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What Americans Were Eating in 1957
The huge assortment of ready-to-eat and processed foods (canned meats, soups, and vegetables) available in the 1950s were popular with the era’s homemakers. Savvy cooks often mixed these pre-packaged products together to create their own one-dish casseroles. Advertisers did their best to convince the ‘typical’ 1950s American woman to purchase time-saving appliances and to serve her family new convenience foods. The standard American meal of the 1930s—meat, potatoes, vegetable, and salad—grew to include casseroles, barbecued meat, seafood, and spaghetti as popular food choices.
Cookbooks from the 50s confirm the popularity of casseroles that combined canned tuna or poultry with canned soup and noodles or rice. Canned condensed soup reigned as the ultimate combination of versatility and convenience. Meat entrees were accompanied by frozen vegetables, usually prepared with butter, cream sauce, or canned soup and, for special occasions, topped with breadcrumbs or dried onion flakes. Oleomargarine* began to be widely accepted as a butter replacement for spreading, baking, and cooking. The availability of canned beans made the 3-bean salad ubiquitous.
Meanwhile, trendy dads cooked in the backyard on their charcoal grills. After WWII, many returning G.I.s married and settled in the suburbs. A house with a back yard barbecue was one of the symbols of American status. Men did the grilling. Women did the planning and prep-work. Food might be broiled on the open charcoal flame or cooked by double-wrapping in heavy duty aluminum foil. Fresh Corn-on-the-cob, a Baked Potato, and Cole Slaw completed the meal. Home-made ice cream would be a Sunday afternoon special treat. It needed to be churned by hand for nearly an hour—constantly adding plenty of ice and salt to the wooden ice cream maker.
* To avoid the high taxes, that the dairy industry supported, on butter-colored margarine, yellow colored pellets were included in the packaging during the 1950s so that consumers could knead yellow color into the white oleomargarine. Wisconsin was the last state to repeal anti-margarine color laws in 1967.
Popular Meals in the 1950s Evening Suppers would include Meat, Potatoes, Vegetables, & Dessert
Pork Chops, Hamburger Casserole, Meat Loaf, Baked Ham with glaze, Spaghetti with meat sauce, Chicken a la king, Tuna-potato chip casserole, Beef, Chicken, Turkey or Tuna Pot Pie, Roast Beef, Swedish Meat Balls, Turkey casserole with vegetables, Salmon, Chicken, or Veal Croquettes.