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  • Writer's pictureAndy Ross

Weird Food

In the world of social media, where returns are largely diminishing, Instagram remains the one place that I find enjoyable. It’s pleasant and it’s rare to find people just yelling at one another. Something on Instagram that has bonded several friends and me together are accounts that share posts of very strange-looking recipes from vintage cookbooks, mostly from the 1970s.

If you’ve never ventured into the world of vintage cookbooks, you may be asking yourself “What could be so strange?” Oh, my friend. You have no idea the horrors I have seen with mine eyes. Two words come to mind when I think of vintage cookbooks, tomatoes and gelatin. Hot dogs too seemed to be a central focus of the 1970s kitchen warrior. The account “70sdinnerparty” posted recently some strange dish called “Frankfurter Spectacular.”

How can one describe the strangeness that is “Frankfurter Spectacular?” Does it feature frankfurters? Yes. Is it spectacular? That’s up for debate. It looks like a hodgepodge of hot dogs and pineapple and other “stuff” that is arranged to be in the shape of a pineapple. I suspect the idea is that you’d bring this over to the dinner table and have your family and or guests all gasp in adoration at what you spent hours cooking over.

What scares me is, to an extent, “Frankfurter Spectacular” makes a kind of sense to me. What doesn’t make sense to me are all the weird, congealed, savory things. Imagine you’re eating a load of tomato-flavored Jell-O with chunks of cooked beef and celery floating in it. I’ve seen recipes that looked like that. Or floating shrimp in a vegetal Jell-O surprise with a very unhealthy dose of mayo and/or sour cream added to the mix.

I think of these kinds of dishes as “church surprise meals.” All these must have been something a 1970s-era housewife cooked up to take to the local church potluck to wow, impress, and possibly get revenge on Sheila Darnworth for winning best biscuits for the third year in a row at the county fair. I can picture someone with their hair sprayed up higher to Jesus in their kitchen of harvest gold and avocado green, with dark wood cabinets.

They’re in there working on this recipe that they know will be the giant-killing, awe-inspiring dish of their dreams. Mixing things that shouldn’t go together like some kind of suburban Dr. Jekyll. Tomato soup by the can, marshmallow fluff, and orange slices. Cottage cheese also seemed to be a popular item used in these dishes. I can’t help but wonder if during the 1970s America had a “National Cottage Cheese Board” that was trying to get Americans to cook more with cottage cheese.

One of my favorite videos on YouTube is complete with commercials uploaded, from a broadcast master tape I suspect, of a 1976 TV musical-variety special called “Telly: Who Loves Ya Baby?” Which Telly Savallas used this star power from the hit TV series “Kojack” to sing on CBS for an hour. The special was sponsored by Kraft who during the commercial break featured recipes from a booklet you could send away for “International Styled Recipes.”

Naturally, most of the ingredients for this “amazing tour of flavor” are all Kraft-branded products, but a few sound promising. The idea of a fruit pie with cheddar cheese in it is not that unusual. However, the idea of making a large pancake and topping it with a mix of marshmallow fluff and sour cream? That, I take issue with. The world of 1970s foods is a strange and unusual place. I sometimes wonder what food trends of today we’ll look back on with similar horror. See you next week.


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