31 May 2010


A note before we begin Day 14's adventures: The phrase "leave them wanting more" hardly describes my approach to things. Once this dancing monkey gets attention by doing something, I usually wear it out so badly that I turn people off me forever. Had it not been for the fact that I stated that this was just for two weeks, and my reasons for keeping the 50s Housewife Experiment that short was for the health of my body and self-employment, you can bet this experiment would have carried on and on and on. My blog would have started to feature strange appearances by someone named Cousin Oliver and a post about yours truly taking up water skiing lessons just to show off vintage swimwear.

While Day 14 marked the last official day of the 50s Housewife Experiment, there will be a few more posts that fall into the 50s housewife category. We'll be updating you on our "stats" (weight change, blood pressure, spending, etc.) since taking on this project, going over what was learned by living as a 1950s housewife, and looking at what we might try to incorporate into our everyday lives from it. Patrick will also do a guest post to give his side of the story - and I've had to promise not to edit it. Gah! I believe the phrase you're searching for is, "payback's a bitch."

There may also be the odd occasion where "The 50s Housewife Returns" for "a very special episode of Jen But Never Jenn" as there really is so much in these household guides that could still be exploited.

Finally, I'll be doing a "Phase 2" of the 50s Housewife Experiment where I take on the same / similar goals she had, but do it all 2010-style with modern ideas and information on food, exercise, entertainment and of course - technologies. It will likely lack the kitsch of the 50s, but I imagine there's an audience out there who wouldn't mind seeing poor Patrick choke down some vegan cuisine.

So without further ado, onto that last day:

The morning started a bit late, something typical for a Sunday in the Byck household. I decided for this last day that I would make Patrick a bigger breakfast (well, really, brunch) and take a picture of it, even though it was hardly wacky.
What you see there is a grilled onion and cheddar omelet, homemade hash browns, sausage, toast with butter, half a grapefruit, coffee, milk and an orange and grapefruit sparkler (fresh squeezed orange juice, fresh squeezed grapefruit, topped with a bit of 7-UP).

I realize I haven't been featuring a lot of breakfasts or lunches throughout the 50s Housewife Experiment. Breakfasts weren't all that loopy then and our lunches were usually just leftovers or a really simple brown bag of peanut butter and jelly, fruit and a slice of cheese (I often had a tomato and lettuce sandwich for lunch with fruit and tea - which was actually really nice and light).

That isn't to say there weren't "creative" lunch and leftover ideas to choose from, though. I guess I just didn't hate my husband enough to send him off to work with things like these to eat (for Good Housekeeping's Salad Book):

That tomato salad in the middle, in particular, reminds me of the scene from The Empire Strikes Back when Han Solo slices open his Tauntaun and the white bowels explode out.

When Mia Farrow looks into the crib at the end of Rosemary's Baby, this is what I imagine was staring back at her (from Good Housekeeping's Quick 'N' Easy Cook Book):

And finally, check out this combination of food (from Searchlight Recipe Book):
The lesson from this recipe: Valium is a hell of a drug.

I had decided my final meal for the 50s housewife project wasn't going to be revolting, necessarily, but would be quirky. I settled on making the now-famous Frank n' Bean Bake, broccoli with "Cheez" sauce and Apple Marshmallow Pie.

The Dells had invited us up to the patio for a mid-day BBQ but as it was my last 50s housewife day and I wanted to take it oh-so seriously, we took a rain-check so that I could keep things "on brand" with my experiment. Plus, brunch was pretty substantial and as delicious as BBQ would be, I wanted our appetites strong for dinner.

Shortly after brunch Patrick asked if there was any problem with his sister, Erin, and her two dogs dropping by in a few hours for a quick hello. That sounded great to me (I am lucky to have marvelous in-laws), plus it was enough notice to make sure the condo was up to 50s standards for guests.

As I mentioned the day before, the place doesn't seem quite so sparkly-clean when the both of us have been lounging around. A tidy was definitely necessary before Erin would come by - but it was totally doable and I still had time to finish the last of the laundry.

Perhaps 30 minutes later, as I was folding towels, I heard Patrick call me from the other room.

"I just got a text," Patrick said. "I told Barry to come by and he's on his way over."

I looked up from the laundry and thought, "We can do this. We can totally whip the place into decent shape if we work quickly. There's the breakfast dishes to be cleaned, some straightening up of the living room, a spot-clean of the bathroom, sweeping the floors ..." and then I heard one of my most hated sounds coming from the living room:

E.A. Sports - it's in the game.

Oh, no, he di'n't! Apparently, if you're my husband and your sister and your best friend are en route and the home needs a solid once-over, that's the prime time to start up the ol' Playstation.

And that's when I got a serious case of 50s Housewife Rage.

I won't go into the dirty details, but the language I used to yell at my husband may not exactly have been becoming of a lady. My bow may have gone flying in a certain person's direction. Jabba the Hut may have suddenly showed up and asked "Hey, how did my Rancor get out?", did a double-take of me and then said, "Oh, sorry, I thought you were ... er, my bad." (And yes, that's my second Star Wars reference in this post. You know I'm a total dork, right?)

In any case, Patrick was up and wiping the bathroom vanity moments later even though he didn't understand why it needed to be done as our place was already "totally clean."

In the midst of this, his mother called and I'm sure she unfortunately caught bits of me cursing and muttering each time I came across something Patrick had skipped or "forgot" to do in the cleaning process. That awful, raging woman who married her little prince surely didn't deserve to be called a Byck!

But - we got it done and by the time Barry arrived, we were able to pretend all was idyllic in our little 50s household. Patrick's sister soon arrived as well, with two hilarious dogs in tow - which gave me an idea to test something from the day before.

I still had the leftovers (practically the entire thing) of the Asparagus Meat Mold in the fridge, stinking up the joint. Was it in fact the dog food I made it out to be?

