Some years ago my grandma gave me a stack of recipes she’d been holding on to. Some were hers, as I could plainly tell by her handwriting, and others were those that she had collected over the years. Unfortunately I have never had the opportunity to sit down with her and ask her which ones were favorites, but still I held on them knowing that I’d go through them sooner or later to see what was there.

Well the time finally came — when I’ve actually found the time — to sit down and go through them. Probably 80% of it I threw away since they were cut outs from sugar boxes or inserts from the local grocery store. I also found recipes in the back of some manuals for a Frigidare refrigerator from 1955, and a couple of other manuals from approximately the same time.

Going through them I couldn’t help but notice how food trends have changed. The majority of these old recipes were focused heavily on meat, cream sauces, mayonaise, and strangest of all: gelatin.

Since my grandmother had several pamphlets of recipes on gelatin-related foods, I found it almost unbelievable that so many recipes could exist. In my lifetime I think I’ve seen one dessert made with gelatin — something with canned fruit stuck in a colorful ring mold. So I was curious to see what was in these pamphlets.

Ok, so there were plenty of pie recipes, particularly chiffon pies. The recipe above calls for gelatin and ice cream as the basis for this pie. That sounded a little strange to me, but maybe it’s not.

Here’s another for eggnog pie. That just doesn’t sound right to me.

Fine. So there are plenty of dessert recipes but I was really surprised to see what they had for “company dinner recipes” made from gelatin. Look at this recipe for a “Dinner Ring.”

The description starts with, “Bits of meat, fish, or poultry are suspended with crisp vegetables in this clear, shimmering main dish.” Is it just me, or does that sound absolutely disgusting? Suspended? Shimmering? More likely I’d be shivering in my dinner seat trying to think of a way to get out of eating such a thing without offending the host.

Here’s another couple of recipes for snack foods. “Cola fruit salad” sounds interesting. Canned fruit “suspended” in cola and gelatin. It’s “fun as a TV snack with cookies, salted nuts and a beverage.” But the beverage is in the “salad”, isn’t it? Well, it sounds like a sugar rush to me.

And the “Fruit jewels” are described as a “new way to enjoy the daily envelope of unflavored gelatine which has proven helpful in correcting problem fingernails–.” Well, now that I’ve got the image of problem fingernails on my mind, I’m not so interested in making the “fruit jewels.” I guess that’s that.

Moving on beyond the gelatin recipes, I found plenty of meaty, fat-heavy recipes.

The “For-the-crowd casserole” contains ingredients including 1.5 pounds of meat, 2 cans of different condensed cream soups, a cup of sour cream, a cup of buttered bread crumbs, and a half a teaspoon of monosodium glutamate. Wow! Obviously we are more health-conscious these days, and I like to think that I’m not a health food snob, but this sounds like a serving of this would sit in your gut like a rock.

I did find a surprising number of date-nut recipes. Maybe growing dates in California in the 1950s and 60s made them readily available? I’m not sure, but grocery stores were creating fliers of recipes with dates. That’s pretty neat.

Well, as I mentioned, the vast majority of these pamphlets/brochures was tossed. Still, it sure was interesting to read and I had a good laugh at some of this. Funny how times change.

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