11 Old School Foods That Need to Make a Comeback

They say what goes around comes back around, but we’re still patiently waiting for the return of medlars, sweet potato pudding, and other treats that have sadly fallen out of fashion through the centuries. Driven by new technologies and shifting lifestyles, food fads say a lot about their era: what was in vogue, what was unavailable, how much mayonnaise was too much (hint: there’s no such thing). Whenever someone finally invents a tasty time machine, these are the first old school favorites we’d like to try.

1. SWEET POTATO PUDDING

Not only was Thomas Jefferson a scholar and inventor, the guy had good taste in desserts too. Sweet potato pudding was a popular Colonial take on what we now know as sweet potato pie, made with sweet potatoes, eggs, sugar, and nutmeg, and TJ had his very own special recipe. The president’s version was a twist on Virginian Mary Randolph’s pudding, a recipe that was eventually published in Randolph’s popular 1824 cookbook, The Virginia Housewife. According to Randolph, a similar pudding could be made using Irish potatoes, but "it is not so good." Noted.

2. GREAT DEPRESSION CAKE

In case the name didn’t tip you off, pickings were slim during the Great Depression. Without easy access to ingredients like milk, eggs, and butter, which were scarce or being conserved for the war effort, bakers in the 1930s and '40s had to get creative. The result, in this case, was a simple but delectable cake heavy on spices like cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg, and dotted with sweet boiled raisins. Similar dishes date back to at least the Civil War.

3. WATERGATE SALAD


Calling this fluffy green concoction made primarily of Cool Whip and pistachio pudding mix a “salad” is a stretch, but that was common in the 1970s when the ambrosia-style dish made its official debut. Legend has it Kraft originally published a recipe for Pistachio Pineapple Delight sometime around 1975—though the exact timeline is fuzzy—and an enterprising Chicago editor reprinted and renamed it to cash in on the most talked about scandal of the day. When customers started asking Kraft about the recipe for Watergate Salad, the name stuck.

4. MEDLARS


If an apple a day keeps the doctor away, who knows what good a medlar—the apple’s foregone cousin—every now and again could do? The tougher, smaller fruit was around back in the Greek and Roman heydays, but really shined during the Victorian era. Inedible without being left to "blet" or partially rot (Shakespeare and other writers apparently used it as a symbol of premature decay in their work), the medlar was most often served with the flesh scooped out and eaten with cream and sugar. Today the stuff can be found in jellies and jams.

5. SEVEN LAYER SALAD

Wedged between the convenient, cream-soaked party foods of the 1970s and the sad attempts at healthier options in the 1980s (Diet Coke, we’re looking at you), the Seven Layer Salad seems a little confused—and a lotta delicious. The one-time go-to potluck pick has plenty of variations, but the basic concept is layers of lettuce, veggies, bacon, and cheese topped with mayo (or sometimes mayo mixed with sugar, which is decidedly not healthy). Preferably, you'd always serve this up in a glass container so fellow block-party diners could really bask in its layered loveliness.

6. PRE-MEAL FRUIT COCKTAILS

When Prohibition went into effect in 1920, much more than American drinking habits changed. In place of the Champagne or claret that had once been served with oysters or crudités before a meal, fruit cocktails dusted with sugar or sprinkled with marshmallows became fashionable.

7. BEEF BOURGUIGNON

French fare was très chic in the 1960s thanks to the popularity of Julia Child’s essential food bible Mastering the Art of French Cooking and her subsequent TV show, The French Chef, which debuted in 1963. Like most of Julia’s other recipes, the bourguignon was not for the faint-of-heart cook. The indulgent beef and wine dish is complicated to make and takes more than two hours, which is perhaps why it unfortunately doesn’t show up on many weeknight dinner menus today.

8. NUT RING

Shaping stuff into a fancy ring was big back when 1930s and '40s homemakers cooking on a serious budget (this was the Depression era, after all) were gravitating toward ingredients that would give them the most bang for their buck. Enter party rings made from hearty, filling, and cheap foods molded in aspic (savory gelatin) with the center of the ring filled with nuts, beans, and veggies plucked from Victory Gardens. 

9. DIPPIN' DOTS


Yes, this kooky frozen staple of '90s kids’ childhoods is still technically around, but the beaded ice cream is nowhere near as popular as it once was. Illinois microbiologist Curt Jones started developing the cryogenically frozen ice cream balls in 1987, and by 1998, high-tech (for the time) Dippin' Dots vending machines were a movie theater and theme park must. Sure, the dots would get stuck on your lips without fail and didn’t taste exactly like regular ice cream, but we have to admit the novelty was pretty fun.  

10. CALAS

Aside from sounding super appetizing (you can’t really go wrong with deep-fried rice fritters), calas have also been attributed to helping some enslaved Louisiana residents buy their freedom in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The once-popular New Orleans street food is thought to have been brought over by slaves coming from Africa and its profits were enough for some African American vendors to eventually buy their way out of bondage.

