's or fast food, just noting the differences.

    And you're right, portion sizes were MUCH smaller. Also, my mom still uses the Blue Willow china I grew up with -when we visit there I always notice how small the plates are!! My dinner plates, which we bought at Wal-Mart, are HUGE in comparison. I think it all adds up!

  21. Excellent post. I think the first step is paying attention to when you are no longer hungry. When you are no longer hungry, STOP EATING. I find that when I do this, I eat a lot less. I also find that my serving sizes shrink when I eat whole fat products (milk, yoghurt, etc.) so that my overall caloric intake stays even with when I ate low-fat products, I'm just getting denser foods.

  22. Along with all the others, I agree, great post! Something I've noticed regarding portion size also is that plate diameters were often smaller than they are today. So, those photos of plates that look piled high with food is still less food than what would be considered normal today.

    Also, mealtime around the table would take longer, as families would be (gasp) engaging in conversation instead of just wolfing everything down quickly in order to get to whatever activity the kids are involved in. Eating slower fills you up more...there's a reason Mom would admonish you to slow down and chew your food. It used to be that you would fill your plate once, eat that, and then, if you still felt a little hungry, would ask for seconds. Nowadays, we fill our plate up with seconds and thirds already on there and then feel guilty if we don't clean our plate.

    For those people who don't wish to eat traditional 50's foods, there are tons of "make over" recipes that are lighter versions of traditional comfort foods such as baked mac & cheese, chicken pot pie, etc. (But even the "full fat" versions of these meals aren't too bad when proper portion sizes are followed, as Donna pointed out.)

    Portion size is something I struggle greatly with, it's one thing to know it intellectually, but applying that knowledge to practical use is another thing altogether sometimes. Just all part of the re-programming process.

    Jean, I did watch that Jamie Oliver show and hope that it opened some people's eyes to what is going on in our school lunch programs, but because everything is so tangled in governmental red tape and dependent on government funding, I don't hold out much hope for any real change happening soon. But, all change has to start small, right?

  23. Great post. Baby boomers like me tend to mock the era we grew up in. I'm glad you're pointing out some of the good things about the '50s. Another point I would make is that people back then usually sat down and ate in the kitchen or dining room, and usually with someone. They didn't eat and text, eat and drive, eat and watch TV, etc., so I think they concentrated on their food and enjoyed it more. For Saturday lunch, my mother would make me a fried bologna sandwich on white bread with a glass of milk that I could eat as I watched TV. As you say, it was enjoyable for being a once-in-a-while treat.

  24. I truly love this post! :) I’m a little behind with your blog, I am VERY busy at my new job, so not much time nor energy in the evenings. But it is great, my boss is great and my colleagues are so nice, so I survive. What I love about the post is your studying of portion sizes and what was for special occasions – I know it’s true. I remember my childhood in the mid-seventies, where sodas were for very special occasions, it was a party drinking one bottle (2.5 cl). We never had chips and candy was only for birthdays. We baked cakes now and then, I was the expert aged about 10, but it also lasted more than one day, although we were my parents and three kids. We try practising the same at our house so son gets used to it too, but it is difficult since the world around him is much different (and he is a teenager). We have family-movie-night at Fridays, then we watch a nice movie, eat candy and drink sodas together, very cosy. I also think the enormous portion sizes are an American phenomenon, what we (in Denmark) consider large sizes are medium or even small sizes for an American. I do hope we don’t go that far.

    What really harms me are you American’s size of cars and use of gasoline. Do you have legs over there!? If your gasoline prices were just the half of our prices (2 US dollar a litre, don’t know what that equals to in gallons) then I’m sure you would use your cars less and buy much smaller and economical cars as we Europeans do. I’m sorry to blame you, but I truly think you Americans could change the world if you changed your (bad) habits.

    I love all the comparisons, very scary! But I am sure many don’t think of it that way.

    Go ahead – write that cookbook! I’ll buy it for sure! I already love the Diet book from 1955 and since I love all your written words so much, I’m sure to love it too.

  25. Sanne is absolutely right about the gas and the car situation over here. I saw the gas prices over in Europe when I was in Germany 3 years ago! Wow! And it was amazing and pleasing to me to see so many people walking and riding bikes instead of driving. Our country is indeed laid out for driving rather than pedaling or walking.

    As a tail-end baby boomer myself, I can attest to the fact that meals...dinnertime at least..were much more drawn out and leisurely with actual family discussions punctuating the act of eating. In my family it was not uncommon for dinner to last an hour. And one positive thing that we have also lost sight of is that there seemed to be a specific "dinner hour" around our neighborhood, usually between 6 and 7pm....and people respected that. No phone calls during that time, no friends coming over to play. It was considered rude to interrupt a family during dinner, and everyone pretty much adhered to that. Not anymore. Dinnertime is "whenever we can catch some" in our endless rounds of after-school activities, often driving from one to the other to yet another. People call each other at any and every time of the day and night. Personal time is not sacred anymore...no wonder we all feel stressed out.

