Monday, April 23, 2012

Carnation Evaporated Milk (1953)

I'm sorry to be stuck in such a rut, but I just can't get over ads and recipes for 1950's convenience foods. Today, I've whipped up a batch of Carnation Evaporated Milk ads from the year of our Lord 1953. Wanna see the recipes for which early 1950's housewives were clamoring? I kno-o-o-ow that ya do.

My question today for all you vintage lovin' so-and-so's... to cook vintage, or not to cook vintage? Look at these ads with me and let's discuss, shall we?


Mwuh! Yeeech! Look upon this dish, millennial America, and despair (your waistlines). "Cheeseburger Loaf" is meant to be an improvement on the dinner staple of plain old meatloaf, but I don't know as adding a viscous layer of American cheese and a can of evaporated milk to the mix is necessarily a step up from what is already ketchup-y perfection. As Lileks-worthy as the above food illustration would seem, have you ever been to a Mexican restaurant where the management has taken proud photographs to show you the delicious comestibles available at their establishment? Chimichangas, quesadillas, and other pretty flippin delicious foods are rendered goopy, oily, and unappetizing by the camera's lens. And yet! If you ordered any of those items, and it came looking exactly like the photo, you would still eat it. The camera is not kind to "real food". Do you think this cheeseburger loaf is a victim of bad food photography, or is it just unappealing to you on all levels?


I love the "No Other Form of Milk Will Do!". So forget your other forms of milk, and embrace evaporated milk as your milk form of choice. This is a much more appetizing looking dish, in spite of the fact that I prefer meatloaf to tuna any day of the week. These "tuna puffs" are far more photogenic than the previous dish, plus you've got a host of greenery to draw attention from the "splat" look of chili sauce (which is optional).

However, this next recipe reminds me of an old school yard chant:

"U! G! L! Y! You ain't got no alibi, you ugly!"

How in the name of the Lord did anyone think this would sell cans of evaporated milk. I appreciate that Carnation Evaporated Milk comes from "contented cows", but I assure you that no one in my immediate family will be happy if I foist upon them the murky white chowder after ringing the dinner bell. "You just can't make it with Ordinary Bottled Milk"...well, probably not. Let's call the whole thing off.


I think the ad agency for Carnation really hit upon something when they switched gears from wholesome, hot, creamy foods-that-use-Evaporated-milk (and sick everyone out!) to the far safer culinary advertising grounds of ice-box-pies-that-everyone-thinks-are-delicious. Who...does an icebox pie? Carnation Lemon Fluff Pie does  not only look five-minute-easy-to-make, but is saved from gloopiness by the cute cherry garnish triangulating across its creme center. Because, as my beloved Ted Allen of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy says, "If it's not garnished, it's not finished." Bless him.

What about sherbet colored "Frosty Fruit Pies"? What about "yes"?


Betty Crocker's newest "Pie Discovery" warranted a two page advertising spread, with flavored fruit pies hoping to wipe out the ugly memory Carnation's involvement with the ham and pea and cream sauce monstrosity mentioned an ad ago. The flavors include "Frosty Pineapple", "Frosty Grape", "Frosty Orange" and "Frosty...." What the heck! How is "Frosty Prune" a flavor? Fifties' people, you are just going too far.


Which brings me to my vintage question of the day: as much as you love vintage cookbooks (and YOU KNOW I love a vintage cookbook), how often do you "cook vintage"? Are the recipes of the time right up your alley, or do you tend to steer clear of some of the creamy, rich, too-many-weird-flavors suggestions of the average midcentury menu? Do you have better luck with the desserts (as the above would imply) or do you make entree items as well? What non-cocktail recipes have you tried that were either hits or misses? Inquiring minds want to know!

I'll try to do something non-food oriented for you guys at some point, I promise. Had some great luck at the estate sales on Friday...will give you an update sometime this week, camera willing!

Til next time.


  1. I love carnation milk to this day so I would probably give these recipes a try. I think vintage is pretty cool food wise too. I went on a WW2 ration diet for a month back in October and ate nothing but "vintage" style food. I have never felt better and fitter. I may even go back on it again!

  2. I love vintage cookbooks and magazines too! I did try to find something to make from these and found I was at a loss in choosing. The main dish selections all seem to be heavy, unhealthy by our nutritional knowledge today, and chock full of beef and veal! Veal! Poor little baby cows! So, I relied on the tried and true staple of the times: Jello. I made it as directed in a raspberry flavor. Whipped it with a hand mixer after it set. Dispensed it into vintage parfait glasses. Re-chilled it as served with whipped cream as an additional choice at our Easter dinner. My 86 year old mom, 61 year old sister and my 16 year old daughter were delighted! I guess Jello still holds title to please kids of all ages! My 50 something self liked it too! Note though it was not celery, tomato nor Italian dressing flavored Jello! That would have been yuck. That is why those flavors are no longer on store shelves.

  3. i think cooked cheese is one of those foods that resists good photos, like bacon and hamburger meat. imagine that poor photographer getting the assignment to shoot that cheeseburger loaf. They probably knew they were doomed the moment they saw it. and oh my god that cream sauce makes my stomach churn. could the ham chunks look any less appetizing?
    my grandmother makes a KILLER lemon ice box pie, and i love the cherry decoration! i haven't done a ton of vintage cooking, mostly recipes from family. i have a great cheese ball recipe that i have been meaning to post about, with a cracker recipe from a 70's holiday cookbook.



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