Mid-century cookbooks aren't just full of comfort food classics like Grandma's Apple Pie and Auntie Nora's Beef Stew. They're also full of disgusting dishes and weird vintage foods made with gelatin and mayonnaise. Seriously: find any American cookbook from 1940 to 1985. Check the index for "aspic," "Jell-O," "gelatin," or "mayonnaise." Things were out of control!
Vintage cookbooks and retro recipe cards are full of this objectively unappetizing stuff. Why? One explanation is that since gelatin required refrigeration, creating these dishes was a show of status: We have a refrigerator and you don't. It's an interesting theory, but it doesn't change the fact that these flavor combinations are just plain gross: vanilla and salmon, mayonnaise and bananas, carrots and liver... and that's before you add the Jell-O! Grab a barf bucket and read on to learn about some of the grossest recipes from vintage cookbooks.
Christmas Candle SaladPhoto: Metaweb / CC-BY
Let's get it out of the way: yep, these things looks like little penises. The "wicks" are almonds, too, so guys in 1958 got to imagine what that feels like. Plus, there's mayonnaise on the tip "to look like melted wax"!
Beyond their obviously phallic nature, you know they turned mushy and brown about halfway through the Christmas party.
Ham Loaf SuperbPhoto: Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY
This meat-packed monstrosity is from the Betty Crocker Holiday Cookbook (1983). It's ground ham, beef, and lean pork baked into a superb loaf using tomato juice (!), eggs (okay), and quick-cooking oats (sure!).
The white stuff on top is sliced cheese, like normal people would put on a sandwich. It's served on a bed of a million peas.
Barbecue SaladPhoto: Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY
Billed, revoltingly, as "tomato aspic with personality," this spicy-yet-cold Jell-O blob pairs nicely, apparently, with wilted lettuce and hard-boiled eggs. The recipe - found in a 1953 copy of Life - suggests spicing it up even more with Worcestershire or onion juice (barf), so it's basically an alcohol-free Jell-O Bloody Mary?
Ham and Bananas HollandaisePhoto: Metaweb / GNU Free Documentation License
No list of disgusting vintage food is complete without "Ham and Bananas Hollandaise" from McCall's Great American Recipe Card Collection of 1973. It's like the Citizen Kane of gross vintage recipes. The only thing that would make this worse would be covering it in Jell-O. Just look at it.
Why on earth would anyone substitute bananas for eggs? Apparently it pairs nicely with grapes and a tossed salad, if the picture is to be believed. Yum!