Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Culinary Tips from the 1950s Housewife


Dedicated to my mother, Adeline Lucille Spencer

The 1950s housewife was expected to cook three wholesome and nutritious meals every day for her family; send children off to school with filling and healthy lunches; set an elegant and lavish table for entertaining; and keep her husband happy and satisfied with a full stomach.

She was expected to know how to choose the best foods at the best prices, and to plan weekly menus that fulfilled the nutritional needs of her family. She read women's magazines and cookbooks, looking for new recipes and advice about raising happy, healthy kids. Over cups of coffee and freshly-baked cookies, she swapped recipes, shared marital secrets and advice, and complained about housework to neighborhood friends and family. The 1950s housewife was highly-regarded and well-respected as the glue that kept the family and society together. And she benefited from post-war prosperity with new innovations in household appliances, television, and increased leisure time. 

Simple Breakfast Menu

Fruit Juice

Coddled Eggs (hard-cooked or soft-cooked boiled eggs)

Graham muffins (or bran muffins)

Coffee and Milk

Simple Lunch Menu

Bacon and Liver Sandwiches (or Bacon and Liverwurst)

Lettuce and Onion Salad Bowl

Chiffondale Dressing ( a variation of French dressing)

Baked Stuffed Pears

Simple Vegetarian Lunch Menu

Creamed Asparagus on Toast

Stewed Tomatoes

Cottage Cheese Salad

Prune Whip

Custard Sauce

Simple Dinner Menu

Roast Beef

Yorkshire Pudding

Toasted Carrots

Buttered Onions

Lettuce and Chicory Salad Bowl

Cheese Tray and Toasted Crackers


Simple Vegetarian Dinner Menu

Cheese Souffle

Mashed Potatoes

Buttered String Beans

Radish and Cucumber Salad

Strawberry Shortcake

* * *

A huge part of entertaining guests in the 1950s was setting a proper table using the best china, glassware, silverware, linen napkins and tablecloth, condiment holders, place cards, and centerpiece. Monogrammed napkins and tablecloths were quite popular in the 1950s. Buffet dinners, in particular, gave the 1950s hostess the opportunity to show off her best silver, glass, and linens.

The Formal Dinner

1st course - Appetizer

2nd course - Soup

3rd course - Fish

4th course - Roast 

5th course -  Game

6th course - Salad

7th course - Dessert

8th course - Crackers and Cheese with Coffee 

9th course - Nuts and Raisins

10th course - Fruit

The Simplified Formal Dinner

1st course - Appetizer

2nd course - Main Entree

3rd course - Salad

4th course - Dessert

5th course - Coffee with Fruit or Crackers and Cheese

Courses were served individually in a particular way, and the place setting and position of knives, forks, and spoons reflected the order in which the courses were served.

1950s Food Wisdom

"Expensive foods are not necessarily the most nutritious."

"Prepare all food so attractively, and season it so well, that it will be irresistible."

"Beautiful color and dainty, attractive arrangements play a large part in a successful meal."

"A combination of colors pleases the eye, stimulates the digestive juices, and creates an appetite."

"When planning combinations, follow the day's nutrition schedule and good combinations will result."       [Today, we have the food pyramid that provides nutritional guidelines.]

"Fine flavor in foods is developed by proper cooking. Additional flavors are provided by herbs: garlic, onion, celery, and by spices. Highly-seasoned foods whet the appetite, while sweets satisfy it. For that reason, well-seasoned foods are served for appetizers and sweets for desserts. Serve only one strongly-flavored food at each meal."

"A most important point is the serving of at least one each soft, solid, and crisp foods at each meal."

"Serve hot foods hot and cold ones cold."

"Plan meals that do not have too many last minute touches. When entertaining, avoid serving food that will be ruined by a few minutes waiting."

"If planning to bake one dish, arrange your menu so that the whole oven may be used."

"Learn to buy so that there is a minimum of food left over."

