Last week at a thrift store I spotted a red box that, when opened, revealed itself to be a time capsule of 1971. Preserved inside was a collection of Betty Crocker recipe cards for dishes that are both mesmerizing and a little horrifying. What were Americans eating in the early '70s? You might not want to know.
Because the collection was released by Betty Crocker, many of the recipes include packaged Betty Crocker brand ingredients rather than from-scratch instructions. The Cheeseburger Pie recipe, for example, starts with "1 stick or ½ packet of our pie crust mix." Of course, it then goes on to fill said crust with one pound of cooked ground beef and half a pound of cheese, so the packaged crust may be the least of eaters' worries.
Similarly, the towering pink pile that is Crusty Salmon Shortcakes uses Bisquick biscuits and a can of the ubiquitous condensed cream of mushroom soup mixed with a can of salmon. I've included the recipe below, should you want to try it. Please send pictures if you do.
Vegetables in Betty Crocker's world in 1971 were inevitably frozen or canned, seasoned with only a little instant chicken bouillon, salt, or the reserved water from another canned vegetable. And boiled, always boiled.
Dessert remains the least changed. Lemon chiffon cakes and black-bottom pies look as good today as they did 40 years ago. I hope to age as gracefully as a key lime pie. Instead of, say, the Ladies' Seafood Thermidor.
Believe it or not, I won't be keeping this treasure trove. Instead, it will be a belated wedding gift to my friend Annie Shannon, who has been veganizing the Betty Crocker cookbook for the past couple years on her blog Meet the Shannons. No word yet on her progress in making a vegan version of Pizza with a Hamburger Crust.
Have you ever stumbled onto fascinating recipes from the past?
Related: Food History: Tips From Grandma's Recipe Archive
(Images: The Betty Crocker Recipe Card Library)