20 Bizarre Retro Dishes From Holidays Past

Ring Around the Tuna


Cheapism is editorially independent. We may earn a commission if you buy through links on our site.
Ring Around the Tuna

Bizarre Retro Holiday Dishes

It’s easy to get caught up in nostalgia about “the good old days,” but after doing a deep dive into retro recipes, we are very grateful to be around today instead of back then. From Ham and Bananas Hollandaise to warm Dr. Pepper (really!), there seem to have been some rather questionable dishes in rotation. Thank goodness for progress! Read on for 20 bizarre retro dishes from holidays past.

Related: Jell-O Salad and Other Old-School Recipes We Secretly Love

Ribbon Sandwiches
Vintage 7-Up bottles
Vintage 7-Up bottles by Paebi (CC BY-SA)

Seven-Up in Milk

Unfortunately, this is exactly what it sounds like — equal parts lime soda and milk. An ad from the 1950s calls it “a delicious blended food drink” and claims it “a wholesome combination [ . . . ] that especially pleases children.” With Pepsi trying to make "pilk" happen with ads featuring Lindsay Lohan, this might get a resurrection.

Recipe: The Society Pages

For more great food and dining tips, please sign up for our free newsletters

Scotch Egg
Peeled Banana
Fabio Balbi/shutterstock

Ham and Bananas Hollandaise

Hailing from McCall's Great American Recipe Card Collection of 1973, it’s hard to understand how anyone could have approved this recipe, let alone let it go to print. In it, you douse bananas in lemon juice, wrap them in ham, throw on some mustard, then bake them. Then, throw on some Hollandaise for good measure! The question that everyone forgot to ask is, why?

Recipe: Vintage Recipe Cards

Ring Around the Tuna

Ring Around the Tuna

This, uh, creation comes from a 1962 cookbook called “Joys of Jell-O.” The term “Joy” may be a strong word here — the recipe entails dissolving Jell-O, adding vinegar and onion and chilling it, then peppering in celery, cucumber, pimento, olives, and flaked tuna. This was describe as: “A beautiful jewel-like entree salad for your luncheon or buffet table.” Jewel-like! Interesting!

Recipe: Lakehouse Publishing

Related: 22 Things You Didn't Know About Jell-O

Spam Birds

Spam Birds

We’re not necessarily opposed to Spam (waste not, want not), but we are absolutely opposed to this ’50s-era recipe. Wrap Spam around stuffing, spear it with some toothpicks, and voila! Pros: It’s easy to make. Cons: everything else. It’s festive if you don’t care about things tasting good!

Recipe: Canned Treats

Pumpkin-Orange Mélange

Pumpkin-Orange Mélange

This 1974 Weight Watchers recipe claims to be a dessert, but clearly was an elaborate prank on anyone dieting. Just mix a bunch of orange stuff together with artificial sweetener, and throw some nonfat “whipped cream” on it, also with artificial sweetener! While spooning it sadly into your mouth, reflect on your poor choices! (For a look at what people eat in other countries, check out these Traditional Holiday Dishes From Around the World.)

Recipe: Vintage Recipe Cards

Related: 25 Simple Depression-Era Desserts That Actually Are Indulgent

deviled ham

Goblin Sandwiches

This spooky recipe from 1946 has you toast Brazil nuts and mix them with deviled ham, avocado, and Worcestershire sauce. Use this mixture as filling for sandwiches with doughnuts as your bread slices. Halloween would be extra scary with these around.

Recipe: The Devil’s Tale

Stephen Ackerman/istockphoto

Banana Sardine Boats

This nausea-inducing recipe (which is almost not even a recipe, just a tragic way to combine food) hails from a series of booklets put out by the Fruit Dispatch Co. of New York in the late ’30s and early ’40s. We would love to hear whether these recipes were actually tested, and if the recipes developers were of sound mind. The answer to at least one of those questions has to be no, right?

Recipe: Ephemera Obscura

Hot Dr. Pepper
Pickled Meatloaf

Jellied Tomato Refresher

Ever had a sip of gazpacho and thought, “Hey, I wish this were reimagined as a Jell-O dish”? Neither have we. We aren’t sure who was running Weight Watchers in 1974, but we have a few questions.

Recipe: The Weight Watchers Recipes of 1974

Campbell's Condensed Soup, Cream of Celery

Salmon Shortcake

The folks at Campbell’s Soup in 1954 had some weird ideas about what constituted food. This may technically be edible, just not something we would ever like to eat. (For more appealing options, consider our 30 Cheap and Easy Recipes From Canned Foods.)

Recipe: Pinterest

Santa’s Whiskers
Santa’s Whiskers by rochelle hartman (CC BY)

Santa’s Whiskers

Another Better Homes and Gardens recipe, this one from 1979. It’s basically a cookie recipe, featuring candied cherries, pecans, and flaked coconut. It’s not that this sounds terrible, it’s that we’d like to save our calories for something actually tasty. And whoever created this is definitely on Santa’s naughty list.

Recipe: Vintage Recipe Cards

Perfection Salad Ingredients
Perfection Salad Ingredients by Emily (CC BY-NC)

Perfection Salad

The Perfection Salad, also from McCall's Great American Recipe Card Collection of 1973, includes apple juice, lemon juice, vinegar, carrots, celery, cabbage, green pepper, and pimentos. A writer at Cracked who made it as a sort of gruesome anthropological experience described it as if “sugar water, Monterey Souffle Salad, and Spam [were] tossed in a bucket, then left outside for two days.” In other words, we’ll pass.

Recipe: Vintage Recipe Cards

Related: Quick and Easy Cold Salads for People Who Hate Lettuce

Christmas Candle Salad
Wikimedia Commons

Christmas Candle Salad

The only thing you need to know about the 1958 Christmas Candle Salad is the ingredients:

1½ envelopes (1½ tablespoons) unflavored gelatin
1/3 cup cold water
2 cups canned cranberry juice cocktail
4 ripe bananas
8 salted almonds
Salad greens
We were rooting for something edible until the word “mayonnaise.”  

Recipe: Vintage Recipe Cards

Related: Depression-Era Holiday Recipes That Are Actually Delicious

Sausage Boatees

Sausage Boatees

Hailing from a 1967 set of Marguerite Patten recipe cards, these “Sausage Boatees” are essentially pork sausage skewered with American cheese and pineapple chunks. Though these require almost no work, we still would venture to say that they’re not worth the effort.

Recipe: Dinner Is Served 1972

Fish Sticks
Mateusz Gzik/shutterstock

Fish Sticks with Pineapple

Fish Sticks with Pineapple is exactly what it sounds like. Originating from the "Kitchens of Dorothy Taylor” in 1973, it may not be the worst option on the list, but we are nonetheless not interested!

Recipe: Vintage Recipe Cards

Cream Cheese

Frozen Cheese Salad

Another gem from the 1974 Weight Watchers recipe collection. Freeze cream cheese with some other stuff and add raw broccoli florets! Then, give up food forever, due to the trauma you just experienced! Quite a diet.

Recipe: The Weight Watchers Recipes of 1974

Bananas with Herring
Ivan Murauyou/istockphoto

Bananas with Herring

Bananas, draped in herring, each garnished in two leaves of parsley. Seems to us that someone was floundering in the kitchen when they dreamed this up.

Recipe: Liveabout