Even the docile lab, Ziggy, was thrilled when I pulled the little meat monster out of the fridge. Oakley, her excitable Jack Russell, lost his mind and all manners and began jumping for it. I put it in a bowl (but excluded the peas / olives / mayonnaise part), laid some newspaper down and let them have at it.

They loooooved it.

When I started this experiment, I had no idea that I would become such a gourmet.

Anyway ... Erin and the dogs eventually had to go, and while it would have been nice if she could have stayed longer, I have to admit I was relieved the dogs were out of there before the Asparagus Meat Mold made it fully through their systems (we all know that was not going to be pretty). As it was a lovely day outside and since my dinner recipes were fairly easy, we decided to all take a little break and have a drink on the rooftop patio.

And that was my 50s housewife downfall.

You see, for this experiment, I've been greeting Patrick with a new cocktail nearly every day on his return from work. A vodka martini. A gin martini. A Manhattan. A Cuba Libra. A Tom Collins, etc., etc. This meant that our bar had a little of everything to choose from.

Unfortunately, a little of everything is what we decided to drink that afternoon.

How three grown adults with plenty of experience with the pitfalls of mixing drinks didn't stop the following from happening, I'll never know, but in the course of a few hours, we EACH had the following:

  • Pimm's with 7 Up
  • Rum and coke
  • Canadian Club and coke
  • Gin and tonic
  • Vodka and tonic
  • Just straight vodka because we ran out of mix
Oh, how I wish I could say I was exaggerating.

We drank this all while sitting under the sun with nothing in our stomachs besides the day's earlier brunch.

And then Barry had a brilliant idea that we should go for beer at The Press Club. Genius! Off we went, a trio of well-lubricated tools for - you guessed it - more alcohol. We were met by a friend, Pat Travers (we know a lot of Patricks), and Barry's fiance, Brigitte, who were no doubt proud to hang with people who were swaying while seated. Then it was beer, beer, beer. I ordered the organic type! Because that was healthy!

Parts of the evening are still a little fuzzy but I recall at one point my husband was yapping with the people at the table next to us (because everyone wants to start drunk-talking with us) and he mentioned my 50s housewife experiment to them.

"So, she's pretending to be a 50s housewife right now?" they asked confused.

I'm sure if they were looking over at me at that moment (and they probably were - but I couldn't quite tell as my eyes had started floating off in different directions by that point) they would have seen an exceptionally disheveled woman, slumping in her seat, licking her arm in attempt to cool it from the slight sun burn received that afternoon.

"I'm supposed to be making pie," I bellowed.

Finally, some force of nature - which may have been the bouncer - got us up out of our seats and heading home. We caught a cab and as Patrick and I were driven home, I started to sulk.

"This was supposed to be my last day with the 50s housewife thing and I totally ruined it," I slurred.

"Remember, we started this for fun. It didn't really matter if you did it all. We had fun today regardless," said Patrick, who was clearly able to hold his liquor better than I could, but was still totally wasted.

"Whhhhhhhhhyyyyyyyy did we get so druuuuuuunk? I had a plaaaaaan. FRANK N' BEAN BAKE. THERE WAS GOING TO BE FRANK N' BEAN BAKE," I moaned.

"Oh my god, I'm starving," said Patrick.

I had to agree with him. It was 11:52 P.M. and we'd been drinking all day with only one meal in the morning tiding us over.

The cab dropped us off at our place and we decided to run to Wendy's to get some food. Ugh. What an epic, epic failure of a 50s day. I had decided, though, that if I didn't technically have a bite of fast food until after midnight, when my experiment was officially over, it wasn't cheating.

We ordered our food (just in time, too, as the restaurant closed at 12:00 A.M.) and came home with it. Before I could eat, I had to go to the bathroom. As I was sitting on the toilet, peeing out gallons of alcohol, I kept thinking about the blog and what a horrible, silly ending this was for it. I contemplated lying about the day and making up some sort of truly 50s-themed adventure ... but then I'd have to kill all the witnesses that I was drinking with, and that wasn't a very nice thing to do. I thought about extending the experiment for a day just to get one more 50s meal in, but that seemed ridiculous too. And then I thought it was just best to be honest and fess up to my disastrous non-50s day - because not all experiments are meant to be perfect.

I nearly cried when I emerged from the washroom. Normally when we have fast food, we splay it all out in the packaging it came in and slob out on the couch to gorge ourselves. This time, while I was on the can feeling sorry for myself, Patrick had pulled our burgers and fries out of the bags for us:
On plates. At the table. Like at a good little 50s home. He pulled out my chair, gave me a drunk but sweet kiss and said, "After you, Mrs. Byck."

I don't think he even realized what he had done.

I love him.

Image Sources: Dole advertisement, circa 1946 and The Bride's Reference Book.


30 May 2010

He's a Good Sport

Sorry for the delay in getting Day 13 of the 50s Housewife Experiment up! All will be explained with Day 14's post. ALSO: What is *up* with that man's hat in the picture to the left? Is this a glimpse into what happened once Maid Marian and Robin Hood finally settled down?

Never in my life have I ever thought of weekends as "disruptive" - but, boy, they sure are!

My weekly schedule has come to rule my life and when someone is laying on the couch in the midst of it, throwing newspapers and dirty dishes and socks around, I have a weird inability to do my 50s housewife thing as programmed. Instead, I growl from the kitchen (which is still totally my territory) and peer angrily into the living room that is becoming a mess with every second that passes.

Perhaps that is why I decided to serve my most disgusting dish yet, the Asparagus Meat Mold.

I had failed the dessert gelatin, floundered through two salad gelatin creations and now finally graduated myself to the entree level of jell-o based edibles.

This recipe, found in my Searchlight Recipe Book, sounded revolting, which is why I had to do it. The unflavored gelatin was first mixed with beef broth and placed in the fridge to partially set. Then, in a ring mold, the following were placed:

  • Asparagus tips
  • Chopped asparagus stalks
  • Celery
  • Cooked chicken livers
  • Cooked ground beef
  • Salt
The beef broth jell-o was then dumped on top of everything and all was sent to the fridge to set.

