Being married to a Black woman and working in an office almost exclusively made up of Black women gives me a unique opportunity. This holiday season, I’m giving the wonderful women of my life a taste of “true America.” I’m not talking about any of this melty-potty, mishmash of gastronomic what-the-hell from every heathen corner of the world, thank you. I mean honest, exclusive Americana, straight from the heartland! I’m talking beloved pop-culture recipes from a cherished bygone era of peak whiteness. I speak, of course, of the 1950s and ‘60s, when American magazines strove to show our nation’s loyal, stay-at-home moms how to welcome dad home with innovative culinary miracles.
I hit up the good folk behind vintagerecipecards.com to bring some of history’s worst culinary mistakes back to the modern world. And, man, did they deliver.
I’m getting excited just thinking about it. I got my mixing spoon, and my Google. Let’s go!
Light and Fluffy Chicken Mousse
As a white American I can speak to white America’s insane dedication to the arcane, mystic phenomenon of gelatin. There’s something about the squiggly, jiggly joy of Jell-O and Bill Cosby. What could possibly be more wholesome? Consider this recipe right here.
I mean, who even needs an oven in 1960’s America when there’s a refrigerator right there behind you? Enter the miracle of gelatin … combined with bird.
This 1963 recipe by Knox Gelatine Inc. is simple, quick, and devastating, like a roller coaster beheading. There are only seven ingredients, because white women in the 1960s didn’t need to strain their poor lady brains on anything complicated. A white dude like me can surely nail it.
It was like mixing up the filling for a chicken pot pie, but without seasoning, talent, care, or the beneficial sterilizing action of a hot oven. Just pour this goop into that goop, pour in some dead chicken bits, and bing, bang, pow, Daddy-O! It’s all mixed quicker than Elvis can steal a blues song. Just shove it all in the fridge and forget about it.
About an hour later I had a finished product, but it didn’t quite look like the recipe photo. Here, see for yourselves.
I tell myself the person who made the recipe photo had access to a genuine gelatin mold, but nobody I know even owns gelatin molds anymore. I haven’t seen any of those things since the Voting Rights Act.
So anyway. Here we are with this … um … distinct looking, unbaked, jiggly chicken-loaf. Let’s give the ‘ol girl a whirl. I slip my spoon into a nubby little corner, and I do my best to gather up as much chicken and vegetable seasoning into the spoon, because flavor is important. I hold it up to my face and give it a sniff. Seems OK. The chicken was cooked to oblivion before it even went into the can, so it’s not like this stuff has salmonella, right?
I pop in a big, ‘ol loving spoonful, but there’s some trouble. It’s not that it’s hard to chew. It’s basically canned chicken chunks and Jell-O. It’s just that the texture is so … um, not right. And there’s no flavor in it right off. So I try another, bigger bite, searching for the taste. And then another.
After a while, it kind of tastes like … like … hold on a minute …
Well, that didn’t work.
Again, I can’t say it was the flavor—because it had none, like carbon monoxide has no smell. But eating it was like putting something wiggly and combative in my mouth, like a wet, furious spider. It also had the watery blandness that Black people say all white food has, except it was somehow dialed up Chernobyl levels.
Knox Gelatine invented this recipe way back in 1963, and that’s exactly what it tasted like. It tasted like Jim Crow. I am not giving it to my Black co-workers, and I’m certainly not letting it anywhere near my Black wife. Her Mom would drive over here and drag her back home. I’d singlehandedly reverse 55 years of Loving v. Virginia. Alright. Big fail there. Moving on.
Ham Banana Hollandaise
Here’s a lovely little side dish for all you un-white people out there who’re just now coming to terms with white folks’ weird obsession with mixing fruit and ham.
Like the last recipe, this one is simple for us all-American white dudes who don’t have time to fuss around with complicated, high-item recipes in between running Wall Street, dominating our workplaces, and colonizing n’ stuff. This recipe hails from the 1970s, and it probably tastes every bit like Richard Nixon’s socks. But we’re gonna hit this thing and hit it hard. So, let’s just peel them bananas like this … and then dab a little mustard on our ham slices, like this.
All right, then we wrap the ham around the peeled bananas. OKaaay. (Hey, my boss probably owes me $6.35 for all the ingredients in this article and another $300 for therapy. Yes, I’m totally whiting.)
Now it’s time to mix up the hollandaise sauce. Pull out a pot and toss that cheap-ass hollandaise powder in with the butter and milk. Easy, right? Like making mom’s instant gravy, which also, sadly, came from a 99-cent packet of powder. Then we pour the hollandaise sauce evenly over the ham-wrapped fruit and pop it into the oven for 10 minutes.
The smart readers reading this (if there are any of you left at this point) have probably noticed I failed to follow the recipe properly, when I poured the hollandaise sauce on before it baked for 10 minutes. But dammit, this is white man’s cooking here. If my 1970s-era kids are hungry enough, they’ll eat whatever I put in front of them. These were the same kids that ate Boo-Berry.
I pull the results out of the oven after 10 minutes, reflect on things, and then shove it back in, not ready to deal with it. It comes out after another 10 minutes, and I bear witness to a masterpiece of America at its absolute Americaniest.
There’s no denying it: This thing is 100% peak whiteness. And it’s one of the worst things white folks have tried to sell Black people since Herschel Walker.
The recipe claims this dish is “nice with a green salad for brunch or lunch,” so let’s take their word for it and stick a bowl of salad next to it.
There we go! What do y’all think?
… Yeah. Yeah, me too.
Let’s not trouble the wife and co-workers with “Ham ‘Nanners,” either. We’ll just pretend that never happened.
And maybe I’ll give you readers a break, too. Go take some time to recover and we’ll be back next week with one more awesome recipe—Christmas Candle Salad! Yummers!