Sunday, November 29, 2009

Reason #86 Why the 70s Were Scary

So anyway, food has been the big theme, what with the Thanksgiving holiday just passing by us last week. My last post was about food, and I have some more thoughts on the subject. As in....the food of the 1970s. Yikes! Have you taken a look recently at any cookbook created in the 1970s? The food was...different. I realize that tastes change and what we're eating now will probably seem quaint and slightly gross to people a few hundred years from now. If you don't believe me, take a look at some of the blogs out there on medieval food and cooking and you'll see what I mean.

That got me to thinking about some of the staple dishes we ate when I was little. And here I want to enter a disclaimer about my mom and her cooking. My mom is an awesome cook. Her cross to bear has been being stuck with people all her life that are boring and picky eaters. So nothing I say here today is a criticism of what she cooked, she was doing the best she could with 70s ingredients and food fashions and having annoying family like me. :-) (love you mom!)

But that's not to say that there weren't some utterly GROSS things I ate as a child. Or at least, I thought they were gross at the time. Let's start with:

1. Green Jello in a Mold with Pears

Okay, first of all, the green jello is lime flavored. Ugh! I was never and am still not a person who appreciates tartness. It's just not part of my palette. I never liked sour-patch kids or any of those tart candies, it just wasn't right when a dessert wasn't sweet! So that was the first strike against it. But what the ladies in my family used to do was somehow suspend chunks of pears in the green jello and to top it all off, put it in some sort of mold so it looked like a nuclear fallout version of a bundt cake. And of course, since you're a kid, they make you eat it! Augghh! I also have vague memories of somehow cream cheese being involved, which may be why I avoided cream cheese until I went away to college.

2. Manwich

Have you ever actually looked at a sloppy joe? I know some people out there absolutely love this stuff but I really really didn't. For one thing, it was a messy meal. :-D I know, I know, I was an unnatural child, but I was also a very clean unnatural child. I usually managed to really not be dirty, even after playing outside for hours. It's a gift. Anyway, that picture in the ad is so incredibly deceitful because you KNOW that stuff was not staying in the bun but would be squeezing out all over the place. I think there were vague tastes of the spices that are used for taco spicing in this stuff and I really didn't like it. I would always do my best to just eat the buns but my mother was never fooled. Fork and knife in hand, I would choke it down. I'm happy to say, I can't remember the last time I had this stuff but I swear I can still taste it!

3. Hamburger Helper

First of all, where were all the flavors that they have now??? I see this stuff in the grocery store and it practically takes up a whole aisle!!! We were much more limited back in the day. It could be that if I tried this stuff now it would be pretty good, but I'm scared. I also have it associated with another meal that my father loved loved loved but the rest of us thought was really strange (sorry Dad). If I remember correctly (and it could be I don't because I've blocked it out), he liked eating ground beef and macaroni. Yes, just ground beef and macaroni. No sauce. Poor Dad. There is a reason for his madness, he's one of the fabled super-tasters. It's true, they do exist and he was actually confirmed by a doctor - he has more taste buds than the average human. So spicy foods to him are REALLY REALLY SPICY, for instance. He can name the ingredients used in a dish to you because he actually tastes each one. We poo-poo'd him for years but now grudgingly admit he might actually not be making it up. So he doesn't need things all spiced up because he tastes more than the rest of us. I think I inherited some it, but it's only a pale shadow. So yes...I think that meal is all mixed up in my memory with Hamburger Helper. Sorry Hamburger Helper people, I'm sure you are delicious!

4. Stuffed Cabbage

Oh how I dreaded the nights my mom made this meal!!! :-) Look at this stuff!! Honestly, I don't think the taste was all that bad, but the smell! Ohhhh, the smell! Ohhhhhhhhhhh. geez. My poor mom was always bewildered by the antipathy this dish garnered. The one time I remember having to stay seated at the table because I wouldn't eat my dinner was for this meal. Plus I had to sit in another seat so I couldn't see the TV. Oh the torture, the humanity! I don't know why, but I hate smelling the meal in the house after the meal is over. Yes, I know I'm a strange person, but I have to admit it. Baking is a whole different thing, I'm talking about the smell of cooked meat or, say, cooked cabbage. And that smell sticks around, it stays in your nose somehow. Let's move on.

