If You Don't Laugh, You'll Cry - Laughing's Better!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Foods from the 1950's

Recently, my nephew and some other folks had a discussion about onion dip. It surely brought back some memories.  From about the mid 1950’s, most parties around Atlanta served onion dip and chips. It was not a commercially made dip ---- served with just potato chips. I don’t recall there being the forty kinds of chips, available these days.

When I married and moved to Augusta, I do believe I was one of the first people to serve onion dip. Everyone loved it and it was easy to prepare and fairly cheap. [skip to end for the recipe]

Onion soup mix also works great with beef roasts.

I like to add an envelope onion soup, ¼ cup soy sauce [not salt free] and ½ cup Taylor’s sherry to beef broth. Pour over a seared [browned] beef roast. Cover and cook slowly until tender. If desired, add carrots and potatoes.

My husband’s Uncle Jake loved the old tuna casserole so popular in the 1950’s.  You know, one can of tuna, one can cream of mushroom soup, one package of noodles cooked extra long, a big glop of sherry. Add enough milk to moisten. Bake til bubbly at 375 degrees.

Dee asked me what women who worked away from home, did to prepare meals before all the convenience foods that are available now. I’ve had to give that some thought. Actually, there were far fewer women who worked away from home back then. My belief is that they came home from work and prepared dinner.

I did not work away from home the first 6 months I married because there were no teaching positions available. However, when I started teaching, fall of 1957, I still got up early, prepared a hot breakfast, and got to the school by 7:30 if I had yard duty, or a few minutes later if not. When I got home in the afternoons, I straightened the apartment, started dinner, graded that day’s papers, did lesson plans etc. In other words, nothing about my duties at home, changed. A full time teaching job of at least thirty students, plus parents conferences, plus PTA meetings, plus extensive records kept on most of my students whose parents worked on federal property [Savannah River Plant] were just a few of my daily activities. At home, I did not have a dishwasher, clothes washer, dryer, microwave, freezer, mixer,  toaster, vacuum, blender , or so many helpers taken for granted these days.

When we were on our honeymoon, we made the tremendously important decision that once we had children we would live on less so I could be a stay at home mom. We never regretted that.  My mother started working outside home when I was in third or fourth grade and I hated it. My mother in law taught school during WWII and my husband hated that, partly because, one year, she was his teacher. He always said that was the hardest school year of his life, possibly because he had to behave and do his homework.

My mother was such a good cook plus having been a Home Economics major that it is not fair to judge other mothers by her. However, I’m sure I remember Campbell’s Soups such as chicken noodle and tomato as after school snacks when I was in first grade, about 1940.  There were other canned goods available as well as home canned fruits and vegetables, also canned spaghetti in tomato sauce. Most of our food was prepared from scratch, heavy on the carbs with a husband and sons to fill up. We always had either potatoes, rice, macaroni, grits, and cornbread or biscuits.

I know in some families, husbands won’t eat leftovers. It would never in a million years occur to anyone in my family to complain about eating leftovers. If we had, my dad would have invited the complainer to leave the table and see if he liked the next meal better. Years later, I often cooked for two meals at one time. It just takes a minimum amount of planning when one makes their grocery list. For example, Sunday’s beef roast could become hot roast beef sandwiches later in the week and/or a lovely beef stew.

One needs to remember that years ago, only a small number of fresh foods were shipped. In other words, we received citrus fruits from Florida and perhaps apples from North Carolina in the fall. I well remember a friend calling to say that the A&P had received their fresh asparagus and strawberries would arrive soon, lovely spring produce. Now, we can buy most all fresh foods all year. Maybe it is just me but they seem to lack the flavors of locally grown foods.  

One of the best tasting memories of my childhood was my sister in law’s mother’s home churned, fresh peach ice cream. This was made in an ice cream freezer where the churn part was packed with chipped ice, bought from the ice house. One bought maybe a 25 lb piece of ice, carried it home; placed it in a tin tub; and chipped it with an ice pick. The metal cream container was secured in the center of the churn with ice placed all around it. Then someone turned the container with a hand crank until it was too difficult to turn. I still have that recipe around here someplace. Of course this was made only in the middle of a southern summer when fresh, tree ripened peaches were available.

