In the Nightmare Kitchen

You’ve never seen anything like it!

That’s right. And I never want to see anything like it ever again. This is straight out of a Maurice Sendac nightmare, this – this thing watching you, eyes shifting right and left constantly, as you try to coordinate your dinner preparations.

And then, when you are completely stressed out, and all the pots are boiling over – his hat alarm goes off. B-R-R-I-N-G!!

Let’s just hope he can’t hop across the room and start giving you what-for like a mechanized Gordon Ramsey.

Another fabulously weird product from retro Chicago – ad from Billboard, April 11, 1953.

Make Way For Weaklings

Oh, I think I know what your job is, Mr. Atlas.

It is standing at a table in your bathing suit, making dolls that look just like you.

This is an “actual photo” of Charles Atlas, grinning at his craft table, you see. The skinny dolls are on the right, and the little Charles Atlases are over on the left.

The All-Over Muscle and Strength and Energy come out of little pots. I don’t know whether he dips them in the pots, or paints the stuff on them with brushes.

It takes about 15 minutes per doll, apparently. I do not want to let him make ME a new man though – I don’t want some new little man running around the house! Our cats would probably terrorize him – I don’t care how much Strength goo he has been shellacked with.

Maybe the little weakling dolls have to pay their money first. But it doesn’t look like they have all that much extra cash. Where are their wallets? Hard to say. And their money is – well, tiny. Tinier than Monopoly money, even. I don’t think Charles Atlas will be smiling quite so much when he tries to collect his fees from them, do you?

Advertisement from Popular Mechanics, June 1946.

Word History: The Stooge

So last time I said I’d write about the Three Stooges. Maybe. I said maybe I would! So this is halfway about them, in a roundabout way. It’s really late at night and I started wondering where the word ‘stooge’ came from. So that’s where we’re going with this.

According to some sources, the slang word ‘stooge’ was a short version of ‘stage assistant’ or perhaps of ‘student’ (mispronounced ‘stoojent’) which was first used about 1913. More specifically it means somebody who feeds lines to the main comedian in an act – sort of a straight man, but lowlier than that. The stooge is the target of the jokes, too. Not someone you’d particularly want to be. So I suppose Curly and Larry were actually Moe’s stooges – which is bad, because that’s being a Stooge’s stooge. A metastooge, perhaps.

Stooge at the Online Etymology Dictionary
Stooge at Wordia
Three Stooges at Wikipedia (whence the image)

Pudding On the Ritz

When you’re blue and you
don’t know what to serve next

Why don’t you go and get this fix -
Pudding in a mix!

Or, of course, you could just put pudding on a Ritz – chocolate would probably go best with a Ritz cracker. Don’t laugh, Betty Crocker probably made these all the time after she got off work. She was too tired to cook anything fancy. Speaking of which….

Jell-O Pudding is the subject of this strange little commercial from the 50s. First let’s watch the commercial, and then let it inspire us to make fancy desserts very quickly!×402061&color2=0x9461ca

Yes, we’ve probably all been on that particular treadmill, haven’t we? But I never had a baby levitate up to the ceiling, as far as I can remember.

All right, time for dessert. Jell-O Pudding mix had a fancy cousin back in the day called Whip-N-Chill (also made by the Jell-O people), and you could make many extraordinary things out of it. The Whip-N-Chill cookbook says so! These are magical, extraordinary desserts!

Take this Strawberry Sparkle, for example. The pudding bit is easy, just like that commercial says. Put powder in bowl, add milk, beat it for awhile. But then! Then you add the sparkle, because Strawberry is not magical enough on its own. It’s got to sparkle! This entails going off and making some strawberry Jell-O and then – get this – putting it through a ricer!

This must be the sort of thing that put the treadmill lady over the edge. When you find yourself ricing Jell-O, it really is time to take a break – even from instant pudding.

Let’s all chill out, and I’ll see you tomorrow!

The Ballad of Pie Plate Salad

There is a Sad Café somewhere,
The subject of this ballad
And if you end up there for lunch
You might get Pie Plate Salad.

The menu features foods which are
Quite Gross, yet Quick and Easy
Ensconced in horrid see-through gel
Which makes a person queasy.

Oh, Pie Plates that in kitchens lurk
What wicked impulse must
Fill them with this revolting gel
Instead of fruit and crust?

Who, tell me who, thinks this is food,
Where horrid veggies gleam
Under a clear top layer, like
Bits of a scary dream?

