1950s Holiday Recipes: From Box Labels

About this time of year the little Bungalow starts to warm up with cooking smells that only Fall can bring: cinnamon, pumpkin, cranberries and other heady little feasts. I like a fresh pumpkin pie as soon as Halloween decorations crop up on my neighbor's front yards, and I can't wait for fresh cranberries to arrive in the produce section of the market. By the time Thanksgiving arrives, we've been eating some of my favorite holiday foods, but as part of our daily meals. It's such a fun way to enjoy favorites.

Awhile back I had to laugh at my family, since we seem to prepare most of our favorites using the time honored label recipes. While I have modified those over the years, it all still starts with what the label lists, and I go from there. The pumpkin pie uses an almond creamer instead of heavier canned milk, which makes a lighter pie (or custard if you don't want to bother with a crust).

I also love to simmer fresh cranberries simmered til soft in the typical sugar water, but I sub in brown sugar and add the juice and rind from an orange, it's so terrific on Greek Yogurt. My dad perfected the Mrs. Cubbison's dressing by adding chopped green olives and slivered almonds to the box recipe, it's yummy this way.

It seems to me that the history of these holiday foods is closely tied into the marketing schemes of the food industry: canned, frozen, boxed and fresh, they all created mouthwatering advertisements during the 1950's, luring housewives into trying their products by using creative recipes printed on the labels.

Prior to World War II, recipes weren't as prevalent in advertising or product marketing. Once full color ads and editorials became the norm, a whole industry grew around holiday cooking and family gatherings. Even over a half century later, guests still bring sweet potatoes with marshmallos, green bean casseroles, cranberry jelly straight from the can, and a whole world of stuffings and roasted meats.

These advertisements date from the mid to late 1950's. They promote foods that we still see today on holiday menu's, family favorites and traditional foods.

Here are some 1950's holiday recipes that I think are probably some of the most popular today.  They can still be found on the product label, or online:

 Green Bean casserole with canned crisped onion topping: Campbell Soup

Sweet Potatoes with marshmallo topping: Kraft Marshmallows

Pumpkin Pie: Libby's canned pumpkin and Nestle's Carnation evaporated milk

Pecan Pie: Karo syrup

Roasted Turkey: Reynold's wrap aluminum foil

Cranberry Relish: Ocean Spray

Turkey Stuffing: Mrs. Cubbison's

And in case you need a gentle reminder on how to set the table, here's a version from 1930's that should do nicely.


Claremont CA: Small Town So Cal

Small towns in southern California make for the best day trips. One of my favorites is the little village of Claremont, a sleepy college town a bit over 30 miles east of Los Angeles.

One of the older towns in Los Angeles county, in the late 1800's Claremont built its first college: Pomona College.  At that time there was a small commercial center north of the Santa Fe railroad tracks running into Los Angeles from San Bernardino and beyond.

A rich history surrounds this town, the old Village core still vital with restaurants and shops. North of this is the older residential area.  Streets lined with bungalows, Spanish, English and other style homes are shaded under big trees. To the east of the Village is College Ave.  There the now nine colleges, most easily seen by walking the pathways from one campus to the next in the area east of College Ave.

Start your morning here at Yale and Bonita Avenues, and walk south along Yale down the two blocks to the street's end at First Ave. It's here that the old Santa Fe station sits, the tracks now part of the Metrolink line into Los Angeles.

Second Street connects the newer shops and restaurants west of the Village (west of Indian Hill) in this pedestrian friendly town. This side of Indian Hill Blvd was where the huge College Heights Orange and Lemon packing house was located during the citrus boom years from the early 1900's to the mid-1950's.  The groves were replaced over the years by urban housing which began to take over the landscape in the 1950's and 60's.

This is one village where you can bring your bike and ride around to see the sights. In fact, biking is probably the best way to see the adjacent colleges as well.

You will find Stover Walk starting at College Ave just north of Fourth. This is a lovely way to enter the Pomona College campus. To the south a block is the Pomona College Museum of Art where inspiring exhibits are shown year round.

Once you enter the campus, walk north through Pomona, Claremont McKenna, Scripps and Harvey Mudd colleges.  Pitzer lies east of these, and the others are generally to the west. It helps to refer to a map so you don't miss out on some of the highlights: Frary Dining Hall with it's frescos and the Margaret Fowler Memorial Garden are probably best known, but tiny gardens, big lawns, and architecture of note are at every turn.

After a long afternoon in the colleges, it's always nice to return to the Village for tea or coffee before heading back home again.

I have also reviewed small town Sierra Madre, if you enjoy finding villages to visit.


YInMn Blue: A New Blue Color has Been Discovered

YInMn, a new synthetic blue pigment has been discovered.  It's burst onto the art and industrial design scene; bright, clear and pure. Perhaps not since mauveine (an aniline dye of purple) was discovered in 1856 by Sir William Henry Perkins as the very first synthetic color, have we seen such a fuss over a new hue.

Developed during an ongoing experiment in electronics in 2009 at University of Oregon by chemist Mas Subramanian and his team, it is created by mixing essentially Yttrium, Indium and Manganese (hence the name Yinmn) at high heat.  The resulting substance was a vivid new blue with unique properties that allow it to be fade resistant in both water and oil. This blue also reflects a significant amount of infrared rays, lending it to future use in a colored surface to prevent the transfer of sunlight's heat into a building or other object.

While we wait for it to enter industrial use, we can wonder: will our cars all have blue roofs? Will our homes be shingled in blue? And what about beach umbrellas, camping tents, sun hats and just about everything else that protects us from the sun?

And then, there's simply the artistic application of an easily available brilliant blue that won't fade: blue carpeting, blue sofas, blue wall paper, blue drapes.

Oh My!


Mid-Century Modern Furniture: Robert Kjer Jakobsen, Designer for Virtue Brothers of California

Mid-century modern furniture came in many affordable styles. I found this advertisement for a 1950s dining room set and it lead me to the designer, Robert Kjer Jakobsen who designed it in 1956 while working for Virtue Brothers of California.  Virtue Brothers is well known for producing the iconic 50s formica and chrome dining sets, but lesser known was their transition into the sleeker Danish modern furniture styles that were popular after the middle of that decade.


Danish Modern: Steel and Wood Tableware in Mid-Century Modern Style

Danish modern wood and stainless steel tableware has a classic look with a mid-century modern vibe. Serving pieces from this era never looked so good, or were so easy and affordable to find as they are now.  Here's just a few of the wonderful vintage pieces that I found in vintage shops online.

From upper left: Coffee Pot, Flatware set, Cheese Grater, Salt and Pepper set