That recipe was all kinds of wrong, just like this article -> I found in one of my magazines. In case you didn't know, the term "gyp" is derived from the ethnic group "Gypsy". It's not entirely unlike coming across an article titled "Selling Your Gold: Tips To Avoid Getting Jewed at the Jeweler" Ugh - just writing that made me feel like the worst scum ever.

Anyway, the mold was taken care of earlier in the day so that it would be ready for dinner. I then went about doing several 50s housewife things like the "light dusting" of rooms (besides the living room - as that was occupied by dear husband and would have been pointless), hit the farmer's market with Jacquelyn and Ewan, planned my final 50s housewife meal for Sunday and made a few phone calls to friends (in lieu of e-mail and Facebook messages, my old standby).

By 6 P.M., my Asparagus Meat Mold had enough time to set and the dinner hour was upon us. I wanted this one mold to be perfect, so I used all the advice I had been receiving on gelatin-based structures from the blog's comment section. From my dad's cousin, Barb, I learned to grease the mold ahead of time. From my aunt, Janice, I received the advice to soak the mold, up to the rim, in warm water and then gently squeeze the mold out using a hot tea towel.

I did all of this, and then it happened.

The mold slipped out of the ring like butter and onto the lettuce-decorated plate as desired. Maybe I was caught up in the moment, but I swear the room suddenly filled with the sound of the Top Gun guitar solo. (P.S. Please watch that song's video - I think that dude in silver has to be my next Halloween costume and I need people to 'get' what I am.)

It was glorious. It was inspiring. It was about to get its hole filled with canned peas, olives and mayonnaise. (A sex joke here crosses every line, so I’ll refrain for once.) But, yes, you heard / read me right: Canned peas, olives and mayonnaise. If any of you ever wish to become bulimic and need a good trigger to keep on path, just keep rereading that last sentence over and over again until you're skinny - or just keep looking below:
As pleased as I was with myself for finally creating a mold that worked, the feeling gave way to the smell of the Asparagus Meat Mold hitting my unsuspecting nostrils. Until smell-i-vision is developed, you can get a sensory appreciation for the dish by going to your grocery store's pet food aisle, cracking open a can of ALPO and inhaling deeply.

It wasn't exactly the first time the food I was about to eat had been compared to dog food. My father, for example, has long attested that Chef Boyardee and Dr. Ballard are in fact the same man. It turns out he wasn't quite right about that one; it's Dr. Ballard and Jenny Craig who are the same person. No wonder Kristie Alley couldn't wait to get off that program.

Anyway - according to my rules of the 50s housewife experiment, Patrick had to try at least one bite of everything I made. I knew ahead of time that this thing was going to be vomit-worthy, so what you don't see off-camera is a stack of hot dogs that I made for him as a reward for suffering through his one and only bite.

For your viewing pleasure, I've documented a bit of the Meat Mold action:
It looked like dog food, it smelled like dog food and while I can't totally confirm it, I'm pretty sure the taste we experienced was also just like dog food. Who knew that there would be a time in my life when hot dogs were being used as the chaser.

Once we had our fill of palate-cleansing lips and assholes, it was time to get going as Patrick and I had a date planned! I had tried to think of something that would have been 50s-era appropriate and with no malt shops or sock hops about or a car to go to a drive-in movie, only one thing came to mind - bowling!

We got to Bathurst Bowlerama around 7:45 P.M. and wow - was the place ever jumping:
Want a quiet, intimate date? Go bowling in Toronto on a Saturday night. By the time we left (around 10 P.M.), the "prime" bowling time, only two other lanes were being used.

But back to us! The 50s housewife was finally freed of her heels and got to wear some bowling shoes - the first flat shoes yours truly has put on since this wacky project started nearly two weeks before. I also had my first beer - a Heineken (with a nod to Betty Draper) - that night. I'm still not sure a 50s housewife would have been caught drinking beer (it seems so unladylike) but I was willing to be gossiped about at the PTA in exchange for the cold loveliness of hops and malted barley.

Now, I've been called many things (amazing, talented, bendy in the right places) - but athletic or coordinated have never been one of them. Check out these disastrous bowling scores:
But you know what? It was fun. It was really, really fun. I think we'll be making a return trip, perhaps with a few friends in tow and maybe we can drum up some business for the poor Bathurst Bowlerama. While I'm not sure if our friends can bowl well, I know they'll exceed at running up the beer tab. Hey, business is business, right?

On the bus ride home, Patrick turned me.

"I like being with you," he said.

"I like being with you, too," I replied.

Not a bad way to end a day.

Image Sources: S.O.S. advertisement, circa 1946 and Today's Woman Magazine, November 1952. "How To Beat The Merchant Gyps."


29 May 2010

Before, After and Baby's First Martini

The morning of Day 12 of the 50s Housewife Experiment started very early. At about 5:15 A.M., Patrick decided he could no longer sleep so he might as well get off to work. I know this because he announced it loudly, waking me up.

"You don't have to make my breakfast," he said pitifully, trying to elicit some kind of sympathy for himself.

"Good," I said as I turned over to sleep.

I had only gone to bed about three hours earlier, as working on some freelance copywriting and writing the world's longest blog post had dragged on into the night.

I contemplated getting up as I heard him stomp around, but I figured he was a big boy, that there was plenty in the fridge, and he could fix himself a bowl of cereal in the least.

Later in the day while I was doing the usual cleaning, I got a call from Patrick at work.

"So, am I supposed to come home for lunch or something?"

"What?" I asked.

"Well, there wasn't a packed lunch for me in the fridge. And I'm really hungry because I didn't get breakfast," he moaned.

"Are you serious?" I exclaimed.

