My adventures with Gelatin

Okay, so the title is a little misleading,  I am a vegetarian. But that hasn’t stopped me looking at the 1950s obsession with gelatin.

At the end of the second World War there was a boom in the american appliance industry, and where the housewife relied on a larder or a cold stone slab, she now had the refrigerator. Food could now last for a lot longer, and the housewife could now make more elaborate meals, without worrying too much about it perishing so quickly, and the phenomenon of gelatin was born.

I have a lot of promotional cookbooks from the 1950s and alongside advertisements, I have a large collection of recipes for Gelatin desserts and main meals. Yes, you heard me right! Whereas gelatin is a dessert in our day and age, gelatin or ‘aspics’ were a starter and main course to delight the 1950s family table. Gelatin meals could contain, tuna, meat, vegetables, cream, cheese, marshmallows, and more.

I confess I was not brave enough to try and make a savory gelatin ring, especially when the recipe contained shredded chicken, green and black olives, chopped squash and cherry tomatoes. This was the least terrifying option, as I will discuss later.

For this particular experiment, I substituted these with sweet ingredients that looked a little like what they were supposed to. I used shredded cake, red and green vegetarian sweets, fruit cocktail and a vegan jelly mix. It was quite nice to taste but I felt like I had been cheating quite a bit!

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Sweet gelatin was not uncommon either, with 7up launching many promotional campaigns promoting its use within the dish. Mixed with cream, sweetened cheese, fruit or marshmallows, the 7up gelatine promotions lasted up until the late 1960s.

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Savory gelatin (aspics) were a food trend that lasted until the 1970s, becoming a popular main meal for the whole family. Gelatin salads were seen as a healthy ‘slimming’ option for the figure conscious woman and therefore a lot of promotional material such as gelatin salad cookbooks were released to inspire the woman of the house.

Eggs, olives, canned beef, tomatoes, sausages, canned spaghetti and cottage cheese were the meal, when encased in flavored gelatin was marketed as the slimming dinner table solution.

During my adventures with gelatin I discovered a community of facebookers were at it still, creating wonderful vintage looking aspics in this era! So I knuckled down, and got to work.

Last week I did the 1950s diet, which I will post on here very soon, and I felt it was time to brave the ring of plenty once more. The taste of sweet fruit from the flavored jelly* mix was very strange with the cream cheese and even though I’d made it myself, it was still a surprise to the system when I found myself eating boiled egg in it  too!

It was a very mixed bag! I take my hat off to the 1950s family, who ate food like this, but it was very fun to prepare, mesmerizing to watch as it jiggled, but very, definitely not for me!

Thank you to Show me your Aspics on Facebook for all your help with finding recipes.

 

What the 50’s can teach us about Covid-19

Covid 19 is here, and to most of us it is already affecting the way we live and feel. Unfortunately in the United Kingdom there have been some mixed reactions. The government have started to intervene, imposing travel restrictions to countries outside the UK, advising the population to avoid pubs, clubs, theaters and restaurants.

The supermarkets are bare, there is not enough supplies to go around, the elderly and vulnerable have been advised to take refuge, shops, restaurants and services are closing down, alongside many schools.

The government in the UK have not as yet, forced closure of recreational facilities but seeing how lock downs in other countries such as Italy have come into effect, its only a matter of time. Many people will lose their jobs, be confined to the home, avoiding non essential travel, with bowling alleys, restaurants, swimming pools, and other industries being closed until further notice.

As more people are having the way of life they are used to, changed so drastically, I wonder, what lessons can we take from the 1940s and 1950s about Covid 19?

In the 1940s to early 1950s the effects of WW2 were not dis-similar, with food scarcity, the closing of businesses, mass loss of jobs and low morale.  Schools were closed, children were sent away to the countryside. This, thankfully is not happening but with schools closing and more people self isolating we are seeing a rise in home education.

Alongside new technology introduced by schools to facilitate home learning, we can use this opportunity to teach invaluable skills to children about the home, life and garden. Young people in the 1940s and 50s were taught at an early age how to cook, bake, rear animals, garden, explore green spaces, craft, sew and even help with cars!

