Foods of the decade

I always think of quiche as a very 1980s-style food. Remember the book, Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche? I think that book’s popularity has made the dish synonymous with the decade. At dinner recently, I started to think about foods that were quintessential to a decade, as I feel quiche is to the 1980s. (Of course, the phrase “Pesto is the Quiche of the 90s” was tossed out there.) We talked about foods that were ubiquitous in one decade but rarely seen now.

Braised celery seems incredibly old-fashioned; I’ve seen it on menus from the 1940s and earlier, but I haven’t seen it anywhere on a menu in my experience. I tried it this week as a side dish with roast chicken, mashed potatoes, and a tomato salad. It was not a hit in my household, and the leftovers sit in my refrigerator for a brave soul to eat. I chose the prettiest celery I could find. I peeled off the stringy bits as directed and followed the recipe using chicken broth. I love celery in soups, but braised in broth, celery was boring. I might try it again with a different recipe, but I’m not optimistic.

Nevertheless, I’m still interested in make a meal based on a decade. I’m starting a brainstorming list of foods I associate with a decade, but I’ll need to research for more items and to verify that my own idea of a decade fits the reality of that time. Some ideas include:

  • 1970s cheese fondue (I’ve got the 70s-era fondue set)
  • 1980s chocolate mousse (I haven’t seen it on a menu in years), pasta salad, tri-color pasta, or sushi
  • Perhaps some ‘exotic’ recipes from the Trader Vic’s cookbook for the 1960s
  • In the 1950s, convenience foods like cake mixes and instant foods rose in popularity, but I’d rather feature popular recipes at home or in restaurants, like chicken Tetrazzini or baked Alaska.

I’m going to do some research and perhaps do a menu or two each week from a different decade. (This is what I do with my unemployed days.) Maybe I’ll even scour the thrift stores for a couple of plates from each decade on which to serve the menu. Who wants to come over for dinner? In the mean time, I’m off to the library for some vintage cookbooks!

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Foods of the decade

  1. kilroyscarnival

    That sounds like a hoot! There was an author on Fresh Air some months ago talking about the Italian food explosion in the US, and how pizza and spaghetti first became popular. Also how Italian cuisine morphed into Italian-American, and I want to say I heard a similar piece about the rise of Chinese restaurants in the US.

    I also remember in the early 80s, suddenly pita pockets were everywhere. I think even McDonalds and BK added pitas to their menus. The American-style pocket pitas, rather than the Mediterranean-style wraps.

    I think of the 90s as highlighting ingredients rather than specific dishes, maybe, like balsamic vinegar. Not coincidentally the Food Network started up in 1993.

    I guess in terms of foods and decades, you’d have to look at both restaurant trends and home cooking trends, and how they may have sometimes been in sync and sometimes completely diverged. This actually sounds like a fun coffee table book.

  2. PT

    My mom still has some old cookbooks from the early 1960s and the entertaining sections are HILARIOUS and so fun to read. Such a time capsule! I HIGHLY recommend collecting (even from “just” the library!) “vintage” cookbooks. They are great reading. Also, I LOVE quiche A LOT. When I worked at Borders in the 1990s the cafe sold these mile-high quiches and I was totally addicted to them. SO eggy and cheesy and yummy. Mmmm…quiche…

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