Desserts from a Bygone Era

As I type, I look like a chipmunk storing nuts for the winter.

I had my wisdom teeth removed a few days ago, and my naturally puffy cheeks billowed up like a couple of marshmallows on steroids. I have been on a steady diet of soups, smoothies, and mashed potatoes. The drugs have me emotionally compromised. Yesterday I cried because we ran out of gravy.

The plus side is this: the foggy weather has been conducive to doodling, blogging, pudding-making and exploring old cupboards. And, being a dental invalid, I have the free time to explore all such things.

The doodling has been successful….


…as has the blogging. The pudding making was very fun. I’ll pass on my recipe. It’s so easy it can be accomplished even while on Percocet.

But the most valuable use of my free time, I think, has been the discovery of a Better Homes and Garden’s cookbook from 1960. Specifically a dessert cookbook. I recall digging this out of my grandmother’s archives, yet hadn’t cracked the cover to see what lay inside.

The recipes are a combination of old-school classics and intriguing, not-so-delicious sounding combinations. For example:

Swedish Fruit Soup (dried fruits rehydrated in currant jelly and tapioca)

Blue Cheese Melon Dip (which I might actually try… it calls for 4oz blue cheese, 3oz cream cheese, 2T milk and 2T ‘salad dressing’ beat until fluffy. The kind of dressing, however, is left unspecified.)

‘Lazy Mary Frosting–easiest of all!’ The instructions dictate, “While cake is hot, sprinkle with package of semi-sweet chocolate pieces; let stand until softened. Spread smooth with spatula. Your cake’s frosted and ready to serve in about the same time it takes to bake it!”

And, of course, Concord Grape Pie, which looks labor intensive and involves peeling the skin off of the grapes before simmering and straining the pulp to remove seeds.

The featured photographs scream ‘5o’s Housewife!’ and illustrate a glamorous style of food plating that has long since fallen out of fashion.



Which begs the question, why don’t we serve sorbet in cantaloupes anymore?

Just eyeing the pages of this book brings back an intense desire to watch Bewitched and I Dream of Jeannie. I think perhaps a dinner party idea is in the works?

Regardless, food from an era of whips, gelatins and cupboard-cleaning fruitcakes appealed to me in my toothless state. So, as promised, here’s a pudding recipe that not only hearkens from the early 60’s, but will also take less than fifteen minutes to make.



3/4c sugar

3 T cornstarch or flour

3 c milk

4 egg yolks, beaten

1 T butter

1 1/2 t vanilla


In a saucepan, combine sugar and cornstarch. Stir in milk and cook over medium heat until thickened. (Stir frequently to prevent scalding.)

Once thick, drizzle a small amount of cream into the beaten egg yolks to temper. (Otherwise the hot cream will scramble the eggs. Gross.) Gradually stir about 1 cup of cream mixture into eggs.

Return eggs to saucepan and combine all together, stirring out any lumps. Cook until nearly bubbly and desired puddinglike texture has been reached.

Remove from heat. Stir in butter and vanilla. (If desired–and not on conflicting meds, like myself — you can substitute brandy, amaretto or a liqueur of your choice for vanilla.)

Transfer into a bowl. Press a thin film of plastic wrap over the top to prevent a skin from forming, let cool until thoroughly chilled.

If you wish to make chocolate pudding, add 1/3 c unsweetened cocoa powder to the cornstarch and sugar mixture.

That’s it! Bon Appetite!

[Photographs and recipes from Better Homes and Garden’s Dessert Cookbook, 1960, Meredith Corporation.]

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