Layers, Loaves, and LOLs: Making a Mockery of our Recipe Collection!

Written by Quinn Walsdorf (Registrar) and Aja Bain (graduate assistant)

Did you know the open house for our new exhibit is next week?  Join us on Monday, April 15th, to learn about the life of Louise Mott Miles, a local educator and Middle Tennessee State Teachers College graduate (1928). Mrs. Miles taught math and domestic science at Central High School in Nashville for decades, and remained a strong advocate for education throughout her long life. She also documented her career and interests through materials she later donated to the AGRC. These artifacts shed light on the life of an interesting woman in mid-century America, and also provide an amusing look into the world of retro cookery, when anything could be made into a loaf and mayonnaise provided structural integrity.

Intrigued by her recipe books and their sometimes questionable content, we wanted to highlight food oddities from our other collections as well.

Category one: layers. Nothing tempted the Atomic Age palate like food with defined stratigraphy. Here are two such examples of this unique phenomenon:


From a 4-H Club pamphlet (Adgent Family Papers)

layer salad

From the “Association of Secretarial and Clerical
Employees Cookbook” (Zadie Key Papers)

Loaves were also an important dietary staple in this era, be they meat, vegetable, or purely carbohydrate. Behold the mac and cheese loaf, truly a testament to American ingenuity.

cheese loaf002Marshall County Schools lunch program (Adgent Family Papers)

If you want to try this at home, please adjust your measurements. You’re probably not cooking for a cafeteria of ravenous schoolchildren.

If the macaroni loaf proves to be too powerful, try this vegetable alternative: Carrot Loaf with Egg Sauce.

carrot loaf

Zadie Key Papers

Another important element of American cuisine in this period was the mock dish. Ambitious chefs, bored with traditional methods and ingredients, spiced up their tables with food that masqueraded as other food, to the wonder and bemusement (and perhaps horror) of their guests.

If real country ham is not available, rest assured that you can transform any plain old ham with the aid of Karo syrup and a fifty-pound lard can (empty):

mock hamZadie Key Papers

And for dessert: one does not simply make a pie. One makes a pie out of crackers.

mock apple pieZadie Key Papers

No mock pie is complete without a scoop of mock ice cream:

mock IC003

Adgent Family Papers

Our last category defies all description and analysis. We present to you the true food oddities, cinnamon cucumbers and cake made from tomato soup.

cinn rings

Zadie Key Papers

soup spice cake jpg

From “The In Way to Meal Making” (Adgent Family Papers)

We hope you’ve enjoyed this look at retro cookery in our collections, and we hope to see you at the premiere of our Louise Mott Miles exhibit on Monday the 15th from noon to two o’clock. We won’t have layers or loaves, but come enjoy some light refreshments and take home a souvenir recipe card. See you there!


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One Response to Layers, Loaves, and LOLs: Making a Mockery of our Recipe Collection!

  1. Tara Mielnik says:

    7 Layer Salad is a staple at all family gatherings, and my “go-to” for pot-lucks. When I was doing research into the daily life of the Civilian Conservation Corps, I was amazed at how many things could be made with peanut butter… and apparently the peanut butter/pickle combination pre-dates Stephanie Plum!

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