Recipes from Days Gone By: The Ones I Still Love (And Some I Don't)

Recipes from Days Gone By: The Ones I Still Love (And Some I Don't)

Anne Wolfe Postic
May 17, 2013

So, you may be thinking to yourself, "That meal looks horrible." And it was. The only redeemable thing on the plate was the ham loaf in the back. Stirred into an omelet the next morning, it tasted like pancakes and sausage.

But I adore old cookbooks, especially from the 70s and 80s, the dawn of the career woman. With Betty Friedan's "The Feminine Mystique" in the background, these books were meant to help women have it all — a career, a family, and a fabulous reputation as a hostess. As it happens, we can't really have it all. And, while some of those cookbooks are full of old school goodness, others didn't make anything easier, as I recently discovered when I revisited one of the recipes.

I recently chose a menu from one of these books and invited a friend over to help. Tracie is an accomplished cook and volunteered to make savory green beans from the "Serve Pork Tonight" menu in The Dinner and Supper Cookbook. Word to the Wise: Do not serve pork tonight, at least not like this. The green beans were a hassle, with no reward. Tracie had to make an actual bechamel, with a ton of salt, which still managed to taste bland. That look on her face? That's the smile of "Ewwww...this looks gross and there is no way to fix it!"

In spite of Betty Friedan's warnings not to fall into the over-worked housewife trap, many of the cookbooks from this era didn't just didn't do anything to make that possible! My own mother, who did not work outside the home, didn't like to cook and had the sense to use simple recipes that tasted just fine. Her Chicken Divan is still a favorite in my house. So easy, so delicious. (And there are some great substitutes for the canned soup.)

If you're looking for a few great yet easy throwback recipes from the 70s and 80s, you'd be better off trying one of these favorites:

  • Deviled eggs - The Kitchn
  • Chicken Tetrazzini - Martha Stewart
  • Campfire Stew - The Kitchn
  • Pickled shrimp - The Kitchn (Confession: Mine is even easier. I use shrimp, Girard's Italian dressing, capers and red onions.)
  • Engagement Chicken - Glamour Magazine. Sexist? Maybe. Delicious and easy to prepare? Absolutely.
  • My Grandmother's coconut layer cake - The Shop Tart. Also sometimes called "3 Day Coconut Cake."
  • Tomato aspic. Kidding! Can't stand it. It's like a Bloody Mary jell-o shot to me, but my mother used to make it and I loved her very much.

Do you make meals from your mother's recipe box? What are your favorites? Do you ever try to make them a little healthier?

This post was requested by illuminatedpost for Reader Request Week 2013.

(Images: Anne Postic)

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