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During the closure of schools during 1940s children were thrown from the life they were used to into the ways of the home and countryside. They learned how to grow their own food, how to keep the home and even learned how to cook for themselves. If you are in self isolation with your children, maybe set aside a patch of grass in the garden for seeds, or bake bread with them. Teach them how to do the things you are doing, as they are doing them. You might be surprised what they learn to do and enjoy!

If you go to a supermarket at the moment, you will notice that the shelves have been stripped clean by panic buyers and hoarders, and ‘black market’ individuals selling hard to find items at a significant mark up.  During the 1940s and early 1950s, food was hard to come by due to the effects of World War 2 and the government introduced rationing to the Uk. Supermarkets are now beginning to implement their own rationing  systems but not enough is being done to curb this.

The average 1940s- 50s rations per person/ week were:

2oz Tea

2oz Jam

8oz Sugar

4oz Butter

2oz Lard

1oz Cheese

4oz Bacon

1 egg

25g Lamb

1 onion (per 3 weeks!)

Being asked to limit yourself to 3 items of each thing, per shop is really not unreasonable when you think of the limits imposed by the government for rationing back in the 1940s/50s! Special provisions were made for the elderly and vulnerable during this time, and we are starting to see supermarkets doing the same.

Photographs were being released on social media of  elderly shoppers with empty baskets, or standing in aisles stripped clean. In response, small amounts of retailers have opened designated, early hours for those in need to get their shopping done before the panic buyers swoop in and take the rest for themselves.

What can we do to help them?  Ration ourselves! Show restraint when buying at the supermarket, take only what we will need by the week, do not buy to the excess, think about how strained the resources are to make our groceries, during Covid 19 and instead of panic buying, think about how we need to spread our resources. Take the pressure off  those who make and grow our groceries, buy mindfully. The more our shelves deplete, the quicker they have to make things, and with a depleted workforce, the harder it will be.

rationing

Make do and mend! Make what you have in the fridge go for longer, by reducing waste,  planning meals, making and eating meals made from leftovers. Do not eat and drink to excess during self isolation and then go and get more and more, during the era of panic buying.  I take a wicker basket to the shops, I take only what I can carry in it and will do multiple shops if necessary, being mindful of what I am purchasing. This helps me budget, stops me making bulk purchases and allows me to be mindful when shopping. The 1950s housewife would do her shopping with a basket and do as many trips as necessary, keeping her fit and trim and also making sure that she only had what was needed.

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The rise of Victory gardens during a time of scarcity, is another thing we can learn from the 1940s and 50s. Growing our own food can help us plan out our meals for years to come, even if embargoes or panic buyers limit our shopping picks. Setting aside some time to grow fruit and vegetables is a peaceful hobby which can be done from your own home, during self isolation. This can be done with family members who are also self isolating. Veg boxes such as Groobarbs or Riverford deliver farm grown vegetables to your door, bypassing shops and long waiting times. If you cannot grow your own, have someone lovingly grow some for you, without taking from those in need and helping local growers!

Morale. As a culture, we love going out, so when restrictions hit, morale will be low. Remember parks and open spaces are still open, with the national trust opening its gardens and green spaces for free for the time being.

If you are in self isolation, take time to spend it with your family, trying new things, playing games, eating and preparing meals together. If you are alone, try new hobbies, read, cook and help other people who might need assistance during this time.