"No, just joking," he lied.

"Ok, then. So, what's up?" I asked.

"Uh, nothing. I just called to say hello. Well, I better go. Got work to do," he stammered, knowing I was totally going to blog this conversation.

It's true that I didn't pack him his lunch the night before. I figured I would do it that morning when I was getting his breakfast - not realizing that he was going to want to get up during an hour that vampires would still be out and about. What's sad is that he looked in the fridge, didn't see something prepared just for him so he went without. You have to realize that our fridge is well stocked. There was prepared egg salad, salmon salad, salami, washed lettuce and tomatoes, bread, fruit, cake - all super easy to create a lunch with or just grab and go.

I'm thinking this 50s Housewife Experiment is affecting someone's ability to fend for himself.

I should also tell you now that I didn't make dinner either. Bad housewife, bad! Patrick had plans to go to a friend's place for their monthly poker game and BBQ and since there was so much in the house ready to eat - ahem - I didn't see the sense in making dinner for just me.

Plus, I was full from my liquid lunch! Yesterday my friend Jacquelyn came over with her sweet baby, Ewan, for mid-day martinis and cake. That's the great thing about friends having babies - they're around in the middle of the day and always up for getting drunk.

As you can see, Ewan is a boy after my own heart.

After a joyful visit that involved gossiping, refills and holding Ewan until he made the most terrified cry ("Wait a minute! You're not the blond one! GAH, GET OUT OF MY PERSONAL SPACE!"), mother and son were off, and the 50s Housewife had to drunkenly get on with her tasks.

I tackled something huge yesterday that I had been massively procrastinating on - our cleaning closet. It's a touch ironic that something called a cleaning closet was such an epic dump. The place that holds our washer-dryer and all the cleaning supplies has been a disgusting mess pretty much since the moment we moved in. It wasn't only disorganized, the floor was dirty. Like, when I got everything off the ground, the scene from Raiders of the Lost Arc where Salah says "Why does the floor move?" came immediately to mind. Why? Because there were BUGS ALL OVER. Little carpet beetle larva running around, fat from gorging on dryer lint, the foie gras of dust.

Furthermore, there was mouse poop merrily sprinkled about. That closet had clearly been a place of great fun for the mice. Now that I'm done cleaning the whole thing out and organized it all, I imagine the following conversation is being had behind our walls:

Mouse 1: Did you hear they tore down Club Clozet?

Mouse 2: What?! No! Why would they do that?

Mouse 1: I don't know. Business was good, right?

Mouse 2: There was a line-up every night! That place was an institution.

Mouse 1: They're probably turning it into a parking lot or something.

Mouse 2: Ugh ... Parking lots are killing this place. Man, I met my wife at Club Clozet. I'm really going to miss it.

Mouse 1: Me too, bro. Me too.

Mouse anger aside, the closet is now dreamy and no longer haunts me. Yes!
The second amazing feat I completed was another big one - sewing a button! The 50s housewife has many skills, and sewing is one of them.

Patrick had a pair of pants that he really liked, but the button fell off ... about six months ago. He's literally been without navy pants for that long because neither of us could be fussed to do the tiniest of even-a-monkey-could-do-it sewing jobs.

Well, thanks to the Mrs., those pants are back in action!
When Patrick got in around 2:30 A.M., I was still up as housewife adrenaline was coursing through my body from achieving so much in my day. I very kindly made him a grilled sandwich to help soak up the booze.

"This is more like it," he said between bites.

"Oh?" I asked.

"You faiiiled being a housewife to me this morning with no breakfast or lunchy," he said with a shit-eating grin.

It's only fair that I show you a picture of the before and after of that exchange as well:


28 May 2010

The 50s Housewife Sort of Hosts a Bridge Luncheon

Guess who was a hostess yesterday during Day 11 of the 50s Housewife Experiment?

On Wednesday, my friend Colleen Carlisle wondered aloud on my Facebook page whether a 50s housewife was allowed to go out for lunch. I figured my 50s housewife would, but it was probably more likely that ladies would go to each others' homes for mid-day socializing (more economical, you see). I then had it in my head that I should host an ever-popular-at-the-time bridge luncheon.

I called Colleen (no e-mailing allowed!) and the only day she was free was the following day (yesterday), so I made a decision on the spot to make it so and call a couple other gals who might be available to complete our bridge foursome (the other ladies are both on mat leave - I actually don't personally know a single person who is a full-time homemaker. Funny how it was so common in the 50s - only about 30% of women worked outside the home then - but practically extinct now).

In the end, Mrs. Dave Carlisle (Colleen), Mrs. Patrick Dell (Siobhan) and Miss Charlotte Dell (baby) were in attendance. Unfortunately our fourth, Mrs. Dave Cyr (Jacquelyn) had to cancel the day-of as something work-related came up (ugh, career girls!). It seems that I will only be friends with people who marry Patricks or Daves.(Sorry for the blurriness, Colleen! It would be remiss not to mention, gentle reader, that if you like the necklace Colleen is wearing, she sells them! Also - once you get past / passed the cuteness of baby Charlotte - literally - take a look at how shiny my fridge is in the background.* My cleaning rules!)

*It's probably a dick move to tell people to stop looking at a baby and to put their attentions toward my appliances, right? That was definitely a 50s Housewife etiquette fail.

Since we were down our fourth (no offense, Charlotte), bridge was unfortunately out - which was fine as none of us had any clue on how to play and never really had any intention of doing anything but eat, drink and gossip anyway.

In any case, my last-minute commitment to playing hostess meant that I had to get cracking straight away on the menu. I looked to my Good Housekeeping Appetizers Cook Book, my Good Housekeeping 10 P.M. Cook Book and my Searchlight Recipe Book for a medley of food options. I also took some time to get the presentation just 50s-right. Who knew a candle could be so versatile?And here's the rest (clicking will expand the picture):
I thought it impossible, but I somehow managed to make 50s food look even worse.

