The cooks for today's recipes do not have similarly simple tastes. (They don't call for grape jelly, though, so that's a plus.)
When I saw Souffle Salad with Herbed Green Peas in The Midwestern Junior League Cookbook (ed. Ann Seranne, 1978), I thought it might be pretty good. I expected a lofty cheese, egg, herb, and pea dish, maybe served with a bit of lettuce since it's supposed to be salad.
I clearly did not understand what the concept of "souffle salad" was supposed to suggest. It is not a souffle in the traditional sense, but lemon gelatin mixed with mayo, then whipped into an airy souffle-ish texture and mixed with onion, cucumber, celery, and cheddar cheese. (At least I was right about the cheese!)
And the herbed green peas are not peas tenderly mixed with fresh mint, parsley, and/or savory. They're frozen green peas mixed with French dressing, pickled onions, and dried dill before being dumped on the lemon-veggie-cheddar mold.
This is one of the biggest-ever gaps between what I imagine and what the recipe actually makes.
The concoction in The American Woman Cook Book (ed. Ruth Berolzheimer, 1942) is much more straightforward:
This "attractive new vegetable platter of cauliflower with cream sauce, surrounded by peas in potato cups and carrot strips" is one of those old recipes that looks like it's a lot of work for no apparent reason. You could just serve each veggie from its own separate bowl and save yourself a lot of time, but why do that when you can spend time molding mashed potatoes in teacups, then unmolding them to fill with peas, then arranging them like they are worshiping a creamy cauliflower god with the lazy carrot lackeys? (And wouldn't everyone rather have their mashed potatoes lukewarm, smushed around like Play-Doh, and growing steadily soggier with pea juice?)
There's not really even a recipe for this veggie scene. The closest the book gets is telling how to mold mashed potatoes in teacups, but the writers trust readers to figure out the rest. Putting peas on top of potatoes and cream sauce on top of cauliflower ain't rocket science.
I'm going to finish off with a nice shortcake for "dessert":
Aww! They look like little cream-filled donuts with berries and pecans on top!
Well, that's part right. There are, in fact, pecans. Favorite Recipes of Home Economics Teachers: Vegetables Including Fruits (1966) brings us this passive-aggressive little number (and a little story to illustrate it):
"What's for dinner tonight?" a man asks as he puts down his briefcase and accepts a scotch on the rocks from his wife.
"We're having shortcakes!" she chirps as she heads back into the orange kitchen with aqua accents.
The man smiles, turns on the TV, sits down.
An hour later, at the dining room table: "What exactly is this?"
"I already told you. We're having curried pecan and green pea shortcakes!"
"You just said shortcakes! I think you left out a few important details when you told me about dinner."
"Yeah? Well, I'm pretty sure you've left out a few important details about all the nights you've had to work late."
And then the only sound is of forks dutifully clinking against plates.