Vintage cookbooks are not just about recipes, they’re also about cultural standards. Among my favorites are relics from the 1950s, when life in America was sharply defined along gender lines, space travel was a thrilling new idea, and little boys were shown playing with guns. As Father’s Day approaches, I couldn’t resist sharing these pages from a 1958 barbecue cookbook.

Fry hot dogs, impale them on sticks, jab them into a raw cabbage, and serve with baked beans. Sputnik-errific!

I don’t get this – are the wieners floating in hot water or sitting on a little grill?

Mom and sis are in crisp, starched skirts & aprons, Dad’s buttoned up, and Junior has a gun.

Don’t point guns at your mother’s head, she’s tossing the salad!

Before Martha Stewart, there were diabolical art directors creating impossible-to-live-up-to images of American life. Find 15 mistakes in the illustration below.

Kids, Dad’s cooking on the indoor grill in the rumpus room tonight! Put on your nice clothes!

Below is comedian-singer Dennis Day. No, I haven’t either (heard of him). Imagine the agony of Mrs. Day, the mother of these brothers, as she wheedled the boys to stop crying/fighting/fidgeting, dress up in matching cowboy outfits and western BBQ aprons and participate in this phony-baloney photo shoot. “No, you’re not allowed to run around shooting each other. You have to sit at the picnic table. I know you’re in long sleeves, pants and boots and there’s no shade. We’re in LA and sunblock hasn’t been invented yet. Stop touching the food!” The kid at the grill is openly sulking. And Mrs. Day is making a salad.

Another bit of realism. How long would it take to burnish your copper coffee pot so it looked just perfect for the camera? How long would it take for the charcoal smoke to ruin your efforts?

Finally, Mom can’t take it anymore. “I don’t care if Stevie is handling raw meat with his bare hands, his father is searing the steaks directly on the carcinogenic charcoal briquettes, and I had to bring real glasses into the wild, which means I have to take them home again and wash them. Gimme a beer to chase my pep pills.”

You can see more of this book in my eBay listings – go to Jennifer’s blogroll at upper right for the link.

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