5. Stuffed Green Peppers

Okay, I'm happy to say, I actually like this meal, except for the green pepper part. Yes, I realize that it's sort of an integral part of the meal, but I'd be perfectly happy to scoop the stuffed part out of the green pepper, pour that red sauce all over it and be perfectly happy. I didn't mind the flavor of the green pepper in the food, but I didn't (and don't) like cooked green pepper. Maybe it's the texture plus the taste, I don't know. But to this day, cooked green pepper is gross to me. The past couple of years I've worked on trying to learn to enjoy raw peppers - so like using a nice sweet red bell pepper for dip and stuff - that's great! I love the taste! I can even stand a few raw green bell peppers. But not cooked. However...I do like the sweet peppers they put on hoagies and I know they are cooked, but the flavor is totally different. Isn't taste a strange thing?

6. Hunky Steak

Last one for today. I couldn't find a picture of this gem, but I was actually stunned, STUNNED to find it on the internet at all, I thought my grandmother had made it up (probably learning it from her mom). It's basically a cheap cut of beef cubed up and ketchup and you cook it up in a pan. Nope, I'm not kidding. And I think it's....really good! My mom would always make it with egg noodles and I just loved that meal. When I did a search on the name, I actually found someone had posted a version of it and they referred to it as "Serbian Steak" and that it was basically a way to make a cheap cut of meat edible because you cook it slowly in the ketchup, which I guess since it has a lot of acid in it from the tomatoes helps soften up the meat. As the ketchup cooks it turns into a sweet/sour kind of taste.

And that my friends, is the end of today's stroll down memory lane. One thing I find interesting is that the examples of 70s foods I gave you today are all red and green. That could mean 1 of 2 things. Either I'm in the mood for Christmas, or food in the 70s was colored weird. It's probably both.


  1. Great post! I agree with you on numbers 2, 3, and 6. I don't like green jello the way it is done in #1, either, but I do have fond memories of a somewhat different green jello concoction a neighbor brought me to eat after my first daughter was born (it had coconut, pecans, and sour cream, I think). Gotta admit, though, that I love stuffed cabbage (my recipe calls for ginger snaps in the tomato sauce) and stuffed green peppers.

  2. None taken, sweetie!! There are a lot of foods I will not cook now that I did in the 70's because it stretched the dollar and made it too many times.
    1. Yes, cream cheese was involved. Jello molds were around for a very long time before the 70's.
    2. There are no taco spices in the original sloppy Joe. lol
    3. Hamberger Helper, again a dollar stretcher. Will not touch it now!!
    4. I love stuffed cabbage to this day. I agree the smell of cooking cabbage is pretty strong. lol It's also a very tedious job. I usually just made you eat the meat stuffing.
    5. Love stuffed peppers and I seem to be the only one who eats the whole thing!!! In fact, I do not like getting a mouthful of meat and no pepper, it makes it, in my opinion.
    6. I still make hunky steak on request. I find it a bit too sweet for my tastes.
    That was a fun stroll...made me laugh.
    Moms are so tough!!! My mom used to make beans, cook them down to almost a paste, spread it on bread, add a slice of raw onion...yuck. I ate it...wasn't happy...just wanted to get it behind me. lol

  3. hehehe... I make manwich and Hunky steak on a regular basis! I'd make stuffed peppers too if anyone else in the house would eat them.

    And I miss green jello molds. LOVE THEM! I really liked when grandma would put in pineapple too. And the white stuff wasn't cream cheese. I think it had something to do with coconut.

  4. Mom - OMG!!!!!!!!! Bean paste and raw onion on a piece of bread????? I would have jumped off the balcony rather than eat that! oh man...

  5. She would cook Northern Beans in water with onion, salt and pepper until if was a thick soup mixture...that was our dinner. The next day, it was cold and we got bean sandwiches. I don't look so bad now, do I??!!! lolol

  6. And yes it was cream cheese in the lime jello.

  7. I like my dad's stuffed peppers, but I always ate the meat and left the pepper. Thanks for the amusing walk down memory lane.

  8. Boy, talk about different tastes! I love the Jello mold/nuclear meltdown stuff, especially with different fruits and/or marshmallows!

    My Husband had never had a Manwich until I cooked it one night ... now he requests it, and so does my Son. I like it enough to cook and eat it, but it's not a favorite.

    Hamburger Helper is something we eat ALOT of in this house, because we can't afford anything fancier than that! LOL We've tried every flavor out there, and so far our favorite is the Philly Cheesesteak, which is a new-ish flavor. Yum!

    I have never had Stuffed Cabbage or Hunky Steak, and from the sounds of it, never will! ;-)

    Stuffed Green Peppers were my absolute nemesis. I HATED them! Didn't even like the meat concoction inside. Yuck! But my mother would make me eat them. She stopped making me eat the peppers when I was gagging at the table. LOL To this day, I will leave any house to avoid even smelling that particular meal (the in-laws weren't real happy with me when I did that!).

    You did forget one: liver and onions. GAG!