So, what exactly are you looking at? That's what my guests wanted to know, too.

Within that cornucopia of absurdity is Cheese and Vegetable Salad (a mini mold of lime jello, cabbage and process cheese slices placed on a lettuce leaf with mayonnaise), Frosted Party Sandwiches (sort of a little sister to the All-in-one Sandwich Loaf - a layer of egg salad, a layer of salmon salad, all coated in cream cheese), Hawaii Kabobs (hot dog, grilled pineapple and a Ritz cracker held together by a mini plastic sword - a traditional Polynesian delicacy!), Meatball with Tomato Hats, Bacon Scallop Crispies (bacon-wrapped scallop on a potato chip with a dollop of sour cream), and various incarnations of pickle / olive / onion / capers / tomato / meatball / salami / egg salad / salmon salad / bread / crackers / cheese held together with a toothpick or sword. I also served veggies and chips with onion dip (the classic sour cream with onion soup mix). All made from scratch, people! The drink of the day was one of my favourites - Pimm's (in this case, with 7, but I much prefer it with Schweppes Lemonade, which is hard to come by in Canada).

Let's focus on the thing that would probably glow in the dark, the Cheese and Vegetable Salad. So far, it is my best-shaped gelatin mold, but still not perfect. The processed cheese ended up floating to the bottom (which, when presented, was the top), but it held on as best it could. Unfortunately, one collapsed somewhat and engulfed the appetizers near it, much like Frank Slide but more horrifying.

I can't quite decide if the Cheese and Vegetable Salad looks more like the mad scientist of jellyfishes - all super-brainy compared to its regular jellyfish minions - or if it's more like Slimer from Ghostbusters. What's amazing, is that if you were to watch this scene from Ghostbusters and replace the image of Slimer with my Cheese and Vegetable Salad, the dialogue still works (squint your eyes if you must to picture it):

The main difference between Ghostbusters and my bridge luncheon offering, storyline-wise, is that I don't need a proton pack and ghost trap to get rid of my slimer - just a working toilet.

The girls very kindly tried the mold. It was unanimous that the process cheese part was revolting, but both Siobhan and Colleen actually enjoyed the jello that contained cabbage. I told them that they didn't have to pretend they were in the 50s and suffer fake politeness, but they insisted they really didn't mind, so I'll take it as a small, surprising victory [for both myself and my Aunt Janice].

The rest was nibbled. We decided the best tasting offering was the Frosted Party Sandwiches and the remainder of the goodies were alright but their strengths lied in being conversation pieces rather than palate pleasers.

Dessert, however, went over smashingly. It included Peg's Devil Food Cake with Custard - a recipe I took from Good Housekeeping's Who's Who Cooks - a book filled with "favourites from famous people." The Peg who contributed this cake recipe was Peg Lynch, the writer and star of Ethyl and Albert. That drew a blank for me too. At least it gives me hope that one day a generation of people are going to hear the words "the famous Paris Hilton" and will have no idea who that is.
The cake was served with something I found truly adorable - Rainbow Snowballs. It's basically vanilla ice cream rolled into balls and then rolled into various tinted coconut shavings. It was my first time tinting coconut - but it was easy and I'm just giddy with the girly-girl outcome of these. If ever I host a shower for someone, these little babies - or something else amiable to tinted coconut - will be making an appearance (in the girl of honour's favourite colour, of course!). Utterly delightful!

Wow. Ok. I just realized I said that with complete earnestness. Clearly the 50s Housewife Experiment is starting to sink in and interrupt my regularly scheduled program of cynicism and sarcasm. Eee?

Well, once the food was eaten and / or mocked and gossip was had and 50s magazines were fawned over, my lovely guests left. My kitchen was a sad disaster, so I did what every 50s housewife would do: I cleaned poured myself an extra big glass of Pimm's, laid on the couch in my slip and eventually took a nap.

My slumber was interrupted only by two things: Horrendous acid reflux and Patrick calling me to remind me that he had soccer that night, so he wouldn't be home 'til late. Papa Smurf was clearly looking out for me as I had totally spaced on his dinner. The idea of going into the kitchen and cleaning everything and then preparing more mess / food was beyond not appealing, so I attempted to manipulate the situation and suggest Patrick have a boy's night out after soccer. I implied that he deserved some man-time and to have fun and not to worry about not coming straight home. He liked that idea so I high-fived myself in the face and went back to sleep.

Fast-forward several hours later and I get another call:

"Hey - we won soccer," he said.

"Great," said his groggy, zoned-out wife.

"I'm so tired. And so starving," he says.

"Um, so ... you're coming home?" she asks.

"Yah, I don't feel like going out. I just want to eat and sleep. I'm on the Broadview bus right now, so I should be home in about 15 minutes," said he.


I hadn't done anything since his first call besides send Slimer to his new home in the Toronto sewage system and polish off the Pimm's.

"Alrighty. I'll fix you up something, it just won't be fancy," I said.

"It's ok. I can just get Subway if you want. I know you didn't plan to make dinner," he offered.

No. No. No. There would be no Subway or anything take-away as long as this damn experiment was on.

So, what can a girl make in 15 minutes that somehow fits the 50s nutritional guidelines?
A salami sandwich with cheese and tomato, potato chips (to complete that one-potato-a-day thing so that he doesn't acquire a debilitating starch deficiency) and carrots and celery with onion dip. I tried to toss in Mr. Meatball there (or maybe I should call him Kaiser Pickelhaube - seeing as he's made of a pickle and has that oh-so-German pointy hat) but Patrick doesn't like to eat anything that smiles back at him. For dessert, he enjoyed some cake, but refused to put a Rainbow Snowball in his mouth [insert obvious gay joke here, father-in-law].

And that pretty much sums up that day, albeit, rather verbosely.

Onward and upward!