One kitchen helper that my mother had from my very first memory, was a Sunbeam Mixmaster. That mixer was a really great item to own, especially during the depression years. I have no idea where it came from --- but knowing my dad’s great love of cake, he may have had something to do with it. She used the “ 1,2,3,4, cake recipe for her big, three layer cakes and the 7 minute white icing recipe, made in the top of a double boiler, beating the entire time, with a big bunch of fresh marshmallows added at the end and beaten til they were melted and incorporated.

My dad had two favorite cakes. One was fresh coconut and the other was black walnut. He had to help Mother with both cakes, thus some of my sweetest memories are of the two of them working together in the kitchen. A fresh coconut is a tough nut to crack! This involved a hammer, chisel, and very sharp little knife to remove shell from meat. But first, one has to poke holes in the eyes with an ice pick and drain the “milk” into a container. Then the white coconut had to be grated finely enough to stir into the icing. The same icing was used for black walnut cakes though I believe that Mother patted the nuts into the icing between each layer, making sure to distribute the chopped nuts evenly.

Black walnuts have a tough, outer husk that has to be removed. Then, the really hard shell has to be cracked in order to remove the delicious nut meat. One way to break the shell is to place the nut on a brick or equally hard surface then smack it with a hammer. My dad was very good at that but I gave up after pounding my poor fingers a few times.

One group of foods that we ate tons of in the fifties and beyond was jello salads. I nearly always had one in my fridge. One of my favorites was Waldorf salad: chopped celery, apples, and toasted pecans, in lemon jello. Delicious! But I never putt grated carrots in orange jello. My husband hated that! 

On purpose, I’ve written very little about WW2 foods, this time tho’ I’ve written about them in other blogs. Yes, we had to do without some things and others were rationed but as a country, we suffered little, compared to Europeans. In this country, our greatest sacrifice was our beautiful young military members.  I’ve walked the hills and valleys and fields, in Europe, where so many are buried. Tears and lumps in throats and great respect and terrible grief shared with their loved ones almost overwhelmed me, the mother of a soldier. But, thanks be to GOD, my soldier walked those fields with me and his dad, who had been stationed in Germany.

In my days of entertaining [singing] for the USO, I ate a lot of meals in mess halls. Maybe some time I’ll write about the food served there but for now, I just have to say the food was good and tasted mighty fine to me.


1 pint commercial sour cream [ not the small carton ]
 1 envelope. Liptons Dry Onion Soup Mix
 ½ tsp garlic powder
 ½ tsp dry parsley flakes – optional

Use the back of a heavy wooden spoon to pound the unopened package of soup mix. You don’t want any big pieces of onion to remain.
Stir the soup mix, garlic powder, and parsley flakes into the sour cream.
Cover and chill at least 2 or 3 hours or all day or overnight.
Stir again then place about half in a pretty bowl and serve with your choice of chips.
Garnish with parsley and cherry tomatoes if desired.

I used to use half of the recipe for clam dip by just adding a drained can of minced clams, a few drops fresh lemon juice,  and enough paprika to turn it a pale pink. A few drops of Tobasco adds flavor too.

The onion soup comes two envelopes to a package so you’ll have enough for another recipe.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Things of Yesterday

Dee asked me recently to write a blog about things from my childhood, some of which are still common, like bicycles, and some of which are not so common any more, like washboards. So here are some things I remember.

My beautiful, blue and white BIKE. It had one speed – produced by me. Its only fancy addition was a small bell located near the right hand grip. I put many miles on it, happy memories.

PAPER BAGS -  big for garbage – small for lunch – everything else in between

NEWSPAPERS—still available but most people read online. I stopped taking a paper because arthritis in my shoulders made it impossible to hold the paper. When I was a kid, we used them for lots of things other than news --- lining garbage sacks, wrapping breakables when mailing, starting fires,  washing windows [with vinegar], reading grocery ads on Thursday mornings, announcing things like weddings, births, deaths, funny paper, recipes, Dear Abby, garden mulch etc. could fill the page with their uses…

RADIO --- We had one big ugly radio that stayed on during the day time and went off about midnight after playing the National Anthem.. I remember when the New York mayor read the Sunday funnies over the radio and we all gathered round the radio on Sunday night to listen to Walter Winchell. During WW2, the radio was our main source of news.