Help your neighbor, have some community spirit, be mindful of what you use and waste, and keep safe during this time. Music and dancing was a big past time during the 40s and 50s with new crazes sweeping the nation. Due to social distancing, tea dances might not be the best idea, but in your own home you are in charge. Decorate the place, get out your music system and have a go. It might not be record players, wirelesses and bunting now, in the age of smart TVs and Ipads but you can still boost everyone’s moods.

swing

To all carers and NHS staff, the author is one of you, so I know morale isn’t easy at the moment. Although the government has no ministry of morale, and there are no propaganda posters any more, the walls of your facebook can be enough to inspire anyone! In residential or ward care, I know a lot of places are on ‘lockdown’ and it can be so easy, out of boredom or panic to turn on each other but I promise you, with a bit of good old fashioned community spirit we can overcome this. Help your colleagues by using kind, motivational words, not engaging in gossip (loose lips sink ships!) and being helpful and professional. To those who know a carer or NHS staff member, get them something nice or tell them how good they are doing! They don’t get to work from home, potentially come in contact with covid 19 virus and work hard to protect the elderly and vulnerable. Be your own motivational poster!

At the end of a crisis was a time of prosperity, of an industrial boom, of VE day, street parties, there will be light at the end of the tunnel! Please look after each other during this time, help your communities, be mindful of what you use, take what you need, and motivate eachother! We can overcome this!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The zero waste housewife in the kitchen.

The 1950s housewife was well known for her thriftiness, still picking up habits from home life in World War II. This period of scrimping and “making do and mend” gave birth to many hints and tips about reducing waste and reusing what was already avalible to them which we can be inspired by today. The end of World War II sparked a new era of prosperity with the introduction of new appliances and convinces which we so readily take for granted today.

Unfortunately our world is changing. The marvels of Formica and Celephane wrapped vegetables that sparked such joy in the pre war housewife during this boom now lie in our oceans. What can I learn from the past to help combat my reliance on single use plastic and other household waste that I previously would not have blinked an eye at?

The refrigerator was a wonder for the bride in the 1950s who would use a pantry. The popularity of the gelatine mould arose from the proud housewife’s showing off their ability to afford such a fantastic new invention. 69 years on, I find that about 60 percent of my plastic consumption starts in my fridge.

The food that I eat and the way I purchase it and store it accounts for over half of my Waste and single use plastic consumption. When I read into the horrors of what I was doing I looked into the tips of the pre and post war housewife to see how I could be inspired to change.

1. Get rid of Plastic Carrier bags.

In the UK a charge for plastic carrier bags has been implemented, but this is only a recent thing. Carrier bags have been a supermarket staple for the last 30 years, but they must have used something before that right? The simple answer was to bring your own basket, in order to carry home your groceries. In modern terms that would equate to bringing your own bag, whether it is an old supermarket bag or a canvas tote. Personally I like the idea of using a basket myself, but if you have some old plastic bags about it is better to reuse them and give them a new purpose.

Most canvas tote bags, baskets or bags for life tend to be hardier than the standard single use plastic bags sold in the supermarkets, and are ideal for bringing back groceries to the home cost free.

2. Buy loose Produce.

Unfortunately a good majority of food in grocery stores come wrapped in plastic. Sometimes the plastic wrap is needless. The supermarket Marks and Spencer appeared in UK newspapers for selling a Cauliflour “steak” which was just half a Cauliflour wrapped in plastic shrink wrap. The clincher was it was sold for over 3 times the price of an ordinary Cauliflour.

The easiest way to avoid single use plastic is to buy loose produce. Many markets sell plastic free vegetables and even supermarket giants offer their own selection. Cheese and meat counters often have a “bring your own container” policy which can bring down your consumption of single use plastic significantly.

Markets of the 50s often sold unwrapped produce and meat and cheese was often sold wrapped in brown paper which was then reused by the housewife.

Brown paper isn’t environmentally sound in itself but many modern alternatives are readily avalible. Bringing wax wraps or compostable greaseproof paper to wrap produce in and store away is the modern alternative to brown paper wrap.

3. Use Glass instead.

One simple swap is to use glass instead of plastic. Milk was often delivered to vintage housewives by the milkman, in glass bottles left on the doorstep. Condiments and sauces also came in glass. Making the change from plastic to glass can help the recycling effort and in the case of the local milkround, support local business.

4. Storage

When pledging to buy loose produce I struggled with the concept of going packaging free. The answer came in the form of Day Zero, a zero waste shop in Buxton. They sold food such as pasta, cornflakes, flour and rice in bulk, where you weighed your container and filled it.

