The other day my son asked me for the recipe of something I’d made for the family. I was embarrassed to admit that it was 1950s cooking–meat seasoned with a can of mushroom soup. Nearly as bad as 80s food–think chicken nuggets– 50s food freed the housewife from much of the tedium of cooking. She now had time to think thoughts such as “if I had been born a man, what would I be?” This is the heart of the feminine mystique. (My mother would have been a veterinarian.)
My novel Mixed In looks at the past to form a dystopia. I absorbed a restlessness from my mother that was characteristic of women of her era. But this blog is not about malaise. It’s about “50s” cooking. I hope to publish here on my blog a series of favorite unhealthy family recipes that probably all of us in the U.S. have enjoyed. Most require prepackaged food and a hand mixer.
Let’s start out with Granny’s cheesecake. This recipe is based on Jell-O. Almost lost to history, Jell-O became popular around 1902. I once lived just 30 minutes from the Jell-O museum and sadly never visited.
Jello gives this cheesecake an unexpected lightness. My Granny always had one ready when we were coming to visit. Here is the recipe in her own words.
Granny Grace’s Cheesecake
1 cup of sugar
1/2 package large cream cheese
1 tsp vanilla
1 pkg lemon Jell-O and 1 cup water cooled together
1 13 oz can evaporated milk
1 graham cracker crust in a 9 x 13 pan
Set Jell-O. Put bowl, beaters, and evaporated milk in the refrigerator. Mix cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla with a fork very well.
In a large bowl beat evaporated milk at high speed until volume doubts. Add cooled Jell-O. Pour in cream cheese mixture and fold with a spatula. Pour into crust. Sprinkle extra crust mixture on top.
12 graham crackers
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup melted butter
There you have it. A uniquely 20th century food.
Do you have a favorite 50s recipe to share? Send it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org