I have this avocado green Betty Crocker Recipe Library box from the 1970s. It was bequeathed to me by my former mother-in-law. For 15+ years I have toted this box from home to home, overseas, and across the United States. I’ve never made one of these recipes. So why have I kept that box all of these years? It continues to make me laugh every time I open it.
I assumed for a long time that the ex-mother-in-law gave it to me because she no longer cooked and thought that as a young newlywed, I would get more use out of it. Upon closer inspection of the recipes in that box, I wonder if she ever liked me. I have my suspicions that it was some type of Trojan Horse, given as a way to infiltrate and destroy the marriage by way of my ex-husband’s stomach. While we did end up divorcing, I can assure you it wasn’t because of my cooking.
If these recipe cards are a reflection of what was being prepared at mealtime, it’s no wonder people were skinnier than they are today. Sometimes it’s the titles that ring alarm bells (Jellied Chicken Salad?)Other times it’s the photo and/or staging of the prepared dish.
(This could be the set of Sir Mix-A-Lot’s video.”I like big butts and I cannot lie…”)
Or it could just be the ingredients that kill your appetite (canned tomatoes, cubed bologna and Bisquick- how could that lead anywhere good?) But beyond grossing out over what middle-class wives were serving up during this period, this box is a time capsule.
Just as art is a reflection of a society, so is its cuisine. The values, economic realities, and gender roles of 1970s middle-class America are represented inside this recipe library in a way that no history book or women’s studies course could portray. With that in mind, I will be posting cards each week, along with personal commentary and observations. I welcome and encourage comments from you as well, especially those of you I know and keep around for your sense of humor. 😉 What will become of this project, nobody knows, but your commentary will be a part of it. If it leads to fame and fortune, I’ll be sure to credit you as one of the little people who got me to that point.
But before I begin, I must give credit to Wendy McClure at this point. A few years ago she came out with The Amazing Mackerel Pudding Plan, a wickedly funny book about a collection of 1970s Weight Watchers recipe cards she found in her parents’ basement. When I came across her book, it planted the idea to do more than just laugh about my Recipe Library. With the economy being what it is these days, I can picture the economic despair of the 1970s repeating itself. I have recurring nightmares that these recipes may resurface in women’s magazines if things don’t improve. I guess the silver lining here is that Americans will slim down again if for no other reason than a loss of appetite.