Perhaps a housewife sick of kitchen,
Pot and salad spinner,
Who said: I’ll give them something new,
And take revenge on dinner!

Or maybe the admen took advice
From some facetious granny
Who cooked this horror up for fun,
To make what’s canned uncanny.

And so if you should see this Pie
Pity the hapless diner,
And then escape by foot or car
Plane, bus or ocean liner.

This beautiful and inspiring ad is from Janet, via JB Curio.

Imitation Of Lifebuoy

Another day, another relationship saved by a bar of soap! And this time, the stakes are higher than a pair of dishpan hands.

Also, the whole family is getting involved. Sticking their nose in, so to speak. The doctor seems to be the uncle of the woman tattling on Jim and Myra. But he also seems to know Jim and Myra too. Really, he shouldn’t be gossiping about people like this. Tell Louella Parsons here to stop!

But no. He loves it. And he is seeing patients in his tuxedo for some reason. All they need are a couple of cocktails. Maybe the nurse could shake up some martinis in the tongue-depressor jar for them. Just as long as she remembers to take the tongue depressors out first.

Anyway, Myra’s busybody friend/sister/mother is telling Dr. Tux that Myra’s given Jim the boot “because he’s a little careless about ‘BO.’”

Dr. Tux agrees that this shows deep moral failings on Jim’s part and who knows what else he’s careless with. You have to make an effort in a marriage, for heaven’s sake! And not stinking is pretty high on the list.

Jim just hadn’t thought of it like that. So who knows what other foibles he is concealing? Hmmm….

Then, Uncle Tux says well, he likes Jim (from a distance) so he’ll have a wee word with him. Probably on the telephone.

Jim is the sadsack in the hat, middle row right. Boy, gosh and golly, he had NO idea! “Wow, that was plain talk from the doctor!” I’ll bet it was, too.

Cut to the shower scene. Bar of soap, lots of lather, enormous happiness. Although it does take a whole year for the now-happy couple to assure the doctor that everything is copacetic.

Why did it take a year? Well, I noticed something weird in the last picture. Take a look at the doctor’s face, as he sits downwind of Jim’s bent arm!

And Myra – goodness, she doesn’t look all that thrilled either. What is going on? I sense trouble. Jim is oblivious (as always). The doctor and Myra are giving each other a look. Something’s gone wrong.

Very, very wrong.

Another fabulous ad (circa 1935) from Ad Access.

The Unbearable Keenness of Beans

The 1930s Star Blades, over there on the left, are always sharp. Their keenness never varies. Supposedly.

My keenness, on the other hand, does. Take cooking (please, please do!). I don’t mind doing it sometimes, if I’m in the mood. Trouble is, I usually am not. I used to make bread and everything, but that was 20 years ago and I really just got tired.

And furthermore, I’m an aspiring writer with too many things I want to do and no idea how I’m going to get it all done PLUS get dinner going. Oh, and make it healthy too. And it ought to taste good, ideally. I knew someone who said that they’d make a fancy dinner, show it to the kids, then throw it out ’cause that’s where it was going anyway.

I know it is ironic that I started a blog about my retro cookbook collection. I know, I know. But I’ve always liked reading the recipes more than making them. I really love the 1961 Larousse Gastronomique, with its pictures of cakes that look like the Brighton Pavilion and advice on obscure ingredients (I don’t have it right here or else I’d go get an example; but I don’t). And as for all the 1950s Jell-O and Spam booklets, nobody wants to cook out of those, really. I don’t think….

Here’s the quickest black bean soup I know. If you like this sort of thing it is quite good, easy, and you can tailor it to suit your own taste. I read a few recipes for something, then see how I can shortcut my way through them – and cross my fingers. Only not when I’m stirring something on the stove. Here we go:

This bit is optional: Saute about one onion and some roast garlic paste in a little olive oil, in a Dutch oven. If you have the energy. But you can skip this. If you do do this, and you want to go crazy, add some diced carrots too. Maybe a little celery.

The next bit is compulsory.

Rinse two cans of black beans. Rinse them really well, because – well, they have all that salty stuff on them. Keep back about a handful.Put them in a pot and fill to cover beans with good quality chicken broth. Campbell’s in the box is all right. Keep the box out because you might need more later. This is sort of cooking by approximation.

