Saturday, October 2, 2010

Cookbook Time Machine to the 1960s

Not too long ago my grandma gave me her collection of Better Homes & Gardens cookbooks, circa 1963. With crisp white pages, and barely broken-in bindings, they are like brand new. Intact as the day she bought them, there is not a sauce spot, sticky finger print, torn edge or crinkle in sight.

The books are a part of Better Homes & Gardens’ 8-Volume Creative Cooking Library. At 79 cents a pop, every week a new hard cover cookbook with a theme such as “Best Buffets,” “Lunches and Brunches,” and “Snacks and Refreshments,” would be revealed on supermarket shelves.

Looking through these books is always a lot of fun. Each page is filled with the definitive style of the era in which they were created; the photos are so retro, the recipes so characteristically sixties. It’s kind of like being transported to a different point in time. Food has a great way of being able to do that.

Salad Loaves
They sure did love their “molds” in the sixties; I can’t get over how many foods are suspended in gelatin. You name it, from sweet to savory, there is a recipe for it to be poured into decorative tiered and ring shapes, set, and sliced. With components floating around together in a gelatinous mass, salad loaves like Tuna Mousse made from tuna salad and heavy cream, and Perfection Salad with cabbage, celery, green pepper, pimento, and olives, are described as the “mainstay” of lunch and supper tables. Almost every pictured setting features one of these edible centerpieces. If you ask me, “unmold your salad” are words that should not be put together in the same sentence.

Another gelatin mold!
Aside from the molds, these cookbooks have some great classic recipes and serve as a source of inspiration. I picked out a couple of recipes that I felt were really “sixties” and gave them a try. From the book titled “Best Buffets” I was drawn to the Divinity candy, and from “Birthdays and Family Celebrations” I chose Raspberry Flips (milkshakes).

I wasn’t too familiar with divinity candy but it looked and sounded so festive as one of several recipes described as, “just the ticket for Christmas!” for a holiday dessert buffet. Very similar to a meringue, the ingredient list was really simple. Reading up on divinity, I found that it can be tricky to make. The conditions have to be just right, as with many candies, it does not get along well with humidity. It just so happened to be the most humid day ever.

After whipping up what reminded me of a nice big batch of homemade Fluff, I dropped and swirled out the egg white and sugar syrup mixture onto a sheet tray lined with wax paper to set. It almost immediately deflated. I whipped it up some more and let the mixture stand for a few minutes before I tried again. I figured if it didn’t work, I could always make some Fluffernutter sandwiches!

This time retaining its stiffness, I moved the trays into the dining room where it was cooler. The book does not give any instructions regarding the amount of time the divinity would take to set, so I looked to the internet to find that it would be about two hours. The little clouds kept their shape, but long past two hours I felt as though they were still not completely set. I put them uncovered in the refrigerator overnight to see what would happen.

In the morning, the consistency of my divinity reminded me very much of a marshmallow. It was actually quite divine, which brought me to assume that I got it just about right. Divinity can be colored and flavored in a variety of different ways. It is well known in the south for being garnished with pecans.
“The young set put on a wingding!”
The soda jerk serves his friends shakes and other sweet concoctions in classic soda glasses
The Raspberry Flips are part of a soda-fountain party menu for a teenager’s birthday. Also on the menu: sundaes, sodas, buttered popcorn, and a submarine sandwich. Using what I had on hand, I substituted strawberries in my shakes. There is no way you could go wrong with this one! Make your own "soda-fountain special" for a nostalgic dessert.


Yield: 1 ½ dozen candies

- 2 cups sugar
- ½ cup light corn syrup
- ½ cup hot water
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 stiff-beaten egg whites
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
• In a heavy 2-quart saucepan, combine sugar, corn syrup, water, and salt. Cook and stir until sugar dissolves and mixture boils. Then, cook to hard-ball stage (250 degrees on a candy thermometer) without stirring. Remove from heat.
• Pour hot syrup slowly over the stiff-beaten egg whites, beating constantly at high speed in electric mixer (about 5 minutes). Add vanilla. Continue beating until mixture forms soft peaks and begins to lose its gloss.
• Drop by teaspoons onto wax paper; swirl each candy to a peak. If divinity becomes too stiff for swirling, add a few drops of hot water. Allow to set in a cool, dry area for about 2 hours.

