Are these 21 vintage recipes really “upsetting”?

Potato salad loaf

I’ve seen a couple of references around the web to a recent Buzz Feed Food feature called 21 Truly Upsetting Vintage Recipes – obviously, these recipes have hit a nerve for many. But I wonder about the use of “upsetting.” The youth among us may be able to be objective about these recipes – and, frankly, given the art of food photography they demonstrate I’d agree there is no way they can be called appealing. And there is also no question that, given the combination of ingredients, many of these are really offputting. So for a certain age group, I might not object to the word “upsetting.”

But for those of us who are not-so-young, a recipe that Buzz Feed calls “upsetting” may be a close relative to a fondly remembered family entree. Many of these recipes fall into one of two categories that were especially popular “way back when” – gelatin-based and molded foods (esp. loaves).  Maybe these specific recipes aren’t what was served, but I bet that many of us ate some closely related recipes. Personally I can think of  tomato aspic, meat loaf, tuna noodle casserole, and hot dogs and lima beans. 

So here’s a challenge – take a look at these and see if a few spark an emotion that isn’t upsetting, maybe one that’s a little warmer and nostalgic.

Post a comment


  • ellabee  on  January 10, 2014

    Not upsetting, really; more like hilarious (at least the featured image above).

  • ellabee  on  January 10, 2014

    Okay, have now visited the link and have to thank you for choosing one of the more visually appealing of the dishes. I am old enough to have had Perfection Salad, though no one who ever served it in my youth called it that. It can be not-bad if it's aspic-like enough — i.e., without sweetness in the gel. The midwestern versions I experienced a little later in life were inedibly sweet.

  • boardingace  on  January 11, 2014

    Good point!

  • rachelnz  on  January 11, 2014

    I actually have cookbooks which belonged to my mother and grandmother which feature some of these and similar recipes – I remember making a children's version of Banana Candle – in fact still have that cookbook which was one of my first (Betty Crocker's Cookbook for Boys and Girls). In that book it is called 'Candle Salad' and is a banana, sitting in a pineapple ring with a cherry on top! On the opposite page is a tamer salad – Bunny Salad – a half canned pear sitting on a bed of lettuce with raisins for eyes, a red cinnamon candy for a nose, blanched almonds for ears and a cottage cheese ball for a tail!!

  • rachelnz  on  January 11, 2014

    It is also worth thinking – how will our recipes/food be viewed in 50-60 years time!

  • FuzzyChef  on  January 11, 2014

    Lindsay, they're not "upsetting". What you're seeing is the Buzzfeed Headline Formula: "Number Adverb HyperbolicAdjective Noun". Heck, even Buzzfeed makes fun of their own formula:

  • Rinshin  on  January 11, 2014

    Some of these recipes I would perhaps even think of making with some mods, but seriously, to me what is gross looking is fast food burgers. OMG – dried out flat meat patties with yucky topping. No thanks.

  • manycookbooks  on  January 11, 2014

    I thought this was great! I've had fun with similar recipes (but mostly the photos!) in two posts on my blog at ('Food Folly Fotos, Part 1 and 2). The cookbooks from the 1940's and 1950's are particularly full of such dreadful looking creations and one can't help but look back and ask "what were they thinking"!

  • RuthGo  on  January 12, 2014

    I was raised by Jewish Eastern European immigrants in Brooklyn so I have absolutely no memories of anything molded or aspic based. I gotta say, none of these seem particularly appealing.

  • Nancith  on  January 12, 2014

    I always enjoyed Perfection Salad, but can't speak for the edibility of the other items. It's good to remember that there was an emphasis on using the new convenience foods back then with an eye on low cost while still attempting to present an elegant looking table. (although I must admit, some of those foods do not look all that appetizing in 2014!)

  • Queezle_Sister  on  January 12, 2014

    The fruit-meat combinations are not appealing to me (banana-ham? liver-sausage pineapple?), but I love the look of that Perfection Salad. But then I have always thought gelatin to be an under-valued ingredient. And "Atora – the good beef suet" begs the question of what is the bad, and how do they differ?
    For me, none are upsetting, but its interesting and certainly points up the changes in food photography and presentation.

  • anightowl  on  January 26, 2014

    When I was a young and poor married college student I had 2 sources for recipes, Joy of Cooking and my McCall's Recipe Card Collection. I remember making the "Perfection Salad" once – but only once. My mom used to make the "Lime Cheese Salad" all the time, but without the seafood. My mom cooked some really weird and icky (to me) stuff and sometimes that Jello salad was the only tasty thing on the table. I wouldn't make it now though – the combination of the tart green Jello and cottage cheese curds in no way appeals to me anymore (the smell/flavor memory popped right into my brain when I saw that photo). ๐Ÿ™‚

Seen anything interesting? Let us know & we'll share it!