Image Source: Good Housekeeping's 10 P.M. Cook Book


26 May 2010

Taking Advice On Boys and Babes

Hello, again!

I'll get right to it as I have to get rolling on my day - much to do! Yesterday was a mini triumph in cleaning. I cruised through my daily chores pretty effortlessly. Even the oven, which made me its bitch last week in every manner possible, was barely a blip in my day. I stayed cool, I stayed collected, I stayed clothed.

In fact, I even did something I said I didn't need to do: I cleaned the inside of my off-limits microwave. It was my 50s housewife skeleton in the closet, er, rather, kitchen. I knew what lurked behind its door - an explosion of tomato sauce on all four walls and its 'ceiling' - something that I had somehow been able to ignore forever. Now the microwave is clean and will hopefully start displaying the time instead of scrolling "CLEAN ME ... OR KILL ME" on its LED screen.

Today for dinner, I opted to look in a section of my Bride's Reference Book called "Men Like This Food." I'm guessing the headline editor of the publication was through with coming up with cutesy titles like "Bediquette: From Nighties to Nighty-Night" and was just like, "Ugh, let's just call it what it is, already. This Tom Collins is wearing off."

The intro to "Men Like This Food" explains that we should hope to be married to normal men with "masculine" tastes (so they prefer blue food to pink food? Dog meat to cat meat?):
With this advice in mind, I made Patrick broiled steak, french fried potatoes, corn on the cob and a broiled tomato - served with his favourite beer. Dessert was a banana split with strawberries.
Well, that meal was boring. That wasn't kooky and 50s-sounding at all.

That's true, judgey voice in my head, but there's a reason for that. You want to know what men like?

They like it when you don't eff with their food.

They like it when they don't have to wade through a monstrosity of olives, gelatin, sauce and green-tinted coconut in a supposed chicken dish. They like it when they don't have to ask what's for dinner when it's sitting in front of them on a plate. They like it when they don't feel sexually confused while eating party food.

They just want to eat something hot and identifiable and for the first time since we started the 50s Housewife Experiment, I was pleased to serve it.

I don't think Patrick will be so lucky for the rest of the project, though. I'm pretty sure it will be a parade of freak show dishes from here on out - after all, there are just four more full days of 50s housewifery to go!

After dinner, I went up to Siobhan and Patrick's to babysit Charlotte while they ran errands. People probably think the Dells are our only friends as they're the only people I've mentioned this entire time. I assure you, we have other pals - but in a way - the Dells are the Ethel and Fred to our Lucy and Ricky. Or vice versa. Or, well, who knows - I'm pretty sure, though, that, based on the observations of the people in my neighbourhood, I'm the Ricky Ricardo.

Anyway, being child-free, I didn't have to spend any time researching what the 50s housewife would do with a papoose in tow. So what a perfect opportunity it was to start digging into that mid-century wisdom and experiment with it on someone else's unsuspecting child share it with all of you:

It's compact. It's convenient. It's collapsible. It's My First Death Trap.

Would you like your child to grow up big and strong (or at least able to read books about being big and strong)? There's a product that will help:
Corn syrup! Get them started on it right after they're done with the bottle. It provides them with that pure energy a butchy child needs. Plus, it gives them that adorable crazy-eye / clenched jaw look of a rave-obsessed drug user. Seeing this baby peek over the crib bars would never creep anyone out.

They're not babies anymore, but sometimes they still wet the bed like one:
Want to reduce your child's shame right away? Stop referring to that thing you just put Ronald Reagan Jr. in as a panty.

And finally ...

You know, if the whole family has "constipation worries", you might want to review what you're stuffing them with. Maybe all that gelatin, marshmallow fluff and chicken livers are gunking up the track. And, mom? Stop creeping on train time. Maybe you and your giant head should truck back to the old grocery store and pick up some not-from-a-can fruit.

Alright - enough snark! I must dash. Big day ahead of me!

Image Source: Bride's Reference Book


Keeping Up Appearances

I've talked a fair bit about the food we've been eating and the cleaning I've been doing, but I haven't really revealed all that much about what I've been doing about the 50s housewife edict of being beautiful and showing pride in her appearance. So, here we go!

A friend was reading through the list of things I do for the 50s Housewife Experiment and asked if I really do the following:

Yes, I really do, despite really not being a morning person. The bow-and-lipstick look on me is less sweet and darling and more What Ever Happened to Baby Jane. You can see what I mean from this picture Patrick cheekily took of me one morning while I was preparing his orange juice.
What a vision. That is the face that launches my husband's ship to work everyday. Thankfully, my face comes with a side of bacon and eggs.

And, yes, I've also been putting on make-up even when I don't plan to go anywhere. You have to understand that I'm not really the make-up-y type. Sure, it's fun to play with and get glammed up, but if I didn't have time before going out, I didn't think anything of leaving the house bare-faced. But make-up is really just a small part of the beauty regime.

One 50s-era magazine suggested a weekly schedule for beauty and hygiene. I have to admit that I didn't really follow that all very well last week. Because of that, I opted to dedicate the afternoon yesterday toward glamourization. I gave myself a 50s facial (which involved cleansing, "ironing" my face with ice, an egg white mask and moisturizing), tweezing, a scalp massage, a nap (dreamy!) and going out for a manicure and a pedicure. I had a gift certificate for a local nail bar so I was free of feeling that cheapo 50s housewife guilt. And there's a very silly pose of me to show you the outcome, complete with my stubby hand trying to still my pounding martyr heart from all the self-indulgence. Admittedly, the look is little more 40s than 50s, but I'm not willing to set my hair with a home perm, so there you go.

I mentioned before that I wasn't sure how I was going to deal with the whole wash-your-hair-once-a-week craziness of the 50s. Thanks to a suggestion from Paige, I tried Batiste Dry Shampoo Spray. Wow! I haven't washed my hair in the shower since girdle day and not once have I been compared to Nick Nolte's mugshot. Amazing!