The 1950s housewife would use old tins and jars for storage so why was I finding the concept so difficult? My home is now filled with pink storage jars I got secondhand, and old tins, which thanks to a zero waste shop opening in my hometown, are now filled with cupboard staples.

For the fridge, I use beeswax wraps and compostable parchment and for meals I have my trusty friend pyrex. Pyrex and the 1950s housewife are almost synonymous, and although the designs have changed, it is readily avalible today.

5. Homemade Cleaning Solution

The kitchen was the pride and joy of the 1950s Housewife. After World War 2 women returned from the fields and factories back to their homes, with a keen spirit left from the war effort. House proud wives in Britain were known to scrub their stone doorsteps clean everyday, with competition to outshine their neighbours.

Today we are no different, but the supplies available to us are mostly made of plastics and microfibres. Once again I can draw inspiration from the 1950’s housewife to reduce waste from cleaning the house. Although cleaning brands were fighting for the attention of the new bride through advertising, the average housewife made her own cleaning fluids. Using simple ingredients available in the household, she could keep her surfaces clean and windows streak free.

A simple recipe for multipurpose cleaner from the early 1950s is simply:

¼ cup of white vinegar
• 1 tbsp baking soda
• 1 litre of hot water
• ½ a lemon

Filling up an old trigger bottle with homemade solutions means I can save money and plastic in the home.

6. Swap the cloths.

The “make do and mend” mentality for British housewives did not end with the war. Many a seasoned wife would wince and the concept of waste, and this would not be stopping any time soon.

Certain pre war textiles were still hard to come by, with the country’s factories still recovering from devastation.

Clothing was rationed and many textiles were hard to come by. The concept of buying cleaning cloths and using kitchen roll would leave many housewives in a spin. So what did they use to serve this purpose?

Old newspapers were used to buff cleaned surfaces and washed windows, they soaked up spills and even dried floors!

In the modern household old newspapers can still be useful, not only as animal litter or wiping feet, but for cleaning too! When cleaning windows, if you wipe them afterwards with old newspapers they can remove streaks!

Old clothes that are too small, spotted, stained or torn beyond repair can be cut up and repurposed as dishcloths. It has been recorded that “dishrags” were used to scrub surfaces, from the pits and pans to floors, simple scraps of cloth were used.

In my own home, I am guilty of hoarding old clothes that no longer fit me in the dream that one day I will be trimmer. Donating what I could, the rest that were unable to be recycled have found second lives as cleaning cloths.

Although only a few of my kitchen and grocery habits have changed, my plastic waste has reduced significantly. Being the thrifty 1950s housewife is not easy and this is only the begjning of my journey to reducing my impact on the planet. I hope that I can continue to be inspired by habits of the past, taking tips from the war effort for the war on plastic.

Stockport- Vintage hidden gem!

Stockport, England is a historic town famous for hatmaking. But it’s also a hive of thriving local business from blossoming plants to Vegan cake!

Just a trip down the high street brings you to shops selling 50s inspired dresses and other exciting period pieces. Each shopfront is as colourful as the last, from greens to blues to baby pink.

Down some beautiful steps into a secret maze of streets brings you to the heart of Vintage Stockport. Any aspiring 50s lady would be taken aback by the wonderful array of products avalible here.

Our first stop is the furniture markets, tucked in behind Mealhouse brow, boasting a range of teak, atomic and other vintage finds. 10 Mealhouse brow, although unnamed deserves a special mention. I came here quite by accident when trying to find a warehouse where a local student was selling fascinators. Whilst my mother marvelled at the wonderful creations she could wear atop her head to a wedding, I took a detour and found the treasures of vintage Stockport.

I’m not a professional appraiser or blogger so excuse the excitement in my tone, but the furniture markets and shops were to die for.

