Blast from the Past: Foods That Were Popular Back in the Day (and One is Making a Comeback!)

As with clothing, food goes through different fashionable stages. What was ‘in’ a few years ago, might now be a faint memory, or the dish may even be frowned upon. Many of us grew up with certain meals that seemed quite normal back then, but if we look back now, it might not be as appetizing. Will some of them be making a comeback soon?

By Cookist

Gelatin molded dishes



The 1950s and 60s saw the rise of interesting recipes, but few are as strange (and polarizing), as molded gelatin foods. Gelatin dishes actually started out in the 19th century, as a food for affluent folks. To extract collagen from animal bones was a laborious process, so if you presented your guests with gelatin, it means you had enough staff in your home to do it for you.

But that changed when Jell-O started selling instant gelatin in the early 20th century. It was a way to make everyday, cheap ingredients look elaborate and elegant. Soon you could find everything from salad ingredients, to lamb chops or canned tuna, set in a mold of gelatin.

Basically, any recipe you can think of ended up as a wobbly blob on a plate. Although molded dishes are still popular in some countries, we’re glad that suspended shrimp in lime jelly is no longer a thing!

Frozen TV Dinners


TV dinners first came out in the 1950s.

Naming it a ‘TV dinner’ was a smart marketing move. At that time, television was a new feature in American homes, and everyone wanted to be part of this ultramodern movement. Also, more and more women started to move away from the housewife role, and pursued their own careers, leaving less time available to cook meals in the evening.

The TV dinner was promoted as a cheap, easy, and complete meal you can prepare for your family. The foil tray had small compartments that contained a meat and two sides. At that time, convenience foods were not so popular, so these TV dinners were revolutionary.

Unfortunately, the quality was not so great, with the food having no texture and a bland taste. The classic TV dinner of the 1950s might not be so popular anymore, but only because it made way for the more modern microwave meal. In most stores, there will be an assortment of meal options that only need about 3 minutes in the microwave. With food technology getting better and better, the quality of the dishes is improving and so is the taste.

Today, the quick meals we have available is a far cry from the bland, tasteless TV dinners seven decades ago!

Layered salad


The Seven Layer Salad became a popular side in 1950s America. It included layers of lettuce, tomatoes, peas, cucumbers, onions, hard-boiled eggs, cheese, and bacon. It was then topped with a generous helping of mayonnaise.

The salad wasn’t the healthiest option, but back then people didn’t really care either. Recently, layered salads have been given a facelift by health foodies. It’s now called ‘salad-in-a-jar’ and is perfect for a healthy lunch on-the-go. To avoid the salad from going soggy, put you dressing at the bottom, layer with your choice of salad ingredients, and top with the crunchy bits (nuts or seeds). If you keep the jars in the fridge, they will remain fresh for up to five days!

Are there any dishes you remember having as a kid? What popular dishes from the past would you hate to see make a comeback? Tell us below!

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