The Big Salad

salads cookbook

Famous Recipes of America

You know I love a cookbook. I don’t actually cook, but I like to “window shop.” Well, straight from the 1960s we have a lovely array of salads. Truth be told, there are not a whole lot of fresh veggies in the recipes, but certainly a lot of interesting shapes. I think I lost my appetite when the word “congealed” was used. Time to pack your knives and go.


molded salads

congealed salads

salad recipes


  1. Oh. Oh my. That last picture looks horrifying. Until I read the recipe, I was sure that was a pulled pork jello mold.

  2. I still have nightmares from eating peas in green Jello and shredded carrots in orange Jello as a child. Now I see I was eating “congealed” vegetables. I’m glad that trend went away!

  3. “Congealed” is one of those terms that one expects to hear more during autopsies than in cooking.

  4. Oh, do pull that cookbook, essentially a series that rehashes local fundraising cookbook recipes, that rehash earlier books like these. That said, I enjoy some of the older cookbooks in our library. There are recipes that predate the 1980s that have not leaped to the internet or have seen contemporary iterations. The older cookbooks put out by Sunset Magazine and many of its writers, like Emily Chase, are a case in point. I found my grandmother’s Louie dressing in one, and no, contrary to what you read elsewhere, it isn’t a simple mash-up of ketchup and mayo. It involves, among other ingredients, a shot of dry sherry and chili sauce. The older cookbooks also inform us that “vegan” cakes were once whacky cakes, which were once war cakes, depression cakes and pioneer cakes. I’d hate to see classics like Elizabeth David’s books or Elizabeth Gilbert’s grandmother’s cookbook sent packing because of their copyright. But you are welcome to make room for Mark Bittman any day by relieving us of books championing congealed anything.

  5. “Perfection Salad” Really? It should be called Random Items Found in the Back of the Fridge.

  6. I love the second-from-the-top photo of the green ring; I honestly thought for a moment that it was thinly-sliced sushi! It was only a moment later that I realized it was cucumber instead. And what’s with old cookbooks and the obsession with aspics? I tried them once, years ago, and once was more – MUCH MORE! – than enough. I don’t think there’s a single cookbook made before 1970 that doesn’t feature at least ONE “congealed salad”.

  7. Sell, don’t throw away! Stuff like this is being sold on eBay every day.

    In the middle of the 20th Century, the US inexplicably developed a passion for encasing food in gelatin. Any food. Every food.

    To demonstrate both of these points, check out this blog (it’s not my blog, just one I’m a fan of):

  8. Who on Earth decided gelatine went with salad?! It has absolutely no nutritional value at all, and I’m sure savoury gelatine is disgusting. (I’m quite fond of dessert jelly, I must admit.)

  9. But Ro, it holds the other ingredients so nicely in suspension so that they can be admired! As a child, I loved my grandmothers fruit-cocktail-in-raspberry-jello “salad.” She would add bananas to the canned fruit and use some of the liquid in the jello, put it in little molds and unmold them when the jello was set onto lettuce leaves. The “dressing” was mayonnaise thinned with a little milk and sometimes a little juice from the jar of maraschino cherries, to turn it pink. As for “savoury” gelatine, traditional cuisine is full of stuff like quail in aspic. I have never had that, but people must have liked it, to keep on serving it. I am not sure what “dessert jelly” is — you probably do not mean the Smucker’s variety. So you probably are not from the U.S.?

  10. Sell it–somebody will snap it up!

    I used to collect Favorite Recipes Press cookbooks from the ’60s and ’70s before I ran out of room. There are editions for home economics teachers, “Lutheran ladies,” military wives, etc., as well as just plain “of America.” Just two thousand recipes per volume, each with the name and hometown of the contributor, multiple names showing where something from a cookbook got passed around. The names are historically interesting; you can comb through a book to see what military wives in Hawaii were serving to company, or what Midwestern home ec teachers thought worthy of including in class. It’s also interesting to flip to the “Foreign Recipes” chapters for a look at how much “foreign” food people were eating and how well they understood it. The recipes themselves range from “well, ew” to absolutely delicious. I copied some to my recipe file before I had to give the books away.

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