"In summer, the market provides foods low in energy value but high in minerals or vitamins, such as fruits and vegetables. In winter, high-energy foods, as fats and carbohydrates, are needed, too."

* * *

When my mother got married in the 1950s, she did not know how to cook! She was given a wonderful cookbook called The American Woman's Cook Book (1952) as a wedding gift. I pored through that cookbook when I was growing up. The colorful pictures of fabulous desserts and  savory cooked meats always fascinated me and made me want to experiment in the kitchen. I treasure that cookbook as a beautiful reminder of my mother and days gone by.

Dawn Pisturino

May 25, 2021

Copyright 2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.


Wednesday, May 19, 2021

The Risks of Postpartum Depression


For most women, childbirth is a peak experience filled with love, joy, and a sense of awe. Others find themselves shrouded in a cloud of depression, unable to enjoy the birth of their new child.

Postpartum depression is a natural response to childbirth. Approximately 66% of women experience mild depression or tearfulness as their hormone levels stabilize and they adjust emotionally to their new situation. For some women, however, the condition is more serious.

Severe postpartum depression affects around 10-30% of new mothers. Symptoms include anxiety, irritability, excessive worry over the newborn, fatigue, a sense of failure and guilt, changes in appetite and sleep patterns, and thoughts of suicide.

In more severe cases, a woman may develop panic disorder or obsessive-compulsive disorder. Plagued by repetitive thoughts and ritualistic behavior, a mother becomes so frightened that something will happen to her newborn that she begins to imagine that she is the culprit who will harm her child.

Other women may exhibit manic behavior characteristic of bipolar disorder. In fact, a woman with a prior history of bipolar disorder has a five times greater chance of experiencing a manic episode after delivery.

Statistics reveal that one woman in 1,000 births will likely develop postpartum psychosis. This is a psychiatric emergency which requires immediate hospitalization. Symptoms include bizarre behavior, confusion, irritability, hallucinations, delusions, and poor personal hygiene. A woman suffering from this disorder is at high risk for committing suicide or infanticide. (Think Andrea Yates and some other highly-publicized cases.)

What makes a woman susceptible to developing a serious case of postpartum depression? A prior history of depression, postpartum depression, anxiety, mood disorder, mental illness, sexual, physical, or emotional abuse, and substance abuse top the list of risk factors. But other factors include an unplanned pregnancy, single motherhood, immaturity, low self-esteem, financial problems, marital difficulties, inadequate social support, and poor personal relationships.

If you are a new mother experiencing any of the symptoms of postpartum depression, please get help. Post partum depression is easily treated with antidepressants, antianxiety medications, support groups, psychotherapy, and counseling.

Dawn Pisturino
June 10, 2007
Copyright 2007-2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, May 1, 2021

Nigerian Ibo (Igbo) Fertility Prayer

Fellow men, we shall all live,
Earth Goddess, hear.
Whoever plants, let him dig up and eat,
Earth Goddess, hear.
We shall give birth to sons,
Earth Goddess, hear.
We shall give birth to daughters,
Earth Goddess, hear.
We shall train them, Earth Goddess, hear.
When we are old they will feed us,
Earth Goddess, hear.
Whoever sees us with an evil eye,
When he plants may the floods sweep his mounds away.
Whoever wishes us evil,
May he break his fist on the ground.
We are broody hens, we have chicks.
We do not fly up,
We look after our brood.
We do not eye others with an evil eye.
This big-headed thing (child) that came home yesterday,
He is yet a seed.
If you wish that he germinates
And grows to be a tree,
We shall be ever thankful.
Earth Goddess, hear;
He will grow to be like his stock.

Aylward Shorter, W.F.

This prayer is part of a hand-washing ceremony that Ibo women perform at the birth of a child. The women pray for fertility for crops and children. The women beat their hands together while reciting, "Earth Goddess, hear."

Dawn Pisturino, RN
May 1, 2021
Copyright 2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.