Retro meals with The Happy Hollisters
For Pete, Pam, Ricky, Holly, and Sue Hollister, each day is extraordinary. They spend their days solving mysteries, helping neighbors, thwarting bullies, and taking care of their many pets. But while each day in Shoreham brings new excitement, the Hollisters are still a quintessential 1950s family, and they probably ended their days like most American children of the time period: by sitting down to a home-cooked meal prepared by their stay-at-home mom. What do you think was on the Hollister’s dinner table? Here are some popular dishes, delicacies, and retro meals from the 1950s and 1960s that Mrs. Hollister might have whipped up for her family after a busy day of mystery-solving.
Tuna Noodle Casserole – Retro Meals
Tuna Noodle Casserole has long been a favorite dinnertime dish for many Americans. Since it is made with canned tuna and other shelf-stable foods, like peas, corn, or mushroom soup, tuna noodle casserole is still an easy dish for anyone looking to feed a hungry family in a hurry, on a budget, and without perishable or fresh ingredients. If they were feeling fancier, some cooks from the 1950s and 1960s embellished the classic tuna noodle casserole recipe by adding in spices, nuts, or cheese and topping it off with a layer of crushed potato chips or toasted bits of day-old bread.
Chicken à la King
A step up from tuna noodle casserole, another popular dish was Chicken à la King: diced chicken mixed with a cream sauce. It also frequently included sherry, mushrooms, and other vegetables. It could be served alone or over noodles, rice, or toast to make it more filling. Chicken à la
King was such a popular mid-century dish that it was featured in many upscale restaurants across the United States.
Meatloaf – Retro Meals
Still seen on American dinner tables today, meatloaf first gained popularity after the Great Depression, when families craved a hearty meal that wouldn’t strain their budget. Shaped into a loaf, either by hand or in a loaf pan, meatloaf is typically made with ground beef and fortified with breadcrumbs to stretch the grocery budget. It can also be made with various types of meat, from veal to seafood. Many families put their own unique spin on classic meatloaf recipes by adding in vegetables or topping it with
tomato sauce and spices as Elaine Hollister did. But one thing was probably true for all families—since it makes a lot, meatloaf is always great for leftovers!
Particularly popular among women’s luncheon groups, gelatin was all the rage in the Happy Hollisters’ day. One fashionable gelatin recipe of this time period was tomato aspic, a dish made by mixing tomato juice, celery, onions, and Worcestershire sauce with unflavored gelatin. It was then poured into a metal mold and refrigerated. While recipes like tomato aspic might seem unappealing to some today, gelatin dishes were actually a big status symbol, since they required refrigeration for the gelatin to set; refrigerators for home use were quite small and expensive at that time. A refrigerated gelatin creation at a garden club luncheon always made for an impressive presentation.
While these retro meals might not appear on tables with the same regularity as they did in the 1950s and 1960s, dishes like these were probably very common for families like the Hollisters, and many people of this time period probably have fond—or not-so-fond!—memories of eating foods like tomato aspic or Chicken à la King. If you were invited to a dinner with the Hollisters in Shoreham, which one of these nostalgic dishes would you want to see on the table?
Research notes, Andrew Svenson Archives of The Hollister Family Properties Trust