Archived Pages from 20th Century!!


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What were they thinking? How did they eat this bilge?

Good questions, but you won't find them answered here. This is a simple introduction to poorly photographed foodstuffs and horrid recipes. It's a wonder anyone in the 40s, 50s and 60s gained any weight; it's a miracle that people didn't put down their issue of Life magazine with a slight queasy list to their gut, and decide to sup on a nice bowl of shredded wheat and nothing else. It wasn't that the food was inedible; it was merely dull. Everything was geared for a timid palate fearful of spice.

 It wasn't non- nutritious - no, between the limp boiled vegetables, fat-choked meat cylinders and pink-whipped-jello dessert, you were bound to find a few calories that would drag you into the next day. It's that the pictures are so hideously unappealing. Such as this appalling flesh-log, here.

 What can you do, other than load it into torpedo bay two and shoot it into the briny deep?

Even if you were used to eating marshmallow-studded tubular loafs, is this the best example of the genre?

No foodstuff was well served in these pictures, as we'll see. The sources vary: for most of the dishes - and for the name of the site - I am indebted to the North Dakota Durum Wheat Association, which handed out a book called "Specialties of the House" to homemakers in Fargo, via the Welcome Wagon.Other sources include ads from Life, Better Homes and Garden, and the Reynolds Wrap Bar-B-Que Cookout Guide, a recipe book for men circa 1958.


ADS takes you to a collection of food advertisements from the late 40s and 50s, including such favorites as Eleanor Roosevelt endorsing hotdogs.

FOOD PIX takes you to the meals themselves, photographed in their splendor.

RECIPES takes you to some questionable dishes that will never be made again, excerpts of the cheery writing style of the Complimentary Recipe Book, an essay from my next book concerning the world of regrettable food.

KITCHENS examines the domestic labs where these meals were prepared; it includes vintage ads for old fridges and kitchen design, if that sort of thing appeals to you. Highlight: Edward G. Robinson endorsing a fridge.

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Enjoy, and fasten your gorge-belt. It's going to be a lumpy ride.

--James Lileks 2/97

 All trademarks, photos and illustrations taken from old magazines belong to whoever bothers to write me and tell me stop using them, and has sufficient lawyerage to make me wet my drawers.

The logos for this site and the formica-boomerang pattern (reconstructed from memory of our 1962-era kitchen) are by James Lileks. Take anything you like; please link back to this site.


Mmmmmm. . . preservative-laden.