Top Five 1950s Foods

We still love you, meatloaf.
We still love you, meatloaf.

Even though I was but a glimmer in my mother's eye during the 1950s, I still feel nostalgia for that era. The booming post-war economy, a young, spritely Elvis Presley, and flattering poodle skirts: What's not to like about this decade? Oh, that's right. Rampant racial discrimination, nuclear proliferation, and oppressive gender norms.

Well, at least the food was entertaining. The 1950s saw the rise of the fast-food chain restaurant, the neighborhood potluck, and an assortment of culinary creations that alternately amuse and disgust me. Check out these Top Five Fifties Foods.

5. Deviled Eggs. A staple hors d'oeuvre at backyard barbeques and cocktail parties, deviled eggs were especially popular during the summer months for their soft texture and cool temperature. A sprinkle of paprika added just enough zest to prevent them from tasting just as bland as other contemporaneous delights, like jello salad.

4. Baked Alaska. Although Baked Alaska (ice cream and sponge cake encased in toasted meringue) was invented in the nineteenth century, the increased availability of affordable, reliable ovens in the 1950s made this dessert a housewife favorite. Considered easy but elegant, Baked Alaska (supposedly) impressed guests with its colorful Neapolitan interior and its melding of hot and cold components. The especially daring host might skip the oven entirely and set the whole thing aflame with a kitchen torch.

3. Tuna Noodle Casserole. One-dish meals were heavily marketed in the 1950s, and companies often joined forces to promote recipes that featured one of more of their products. Such was the case with Tuna Noodle Casserole, the original Betty Crocker recipe that called specifically for Campbell's Cream of Mushroom soup and B&B Mushrooms. A sort of proto-Tuna Helper, TNC is briny, creamy and served in dense cuboidal chunks. Hardly gourmet, but certainly hardyhearty.

2. Meatloaf. When you think about it, why wouldn't a mound of mixed animal flesh covered in a ketchup-based gravy be popular with Americans who spent the previous decade living off Victory Garden vegetables? Add a side of buttery mashed potatoes and a tall glass of whole milk and you've got the quintessential '50s feast.

1. Swanson Frozen Dinners. Compartmentalized consumption has never been the same since the debut of Swanson's Frozen (aka "TV") dinners. First introduced in 1954 during a live broadcast, these tidy dinners (especially the one with roast turkey, stuffing, potatoes and corn) soon became America's favorite fake home-cooked meal. Most of the original varieties are still available for your retro-eating pleasure. I myself prefer the macaroni & cheese with green beans and a brownie.

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