Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Christmas-Time in Harvest Gold and Orange

Christmas-Time is here, and it's not just the Peanuts version. There's also this:

It's the Better Homes and Gardens Christmas-Time Cook Book (1974)!

It is indeed packed with more than 400 recipes for everything from Thanksgiving through Chinese New Year. There was so much stuff, I wasn't sure what I should pick to represent this book... but it definitely wouldn't be the staid turkey with gravy and a side of pimento-studded peas on the cover.

I contemplated showing off Christmas in New England, on the Plains, in Hawaii, in Williamsburg or Sacramento or New Orleans. I looked at Italian-, German-, Polish-, Scandinavian-, and Greek-American celebrations.

Then I saw it: "A Contemporary Christmas." That was exactly where I wanted to go: Christmas in 1974. What was on the menu?

A lot of sweet stuff: ham with orange and cranberries, candied squash, and pineapple salads in addition to the spice cake dessert. What did this feast look like?

I kind of expected the picture to have more macrame owls, but the avocado, harvest gold, and bright orange print on the wall gets the job of saying "It's the '70s!" done. So let's check out the recipes.

Let's start with the clear centerpiece: the ham.

You almost get the recipe just from the title: Oranges? Check. Ham? Check. Cranberries? Check. Brandy? Check. The only real surprise might be that the orange juice gets mixed into a nutmeg-and-corn-syrup glaze. The big trick is to make the orange shells pretty and stable enough to station one with a payload of drunken cranberries at each corner of the ham.

To go with a sugar-glazed ham, you need some sugar-glazed squash:

Clearly the '70s were not afraid of sugar! We're up to over three cups of sugar and syrup for the main and side dishes... but at least they're bright and colorful with orange and red, unlike the all-brown spread typical of Thanksgiving.

If you need a little relief from the sweet, there is a broccoli bake hiding out under the potted plant:

It's the Christmas cousin of green bean casserole, swapping out broccoli for green beans and bread crumbs for fried onions.

No '70s party would be complete without a salad that's secretly a dessert.

Cream cheese beaten with sugar and topped with candied cherries? It's a salad as long as there's some pineapple and yogurt in it!

It's a pretty good '70s spread, but if you still need a little more '70s, an alternative menu in the contemporary section just might scratch that itch:

Yep! If you just want a little fondue party for the holidays, there is a fondue menu. Start with creamy cheese:

Yeah, it's mostly American cheese smoothed out with a little white wine and cream cheese, but hey! It's still a cheese fondue.

Then be adventurous and try something '70s cooks might describe as "ethnic":

Chili-Bean Dip pairs the refried beans with condensed cheese soup and some canned chili peppers. The fondue pot won't know what hit it!

Chase the savory dips with some sweet ones:

Does the fact that this has apricots in it make it the "salad" fondue?

To cap it all off, we have the beverage-inspired fondue:

Vanilla pudding mix with eggnog! Break out the angel cake and banana slices and party like it's 1974!

Happy vintage holidays to anyone who made it all the way to eggnog fondue! You're truly dedicated. Have a macrame owl!


  1. I am so enamored of that print! GORGEOUS. I would imagine that christmas meal would be very shiny from all the sugar glaze

  2. Of everything presented, I'll take the macrame owl. You might have to keep it away from the first menu if owls are prone to taking shiny things.

    1. I think they prefer mice, so the menu is probably safe.