1950s Cook Book: Good Housekeeping Compendium

One of my handiest cookbooks is the c.1953 Good Housekeeping Compendium my grandmother was given on her wedding day. Ironically, the book is in fairly mint condition becuase my grandmother spent most of her life working in the family business and very little time actually "housewifing".
The Good Housekeeping Magazine was founded in 1885 and the Good Housekeeping Research Institute started in 1900 to test recipes and household products for the busy housewife giving around 5,000 products the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval.

1950s Cook Book: Good Housekeeping Guide
I think the next cake I make that doesn't turn out is going to be an "embarrassing and unexpected gap in my cookery knowledge"

Food hygeine was hugely important in the 1950s which is why so much of the food had the living daylights cooked or boiled out of it and had to be "revived" with elaborate sauces and garnishes - it makes me wonder how much nutrition people actually got from all the fruit and veges they were eating!

Before psychadelic drugs in the 1960s we had psychadelic salads - anyone remember their mother or grandmother making salad dressing from sickly sweet condensed milk and drowning a lettuce in it?

Not sure if this one is a Kenwood Chef but it looks like it my grandmother had one of these in her 1950s kitchen along with the 'latest' gadegts: a kettle, a toaster and a teensy fridge with ice box. My "modern kitchen" list of gagdets now  also includes: fondue, mortar and pestle, pizza stone, bread maker, grill, waffle maker, two cake mixers and two blenders, coffee pot, coffee plunger, tea pot, yoghurt maker, two crockpots, microwave, tagine, an electric wok and a freezer.

The modern household has ten times as many gadgets but most of us buy our food 80% ready-made...
Pretty little 1950s cupcakes and delicate feathered chocolate cake - nom!
 One of my great aunts hated being the "perfect housewife" so she used to throw a caserole in the oven after picking up the boys from school (she had four sons) then change into one of her sons' rugby outfits (ladies did NOT own shorts back then!) and go out the back paddock playing rugby with the boys until her husband was due home from work when she'd dash into the house, wipe her muddy knees, chuck on a dress and apron and pretend that she'd been 'fussing away' in the kitchen all afternoon! 

Stuffed crabs were the way to impress your husbands boss in 1953
 The biggest difference I notice between 1950s food and today (apart from the predominance of veges, meat and flour) is how "done" all the food is. For someone who cooks form a fairly deconstructed Mediterranean-inspired way I find the attention to detail in these meals insane - it's like they went to every effort to hide the actual food being cooked! 
I wonder if this stems from a need to hide poor quality ingredients in a limited post war market or if it was just a way for full time housewives to express themselves in a physically and socially limiting era?

Petit Fours have to be the next cupcakes it's time for a revival of these teensy cute little cakes. I'm lurving the ones with little strawberries on them - does it count towards your 5+ a day if the fruit is made from fondant?

The details on these suet pies are so amazing I could almost ignore the fat content. The little hole in the top is for pouring more melted animal fat into the gaps in the pie after its cooked...my heart hurts already

Woah, I don't think any of us would not be mortified by these minstrel cakes (I can't even type that title!) but it's amazing to see how far we've come in sixty years - or maybe it's a sign we still have a long way to go? 
Either way I'm in no rush to reproduce this recipe - well, not without making a moreculturally sensitive version anyway!

What food memories (from any era) do you have? 
Is it time we started a revival of 1950s cooking or is it best left in the past?!


  1. Hee! Love the pics & comments. I agree about it being time for petit 4's to make a comeback, as for the N. minstrels...how times have changed!

  2. Put your dishes in your oven. Wait, what? If you pile your dishes in the sink then it looks like you threw them all in there at the last minute as everyone knows you can't really wash dishes in that manner and you'll still look like a slight slob, even though you have clean counters. Instead, grab a baking sheet and stack like items together and slide them in the oven. They'll slide right back out, be prestacked and ready to be washed so you can recover from the guilt you just gave yourself for following through with this tip. Side note: don't preheat your oven... even by accident... until they're removed.
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