Mealhouse brow also boasts a botanical wonderland known as “The plant shop Manchester” which is the second stop in my tales of exploring this gem of a town. Although not strictly vintage they do have an array of period plants and pottery, enough in fact to entice me in twice for Monstera Plants! My experiences with The Plant Shop Manchester have always been amazing, the lady who sold me my Monstera was knowledgable and friendly and imparted her green fingered wisdom… plus they make killer content on their Instagram !

A little further on, we find 21st century gent, a vintage men’s store boasting some period homeware too… an honoury mention as it was closed when I came to visit.

More atune to my aesthetic is Cherry Girl’s wardrobe, the world’s saviour when it comes to tying headscarves! Cherry girl’s wardrobe is a positive wonderland to people like myself, providing a rainbow of Retro headscarves and flowers, amoungst other 50s apparel.

I met the owner of this amazing hideaway when I was at the hair salon (more on there, later!) and found myself really drawn in to her hair, eyewear and clothing, and when she mentioned she had a store I was desperate to check it out for myself.

I passed another shop on the way to our next location, and irritatingly enough I couldn’t remember the name of it, but I have promised myself to take a visit next time! But it’s good to know there are more places someone playing 50s housewife can find cute retro inspired dresses.

When it comes to authenticity, I am very much an amateur , but “I love Lucie“‘s Lucie and Siobhan are not. Stockport’s very first vintage hair salon teaches you the finer points of pin curling and victory rolls as well as being amazing at creative cut and colour.

Stepping into I love lucie is like walking into my dream, pastel American fridge freezer, retro radios, and a pastel pink shopfront are part of its appeal!

Lucie’s honesty sets her apart from other hair salon owners, she knows her field and is very passionate about what she knows.

With permission, I will see if I can write some more about my experiences in this hair paradise, but until then, what I can tell you is: Go!

1950s Exercise Class

Jennbutneverjenn did a feature outlining the day to day routines of the 1950s housewife, including a daily ten minute exercise routine. (Usually done at sunrise-eek!)

The premise is, a series of bends and stretches, balances and poses done in their nightly underwear:

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Icon Marilyn Monroe revealed in interviews her way of staying in shape, incorporating the above stretches with weight lifting. “I lie down on the floor beside my bed and start my first exercise.” revealed Monroe. “It is a simple bust firming routine which consists of lifting five pound weights from a spreadeagled arm position to a point directly above my head.” Monroe would do this for 15 minutes before swapping to a position with her arms above her head. 15 reps later she would then move her weights in circles with her arms at a 45 degree angle until she was tired.

monroe One of my favourite blogs on this site, Atomic Redhead posted an exerpt from the book “Beauty, Glamour and Personality”, showing Verna Williams favourite slimming exercises of the stars.

The choice exercises involve putting your heels together, toes pointed, knees stiff and raising your legs before “Scissoring Vigorously”. Other routines involve putting heels together, pointing toes with your legs in the air and making cycling motions.

Further images I have  found showed lines of blue gym mats like those found in primary school PE classes (That you swore looked soft until you got on them!) with ladies doing the above exercises and some very similar variations.

Other 1950s excercise class favourites include:

  • Lying on your back on your mat, with your legs tucked up into your chest and rocking back and forth.
  • Lying on your back (You guessed it) on your mat with your knees up and arms out whilst you pump your arms up and down.
  • Rolling from side to side with a medicine ball in between your feet.
  • Skipping with a rope.

Amazon Prime’s The Amazing Mrs Maisel showed the same uncomfortable gym mats in their vintage exercise class scenes, with their classmates rolling their waterbottles with their feet, doping similar exercises as above and using stretched elastane to pump their arms!

HELP

 Source: Movie Star’s Parade, 1953

So, if you want to host your own 1950s exercise class what would you need? High waisted shorts appear to be the must have exercise wear, alongside a blouse… unless you want to turn up in your underwear of course!! Footwear ranges from barefoot, to ballet slippers, pumps and even socks with sandals. (But perhaps avoid the latter if your atendees own an iphone and social media!)

Most stretches can be done without props but having a mat would be handy, even if it isn’t an authentic gym mat- a soft yoga mat will do just as well. Weights, medicine balls, elastane, water bottles, hula hoops and whatever else you can get your hands on, can also be incorporated into your workouts.

