Wednesday, January 14, 2015

New Year's Resolutions, '50s Style

This is the time of year for resolutions (and giving up on them), so let's see what dieters heading into the fresh new year of 1959 might have tried. Today's entry is Ida Jean Kain and Mildred B. Gibson's Stay Slim for Life (1958). (The austerity of the cover should be considered a hint about the austerities within.)

The book has a few days of suggested menus to help dieters get started. Each menu section has a theme, so I'll start with the grimmest: Budget Fare. If you had to diet on a dime, what might a typical day look like?

You could start the day with tomato juice, an egg (soft OR hard cooked! Decisions!), and a thin slice of toast. Lunch? Bouillon, open-face cheese sandwich, veggies, apple, and buttermilk. (With more buttermilk as a "Late-Afternoon Pickup." Oh boy!) Dinner would be a more complicated affair, as you can see since the italics indicate actual recipes. So besides the sauerkraut with caraway seeds, baked potato half, and black coffee, the lucky dieter got kabobs (barbecued frankfurter!) and a salad. So what are the kabobs?

Hot dog, onion, tomato, and mushroom on a stick, with a barbecue sauce that's mostly renamed chili sauce.

Well, maybe the salad will be more exciting. Grapefruit and green pepper do not seem like natural allies to me, so maybe the authors figured out some kind of interesting dressing or additional ingredients to tie the flavors together.

Or maybe they thought that dumping grapefruit and green pepper on the same bed of shredded lettuce is sufficient to convince dieters this is a tasty salad.

Well, maybe there will be more promise in the "Gourmet Meals" section.

Breakfast suggests that grapefruit is gourmet if it's served in the morning and budget if it's served in the evening. Apparently Wheatena is more upscale than toast and an egg.... Okay, I'm not sure I'm buying that "gourmet" is much different from "budget." 

What about lunch?

Wait-- It's also a cheese sandwich! I'd even say the Swiss for the "budget" version is more upscale than the American in "gourmet," but this does have Canadian-style bacon. Tomatoes with chicory are a little more interest than carrot and celery sticks too, I guess.

"Late-Afternoon Pickup" is orange juice. Apparently having an actual snack is out of the question either way.

For dinner: more kabobs, but at least these are steak rather than hot dog! Plus half a baked potato (again), salad, and-- Oooh! Dessert!

So what do our deluxe kabobs look like?

Steak with onion, mushroom, and pepper. So using steak instead of hot dogs, swapping pepper for tomato, and the absence of chili barbecue sauce makes these "gourmet" rather than "budget." Huh. Only one of those changes seems very significant...

Well, what about dessert?

Gelatin! With canned pineapple and nonfat dry milk! Gourmet indeed... but at least it's dessert.

I guess eating steak instead of hot dogs makes the gourmet menu marginally better than budget, but the differences are pretty minimal. Dieting in the '50s would be pretty miserable no matter what.

Reading this book has made me resolve to go polish off the Reese's peanut butter trees I got for Christmas. Gotta make room for the Reese's Valentine hearts!

This is part of Cookbook Wednesday, courtesy of Louise at Months of Edible Celebrations.


  1. Frankfurter Kabobs? Swell. They aren't even all that cheap any more. Chicken is more budget fare these days. This is a great diet cookbook! Thanks for posting it to Louise's Cookbook Wednesday.

    1. Hot dogs were a big thing in diet books for a while. I'm not really sure why, given how fatty they are-- and that was before there was much in the way of diet hot dogs.

  2. Hideous Poppy! I'm sorry I just can't help thinking how we ever got to generations later with food like this! Granted, it's "slim" food but seriously, Graprefruit and Green pepper Salad??? If were to prepare that Pineapple Lime Parfait for Marion, she may just end up back in the hospital. (God Forbid:)

    Thank you so much for sharing, Poppy. You sure have a way of describing these doozies, lol...And thanks for joining in on the Cookbook Wednesday fun!!!

    1. Thanks for organizing it! And that salad is crazy. It's about as weird as the "salad" I made when I was really little that consisted of raw green beans and red raspberries. I liked it because those were two edible things I could pick in the back yard. I wondered why the grownups gave me funny looks, but now I know... Some combinations were not meant to be.

  3. I'm having visions of Betty from Mad Men on her Weight Watchers diet, except she burnt her toast. Less calories?
    Also, the title of the cookbook sounds like a veiled threat. Diet or Die!

    1. A veiled threat was the only way they could persuade anybody to try this stuff!