At the end of the day, the 50s housewife used cold cream to remove her make-up and clean her face. I happen to have some, so I've been using it daily. It's just like breakfast - greasy. Let me put it this way, if you run out of shortening (and following the 50s diet, you will), just grab a jar of Pond's Cold Cream and carry on with your recipe. It gets the make-up off, but then you spend another five minute getting it off ("That's what she said." - Michael Scott).

But that isn't all. The mindful 50s housewife ensures she is the vision of glamour before retiring for the night. You see (and sorry for the scan quality - this magazine printed close to the binding):

The bedroom is not strictly for sleeping? Ah, right. Eating.

Arf, arf. No, I do understand what they mean. According to my guide, a wife needs to consider her beauty at all times while maintaining a little mystery about how she achieves such a look. It went on to explain all the things she should do in the bathroom. And then ...

I'm about as mysterious as a Hardy Boys novel read back to front, so getting prepped for bed in the bathroom was definitely out of the ordinary for me. In fact, one night while I was getting "bright and clean and delicious" Patrick bellowed, "are you masturbating in there or something?"

Well, geez, not anymore.

Anyhoo - back to Day 9 of the 50s Housewife Experiment ... Since my day was so busy with the hard work of looking beautiful and shopping for groceries, I decided it was the ideal time to break out the 50s housewife's greatest secret weapon - the TV dinner.

While Swanson now carries contemporary dishes for the sophisticated modern palate - like chicken nuggets and ribs - I wanted to go classic so I picked up a turkey and a Salisbury steak dinner. The biggest differences between the current and 50s versions are that there isn't a soup serving, the dessert is primarily made of corn starch and everything is cooked in plastic rather than tin. Mmm, mmm.
For a treat, we ate them by the TV while we watched an episode of I Love Lucy. At first, Patrick was disgusted (he opted for Salisbury steak) but a few bites later, the Swanson chemicals flavour kicked in and he was lapping it up.

My, that Swanson made my day so easy! So fast to prepare and clean-up was a breeze! Why, I could go for manis and pedis every day if Swanson was on the menu. That said, I'd also be hassled with funeral arrangements for Patrick on account of him getting some nutrition-related disease, so in the long run, it's probably better that I cook the rest of our meals, as gross and time-consuming as some of them may be.

Speaking of which, I best get on with the day. Catch up with you later!

Image Sources: Avon advertisement, circa 1958 and The Bride's Reference Book


25 May 2010

Manly Men, Girly Girls and Things in Between

Yesterday, Day 8 of the 50s Housewife Experiment, involved a fair bit of cleaning on account of a) our BBQ Bonanza the day before b) slacking off over the weekend c) both of us being around to muck up the place. The lesson: a week of committed cleaning can go to shit if you relax for more than one day. How depressing.

To my surprise and joy, Patrick took it upon himself to help out with some of the tidying around the house. Sure, he used the modern cleansers, the paper towel and put things where they didn't belong, but a 50s housewife knows not to look a gift horse in the mouth (and she also knows what that phrase means), so I did my best to keep quiet. I did slip up when he was folding t-shirts and towels wrong (and by wrong, I mean not the way miss-know-it-all does it), and he quickly and correctly pointed out that he didn't "have" to help at all. In other words: STFU.

Despite the help, I was rather irritated all day (and no, not because of any "feminine" use of Lysol). I think it was because the TV was blaring from dawn till dusk with one annoying sport show and / or action movie (one starring Steven Seagal of all things!) after the other - and not my usual music.

To set the mood for the past week, I've been listening to hits of the 50s as I get on with chores. I've found that Buddy Holly can do wonders in sweeping the bitterness away (the Big Bopper, on the other hand, somehow induces rage the instant I hear, "Hellooo, bayyyby." That doomed plane ride really did balance out the musical score card.). My 50s soundtrack is my tranquilizer, and without it, all that cleaning is really quite awful!

For dinner, I made something called "Short Cut Tomato Sauce" with spaghetti, green salad and bread for dinner. And just what got detoured for this short cut recipe?
Oh, nothing - just taste. And substance. It was the most watery pasta sauce I've ever made. For Patrick's serving (what's pictured), I had to dredge the sauce three times to pick up some solidness. I probably would have been better off just using "Chef Boy-Ar-Dee" products ("only about $0.15 a serving!"). And, yes, that "bread" on his plate is indeed half a hot dog bun. I discovered too late that my bread had some mold on it and the stores were closed - so I just said "fuck it" and put a hot dog bun on the plate. Barely a week in, and I'm already having "fuck it" moments. Oh dear.

That evening it had been decided that Patrick Dell was going to come down to our place and I was going to go up to theirs (we live in the same building). You see, Siobhan and I have been watching the Bachelor / Bachelorette series since before we met our husbands. Our tradition of mocking beautiful people failing at love wasn't about to get interrupted by a 50s housewife project or an annoyed man in the room saying things like, "How can you guys watch this crap?". It's really best they just leave the house when it's on - and so The Patricks are developing their own tradition of going off together to drink and express disappointment in their silly wives.

As it was a long weekend and the plans were somewhat last-minute, I'm sad to say I didn't have much in the house to offer the boys, but I made do with what I had. Here's what I presented, along with booze, naturally:
Those kabob things look pretty 50s-ish, right? I didn't necessarily use a recipe, but attempted to tap into my burgeoning 50s housewife instincts and put something together that had the right amount of fat, processing and ridiculousness. I think the only thing missing were those sick little pearl onions.

Now, had I had the time - and perhaps if there were more gents around to enjoy it - I would have made a very special dish from my Good Housekeeping 10 P.M. Cook Book from a section called "Strictly Stag." Within that chapter is a picture that causes me to laugh out loud to myself just thinking about it. Behold, the Frank n' Bean Bake:
Apparently, it's not enough that a group of men be served the obvious and childish dish of franks and beans. No, those wieners had to be erect, as if to prove they were every bit the man as anyone else in the room.

