By Louise Mellor
I have recently gathered a talented team of contributors for The History Kitchen. I look forward to sharing their writing with you. Chef Louise Mellor joins the team to discuss vintage recipes and share her food photography. Read more here. ~ Tori
The year is 1959. The average price for a loaf of bread is around 20 cents and gas is as little as 25 cents a gallon. Doris Day and Frank Sinatra fill the airways, Dion & the Belmonts ask “Why must I be a teenager in love?” and Marilyn Monroe is steaming up the screen in Some Like it Hot. Dwight D. Eisenhower is president of the United States and Hawaii is about to become the 50th state. Some are saying that 1959 is the “year music died,” after a tragic airplane crash kills famous rock-and-roll legends, Buddy Holly and the Big Bopper.
1959 marked the end of a decade that would forever leave its imprint on American pop culture with its cars, music, milkshakes, and poodle skirts. It is noted in history as a prosperous period of American economic growth. Much of this prosperity can be traced to the end of World War II in 1945. Men were home from war, families grew and the economy flourished. Many women happily returned to their previous duties of housekeeping and raising children during the 1950’s. At the same time, a positive shift took place in the cultural attitude towards women working outside the home. This trend, which began during the war, continued to grow and gain momentum at the turn of the decade. As Americans slowly changed their views on traditional roles, women were granted the freedom to explore careers previously frowned upon.
In joining the workforce, women were faced with the role of being a mother and caretaker to their families, along with the additional stresses of full time employment. Working mothers of this new age could have their cake and eat it too, but they had to bake it before they left for work! Breakfast needed to be made, lunches had to be packed, and the art of hospitality was still alive and well. Even with shiny new appliances at their fingertips and the emerging convenience of packaged foods on the rise, the 1959 woman needed some help to keep her “hurried” life running smoothly.
The General Foods Kitchens Cookbook, published in 1959, is a culinary reflection of this cultural shift. The book was written by the “Women of General Foods Kitchens” – working women who needed a plan.
The times we live in are hurrying times, and we are a hurrying people. But it is still possible to provide the necessary islands of peaceful, enjoyable family living that are traditionally associated with the table. In place of household servants and unlimited time for preparing meals, we have time-and-labor-savings appliances, prepared or partially prepared foods, and more delightful ways of serving them, than anybody’s ever had before. We can still make the most important meals, the family meals, memorable – not just once in a while, but most of the while.
– The General Foods Kitchens Cookbook
The pages of the cookbook are filled with detailed “how–to’s,” “what if’s,” and numerous tips for “just in case.” Even better, the contents page is organized by situation. Brilliant! Under the chapter entitled The Good Neighbor Policy, you will find suggested menus for when neighbors move in or out. Chapter 5, How to Rise to the Occasion, tells you want to make when your husband unexpectedly brings a hungry coworker home for dinner. The book overflows with lighthearted encouragement and kitchen camaraderie; it reads like a well thought out letter from your closest girlfriend, aunt, or grandmother. As I read through it, I got the distinct feeling that the women of the General Foods Kitchens had been there and done that. It led me to believe their advice can be trusted.
I chose to make a recipe that appears on page 78, nestled between Butterscotch Pecan Rolls and Tips for Special Occasions. Under a header that said, “When one of the children is sick,” I found this simple 3-ingredient recipe for Crispy Baked Eggs. I mixed the cornflakes with a bit of melted butter, then spooned them into a muffin tin to create a small nest. Then I cracked an egg in the middle of each nest and sprinkled the eggs with salt and pepper. Into a low warm oven they went and 20 minutes later, voila – breakfast! You won’t believe me when I tell you how delicious these little eggs are… and they only require 3 ingredients!
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- Pour butter over corn flakes and toss lightly to mix.
- Arrange in 4 greased custard cups to form nests, or in 4 greased sections of a muffin pan or make 4 nests in a greased shallow pan.
- Break eggs carefully, slipping one into each nest. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake in a slow oven (325 degrees) for 15-20 minutes, or until eggs are firm. To serve, loosen with a knife or spatula; lift gently.
- Dietary Adaptations: To make the recipe kosher or vegetarian use butter, not bacon fat.