11. CHEESE BALL


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cheese magazine (yep, that’s thankfully a real thing) claims the old school cheese-molded-into-a-ball-or-log has been making a comeback in recent years, but we’d still like to see more of the nut-armored party snacks that date back to at least the early 1800s. Thomas Jefferson pops up again in formerly fashionable foodie history, as the politician was evidently the recipient of a massive sphere, known as "The Mammoth Cheese," which was made from the milk of more than 900 cows. It was transported to the White House lawn by wagon as a gift from a Massachusetts preacher. The version we know today dates from the early 20th century, when cookbooks would variously describe them as being appetizers, garnishes for salads, or even desserts. With such a versatile history, we'd support another full-fledged revival.

You Can Now Order—and Donate—Girl Scout Cookies Online

It's OK if you decide to ignore the recommended serving size on a box of these beauties.
It's OK if you decide to ignore the recommended serving size on a box of these beauties.
Girl Scouts

Girl Scouts may have temporarily suspended both cookie booths and door-to-door sales to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be deprived of your annual supply of everyone’s favorite boxed baked goods. Instead, you can now order Thin Mints, Tagalongs, and all the other classic cookies online—or donate them to local charities.

When you enter your ZIP code on the “Girl Scouts Cookie Care” page, it’ll take you to a digital order form for the nearest Girl Scouts organization in your area. Then, simply choose your cookies—which cost $5 or $6 per box—and check out with your payment and shipping information. There’s a minimum of four boxes for each order, and shipping fees vary based on quantity.

Below the list of cookies is a “Donate Cookies” option, which doesn’t count toward your own order total and doesn’t cost any extra to ship. You get to choose how many boxes to donate, but the Girl Scouts decide which kinds of cookies to send and where exactly to send them (the charity, organization, or group of people benefiting from your donation is listed on the order form). There’s a pretty wide range of recipients, and some are specific to healthcare workers—especially in regions with particularly large coronavirus outbreaks. The Girl Scouts of Greater New York, for example, are sending donations to NYC Health + Hospitals, while the Girl Scouts of Western Washington have simply listed “COVID-19 Responders” as their recipients.

Taking their cookie business online isn’t the only way the Girl Scouts are adapting to the ‘stay home’ mandates happening across the country. They’ve also launched “Girl Scouts at Home,” a digital platform filled with self-guided activities so Girl Scouts can continue to learn skills and earn badges without venturing farther than their own backyard. Resources are categorized by grade level and include everything from mastering the basics of coding to building a life vest for a Corgi (though the video instructions for that haven’t been posted yet).

“For 108 years, Girl Scouts has been there in times of crisis and turmoil,” Girl Scouts of the USA CEO Sylvia Acevedo said in a press release. “And today we are stepping forward with new initiatives to help girls, their families, and consumers connect, explore, find comfort, and take action.”

You can order cookies here, and explore “Girl Scouts at Home” here.

Can't Find Yeast? Grow Your Own at Home With a Sourdough Starter

Dutodom, iStock via Getty Images
Dutodom, iStock via Getty Images

Baking bread can relieve stress and it requires long stretches of time at home that many of us now have. But shoppers have been panic-buying some surprising items since the start of the COVID-19 crisis. In addition to pantry staples like rice and beans, yeast packets are suddenly hard to find in grocery stores. If you got the idea to make homemade bread at the same time as everyone on your Instagram feed, don't let the yeast shortage stop you. As long as you have flour, water, and time, you can grow your own yeast at home.

While many bread recipes call for either instant yeast or dry active yeast, sourdough bread can be made with ingredients you hopefully already have on hand. The key to sourdough's unique, tangy taste lies in its "wild" yeast. Yeast is a single-celled type of fungus that's abundant in nature—it's so abundant, it's floating around your home right now.

To cultivate wild yeast, you need to make a sourdough starter. This can be done by combining one cup of flour (like whole grain, all-purpose, or a mixture of the two) with a half cup of cool water in a bowl made of nonreactive material (such as glass, stainless steel, or food-grade plastic). Cover it with plastic wrap or a clean towel and let it sit in a fairly warm place (70°F to 75°F) for 24 hours.

Your starter must be fed with one cup of flour and a half cup of water every day for five days before it can be used in baking. Sourdough starter is a living thing, so you should notice is start to bubble and grow in size over time (it also makes a great low-maintenance pet if you're looking for company in quarantine). On the fifth day, you can use your starter to make dough for sourdough bread. Here's a recipe from King Arthur Flour that only calls for starter, flour, salt, and water.

If you just want to get the urge to bake out of your system, you can toss your starter once you're done with it. If you plan on making sourdough again, you can use the same starter indefinitely. Starters have been known to live in people's kitchens for decades. But to avoid using up all your flour, you can store yours in the fridge after the first five days and reduce feedings to once a week.

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