Wednesday, April 27, 2011


I can’t say why I love recipe pamphlets – you know, the kind that manufacturers such as Kraft, General Mills, Dole, Campbell’s, etc., publish to encourage us to use their products. I used to clip order forms for such pamphlets from magazine ads and send away for them. They ought to give them to us – even pay us to take them -- but usually they ask something for them, if only postage / handling. These days I don’t “buy” so many, but I’m still interested, especially in those published prior to 1970. (1970 denotes modern times to me.)

I recall the day in 1991 when we were cleaning out the basement at the family home in Orofino. We pulled open a drawer packed with recipes, appliance manuals, product-specific leaflets and pamphlets, etc. I hadn’t seen them before – at least, not as a whole collection. Mother simply stored them away because she could. As I declared my interest in this treasure trove, my half-sisters rolled their eyes and told me to have at it.
So, I have some pamphlets that came from Mother, a few that were Grandma Ina’s, and of course, some that are mine. These pamphlets / booklets abound at antique and thrift stores, but I usually don’t pay much attention. It has to be meaningful on some level for me to buy in.

Meaningful -- like the other night when I was listening to a podcast of an old Fibber McGee and Molly radio program, c.1950, sponsored by PET evaporated milk. The announcer was advertising “Everyday Dishes that Taste Like More,” by Mary Lee Taylor. Tune in on Saturday morning, he was saying, to hear Mary Lee Taylor share the “recipe of the week” over most of these NBC stations. In my sleepy state, I made a mental note to tune in – and then realized this happened in “old time” and wasn’t a “real time” possibility. But my curiosity was piqued. 

An internet search revealed some history about Mary Lee Taylor. She was a nutritionist and home economist as well as an accomplished chef, I read. But digging deeper I learned that Mary Lee Taylor was a pseudonym created by Erma Perham Proetz, who handled the PET evaporated milk account at the Gardner Advertising Company in St. Louis, MO, from 1923 until her passing in 1944. Mrs. Proetz developed a test kitchen for PET and became the first “Mary Lee Taylor” on radio. 

So, in Mrs. Proetz I discovered another wonderful retro woman. In her lifetime, she was an award-winning advertising executive and mentor to other women. Posthumously, she was the first woman elected to the Advertising Hall of Fame. As for “Mary Lee Taylor,” I’m afraid I don’t know what happened to her. The Saturday morning cooking series was the longest-running cooking program on radio, beginning November 7, 1933 on CBS and concluding October 9, 1954 on NBC. Whatever happened to Mary Lee, the folks at PET Milk aren’t saying. They don’t even mention the radio program in their history timeline. 

Anyway, on a lark I decided to see if I could find the recipe pamphlet, “Everyday Dishes that Taste Like More” on Amazon – and I did! So, I ordered it. And it came.

“Bet those recipes are laden with fat,” observed Mike, alias “Jack Sprat.” 

But I didn’t think they were so bad. And anyway, I know how to fix them.  KW


drMolly, the BeanQueen said...

Kathy - we have so much in common! - I love, love, love those phamphlets and have a small collection myself. & 'tis true, they do have to "speak to you" to make you want to keep them. I never thought about looking for them online - good idea!

Leah said...

Oh what fun. I love old recipe pamplets. In the 40's & 50's, it was common to cook with canned milk. I'll have to get out my box of old pamplets and reminisce. Mashed potatoes using canned milk was common at our house. Such a creamy rich flavor. Yummy!

Kudos to Erma Perham Proetz. I worked at an ad agency for 25 years and a woman executive was rare, even in the 80's, 90's & 2000's.

Funny about the high fat recipes of that day. Maybe our mothers cooked meals that were "laden with fat" as Mike said, but very seldom did you see fat children or parents for that matter. That extra fat in the diet was used up by old fashioned exercise. Kids played outdoors ALL the time. Parents (in a town or city) walked everywhere. Our lifestyles needed more calories and we used them. Of course, there were no fast food places back then. The obesity problem today can be found squarely on the menuboards of these (fast food) mongers.

Kathy said...

It's great to hear that you also enjoy these pamphlets.

Apparently canned milk was more affordable than fresh "back in the day." I don't remember that my mother used it that much.

Yes, fast food and "super-sizing" have taken their toll on our waistlines. I think, too, that we have lost sight of the balanced diet, the importance of fresh fruit and vegetables, and "normal" portion size.

Hallie said...

Babies don't have teeth when they learn to walk, do they? That chompy little baby looks a little creepy.

Leah: So interesting that you worked at an ad agency! I worked in HR at a small agency for a very short time--it was unique. Have you watched Mad Men?

Leah said...