Bring it up to a boil, then turn it down to simmer. Now go back to the beans you saved and mash them with a fork until they paste up. Swirl a bit of the hot broth in them after that and then add them in, to thicken the soup. Oh, and you could chop up a ham steak and throw it in, that’s good.

Now keep it on low, and go away. Go back to reading, or whatever you were doing that was more interesting. Serve with some salad and a baguette and you’re done. Plus you can freeze the leftovers – giving you another day you can just do something else instead of cook. Excellent.

There won’t be a lot of these recipe posts since my repetoire is limited. It’s probably time to write about something like the Three Stooges next. Speaking of my kitchen skills! So I’ll see what I can do.

A Little Too Fresh

He’s fresh-up with Seven-Up. And she – well, she is fresh too – fresh out of luck. No more blind dates for her!

Yes, the problems are certainly piling up, and not just on the table:

I suppose it’s the kind of Bad Date where she’s just sort of given up and starts laughing, with a tinge of hysteria, because she never dreamed that Clyde would turn out to be so – so weird.

He spent the first hour of the date talking and talking – and talking – about his many problems. Did he even think to ask how her algebra final went? Or whether she liked Sinatra’s latest record? I don’t think so!

And now he’s demonstrating what his many, many problems look like, in his head. They look like notebooks and hamburgers and drinking straws and possibly a few cookies. Also, a few earrings on a plastic rod.

It’s best not to ask why he brought all this rigamarole with him. Just smile. And maybe take your hands away from your ears. I’m sure he’ll quiet down once he’s finished building his little Palace of Despair.

The white socks with the all-black ensemble, that’s another problem. But not as big a problem as the spatial ones. Because they’ve managed to find a diner with chairs and tables in three dimensions – but with a counter, a jukebox and presumably the food and drink – in only two.

Except for the shimmering green bottles of 7 Up. Of course. Because they are special and can transform from one dimension of space to another. That’s some high-energy drink, huh? They have been coaxed from the faint and terrified counterman, who is trying to hide behind a menu. And the ad (see link below for the big version) tells us that after a bottle of 7 Up, in 2 to 6 minutes exactly, you will have tons of new energy.

Just what Clyde needs, more energy. How about the counterman make him something to slow him down, like a big glass of milk. And a turkey sandwich, full of tryptophan. He really needs to cool it.

Because they probably are not on planet Earth at this point. Even if they are, and even if she has a whole purseful of Mad Money, the laughing girl is really going to have a hard time getting a cab to take her back to reality.


Many thanks to Tom Cook at Retro Ads and Graphics for this amazing ad. Speaking of amazing, his site is – well, totally amazing! Please go take a look, if you love retro ads (and graphics) you are in for a fabulous treat.

Thing One and Thing Two

I’ve got two things for you today. Just like Thing One and Thing Two in The Cat in the Hat, only easier on the furniture:

Thing #1: life is going to get a little bit chaotic over the next week or so – and I will be rather like the Cat in the Hat juggling all those things while bouncing on a ball – the cups and cakes and little toy boats. You know the kind of time I mean.

However - I have kitsch and retro posts aplenty for you! But the dear old Entrecard drops may not happen as much as I’d like, so apologies in advance and I will be back up to speed by the middle of next week. I’ll try and check in once a day and answer comments. I love your comments exceedingly, you know – it’s such a treat to read them! If you could only see me laughing and trying not to spit coffee on my keyboard.

Oh, and also…

Thing#2: I have a third blog now. Like a third eye, only not! Because there are actually other things I like besides retro ads and Victorian weirdness – and so The Doubletake is going to be total miscellany and, I hope, fun too. There are a few posts over there, and I’m slowly linking the blog up with things. But like I said, I’m going to be orbiting-the-ceiling busy for a few days so things won’t totally be up to speed for awhile.

What sort of things will I be doing a doubletake over? Urban legends, slang, weird news (there’s a Doubletake archive from 2007 which I’ll put up, it was going to be an all-weird-news site then), maybe book reviews, old and new celeb stuff. Things I think are cool and interesting, because if I don’t find it entertaining, it stands to reason that you probably won’t.

Oh, and I might do some really bad recipes over there, like the original Kitchen Retro. So there will be a bit of retro. Just not, you know, all the time. That lady in the top righthand corner is retro, of course. She’s from a 1947 camera ad and that will be my EC avatar, when I get around to that. And I got the Cat in the Hat picture from NPR.