Thursday, August 20, 2009

Taking a Look at Julia Child's Competition

The movie Julie & Julia is all the rage now. The good half of the movie chronicles the efforts of Julia Child to publish a book which ushered in an appreciation of fine foods and the culinary arts to America - Mastering the Art of French Cooking (the bad half of the movie chronicled the disgusting food eating noises of an insufferable modern American couple).

I just went down to our local thrift store to grab some cookbooks from the 1950s and early 1960s. As far as I can tell, these faithfully represent the gastronomic landscape of of the United States during this period, and were the principal competitors of Julia Child.

As they do now, the cookbooks then had a theme, and that theme was COMMERCE. They were principally published by specific foodstuff vendors, or were giveaways by corporations with tangential relationships to the food industry.

Here is a comb-bound offering from Southern Union Gas Company in which they provided the favorite recipes of local winners of the national Mrs. America Contest.

Walking Stew -- a gastrointestinal disorder, or a family favorite of the beautiful Mrs. Tucumcari? You be the judge:

Mrs. Monahans hangs her head in shame near her recipe for "French Style Chicken" made with margarine and on the facing page a pillbox-hatted sourpuss demonstrates a method of ruining a perfectly good cut of veal:

Carnation cottage cheese provided instructions for creating pastel colored party dips.

The Rice Council created Miss Fluffy to bring delicious rice-based recipes to America's homemakers, including this sampling of diseased lady parts.

You were wondering what the life insurance companies had to offer the 1950s cook? MetLife reminded its policyholders there's always a bad egg, and that they would shit on them when they were down.

Each of these cookbooks stretched the limits of its theme. Here 7up argues their product is not just for drinking, it's for eating,

whether it be the "he-man favorite",

or a wholesome dietary supplement for your children.

Here's a kitchen contraption which seemed to be modeled on the alien ships from 1953 War of the Worlds film (except I don't remember the Martian vessels vomiting slaw):

Can you guess which of the four facing recipes match this Saladmaster creation? My guess is the steamed chocolate pudding.

The makers of Southern Comfort reminded the Mid Century woman of her two main duties: (1) mixing drinks for her man when he got home from work, and

(2) sitting on the floor, waiting to toss her man's salad.