How delightfully awkward.

My theory is that the 10 P.M. Cook Book got its name not from when you'd be serving such things, but from the time of night the book was written and photographed - well after everyone at Good Housekeeping had knocked a few cocktails back.

And that was yesterday. Today I have errands to do outside the house - some fun, some not so fun - and you'll hear all about them later.


Image Sources: Pyrex Advertisement, circa 1946 and Good Housekeeping's 10 P.M. Cook Book


24 May 2010

Putting Friendships to the Test

The long weekend presented a great opportunity for the 50s housewife to get out of the kitchen and into the wilds of the rooftop patio for a BBQ with friends.

It also let me explore the 1958 Good Housekeeping's Summertime Cook Book - a collection of recipes that are "easy on the cook" but not exactly easy on the eyes.

That gorgeous "cover mold" surrounded by truly Satanic deviled eggs is Shrimp-Salad Jambalaya. Of all the things you thought that mold could be made of, I'm guessing shrimp wasn't one of them. As my husband is allergic to seafood and since I have a weird thing about not liking to throw up in public, I skipped that experience.

Thankfully, Good Housekeeping gave us plenty of other options - and some of them were even recognizable as food (I highly suggest clicking on the image to get a better look):

Ok, I admit - I had no freaking idea what most of those things were, save for the celery in a cup, that hunk of watermelon, and the cob of corn in a bun (huh?). Some of the lowlights in this picture include:

  • Molded Potato Salad on Tomato Aspic (Near the top on the left) If you enjoy the skin that forms on tomato soup after it cools (and who doesn't!), you're going to love ketchup jello.
  • All-in-one Sandwich Loaf (Top, near the left corner) What constitutes as "all"? Layers of each between bread: chicken salad, egg salad and processed cheese spread with chunks of tomato, olives and pickle throughout. The entire thing is then covered with cream cheese spread and garnished with bologna. I wish I was making that up.
  • Sour-Cream Slaw in Cabbage Bowl (Bottom right) Because everything's better in a cabbage bowl!
  • Chicken Liver Kabob with Pimento Olives (Bottom left toward centre of page) Here's a recipe for instant job creation: Street meat vendors start serving these to post-bar patrons = need for more city street cleaners. Thanks, chicken livers!
The rest is really various incarnations of mismatched meats, cheeses and tropical fruit. Mmm, right? I bet you're really salivating from looking at that picture - but not because you want to eat it, but because your body is preparing your mouth for a sudden influx of bile.

In the end, I decided a spread of minted iced tea, hamburgers (from a recipe that called for MSG. Darn, fresh out of it.) and hot dogs with all the fixings, "Best Ever" potato salad and something called Coleslaw Soufflé Salad - a refreshing molded vegetable side that brought together that classic duo, lemon jello and mayonnaise.

Our BBQ mates, our good friends Siobhan and Patrick Dell, brought my very favourite thing, a box of wine their darling daughter, Charlotte. They also came armed with a few alcoholic refreshments and a sense of adventure - both requirements for trying dishes from this cookbook. They were well-aware of my 50s Housewife Experiment and knew something ... interesting ... could be on the menu.

The day marked the first time in a week that Patrick (my Patrick) had to do some cooking. You see, BBQing is "man work." Why? Well, I think Ward Cleaver explains it best:

My favourite part of that Leave it to Beaver clip is when Mr. Cleaver asks for his asbestos gloves. Not because that's the clear joke of the scene, but because they're freaking asbestos.

Not only did I not provide Patrick with asbestos gloves, but I also stupidly didn't arrange for him to wear the classic chef's hat or an apron that says "Chef" on it, as shown in the illustration up top. Why is it that when men cooked then, they needed to get into a full get-up that says "ME COOKING. READ APRON. SEE HAT."? Did they really think it made them look less gay?

The meat turned out just fine, if not a little small. The burgers shrunk quite a bit (I guess that's what happens when you use regular ground beef and not the lean stuff).

The salads were revealed with fanfare that only "rose cut" radishes can draw. Oh, what a fantastic waste of time those were.

My Coleslaw Soufflé Salad (pictured on the left) did not want to come out of its mold so it unfortunately required a bit of scraping to be freed - thus wrecking much of the aesthetic. By Grabthar's hammer, I *will* make a perfect molded object by the time this experiment is over!

Siobhan mercifully ate the coleslaw with a brave face and even offered a lie compliment that once the lemon taste went away, the coleslaw part was nice.

The boys, on the other hand, had a more difficult time disguising how they felt about it:

(Yes, that's my (unmanicured!) hand force-feeding my husband.)

Le sigh.

Dessert went over better, thankfully. I made something called Honeydew Ambrosia (it's actually pictured above in the BBQ spread photo. It's in the top left corner) and atomic rocket popsicles, made with "pure and good" Kool-Aid (... Kool-Aid, Kool-Aid, a five-cent package makes two quarts of ... Kool-Aid, Kool-Aid ...).

At one point, one of the gents suggested that the mint iced tea I made (which was crazy sweet - next time, half the sugar!) would be good with rum. A quick dash downstairs for the bottle later, and yes, it really was quite good with rum ... sort of a Long Island Mojito. It also did wonders to wash away the taste and memory of the coleslaw. Friendship saved!

All in all, a lovely time was had. My kitchen was a total disaster, though. Unlike a 50s housewife, I didn't clean it right away, which means I'll be spending a good part of today doing that. Just how every girl likes to spend a holiday.

Many thanks to Patrick Dell for taking the nicer pictures featured in today's post (the crappy dark ones are, of course, mine)!

Image Source: Good Housekeeping's Summertime Cook Book

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Need words? I'm a Toronto-based freelance writer who injects great ones into blogs, websites, magazines, ads and more. So many services, one lovely Jen (with one 'n').

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