The 1950’s was a more innocent and carefree time in the United States, particularly when compared to the 1930’s (depression) and 1940’s (war). War era rationing ended for the most part in 1945, although sugar rationing continued until 1947 in some places in the U.S. WWII was over, and the men were home, married, and raising families.
My earliest memories of dinner with the family are about 1951. Some of the dishes my mother prepared (and that I remember) were oxtail soup, salmon patties with creamed peas, Swiss steak, and meatloaf. Also liver occasionally (yucky to my younger self.) She made different jello desserts, puddings, and one dessert that was a slice of plain cake dolloped with warm pudding – lemon and vanilla were popular at our house. She also made lemon meringue pie – my dad’s favorite!
My dad also cooked – he frequently made breakfasts. During the 1930’s he was a manager of a Walgreen’s lunch counter for a time, and could make good soups too. He also liked to do odd (to me) meat dishes, like cow’s tongue and calf’s brains with eggs. His grandfather was a German “sausage maker”, and had a shop in Peoria, IL, so perhaps that is where that came from!
Breakfasts were great. Pancakes of all sorts were popular. He even added sweet corn to regular pancakes, which is surprisingly good. Fried apple fritters was something else that he made sometimes. Dad spent part of his youth in Alabama, so some southern dishes crept in too. He liked to fry leftover cooked cereal, like Cream of Wheat or Wheatena, and eat it with maple or sorghum syrup. I guess you could say his cuisine was German/American southern. His coffee was excellent; strong and hot.
Dad was always into the newest home gadgets. When I was quite young he bought a blender, and made homemade malts. That was around 1954 or so.
I remember drinking Kool-Aid in the summer, and little bottles of Welch’s grape juice. Those were treats. We seldom drank “pop”. That was a special treat that we got from the candy store or the gas station once in a while.
I remember the big water bath cooler filled with bottles of pop at the local candy store. Lifting the lid revealed glass soda bottles submerged in chilled water, their necks protruding from horizontal slots in a metal plate. To buy a soda pop, you would insert a coin (a nickel, I think) and slide the bottle into a little bay where the bottle could be pulled up through doors unlocked by the money in the slot. My favorites were orange and grape.
In those days, bottles were thicker glass, and it is my opinion that they were much more carbonated than today, and perhaps less sweet. Of course, all pop bottles were returned and refilled. Worth 2 cents a piece, so we kids would look along the road and in the ditches for empty bottles to return to the candy store (and exchange for candy, of course!)
Family reunions involved baked beans, potato salad, deviled eggs, fried chicken, ham, and cake. Come to think of it, they still do! My aunt made the best baked beans (she was our neighbor too), and the next day we would have cold baked bean sandwiches with mustard.
My mother made the most delicious cake for me for my birthday, which occurs around the beginning of strawberry season. It was an angel food cake (made from scratch – of course – with 12 egg whites, if I remember correctly.) She would cut about an inch off the top and carefully put it aside, then she would hollow out the cake and fill it with a mixture of whipped cream and strawberries. [I found the recipe in my 1956 Betty Crocker Picture Cookbook. The filling is a light version of strawberry bavarian cream; it has half again as much whipped cream.] The top went back on, and the cake was frosted with more whipped cream and decorated with fresh strawberries. She made that cake for me all of my life, and it was wonderful! The recipe came from Betty Crocker, and it was called Angel Food Waldorf. Here are some photos that approximate what it looked like: