Tag Archives: recipes

Wednesdays are for Vintage Aspics, Self Contemplation and Tim Gunn – Recipe Wednesday

Several folks have asked me to post more retro recipes, especially everyone’s favorite, gelatin molds! Obviously I’m more than happy to oblige! But I find myself wondering, after all these years am I becoming immune to the horrors of the vintage aspic? So, as anytime I have a problem, I look to Project Runway’s Tim Gunn for answers.

Gunn once told a contestant that his design was like living in the monkey house at the zoo. He explained that when you first walk into the monkey house you are overcome with the scent, then after a while in the monkey house, it doesn’t seem so bad. Finally if you were to actually live in the monkey house you wouldn’t think it smells at all.

Sometimes I come across a vintage recipe and think it doesn’t look all that bad…in fact maybe I will try that recipe.  Am I living in the monkey house?

tim gunn concerns

In order to test my gelatin mold tolerance, today I bring you an assortment of god’s creatures that swim, fly and amble all encased in a very very shiny gelatin embrace.

Test 1: “Movie Recipe” Chicken and Vegetable Aspic.

chicken movie aspic
Not so bad. Tomato and cream cheese could be pleasant with the right menu. I am wondering about the movie theme. How on earth were you supposed to sneak a chicken and vegetable gelatin mold in to the theater in your purse like so much clandestine candy?


Test 2. Jelly Beef Mold

jelly beef mold
A little more concerning. Doesn’t seem terrible, just weird. Though this is one of the shiniest mold in my memory.


Test 3: Jelly Tongues

jellied tongue
Yikes! Could it get more retro than jellied tongue? Hard pass.

gunn shocked


Test 4: Mayo and ….Fish…?

mayo fish mold
Shrimp, “fish” made from pimento, herbs, and “cauliflowerettes” you are meant to slice this and slather with “mayo ripples.”  This is one of the most concerning retro ads I’ve seen in a long time. Not only is the recipe just terrible, but it almost has a Damion/ Satanic Panic vibe about it in it’s ominous imagery. Furthermore, that is some hard line sloganing there, Hellmanns!


The good news is Aunt Mary still maintains some manner of astonishment after the ravages of  vintage recipes. The bad news, it seems demonic cults were once a viable target market for at least one condiment company.

what a day gunn


Big Game Snacks!

Superbowl Sunday is almost here! For we ad nerds, it’s a huge deal and I hear some other folks, mainly sporting enthusiasts, also enjoy it. Look at us all coming together!

Whether it’s the ads or the athletics that lure you to the warm glow of a television, there is one thing we can all agree on: Snacks! Everybody loves the snacks! Do you like salty? Sweet? Meaty or veggie? There are snacks for you, my friend!

If you are especially committed to the football theme, Aunt Mary may have some retro recipes to help you out.


Do you have an inflatable football-shaped bowl, and not a thing to put in it?



Let’s harken back to the days of helmet-free football and government mandated chili meat.  (Best not to ponder too long on what made him “Jet Propelled.” All I’m saying is its an ad for chili…)



You know what they say, nothing goes better with football shaped meatloaf than a side of gum!  Incidentally, we have seen this campaign for Wrigley’s Gum before, over at  Aunt Mary’s Facebook page. Glad to see they branched out to all manner of events!

Home Run!

Be sure to join me this Sunday on the Aunt Mary Facebook page for my second annual live blogging of the ads. I can’t wait to hear your thoughts!

Go sports!

A Study in Casseroles – Recipe Wednesday

Today’s retro recipes are from Aunt Mary’s personal edition of “Casseroles” published by Favorite Recipes of America in 1968. All of the recipes in the book were submitted by readers, making them a leader in group sourcing content long before the Huffington Post thought they were so cool.


Leafing through the book, one thought kept creeping through my mind: is it better or worse that the interior photos are black in white. Does it make them more or less appetizing? I’ll let you decide!

This Tabasco Beef Ring has a whopping 1 1/2 teaspoons of Tabasco Sauce to two pounds of ground beef. 
I’m not sure if it’s the chunkiness or the shininess that make this so worrisome. 
Janie thinks she’s so fancy because she’s been to Canada. 