No Hallie, I don't watch Mad Men. I've seen bits & pieces and it seems very dark to me. It was a time when women in an office (and at home) were treated so poorly. I lived through it and I don't enjoy reminiscing about that time period.

I worked in Kansas City, MO, Los Angeles and Costa Mesa, CA for the ad agency. It was a giant company with offices worldwide and the clients in the U.S. were generally national accounts (ads run in all markets).

Kathy said...

Yes, babies have some teeth when they learn to walk, but I think you're still right, Hallie. The "baby" in the ad was likely older -- someone who might respond to commands.

Leah -- I don't watch "Mad Men" either. Someone told me it wasn't uplifting. And like I said, my cut-off for nostalgic interests is 1970.

murray.warnock said...

"Jack Sprat" - made me LOL! As did Hallie's comment re: the creepy "chompy little baby".

Leah said...

Kathy: If I'm not mistaken, I believe "Mad Men" takes place in the 1950's. That was a time when want-ads used terms like: Girl Friday (to specify jobs for women only). Ads also were gender specific and if the ad said "Man wanted" you knew that a woman couldn't apply.

Another comment on the 1950's. A few months ago, I was looking at the application I completed in 1955 when I purchased my china. It was a credit app and I planned to make monthly payments. This form had a box to list your age and RACE. Today people would wonder why you had to tell a business what race you were. In that era, that was just the way it was.

Leah said...

Another thought about canned Milk. I believe that it became popular in an era when not everyone had reliable refrigeration. Maybe a family had an "ice box," but that was only good as long as the block of ice didn't melt.

Chris said...

I have some of those old pamphlets, too. Mom, of course, still has all her cookbooks, etc., but when Dan's Mom passed away, I loved picking through her recipes and brought a lot of books, recipe cards, etc., home. I confess to not using them, but I smile when I see them and think of her.

Kathy said...

Hi Chris! I think handwritten recipe cards are the coolest. I even have a few that you wrote! We're losing the sense of that, I think, as we seek and find recipes online -- or even computerize our own collections.

Leah said...

Oh this is so funny. Be sure to read the part at the end about the milkman.

Today, I dug my box of recipe pamplets out of a closet. I sat on the floor and spread them out as I went back in time. I learned to cook from 3 thick booklets my mother gave me in 1956. That was the year I was married. They were in a set of 24 by the Culinary Arts Institute in Chicago. Really basic stuff. One is the "Casserole Cookbook" where I found Tuna Spagetti and still make it today (white sauce). The others are "Meals for Two" and "Quick Dishes for the Woman in a Hurry."

Most of the pamplets were from brand name foods. Yogurt, pasta, tomato sauce, flour, milk, beef, popcorn, chocolate, etc. etc.

One little booklet was for Cottage Cheese and when I looked inside, I saw a note that I had written telling where it came from. It was a gift from the milkman we had in Columbia, South Carolina. I had joined my husband while he was in the Army at Ft. Jackson.

1957 was a steamy hot Southern summer. Our bed was by the windows and I kept the windows open. My husband left for work early and I would go back to bed. To get to our door, the milkman had to walk down the walkway (on the side of the house) beside the bedroom windows. He could look right in and see me in bed. He was a cheerful fellow and would stop and talk to me on his way to the door. I felt a little uncomfortable and told my husband. He wasn't happy about the scenario. One morning my husband stayed home to "greet" the milkman. I can't remember what the conversation was between the two men, but my husband was pleased that he let the milkman know that I wasn't always alone. And I think the milkman was surprised when a man came to the door.

Memories of long ago kept rushing back as I went through the pamplets. I remembered places and people along with a lifestyle long gone.

Hallie said...

Leah--you have such good stories! I'm waiting for you to start up a blog. :) I bet with a husband in the Army you lived all over--in fact, that probably explains the cities you listed with your ad career. If you don't write a blog, maybe a book!

Leah said...

Hallie: Actually, the ad agency job came after I was divorced in 1971. "In the Army," we lived in Columbia, South Carolina and Kaiserslautern, Germany. In my civilian life, I've lived in Independence, MO (Harry Truman's hometown and mine); Seattle; Kansas City, MO; Denver, CO; Wichita, KS; Los Angeles, Costa Mesa and Laguna Woods, CA (where I live now). Whew!

Interesting note about Seattle. I went to high school there for one year (1953) and have kept in touch with 3 girlfriends in the area all these years. The Seattle area has such wonderful people and that fact stands out the most from that time in my life.

No blog in my future. But I have written a children's book. Need to get busy and find a publisher.

Your mom is a great writer, but I'll bet you knew that.

Kathy said...

Thank you for the compliment, Leah.