(left) A beautiful, quivering, tomato aspic from the 50s
I can’t remember a time when there was not some kind of crazy food fad making the rounds. Whether the fad became popular because the items were supposed to assist in losing weight, or they just caught on because someone popular said they liked them, they were always there. As one fad would become tiresome another was always in line to take its place.
The 1950s was a decade where there was an inordinate amount of food fads. It was a time when America was becoming more mobile which meant discovering new food items from other parts of the country. It also was a time when television was getting a foothold and driving the movie business into deep trouble.
The fad of TV dinners made its debut in the ‘50s as families loved to watch TV so much that they wanted to eat dinner while they watched the tube. Hence, we had the birth of the TV dinner with families sitting behind flimsy metal trays eating Swanson TV dinners of turkey or Salisbury steak, potatoes, peas and a cherry cobbler (click here for Swanson TV dinner ad from the 50s (1:02). Those concoctions came from the grocery’s freezer, cost about 89 cents, and were heated in the oven for a half hour or so. Yum! Tear off the tinfoil covering and there was that gourmet’s delight ready to be eaten while spending the hour with Ed Sullivan, Uncle Miltie, or whoever else was on. Personally, I preferred The Lone Ranger.
If that wasn’t bad enough to label the ‘50s as a bad food decade, there was also the popular Jello salad and tomato aspic. Before you get foolish and assume that “Hey, I love Jello!” or “That sounds pretty good!” let me warn you that we are talking about Jello with things like cabbage and carrots suspended in that wonderful gelatin delight. I never could eat that stuff. I was a kid and thought Jello should be topped with whipped cream. Silly me!
Tomato aspic was sickening. To me it looked like a big blood clot quivering on a plate. Other than a lot of tomato juice it was full of gelatin, spices, vinegar and a bunch of other unappetizing stuff. No thanks! I’d rather have an Eskimo Pie.
I shouldn’t pick on the 50s too much. It was a great ten years in my life but if you were like me, your parents made you eat a lot of stuff you hated simply because it was “good for you.” That was a turn off on a lot of items that later in life I would enjoy.
A food fad that worked for a while in the late 90s was the Atkins’ diet. It was the era of low carb and no carb. I would see people, especially women, eating big juicy hamburgers with lettuce, tomatoes, and pickles but no bun. They would lose weight but as soon as they went crazy to have a cinnamon bun and a milkshake, it was over.
The above is the tip of the proverbial iceberg of food fads. Do you remember deep fried pickles, Mars Bars, and Twinkies? How about fondue? Didn’t you love being with friends and spearing a chunk of bread and double dipping it in a pot holding melted chocolate or cheese? Were you into the Oat bran craze of the ‘80s? It was supposed to clean the cholesterol out of your blood. Sorry, it didn’t.
One item that has graduated from fad status is bacon. Tell me the truth: Is there ANYONE who doesn’t like bacon? I think I’ll go make a BLT right now!