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March 22, 2012

Do You Watch Mad Men?

Filed under: Cooking — Alison Aten @ 9:53 am

Screen shot of “Mad Men: The Game” (The Fine Brothers - Via YouTube)Today’s blog post is by Ann L. Burckhardt, a former reporter, columnist, and editor for the Taste section of the Star Tribune.  She has written or edited over twenty-five books on food, including the original edition of the popular Betty Crocker Cooky Book as well as A Cook’s Tour of Minnesota and Hot Dish Heaven.

Many thanks to the creators of the marvelous Mad Men series for focusing attention on the 1960s, sometimes called the Soaring Sixties.  In the early part of the decade, especially, our country’s optimism was soaring and Americans were merrily buying houses and cars and having babies.

My own memories of the era are clear. Married three years, we bought a house in 1960. It was a bungalow with a well-equipped kitchen just steps from the dining end of the living room.  At last I could entertain friends for dinner, something impossible in our previous home, an apartment with a kitchen I could barely turn around in.

Also in 1960, I was promoted to Cookbook Editor at Betty Crocker Kitchens, General Mills, Inc. I traveled to national meetings , which featured one groaning board after another as new products by the likes of Kraft  and General Foods  were presented. Best of all was my annual trip to New York City to approve the pages of the latest cookbook before it went to press. The editors took it upon themselves to introduce this daughter of small-town Iowa to the best of New York’s eateries—on the expense account, of course. Most spectacular was the fabled Forum of the Twelve Caesars.

My then-husband and I formed a  gourmet dinner club with three other couples. Not gourmets in the caviar-on-toast sense, we savored an excellent meal and squeezed our budgets to sample the foreign (German and French) food at well-known downtown restaurants. The club met every third month, with one pair hosting a sit-down dinner: crystal, china, the works. Unlike Don Draper and friends, we served neither pre-dinner cocktails nor wine with dinner. The hosts prepared the main course; others filled out the meal: appetizer, vegetable and/or salad, and dessert. The main course was often a nice big roast. Vegetables were gussied up with sauces. Whipped cream–laden desserts were the climax.

Dinners for four or six at home alternated with potluck suppers at our church and with coworkers at our local theater group. We sought potluck recipes that were economical while being portable, hot dishes we could keep warm in a low oven (this being pre-microwave days) til serving time.

Occasionally, on weekends, there were luncheons planned to fete a bride-to-be or an expectant mother. At these, we served what the men (not included!) called “ladies food.” This meant ribbon sandwiches, creamy mixtures in ramekins, fancy salads, fruit in melon boats, tiny tarts or petit fours, and cups and cups of tea.

For a taste of the sixties, please try these two recipes from my Hot Dish Heaven, one of the 2006 New York Times notable holiday cookbooks.

Hot Dish Heaven by Ann L. Burckhardt

Squash Gourmet

A delicious vegetable for a dinner of roast beef, pork, or chicken.

Hubbard squash large enough to provide 2 cups cubed squash

¼ cup sliced green onions, including some green tops

2 to 3 tablespoons cream or milk

1 cup sour cream

salt and pepper

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Cut squash in half; remove seeds and pith. Bake squash cut side down in shallow pan 45 to 60 minutes or until fork tender but not soft. Remove squash skin and cut into 1-inch cubes; store rest of squash for later use. Place squash cubes in 1-quart casserole.  Sprinkle with onions. Stir cream into sour cream to thin it. Pour cream mixture over squash; toss to distribute evenly. Season with salt and pepper. Bake uncovered 20 to 25 minutes, until steaming hot. Makes 4 servings.

Ladies-Who-Lunch Hot Salad

Perfect for a shower or bridge party or your own “Return of the Mad Men Series” viewing party.

1 cup real mayonnaise

1 tablespoon lemon juice

¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

½ teaspoon salt

2 cups chopped cooked turkey or chicken

2 cups chopped celery

1 cup toasted bread cubes

½ cup sliced water chestnuts, optional

½ cup slivered almonds

¼ cup diced onion

crushed corn flakes or Wheaties for topping

Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, combine the mayonnaise, lemon juice, Parmesan cheese, and salt; mix well. Combine the turkey, celery, bread cubes, water chestnuts (if using), almonds, and onion in a large mixing bowl; add mayonnaise mixture and toss well. Transfer mixture to a buttered 1 ½-quart casserole dish. Sprinkle crushed cereal around periphery of the dish. Bake uncovered 40 minutes, until hot through. Makes 6 lady-like servings.

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1 Comment »

  1. Yes, a taste of the ’60s. Good to remember that the ‘ladies’ casserole was a treat, not everyday fare…all things in moderation–still relevant!


    Comment by mary gun'derson — March 23, 2012 @ 2:46 am

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