Tag Archives: vintage

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



Brunches and Lunches, A Cookbook for the Ages!

Vintage cookbooks can look bonkers to our modern eyes, especially when the recipes were created by advertisers attempting to brand their product in “new” and “interesting” ways.  Even the most simple and earnest recipe collection can look off to us due to contemporary styling and nascent color photography.  Aunt Mary collects vintage cookbooks and I can say many of them have me tossing my hands into the air and yelling “Oh Come ON!”

But not this one! My 1963 version of Better Homes and Gardens “Brunches and Lunches”is nothing short of delightful!  Not only does this cookbook have all the retro recipes we love to make fun of (Tomato aspic!) but some I actually think wouldn’t be that bad! Add in some charming retro table settings and we get a big ol’ serving of Aunt Mary thumbs up!

Sure, it’s really gold and orange, but that coffee pot is incredible!


Nobody cares if brunch is looking back at you when it’s this adorable (and glamorous!)


chicken pot
Even something called “Eggs Goldenrod” would taste amazing if served out of a pale blue chicken bowl!
Image (4)
How hungry were kids in 1963? Evidently you can now get a lunch box version of the Tardis, that’s the only explanation on how all of this food came from that box.
butter balls
Evidently that’s an omelette on the blue dish. I was just excited by the spiky butter balls .
confetti mold
If it’s Wednesday we need a weird jello mold. I think this would have benefited from some color photography, it’s just so…gray. Frankly, not the worst mold we’ve seen.

Memorial Day Picnic – Ad Style

Happy Memorial Day weekend in the US! As the unofficial start of summer there is one thing everyone wants to do: Grill Out! Let’s see what’s on our vintage ad picnic menu, shall we?

First up: hot dogs! So convenient in a can! I can see thousands of cold-war era backyard bomb shelters stuffed to the rafters with cans and cans of wieners. Why, the nuclear winter will seem like a picnic with all those hot dogs!

canned weiners
If you are trying really hard to get Middle Schoolers to laugh, you can’t go wrong with the phrasing “Can o’ Wieners” paired with “Sack o’ Sauce”
By “a little bit you you!” I’m pretty sure they mean “internal organs.” 

Or maybe we can tempt you with a hamburger, fresh from the tin?

burger can 2
“Say, I know! burgers in a can, ya see?” 

Let’s not forget the condiments! What’s a picnic without ketchup?

Folks must have had a lot of time to read ad copy back in the day. I’ve asked Uncle Mary to call me his angel whenever I buy new ketchup, but he had declined. 

Or folks losing their minds over mustard?

This is everyone’s favorite style of vintage ad! It hits me right in the ad loving spot.

…and to wash it all down?


Seagrams cookout
I have never wanted anything more than to be at this party. 
Brewers Memorial Day
If I can’t be at the Seagram’s party, can I be here instead?

Many wishes for a happy and peaceful Memorial Day!

Back to School, Back to Cool (Ads)!

School is back in session and so is the Storytime! It’s been a great summer but it is time to get back to the work of perusing ads in all their many forms and glories.

Let’s kick off this season of learnin’ with a bevy of back-so-school ads.

Staples seemed to have it together for a few years there, dominating the school supplies market.

When I ask people about their favorite ads (yes, I do that) this commercial is often brought up. Even if you are totally geeked about your kids going back to school, this just isn’t nice. Funny and relatable, but not nice.


Here’s Darnell from “My Name is Earl” being super cool.


Also, these ads from my copy of Parents Magazine from September, 1950.

1950, when the hot trend was for middle schoolers to look like tiny insurance salesmen.


I found this ad fascinating because it was advertised to parents during the post WWII building boom. As communities worked to keep up with infrastructure demand, someone thought to nudge the parents. I would love to know if it worked!


Does Stride Rite make these shoes in adult size because I’m totally in. The hat too.

Recipe Wednesday

Oh, you didn’t think I would stop posting vintage aspic recipes, did you?

pea aspic

It’s going to be a longgggg car ride home after this dinner party. Pea and salmon aspic, with sides of deviled eggs, radishes and more peas?  The fight for the bathroom will be the stuff family legends are made of.

By the way, Del Monte, that is a lot of copy in this ad. All I’m saying is nobody would call the Green Giant a chatty Cathy…

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.

Torches of Freedom – Easter Parades and Cigarettes

Aunt Mary’s good friend and founder of modern Public Relations, Edward Bernays, was approached by cigarette makers who asked for help in expanding their brand to women. At the time it was considered unseemly for woman to smoke but manufacturers desperately wanted to target this untapped market.

Bernays hired the most glamorous and fashionable women to smoke while walking in the 1929 New York Easter Parade. The parade was a huge deal at the time and photos from it where published all over the county. Women, excited to check out the latest fashions from NYC, were also treated to an eyeful of the contemporary glitterati smoking.

Bernays described cigarettes to the press as “Torches of Freedom” the women could carry in order to show their equality to men.

Within months the market share of cigarettes to women exploded.

During this same time, the image of the modern woman had been given a makeover. The 1920’s woman was daring, lighthearted and eager to join in the fun with the boys. Young flappers were looking for a thin and flat chested physique that would allow them to play sports, dance, sneak into speakeasies and be free like never before. They also needed a symbol that would separate them from the generations before.

But, how was all this to be achieved? Well, with a cigarette of course!

Cigarette advertising began encouraging ladies to smoke instead of eat. The fat shaming “Instead of reaching for a sweet, reach for a Lucky Strike” campaign came out.

Kind of gross there, old timey folks.