20 Completely Disgusting Recipes from Vintage Cookbooks

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.

Photo: @70s_party / Twitter

  • Liver Sausage Pineapple

    From 1953's Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook, this is liver sausage covered in Jell-O and mayo, molded into a pineapple shape and "studded" with olives.

    As Craig Payst notes over at Owls On the Table, if you want to complete the look and dress up your new BFF with a little pineapple wig, you have to buy an entire pineapple and chop that part off. That's ridiculous and wasteful. You should obviously make a fake pineapple top out of modeling clay so you always have one on hand.

    After all, you're going to be serving this a lot. That's the responsible thing to do.

    (Recipe here.)

  • Tuna And Pear Pizza

    Tuna And Pear Pizza
    Photo: Marguerite Patten

    Wow. The black globs on this so-called "pizza" are pickled walnuts.The spokes on the little wagon wheel design are anchovies, which, okay, sure, anchovies are a legit pizza topping. But the insanity continues with the sauce, which has pears and tuna mixed into it. The recipe card (from Marguerite Patten's Recipe Cards of 1972) credits the "Fruit Producers Council" for the photograph, which is baffling. This didn't help sell any pears, guys. 

    Also: how do you slice this thing? Do you cut the anchovies in half? There's no other way to do it fairly.

    (Recipe here.)

  • Glace Fish Mold

    From 1943's 300 Timely Fish Recipes, this abomination is somehow even grosser than it looks. Yes, it's flaked fish served inside of plain Jell-O, molded into the shape of a fish. That's pretty nasty. But it's the veggies that really send this one over the edge. There are raw cucumbers, green peppers, and onions inside this thing.

    Raw onions and Jell-O! So it's really like the saddest, weirdest tuna salad you've ever had. 

    (Recipe here.)

  • Cranberry 'Candle' Salad

    Cranberry 'Candle' Salad
    Photo: Hellmann's

    Let's not mince words: this is a mold of cranberry sauce, mayonnaise, and Jell-O with a birthday candle sticking out of it. It also looks disturbingly like roasted flesh, considering the ingredients. Just when you think things can't get any grosser, the recipe recommends garnishing it with even more mayo, which makes sense, because this is from a 1960 Hellmann's advertisement.

    (This also explains the "family style" bowl of mayonnaise on the table!)

  • Californian Jello Ring

    Californian Jello Ring
    Photo: Marguerite Patten

    Seriously? This nightmare from Marguerite Patten's Recipe Cards (1967) requires some explanation: the white blob is vanilla ice cream. So far, so good. On top of the white blob are boiled prunes "for decoration." Ugh. Could it get worse? Yep: the bottom is prune-filled Jell-O surrounded by orange slices. Good God.

    Believe it or not, Patten included an alternate recipe that is actually worse: she suggests using tea instead of water when you make the Jell-O. Seriously.

    (Recipe here.)

  • Molded Beef Ring

    From Farm Journal's Country Cookbook (1959), this eldritch horror is beef set in gelatin with fun ketchup stripes and a crown of pimento olives. The cookbook says it will bring "peace of mind when company's coming," but don't listen to that nonsense. This thing is a culinary hellmouth.

    (No recipe available. Wing it!)