Raspberry Flips:

Yield: 6, 10 oz glasses

- 2, 10 z packages of frozen red raspberries, thawed and sieved.
- 1 quart vanilla ice cream
- 3 cups cold milk
• Add raspberries to half the ice cream; beat smooth. Add milk and blend. Pour into 6 chilled, 10 oz glasses. Top each with a scoop of remaining ice cream.


Megan said...

I love this post! My grandmother gave me her old cookbooks too... but hers were well worn with lots of notes in the margins. And I so remember Divinity Candy! Grandma Grace made it quite often for my Grandfather! Love the post Marisa!- xoxo Megs

Island Vittles said...

I love looking through vintage cook books as well -- aaah, the gelatin moulds! The meringue like candy really do look divine! Theresa

The Mom Chef said...

How funny to see those pictures (especially all the molded stuff). It will be fun going through and making some of these "forgotten dishes." I know I enjoyed seeing the divinity and flip. Thanks!

Alice said...

That's awesome! I recently found my grandmother's Betty Crocker cook book from the 40s, I think, and it's so much fun! And my mom gave me a bunch of old 60s and 70s ones that she had too. I noticed a LOT of molded salads and aspics and stuff too, it's so funny! I firmly believe that meats and vegetables should never be suspended in anything.

Eva said...

They always had divinity at this little candy store my family would go to on the Oregon coast and it was my absolute favorite, far surpassing the fudge, which is a big deal for a chocolate lover like me haha. I am so excited to try making it myself!!! I haven't had it in ages... Thanks for the awesome recipe! :)

Deborah Dowd said...

I have some of these cookbooks that I have acquired at yard sales and they are so fun!!

Mother Rimmy said...

What a wonderful blog post. It brings back lots of happy memories! The divinity, the shake, the cookbooks all reminders of happy times. said...

I collect old cookbooks. Love them.My mom has the Family Circle collection that was my grandmothers. How cool would it be if they made a new series like these and we could get them in the mail once a month!

~Lisa~ said...

I love those divinity cookies. And who doesn't like Raspberry milk shakes. Those cookbooks are a riot! Love it!

Lauren Zabaneh said...

I just love this post Marisa! I love those old magazines and cook books too. My mom will pick them up for me when she's digging around at garage sales and such. Your's were in such fab condition!

I have always wanted to know what the heck divinity was! So thank you for answering this non-googled question of mine. It looks yummy and I love the little sprinkles on top.

thanks for your sweet comments Marisa. I went around and around on whether I should post the Godfather thing and then I realized its already out there anyways...glad you appreciated my weirdo humor. hugs!

Kristen said...

I have seen those books. They are perfect "snapshots" of another era. I have never made divinity...I always have left it to my mother in law. Maybe someday.

Evan @swEEts said...

Yum! I love vintage kinda stuff like that and divinities are definitely divine :) Musta been fun to flip through all those cook books!

Adelina said...

Love your post! Sometimes old dishes can become new again... like fashion. But still not sure about all the molds. I agree on your salad comment. I wonder how much those books are currently valued at. lol

Foodessa said...

Marisa...this kind of brought back a memory of an arguement I had with a friend a while ago. Keep in mind that this friend hates the kitchen...hence, when her Grandma passed away...she took all the old recipe magazines and through them out. Needless to say I was horrified!
Those divinities look adorable ;o)

Ciao for now,


I just love those old cookbooks. I have a couple that are so fun to look through! The divinity looks very festive!

Angie's Recipes said...

How nice! Didn't expect the cookbooks from 60s could have look so modern.
Divinity cookies look awesome!

Tanantha @ I Just Love My Apron said...

Such a lovely and sentimental post Marisa! You bring the recipes alive again! the divinity looks like meringue? It's fun reading this post!

Magic of Spice said...

I have several vintage books, but sadly none are cookbooks...Love the post and the meringues are lovely :)

Cake Duchess said...

I had never seen divinity before. They look delicious. Love those old cookbooks. Happy I stumbled across your blog:)