To me, there’s something beguiling about the term lost recipes, a way of hearkening to the past and the way we ate back then. The 1950s and 1960s were a time of Jell-O molds. I remember my friend’s mom having several fancy coppers molds — one shaped like a fish, another would turn out a jiggling orange studded with fruit cocktail hen.
In my house, though my mother was an early Julia Child aficionado, we also had a big red Betty Crocker cookbook which my mom and I used to make pie dough and the types of dinners you definitely wouldn’t find in Julia & Company or her other cookbooks. Interestingly, while we know there’s really no Jolly Green Giant, Mr. Clean or Ronald McDonald, there wasn’t a Betty Crocker either. She was “born” in 1921 as part of a contest to win a bag of General Mills Gold Medal Flour and because the company was flooded not only with contestant entries but questions for “Betty Crocker” she quickly became the brand icon and go-to person for all baking questions.
According to the food history blog, ToriAvery.com, Betty’s first name was chosen because it sounded wholesome and cheerful; her last name was the same as a recently retired company director. Even Betty’s signature was carefully orchestrated. A contest was held among female employees to come up with the best “Betty Crocker” signature which would use on all her correspondence. Her portrait which change slightly over the years. In 1965, it was re-drawn to give her a Jackie Kennedy look and 31 years later, her skin told became more olive so she could be more ethnically diverse.
If all that is disappointing, here is a reassurance. There really was an Aunt Jemima, though her real name was Nancy Green. She was a former slave born in 1834 who was hired in 1890 by the R.T. Davis Milling Company to represent Aunt Jemima, an advertising character, making her the first African Americans to promote a corporate trademark.
But I digress.
A history of mid-20th century cookery can be found in Betty Crocker Lost Recipes: Beloved Vintage Recipes for Today’s Kitchen (Betty Crocker 2017; $25), a collection of once common recipes that really have disappeared from most modern tables. Beautifully photographed, each recipe and accompanying picture triggers immediate recollections for easy to make dishes like Pigs in a Blanket, Cantonese Chicken Chop Suey and Cheese Sandwich Loaf. In the latter, four different colored fillings—red (cooked ham, bacon, pimentos and mayonnaise), yellow (hard cooked egg yolks and mayonnaise), white (cream cheese, mayo and cucumber) and green (sweet pickles, mayo and watercress or parsley) are layered between slices of white bread (what else given this is the 1950s) and then, after being refrigerated, cut into multi-colored slices.
There’s also the classic salad supposedly created at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York City which can also be used as a sandwich filling and, one of my favorites, individual baked Alaska cupcakes—layers of ice cream, cake and meringue baked in a hot (450°F) oven for two to three minutes.
Put together and they make an impressive retro dinner.
Cheese Sandwich Loaf
1/4 cup finely chopped cooked ham
3 slices cooked bacon, crumbled
1/4 cup sliced pimientos, drained, chopped
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
4 hard cooked egg yolks, mashed
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup finely chopped peeled cucumber, well drained
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1/3 cup finely chopped sweet pickles, well drained (about 4 small)
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh watercress or parsley
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 loaf (16 ounce) unsliced sandwich bread
2 tablespoons butter, softened
2 packages (8 ounce each) cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup milk
Mix each filling separately in small bowls. Using a serrated knife, slice crusts from bread loaf. Cut loaf lengthwise to make 5 long slices.
Spread top of each slice with butter. Spread one filling on the bottom layer of bread. Top with one bread slice and spread one filling on top of bread. Repeat layers until all filling and bread are used. In medium bowl, mix cream cheese and milk until well blended. Spread cream cheese on outside of loaf, smoothing it as you spread.
Cover and refrigerate 3 hours or until firm. To serve, cut into ¾-inch slices.
Tip Use any of the ingredients in the pretty loaf to garnish the top of the loaf. Sweet pickles, pimiento, cucumber or watercress are a few suggestions
Waldorf Salad excerpted from Betty Crocker The Lost Recipes. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.
Prep Time: 10 Minutes
Start to Finish: 10 Minutes
4 servings (3/4 cup each)
1/2 cup mayonnaise or salad dressing
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon milk
2 medium unpeeled red apples, coarsely chopped (2 cups)
2 medium stalks celery, chopped (1 cup)
1/3 cup coarsely chopped nuts
Salad greens, if desired
In medium bowl, mix mayonnaise, lemon juice and milk until blended.
Stir in apples, celery and nuts. Serve on salad greens. Store salad covered in refrigerator.
Baked Alaska Cupcakes
Prep Time: 50 Minutes
Start to Finish: 3 Hours 45 Minutes
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup shortening
1 2/3 cups sugar
5 egg whites
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/4 cups milk
1 quart strawberry ice cream, softened (4 cups)
4 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
2/3 cup sugar
Heat oven to 350°F.
Place paper baking cup in each of 48 regular-size muffin cups; spray paper cups with baking spray with flour. In medium bowl, mix flour, baking powder and salt; set aside.
In large bowl, beat shortening with electric mixer on medium speed 30 seconds. Gradually add 1 2/3 cups sugar, about 1/3 cup at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping bowl occasionally.
Beat 2 minutes longer. Add 5 egg whites, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in 2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla. On low speed, alternately add flour mixture, about one third at a time, and milk, about half at a time, beating just until blended.
Divide batter evenly among muffin cups, filling only one third full.
Bake 10 to 14 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 5 minutes. Remove cupcakes from pans to cooling racks. Cool completely, about 15 minutes.
Place 24 cupcakes in freezer plastic bag and freeze for another use. On top of each of the remaining 24 cupcakes, spoon and spread 2 heaping tablespoons ice cream. Cover; freeze at least 2 hours or overnight, until ice cream is hardened.
Heat oven to 450°F. In medium bowl, beat 4 egg whites, cream of tartar and 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla with electric mixer on high speed until soft peaks form. Gradually add 2/3 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating until stiff peaks form and mixture is glossy. Spread over ice cream topped cupcakes. Place on cookie sheet.
Bake 2 to 3 minutes or until lightly browned. Serve immediately.