So it turns out that the McNess company has started issuing some of their classic products in retro packaging. Items include meatloaf and chili seasoning, pie and pudding mixes, lemonade and cocoa mixes, soup bases and more. They even offer gift baskets! Check out the full aray of products.
From Pillsbury's 5th Grand National Bake-Off--1954
So a question that often goes through one's mind when perusing bizarre concoctions in strange old recipe books is: "Did anyone actually eat this stuff?" In my research, the answer seems to be "maybe." A lot of cookbooks were made as promotions for various food companies and a lot of the recipes came from "test kitchens." For all we know, they may have been made once in the test kitchen and never again. Maybe people made them and they were as much of a flop then as now. Which is why I'm so fascinated with the Pillsbury Bake-off cookbooks: this is food originated by home cooks. People not only made it, but it was tasted by multiple judges and deemed better than the food of other contestants. This is prize-winning food of it's time!
This is not to say that there aren't still a few oddities in there...which is why I decided to try out the "Chicken Salad Pie" from Junior winner Marlyce Ann Snay of Haven, Kansas. A pie of pineapple, American Cheese and chicken salad topped with mayo whipped cream (See full recipe).
I'll admit, my alarm bells were going off at the mention of American Cheese. I'm a firm believer that American Cheese is great on breakfast sandwiches, burgers and pretty much nothing else. Still, I decided to put my faith in the bake-off judges of 1954. The recipe was fairly easy to execute, although I cheated and used a frozen pie crust (Pillsbury, natch!). I tried it and thought it was so-so. Not unsurprisingly, I thought the American Cheese was the worst part. Then I started trying to get my boyfriend to taste it for the second opinion. It took me about a day to wear him down, during which time I heard him complaining to his mom on the phone that I was trying to make him eat some "weird pie." When he finally agreed to taste a piece, he took a bite, said "wow! This is better than I thought it would be...can I throw it away now?"
So my conclusion was that this dish would probably not be winning any prizes here in the glorious future. It could probably be made a little more palatable, though, by replacing the American Cheese with a sharp cheddar and losing the whipped topping.
Maybe the present isn't always what we wish it was, but let's remember: to people in the old days, you and I are living in the glorious future! This means, of course, that I am writing this from my house on the moon and my computer is a big silver box with lots of blinky, multi-colored lights on it. Later I will fly my car to the store to buy food pills...
Okay, maybe not...but it's still amusing to observe from our vantage point in the future, what our forebears thought we'd be doing. For example...in a 1939 booklet entitled "World of Tomorrow Miracles with Minute Tapoica," General foods corp. imagined our lives to be touched by the magic of Tapioca:
Hear me, citizens of the past! I come from the future with a message: Nobody in the future is touching a boiled ham and cabbage casserole with a ten foot pole...even if it is "Top Hat."
If you're looking for a sofa with the sleek design of a 50's car and have $6570 to burn (so it's costs about as much as a 50's car!), this sofa designed by Finn Juhl in 1957 can be bought at highbrowfurniture.com.