WAX PAPER --- We wrapped all food: covered dishes in fridge, lunch sandwiches, lined cake pans etc.   (Remember there was no foil, plastic wrap, plastic bags, etc.)

WOODEN MATCHES ------ We used them for gas stoves, heaters, furnaces, candles, lamps etc. Everyone had a matchbox holder. I still have one on our fireplace, probably an antique.

PYREX DISHES----  clear glass casseroles, percolator for stove top – came in different sizes - 4 cup, 8 cup , pie pans etc

ALUMINUM  STOVE TOP COFFEE POTS – some thought they gave the coffee an odd taste.

WASH BOARDS --- for washing clothes by hand


SWEETHEART SOAP- may be still available but the last I bought had no sweet clean fragrance. My aunt always kept several un-wrapped  bars in her linen closet which caused the entire room to smell fresh.

OIL CLOTH---  shiny, usually bright colored tablecloths that stayed on kitchen tables and could just be wiped off with a damp cloth.

CHENILLE BEDSPREADS --- [a velvety fabric with a long pile] One used to see these spreads hanging on clothes lines to advertise them. They were mostly solid colors with bright center designs. They were very linty and gave me asthma every time I slept under one, in someone’s guest bedroom.

TINCTURE OF IODINE--- came in a little bottle with a glass stopper and a skull and crossbones on the label. Used for all open wounds, turned the skin brown, and burned like hell. This resulted in my hiding all wounds from my mother.

SPUR GAS STATIONS – gave away pinkish glass dishes for certain amounts of gas bought. We had an entire set we used for every day. It was very heavy and did not break easily. Can now pay big bucks for it in antique stores.

LAXATIVES --- Milk of Magnesia, Syrup of Pepsin, Castor Oil -  Believe me, one didn’t want to skip a day pooping! An older lady I knew, when someone was rude or grumpy [like a salesclerk or waiter] would announce to them in a loud voice, “You need to take two Carters’ Little Liver Pills to improve your attitude!” Since she was the boss’s wife I didn’t dare giggle at the look on her victim’s face.

ARMY CANTEENS --- We had several which were filled with boiling water, wrapped in a towel or cloth, to put our feet on, in the car, on real cold weather trips.

ARMY BLANKETS --- smallish, pure wool blankets, khaki colored, which my parents bundled us up in, during car trips. Even after we got a car with a heater, the back could be really cold.  

GIFT WRAPPING---  MOSTLY BRIGHT COLORED TISSUE HELD TOGETHER BY Xmas stickers, lots of them…. And then the tissue would tear .The first cellophane tape was nearly impossible because it would stick to itself on the roll. I hated it. Mother was a good gift wrapper but I never was. I just love all the fancy Scotch tapes available these days!

WAFFLE IRONS ----  The one I grew up with was a heavy, black, iron, round object – maybe 10 inches  around. It was placed over the stove burner. It was a frame which held the round waffled center. One poured batter into one side, let it cook a few minutes, then  closed the greased top, and turned it completely over til the other side cooked. I have done a poor job of describing this but it is close to being correct.  The waffles were divine --- nothing compares! My mother in law used the exact same kind. Now, we use electric irons but my buttermilk waffles are mighty good made on the new fangled one.

FAST FOOD ---- Fast food as we know it now did not exist until less that 50 years ago. There were no expressways. We drove on two lane roads, through small towns or through big cities glutted with traffic. So if a family was traveling, they might find something to eat or drink at a gas station – or maybe nothing but a soda and package of  peanuts at best. My mother, and later I, always carried snacks, water to drink, wet wash cloths, first aid supplies, etc. Most often, we had a thermos of sweet tea mixed with fruit juices. For a longer trip, there would be a full meal. Back then, the food was certainly better and cheaper and no waiting in line. I carried big beach towels because they could serve as table cloths, wraps, etc.

YES, it was quite different and not all was better. I love being able to get food easily when on trips, and wrap things in tinfoil, etc.