Sunday, August 4, 2013

Lady Food vs. Family Food

Maybe the divide between food for ladies' luncheons and food for other occasions in many old cookbooks shouldn't fascinate me as much as it does. After all, we still have foods that are pretty clearly intended for women, like light yogurt. Men's fear of seeming too womanly makes Coke Zero emblazon footballs on the cans every fall because real men couldn't be caught drinking Diet Coke.

Yet I can't shake the feeling that women who got together for luncheons were expected to somehow become ethereal beings who needed little more than sweets, relishes, and a little something light and airy to sustain them. How such creatures managed to survive in the world outside of ladies' luncheons or even eat the "hearty" fare families required remains a mystery.

Better Homes and Gardens Lunches and Brunches from 1963 highlights the divide on a single page (making sure to emphasize hearty for the family and fancy for the ladies):

A family meal requires corned beef baked on biscuits with mayonnaise, cheese, tomatoes, and olives. The family needs a side of thick soup filled with potatoes, bacon, and corn. Lest the salad seem a bit too dainty, the recipe recommends onion rings for croutons! The spread is so impressive that it serves as the book's cover:

Contrast this with the spread for the ladies: potato chips, strawberries, angel food cake, and "relishes galore" (I can't help imagining Relishes Galore as Pussy Galore's much less popular sister!) go with Spring Sandwich Puffs. They're essentially asparagus sandwiches, each topped with a tiny souffle.

All so delicate and airy! The relishes are even arranged to look like flowers in vases. I can't help thinking that the little free-form souffles look sort of like what my cat leaves on the carpet after he's eaten canned cat food too quickly, though.

And saying things like that is probably part of the reason I'm never invited to any ladies' luncheons. Well, that and the fact that I don't live in the '50s or '60s.


  1. Those Sandwich Puffs look like they'd be really hard to eat without making a huge mess (they would be for me anyway)! Maybe the ladies could handle them better than I could (probably true).

    I love the BHG cookbooks, they are so much fun! The Holiday one is one of my faves.

    1. Yes, the BHG ones are great! I have a huge collection (including the Holiday one) because I love all the pictures. They are so easy to find, too.

      It sounds as if you're pretty klutzy too.... I'm always reluctant to eat in public just because I'm so accident-prone.