For our recent 1950's dinner, I researched this site on 1950's cooking for ideas. It's quite thorough, giving me all kinds of plans for our history presentation. After the Great Depression of the 1930's and World War II of the first half of the 1940's, the American economy stabilized well enough by the 1950's to allow families to buy their own homes in great number. Many of these homes were in newly built suburbs, on the outskirts of the cities, as showcased in the Michael J. Fox movie, Back to the Future.
In fact, Back to the Future is a great movie for garnering 1950's ideas and connecting the past to the present, or at least the 80's. Yet life today isn't nearly as different from the 80's as Back to the Future II predicted. By the way Marty McFly (the Fox character) is from 1985. He goes back to his parents' high school years in 1955 in movie 1. Movie 2 is set in the future, 2015. Then movie 3 goes back to 1885 if I recall correctly. I love time travel movies...hence my love of history, sewing historical clothing and finding an excuse to wear it and recreate the past!
Well, back to planning the 1950's dinner. In the backyards of these suburbanite homes, grilling became quite popular. How often do we see that in 1950's movies and tv shows? I'm thinking of the movie, The Right Stuff, when the future astronauts arrive at Edwards AFB...a desolate desert perfect for flight testing but not so great for families' morale. There is a scene where the husbands are in the backyard cheerfully grilling while the wives are commiserating indoors. Anyway...yes! We had to do some grilling for this history presentation!
There were many Hawaiian dinner parties in the 1950's, so I used that as the theme. We played Hawaiian music during the grilling and dinner portions of the evening. Also I set the table in a beach theme with bamboo mats, paper umbrellas, sea shells, and sea shell napkin holders and blue cloth napkins, all of which were used in our first Hawaiian dinner theme a few years ago when we portrayed the late 19th century, when Hawaii first became a huge element in American culture. Even the roses were in a vase that had banana leaves decorating the base.
As to what we would actually eat, I was quite a bit at a loss. Although there are many ideas at the link above, none of them were new to us. I always try to introduce something rather unique and interesting to our history presentation dinners. Then one day my daughter and I were at the commissary (a military grocery store) where some Koreans were offering samples of Korean food. I had never had any before. It was quite tasty. Suddenly I decided this would be our new food to try at this history presentation, to represent the Korean War. My son eventually decided to portray a pilot in the Korean War, so the story we developed was that he wanted us to try some of the food he experienced while he was stationed in Korea. This is highly plausible because my dad was stationed in Korea twice in the 70's and my husband was stationed there twice in the 80's and 90's (each time for an entire year). Both of them came home talking about some of the foods they had eaten and saying we had to try it too, though we never did.
Although I usually prefer to cook from scratch, I knew our summer would be quite busy so I decided to buy their prepped foods to speed our cooking process. I bought some Korean BBQ sauce, the pancake mix, and red bean paste and coconut milk. They also gave me a recipe booklet of everything we had sampled. That was a great help because all the writing on the packages was in Korean! Then I went to the meat section and saw a freezer cooler of quick sale items that had been greatly reduced in price. I dug around in there and found some Korean short ribs. These are quite expensive so the sale was a big help. Although I could have used the bbq sauce on any meat, this would be fun! And it was a treat! I don't remember how tough they were but we did enjoy them. Here is a recipe I found for Galbi, or Korean BBQ Short Ribs that look delicious! She explains exactly how to cook them so they will be tender because they are a tough cut. I'm looking forward to trying her recipe next time!
Then when the day of the presentaton came, I bought some zucchini to grate and put into the pancakes just like they served us. This is the only picture I got of them. They weren't bad. They reminded me of the scallion cakes I made for our 1920's presentation which were delicious...but then they were made from scratch. Here is a recipe I found for Hobak Buchim, or Zucchini Pancakes, which I'm sure taste even better than the package mix we used.
I couldn't remember what we ate with the red bean paste, which was quite sweet, but I found a traditional Korean sundae recipe that we tried with that and the milk. The idea was to recreate a snow covered mountain. This is called Patbingsu. Here is a recipe if you'd like to try. We weren't too keen with these, probably because they used coconut milk. I kept apologizing and saying I should have tried her recipe with the condensed milk. The coconut milk is quite thin in texture and flavoring. It's probably healthier too but only 1-2 tablespoons of the condensed milk is used per serving in the actual recipe.
I also wanted to try Yaki Mandu, which are Korean dumplings. My husband always talked about these but we didn't have time to make them this time. I asked dad about the recipe from Korea he always wanted to serve us. I can't remember the name and after all these years he couldn't find the recipe. When I mentioned Yaki Mandu he said it was good but he couldn't find any recipe like that either. However I'd like to try this Yaki Mandu recipe sometime.
Then I decided to round out the Korean food with a couple more items. I nearly made a casserole, quintessential to the era. However we were pressed for time and it really wasn't needed. However I did find a collection of President Eisenhower's recipes. Turns out he was quite the cook! We even saw this portrayed in the movie mini-series I saw as a kid and found on-line for my kids to watch, Backstairs at the White House. Of all his recipes the kids said we had to make the honeydew melon. Hmmm, more on this later...
Then to finish off the evening we had traditional ice cream sodas, to remind us of a 1950's drive-in, not that we have any great ones near us. No problem. We made our ice cream sodas and they were great!