    Even holidays that used to mean family get-togethers such as Mother's Day and Father's Day are interrupted with Little League games and tournaments, tennis matches,etc. Events such as these that never used to be scheduled on holidays are now freely scheduled..and nobody seems to complain. I sure complained enough, but it's hard to fight city hall. And don't get me started on the over-scheduling of children..lol..as a mother and former teacher I have strong opinions on that too.

    Great post. It's true...somewhere along the way in the 50's and beyond,"progress" came to mean "bigger" and "more". And now we are stuck with the results.

  26. It is so true, and I take no offense, that we Americans for some reason have equated bigger=better. I think I know why, but hate to say because then I get called 'Socialist' but Capitalism is obviously about buying more, so bigger HAS to be better to keep it going. The size of our cars are insane. What is odd, is a year or so ago we suddenly had a huge spike in gas prices and for half a year, suddenly people were discussing and buying smaller economy cars and then magically, gas went down again. Now, I have no idea if that was planned or not, but we have such a short memory on the subject.
    I also forgot, as you mentioned, how there were sort of set social dinner hours and to call by phone or visit, during that time was the height of rudeness, today we DON"T KNOW what rudeness is. People will be talking on their cell phones while they are piling their stuff out of their carts and ignore the cashier or shout across stores or at the top of the lungs ON the phone. There is no dinner hour or 'special' times.
    Today I had to go to our local chain grocery that I normally try to avoid. While I was there, there was a woman who was on her cell and she was saying. "Yes, well at Walmart they have ketchup for one dollar so I am going to get it there" She was discussing this with the person on the phone, what is funny is the closest Walmart is over 35 minutes away. Now, how much is she going to save, driving her car an hour (round trip) to buy ketchup for one dollar while she is using up her gas, adding wear and tear to her car, adding to the pollution and congestion. We just are SO trained my the marketing and shopping world that we wonder why we have no money are in dept and yet all the 'deals' they have at Target and Walmart and the Gap so lets go drive there and spend all our disposable income as we watch our real estate market crash and our need for oil increase! So frustrating.
    I really do think I will start a book, though I am not sure who, except a few of you lovely followers, would even want to read it. We shall see.
    Oh, and dinner wear WAS smaller, as I eat of vintage 50's plates. The dinner plate is considerably smaller than my old IKEA set. MY coffee cups hold 6 oz and my drinking glasses are about 8 oz with juice being about 4 oz. So, when I make fresh squeezed oj for breakfast, it is not a big deal as not many oranges are needed to fill two 4 oz, juice glasses. How scary that even the plates are bigger, very subtle and manipulative.

  27. Very well said.I totally agree.

  28. I really need to buy myself a couple of vintage dinner plates. I have some Denby and some from some big box store, one of those all-in-one kind of sets that are so handy as a newlywed. When I put reasonable portions on either plate they look pathetic. I've been known to eat dinner off a side plate which is about 6" across so not big enough for a salad or other high-volume meal but certainly big enough for a reasonable portion of spaghetti or a slice of pizza.

    I went through primary school in the 80s and we still had proper home cooking for lunches. They used a couple of shortcuts like custard mix and buying pre-made frozen puff pastry but those were the kind of things that most home cooks would buy too. The desserts were handmade too; things like big pans of sponge cake with sprinkles or freshly made meringues with fresh whipped cream or sticky toffee pudding with a scoop of ice cream. Even in secondary school they cooked from scratch but hardly anyone ate the hot meal there. Typically kids would go for a sandwich, a baked potato (cheese, tuna, or baked beans fillings), or fries and the junk food option of the day. I was in the UK but based on what Jamie Oliver is saying I guess that things have gone downhill there too lately.

  29. I haven't read through all the comments (but plan to) yet so I apologize if this is redundant... but I certainly have been trying to figure out how to make and serve food from the 50s - same servings, ingredients, etc... I found this book and while I'm not positive I think that the portions are fairly close to the era. A few of the recipes have been modified by the authors to allow for microwave ovens... what do you think?


  30. I only briefly looked at the book, it looks to have some reasonable things, such as the green bean salad, but also a healthy dose of 'kitsch 50's' which can be fun, but again we need a persepective that the average 50's famiily was not eating Ambrosia salad with jello and whipped cream and bacon surprise at every meal. And again, the concept of leftovers and planning for them seems to be completely gone. I know I could not shop and prepare lunches for hubby and our meals without some planned leftovers. I had mentioned before that I had a friend who just 'arbitrarily' decided she did not 'like' leftovers (whatever that means as leftovers take SO many forms) and would throw away steak tips at the end of the meal if there were any left! I am not kidding, whatever didn't get eat, plop, into the bin!
    I think we should definitely discuss this more. It is nice to have our ole' comment disucssions again.

  31. That's just wrong! (I'm referring to your anti-leftover friend.). A friend of a friend dies this too. Seems quite strange to me when I see her helping clean up after parties at my friend's house. She just tosses everything into the trash.


  32. A very interesting blog entry as usual and the comments are great too. Thanks 50sgal and ladies. Linda

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