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Mmmmm! Gelatin.

Mmmmm! Gelatin. Source: hide caption

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For years now, author James Lileks has been collecting old advertisements, photographs, comics, and magazines from the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s. His website,, is an online archive of ephemera. Lileks calls it the "Institute of Official Cheer." A few years ago, he published some of his collection, complemented with his own brand of sardonic commentary, in The Gallery of Regrettable Food. Lileks is back, with a sequel: Gastroanomalies: Questionable Culinary Creations from the Golden Age of American Cookery. It's full of bran, ground meat, aspic, gelatin, and other goodies. What were some of the crazier — and more memorable — dishes you ate in the 1950s? Fish pies? What constituted a casserole back then?



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I have loved James' website for years, where these photos and stories used to live. I have inherited my grandmother's jello salad recipes, and I must have at least 50 of them, many just titled "Church Jello" or "Social Salad." Before my grandmother, a farmer's wife in Kansas, passed away, I once told her my friends here in Portland, Oregon, just don't eat Jello much. She held her hand to heart and said, "Oh really! People just don't make time for Jello anymore", as she shook her head.

P.S. I have had Jello Salon parties before. Amazing!

Sent by Lelo in Nopo | 3:46 PM | 11-27-2007

P.P.S. I hope you'll talk about the famous "Ring Around the Tuna" recipe.

Sent by Lelo in Nopo | 3:47 PM | 11-27-2007

I to remember brains and scrambled eggs... I could NEVER eat them, they looked so horrible, however, I did eat fried brain sandwiches... Brains only come from the butcher, I've never seen them canned... and although fried, they are good, I just cannot being myself to eat them today.

Sent by Hubert Samm | 3:50 PM | 11-27-2007

I'm a big fan of Mr. Lileks' site and his books. As a collector of vintage cookbooks, I've come across plenty of 'gastroanomolies', including an entire cookbook from the early '60s devoted to Campbell's soup. Soup for breakfast? Sure!

Sent by Kelley | 3:53 PM | 11-27-2007

I'm a child of the 80s, and my mother made her mother's specialty: creamed tuna on toast. I don't know where this recipe started, but cans of tuna were never meant to be turned into hot soup served over bread. I know people still make this and love it, but I think it looks nauseating, and it tastes worse than it looks. Yet, my mother served this every Tuesday. I am retching just thinking of it.

Sent by Stacy | 4:16 PM | 11-27-2007

Serendipity-doo! My copy of "Gastroanomalies" was delivered to my doorstep 20 minutes before Mr. Lileks came on-air. I am a daily visitor to and the proud owner of "The Gallery of Regrettable Food" (which I read straight through in one sitting upon its arrival and nearly hurt myself laughing) and "Interior Desecrations" (ditto). It was a pleasure to hear him on the air again and to read along with his new book.

I am 43, born & raised in the East Bay (of San Francisco), and my mom's contribution to T.G. of R.F was her Tuna Almondine Mold ~ a curved mold in the vague shape of said fish, which was packet with, um, foodstuffs and then topped with sliced almonds to replicate "scales" and served it with crackers. I don't think I need to elaborate on how this thing looked when halfway eaten. Yeah - it was *that* bad!

I look forward to more more MORE of everything that offers - cheers!

Sent by Nancy Souza, Alameda CA | 5:43 PM | 11-28-2007