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On a personal note- I can’t do any kind of exercise without music, and a fun way to boost a retro exercise class would be some upbeat 1950s music, giving your workout a periodic feel and generally boosting morale for the tougher stretches!

My favourite song to do these exercises to is Cole Porter’s “Anything goes” but make sure the songs you choose are right for you, if at all.  Those unfamilar to the 1950S routines may prefer silence to hear their instructor… anything goes!

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Movie Star’s parade provided the above article with further exercises, which can inspire your 1950s exercise routine. Make sure to drink plenty of water, perhaps providing any other class goe-ers with their own water bottles besides their mats, and even a small array of snacks afterwards, you’ve definitely earned them!

If you are short on time, or a 50s exercise class isn’t for you then a wide array of household objects can be used to give you the authentic exercise experience from the era.

  • When cleaning doors, stand legs apart with one hand stretching to hold the door whilst using the other one to scrub it.
  • With one foot on the floor and the other on a stool, stretch your body down onto the  foot upon the stool, bringing yourself down into a hamstring stretch.
  • Use brooms, table tops and chairs to lean on when doing stretches.
  • Improvise! Use the space around you to mimic poses and routines.

 

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hotspotImages courtesy of Life, Hotspot media and Amazon Prime.

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An Introduction

Graduating with a degree in English, you may not believe me when I tell you that writing isn’t something that comes naturally to me. I’ve been surrounded by blogs, avidly reading my friend Belle (formerly Belen)’s exciting blog throughout my college days. Since then, I thought blogs outdated- some long forgotten format lying in the wastes with bebo and myspace.. this 90s relic wasn’t a scene I thought to be alive and well in this day and age.

It wasn’t until I read Jenbutneverjenn’s series of blogposts on the 1950s housewife challenge back in 2017 did I realise that blogs could pique my interest, and later on still that people still wrote them.

When you say the word ‘blog’ to me, the website Tumblr comes to mind, a site where individual users can create their own space, reposting images, text and videos and creating their own, customising their blog as to what they enjoy. I recently started my own, themed around the aesthetics of a 1950s housewife but quickly found that the platform was problematic.

I will go into the reasons why I feel that tumblr is a problematic platform for the domestic tumblr community in another post, however along the way I found some brilliant people such as Anna, who runs yeslittlehummingbird.

I took some time to find social spaces for bloggers who are housewives, enjoy a 1950s lifestyle or embrace elements of the two in their lifestyles, and came across a few other blogs of a similar nature, all who refused to embrace the problematic mentalities of the domestic tumblr community.

So, a little about me.

My name is Victoria and I live in a ‘historic village’ in the United Kingdom.

When I was in primary school my special interest wasn’t dinosaurs or Disney, it was The Blitz.

I’d been given a Horrible Histories book on ‘The blitzed blitz’ at random, from a pack, and honestly thought I’d got a raw deal, watching my classmates reading their fairy books, Under the sea and space books, and even those who had been given Horrible Histories books were getting the cool ones about romans or the tudors.

Surprisingly, it was the coolest thing I’d ever read, and soon I  was immersed in the world of wartime Britain, rationing, the homefront and blackouts, the book itself was read hundreds upon hundreds of times. The music followed, and soon, singing “roll out the barrell” with my grandfather had evolved into a one woman chorus of ‘anything goes’! I researched everything and anything 1940s-1950s over the next couple of years and game series such as Bioshock and Falllout fuelled the fire further… my influences came from a number of places, then BAM, it was 2016 and I was graduating in a swing dress!

It was easy to fall in love with 1950s americana, it was different to the brittish wartime effort I had started with, but the shiny apeal of formica, the promise of the atomic age and new hope… alongside pastel hues was too much for me. As unimpressed as I am with the backward values of the 50s towards race, gender and sexuality, the lifestyle of the 1950s housewife was very attractive in a certain light.

Anyway, I’m a shocking writer but I hope this blog develops as I go on writing it.