7 Bizarre Thanksgiving Recipes from the 1950s

Image by Oberholster Venita from Pixabay


A lot of families have treasured Thanksgiving recipes. They pass on the secret ingredient in the pumpkin pie, or the formula for just how to baste the turkey through generations. There’s the families whose secret ingredient is going out to a restaurant, so there’s no dishes to wash. The unsung heroes of Thanksgiving are those who survived the fifties and sixties. Mayonnaise was in every “salad,” gelatin was sprinkled helter-skelter though side dishes and entrees. Here are some archaeological survivors from the Thanksgivings of yesteryears. Personally I’m going to disgust my family with at least two of them this holiday season.

Layered Cranberry Gelatin Salad. Come for the layers, stay for the gelatin salad. It must be a rule of Thanksgivings of yore that it isn’t salad unless it has marshmallows. There’s also the cream cheese, mayonnaise, and heavy cream set in gelatin. Really, something to please everyone. It’s a miracle that the tradition of celebrating Thanksgiving with food survived the 60’s. Easy to imagine this dish getting served and whole families deciding next year they’ll just celebrate with a round of golf instead.

Hellmann’s Cranberry Candles. Something was happening with mayonnaise in the 50s and 60s. The condiment was around for 200 years, but suddenly it was everywhere. In every recipe. No jello-molded dinner was complete without a generous dollop of the stuff. In this ad, Hellmann’s tries to convince nice people that they need to light their holiday table with candles stuck in gelatin. The full recipe calls for cranberry sauce, mayonnaise, nuts, and a lack of decency.

Butternut-Pineapple Crumble. This recipe is straight out of the middle of the last century. The bizarre combination of sweet and savory. And everyone remembers the traditional pineapples at the first Thanksgiving. The crunch comes from both almonds and shortbread cookies. There’s a tub of cream cheese mixed into the madness for good measure.

Molded Cranberry Nut Salad. Having lived through 90’s fashion, I can say with authority that there’s no accounting for style. Or taste. But the 50’s love of a jello mold for both sweet and savory is worth some definite judgement. At least as much judgement as Jnco jeans. This historic novelty sets celery, walnuts and cranberries in red wine with gelatin. No “salad” is complete without mayonnaise; the dressing is just sour cream and mayo combined and applied in a “dollop.”

Jellied Turkey-Vegetable Salad. At least this “salad” has vegetables. And this recipe specifically forbids mayonnaise. Don’t get excited, it still requires gelatin and a mold. And, a cup of salad dressing mixed in with the turkey and frozen vegetables. Instead of a warm turkey sandwich, this is a frozen block of turkey and vegetables, suspended in salad dressing.

Ambrosia Salad. This is one culinary invention of the dark ages of the 20th century that I think is still alive and well. I’ve been offered Ambrosia more recently than I have a red wine gelatin nut salad at least. But this is just a reminder that it’s still not okay to call this a “salad.” It’s straight marshmallow candy dessert. With mayonnaise.

Turkey Cake. Google this and you’ll get lots of real cakes in charming turkey shapes. But no, this abomination belongs on the dark web. Ground turkey, oats, mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce all layer up together to create this crime against culinary decency. Obviously, it’s topped with toasted mini marshmallows. You shouldn’t be surprised.

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