I especially enjoyed that each recipe is accredited to its submitter in full honorific detail. In typical contemporary fashion, the ladies are listed as their husband’s name such as Mrs. Frank Schnozzel, South Bend; or by their given name if unmarried, Betty Birdpants, Tacoma. By all means, let’s make sure to let everyone know if this person’s cooking is good enough to snag herself a man!





Recipe Wednesday – Really Really Red

Our midweek retro recipe is another offering from Aunt Mary’s personal library of vintage cookbooks!

Today’s books is “Serving Food Attractively” from “The Amy Vanderbilt Success Program for Women” series and boy, is it ever snooty!

…And here we find a rare artichoke torture chamber…

From the opening page: “Many a family depending on hourly wages can afford even a Cadillac if that happens to be their ambition, although their cultural standards may not totally support one.” She goes on to suggest yokels sitting at “oilcloth kitchen tables” shouldn’t even bother to try caviar, even if they could afford it by some miracle, because their unrefined pallets are just not urbane enough, but maybe with some culture and less ignorance they might be up to the challenge.

Damn! I don’t feel even a little bad making fun of her book and its unrelenting redness. Really, there are only 3 color pages in this book and they are all really really red.

attractive food-page-001
What do you mean you’re allergic to strawberries, Sally?! 

There’s really not so much wrong with this picture, it just looks like a picnic for demons. Truly, human sacrifice is even more enjoyable with a country cottage theme!

The book was published in MCMLXVI and I don’t mind telling your I totally had to google what year that was…It’s 1966. I go the extra mile for my readers!

Radio’s Favorite Food Expert

Kids, Aunt Mary has gone down the rabbit hole, and like Alice my eyes have been opened to a new and fabulous world.

A friend gave me this adorable and very pink promotional cookbook that I thought would be perfect to share with everyone. It’s kitschy and charming and unlike a lot of retro recipes, it’s not gross. As I like to think of myself as Fun and Fancy, I thought it was a perfect fit for a mid week Facebook post.

Scanning in the cover I saw the book was presented by Mary Lee Taylor.

Well, who the hell is Mary Lee Taylor? I assumed she was some B-list Betty Crocker. I began searching online and was pretty sure Google was going to come back with a palms-up shrug and an “I dunno.”

Nope! What popped up was an Aunt Mary trifecta: retro recipes, clever PR and a groundbreaking woman. We will unpack this mystery woman a bit, but first, here are some things it would be helpful to know:

  1. It was very common for food companies to come out with promotional cookbooks featuring new ways to use their products. These are still highly collectable.
  2. Historically, women have been what we would call “early adopters” to emerging industry. Often working for lower pay and offering more collaboration, women were on the forefront of many new media including stunt journalism, advertising, radio and later TV production.
  3. Radio programs were generally sponsored by a product that was looking to target an audience. The radio program would be tailored to engage that audience. For instance, detergent companies looking to attract women to their product would sponsor daytime dramas, which later became known as Soap Operas.

Erma Perham Proetz was working as a copywriter for a St. Louis advertising firm starting in the 1920’s. By some evidence she seemed to already be an expert in nutrition and cooking when the PET Milk campaign was handed to her in the midst of the Great Depression. Sure, she could have gone down the recipes-in-magazines lane, but she took a hard turn into radio. Under her pseudonym, Mary Lee Taylor, Proetz started hosting short radio segments offering wisdom, encouragement, household tips and yep, recipes featuring (and sponsored by) PET Milk to her listeners.


Soon her wildly popular segment expanded to 30 minutes and a national audience. The first half was a lighthearted show featuring a newlywed couple, the second half showcased Proetz and her recipes. This is when she started offering free-by-mail recipe books which were also incredibly popular.

This show lasted for 20 years! During this time Proetz moved up the ranks of her firm, finally becoming the executive vice president. Her other accomplishments included becoming a top leader of women in business in St. Louis and the US, being named by Forbes Magazine as an Outstanding Woman in Business, and she was the first woman elected to the Advertising Hall of Fame. Damn girl!

Sadly, the show did not make the transition to television and was cancelled in 1954, a decade after Proetz’s death. You can actually still find recordings of her programs today!

This is the sort of thing I love digging up. Start with an adorably retro and delightful recipe book and then find the heart and soul behind it.

I’ll say it again, every ad has a hidden story.