Monday, June 16, 2008


A friend lent me Good Housekeeping’s Appetizer Book from 1958, and I thought I’d share some of the findings with you. Let this be a lesson on what not to do when you entertain.

“This is an era of dips and dunks and sticks and picks,” announces the booklet. “And we say ‘hurrah!’” The authors’ excitement may be premature.

Not everything in the book is bad, of course, but a lot of the recipes seem as if they’d be best enjoyed by people who have deadened their taste buds through heavy smoking. Some of these might also be more palatable after the third martini. In fact, the booklet insists on it:

“And when it comes to selecting that drink, don’t overlook the possibilities of fruit, tomato or vegetable juice, hot or cold soup, bouillon-on-the-rocks, hot tomato juice, mulled cider,” the booklet counsels. Yeah, sign me up for bouillon on the rocks. Preferably large rocks that I can use to hit myself in the forehead to condition myself not to do that again. If that’s not enough shock therapy for you, take a hard look at this:

There’s nothing wrong with an appetizer of prosciutto and melon, but this looks as if it’s been sitting out in the sun all afternoon.

And here’s some good old-fashioned nightmare fodder:

Another of the recipes keeps us in the tradition of inappropriate cakes. It’s the Hors d’Oeuvre Birthday Cake, and it combines olive spread and deviled ham and liver pate in a layered fright. And as a special bonus, you can get melted wax all over it! I notice the “cake” serves 12-15, which I’m guessing is a conservative estimate; a little of this would go a long way.

A section of “Slimmers” includes celery sticks filled with a corned-beef and sauerkraut juice mixture. That sounds like a very effective appetite suppressant.

The back cover of the booklet sends us off in style. I’m not sure just what’s in the basket behind the flying shrimps, but once I decided it looked like macaroni and cheese I could not see it as anything else. Yum!

Hors d’Oeuvre Birthday Cake
1 1-lb. round loaf pumpernickel
1 jar or pkg. cheese spread
1 4-oz. jar olive spread
2 2 ¼-oz. cans deviled ham
1 4-oz can liver pate
3 3-oz pkg. cream cheese
¼ cup top milk or light cream
Birthday candles
Red carnations and laurel leaves

Several hours ahead: Cut ½-inch thick slice of pumpernickel from bottom and top of loaf (save these to use next day). Then slice remaining loaf into 5 layers.

Starting from the bottom, put layers together with the following fillings: cheese spread, olive spread, deviled ham, and liver pate. Refrigerate until ready to use.

To serve: Place “cake” on round tray. In bowl, rub cream cheese with milk until smooth; use to frost loaf. Around cake on tray, put candles, securing them with melted wax. Place red carnations and laurel leaves between candles.

Cut cake into pie-shaped wedges. Serve on dessert plates with forks.
Makes 12 to 15 servings

Peanut-Butter Catchup Dip
½ cup peanut butter
½ cup catchup
corn chips

Mix peanut butter with catchup until smooth. Refrigerate until served.
To serve: Arrange dip in bowl, surrounded with corn chips. Let guests dip their own.

From Good Housekeeping’s Appetizer Book: Irresistible Canapes, Hors d’Oeuvres and Nibblers. The Hearst Corporation, 1958.


Lidian said...

Oh boy - an era of dips, dunks, sticks and picks does not sound like a reason to celebrate...sounds a little too Orwellian for me!

What a great book though...I love the birthday cake idea, for someone you are ambivalent about, I guess.

corbyz said...

Peanut Butter mixed equally with Ketchup... my mind can not comprehend this.

sally said...

I was going along swimmingly until I came to the Peanut Butter-Catchup Dip surprise. I am numb with shock and horror.

Jenny Islander said...

Back when I was feeling my way into this homemaker routine, I opened one of my mother's 1950s cookbooks to the page about welcoming Hubby home after a long day with a tall glass of iced tomato bouillon. "Hubby," I said to Hubby, "would you like me to welcome you home after a long day with a tall glass of iced tomato bouillon?" "Only if you want me to turn right around and go back out the door to some restaurant where the cook is sane," said Hubby.

Did anybody ever really serve those iced savory drink things? And did anybody ever actually drink them?

Amy Stephenson said...

I have no idea if anybody ever actually drank iced bouillon. I certainly never had any evidence from my family to affirm it, but then they weren't really into entertaining.


sally said...

Iced beef broth from powder? I can't really see that quenching anybody's thirst.

But then, I've always thought those hot bullion drinks these books recommend for winter parties seemed like a good idea only if you were trying to assure nobody would come back a second time. And beef broth from powder sounds a bit more approachable when served warm.

Samatakah said...

What in the heck would you dip into PB and ketchup???

Then again, how far is that from a poorly made satay sauce? (I wouldn't know, since I'm not a peanut eater).

Celia Pleete said...

Oh my god, that flying shrimp picture is magnificent - but I just about hurled up lunch reading about the peanut butter and ketchup dip.

Anonymous said...

You know, that recipe could have started out as somebody's attempt to reproduce the satay sauce she remembers from back when she and Fred were stationed overseas. My collection of Populuxe cookbooks has a lot of these near misses. Like the attempt at duplicating Japanese soup by adding grated orange peel to miso and beef broth (the author not realizing that the twist of fresh orange peel in each bowl is meant to produce aromatic steam, not for eating). And then there are the not-so-near misses-- the way that a ground-beef-and-mushroom-soup casserole can be listed under Foreign Dishes in the index because it has a can of water chestnuts in it.

Jenny Islander, who has forgotten her password yet again.

Samatakah said...

"A drink... is a must."

After the day I had today, it sure as heck is!

Anonymous said...

As always, your commentary is the funniest part. Thanks, Amy! I needed a good laugh today!