One thing I love about older cookbooks is that the pictures of food often really look like pictures of ... well ... food. Food that actual human beings could make in their actual houses with actual ingredients. The airbrushed perfection of more recent food photography makes the dishes look impossibly and discouragingly perfect (and leaves me wondering how much of the "food" is actually composed of office supplies or other tricks).
That is why I am thoroughly charmed by these Halloween cupcakes from 1963's Better Homes and Gardens Birthdays and Family Celebrations book.
These are cute AND they look like cupcakes people could really make in their own kitchens with their own families. The icing isn't impossibly smooth or impossibly glossy. There are bumps around the candy eyes, hair, and whiskers. Maybe the owl is a little bit lopsided. In short, they are perfect. I don't think I can even express how much I love the nonchalant look the half-jellybean eyes give to the cat or the wide-eyed attention the pumpkin candies give the owl.
If this is not enough wholesome Halloween goodness, there's a page-and-a-half spread of the ideal family Halloween weekend:
Still quite charming, what with the jack-o-lantern with green pepper slice ears, the popcorn ball witches with curly black hair and bow-tied black cats, the crazed pumpkin men and the ... wait a minute. Who are those guys on the apples?
And then I look at all the directions for this family weekend and remember, once again, why I am so glad to be writing about vintage books rather than living in their times.
I like that each creation has its own name (Thomas Candy Cat, Good Witch Curlilocks, Peter Pumpkin Eater). They are held together with "Marshmallow Stickum"!
I am less thrilled (but not surprised) that various jobs have to be assigned by gender role. Dad has to carve the pumpkin. Mom has to make popcorn balls. That is just the natural order of things, to be reinforced as often as possible just in case anyone wonders whether it really IS the natural order of things.
I am horrified by Chief Jellybean. Fun fact: "A piece of giant candy corn has just the right angles for Indian's nose." He comes complete with "war paint" and a jelly string "feather headdress," perfect for reinforcing the racist stereotypes Junior learns when he watches the Westerns.
What started as a charming little scene actually snuck in to throw a couple dozen eggs at my mind.
Just in case you think the popcorn balls sound like fun, though, here's the recipe, complete with Marshmallow Stickum:
Just promise me that everyone can help make these and help clean up afterwards. And no matter how appealing it seems, resist turning your creations into racist caricatures.