Seven Days of 60s Food: Grape Jello

cover for star dust. at top, a couple embraces. in the middle in a field of stars, the title appears. beneath the horizon, at the bottom of the cover, are the author names: Emma Barry and Genevieve Turner.

First things first, Star Dust is here! It’s available wherever fine ebooks are sold, including AmazoniBooksB&NGoogle Play, and Kobo, and you can even order a paperback at Amazon. It’s a space-race rom-com about a divorcee looking to start a new chapter and an astronaut reaching for the stars. I truly love this book, and I’m not just saying this because Gen and I had so much fun writing and editing it (though we did). But if you’ve been enjoying these retro food posts, you should give it a try.

To celebrate Star Dust’s launch (I had to, y’all, I had to), here’s the one you’ve been waiting for: Grape Jello Salad.

ring mold of purple jello with apples and grapes floating in it

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Seven Days of 60s Food: Almond-Parmesan Spread

Before we get to today’s recipe, have I mentioned that Star Dust has a new cover? And it’s very pretty? Also, if you’re a reviewer, Star Dust is now on NetGalley. For everyone else, it will be out on Wednesday. (So soon! Ahhhhhh!) But I’ll delay my panicking in order to get back to the 60s food.

My last attempt at appetizers was…lackluster. But the next attempt was fantastic. This Almond-Parmesan spread was one of my favorite things I made during this project.

a plate with 12 little toasts covered with almond parmesan spread

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Seven Days of 60s Food: Beef Pot Roast

I remember hearing a joke when I was a kid: Gracie Allen’s pot roast recipe calls for a large pot roast and a small one; she puts them both in the oven and when the small one burns, the large one is done. There’s a lot we could say about this joke in terms of mid-century food ways and sexism. But after I completely overcooked a pot roast in the name of research, I think Gracie Allen should have trod on George Burns’s foot every time he repeated it.

Again, I’ll give you the recipe and then tell you what happened and how I plan to avoid it in the future.
pot roast on platter along with green beans and potatoes

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Seven Days of 60s Food: Orange Moss

“So what kind of Jello salad are you making?”

As soon as I announced this project, this was the question everyone asked. The dish people most closely associate with the 1960s seems to be Jello, preferably with lots of strange stuff in it.

The only problem was, well, I wasn’t finding many Jello recipes in the cookbooks. This leads me to a few hypotheses: one, I may have had too small a sample size and needed to do more research; two, Jello salad might have been a regional or folk thing where people developed and circulated their own recipes apart from the cookbook industry; and/or three, our historical memory about this might be off. I definitely didn’t put any Jello in Star Dust.

Regardless, the Internet filled in some blanks. If you’re interested in molding Jello, I would recommend that you read Elisabeth Lane’s post about a peach Jello mold, which was inspired by this recipe at The Kitchn, or dive into the deep end by reading the archives of The Jello Mold Mistress of Brooklyn. You’ll also need to peruse your local thrift store for some molds.

I ended up making two Jello recipes: a very weird one that did not work and a more modern one that did. You get the weird failure today.
a star-shaped jello mold filled with unset orange jello

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Seven Days of 60s Food: Beef Carbonnades

Probably the most famous cookbook published in the 1960s is Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, Simone Beck, and Louisette Bertholle. First published in 1961, it’s been intimidating home cooks for more than half a century. I’m confident that Anne-Marie would have owned a copy. And as soon as I took this project on, I knew I had to make something out of it.

I called my grandmother and asked about her memories Mastering the Art of French Cooking. What recipes had she actually used? She immediately began talking about Carbonnades a la Flamande, or beef carbonnades. So that’s what I picked.
picture of beef plated with onions and kitchen in background

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Seven Days of 60s Food: Hot Cream Cheese Canapes

a pile of cookbooks: The Joy of Cooking, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and Helen Corbitt Cooks

Sometimes, I get crazy ideas. This post–and the ones that will follow–are one such.

When Gen and I were writing Star Dust, I fell pretty hard for the world of the novel: the cocktails, the parties, the music, and the clothes. Writing the book taught me that my love for mid-century American culture is deep and long-held, so much so that it even extends to the food.

Sixties food has a truly terrible reputation for relying on processed ingredients and fat, carbohydrates, and other deliciousness that we avoid in 2015. However, while researching the book, I obtained some sixties cookbooks to add to what I already owned. In reading them, I came to feel that our view of 60s food is somewhat unfair. I can’t tell you precisely what the average family was eating for dinner on a representative night in 1962, but the story painted by cookbooks is more complicated than the stereotype.

There’s a drift toward processed foods, yes, but also meal plans that include multiple courses and several vegetables. Additionally, the way cookbook writers of the period approach recipes presupposes that readers possess varied and sophisticated cooking knowledge.

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