Book Review: The Gallery of Regrettable Food

How can you not love a book that has this description on the inside of the jacket cover?

  What were they thinking?  How did they eat this bilge?  Good questions, but you won’t find them answered here.  The Gallery of Regrettable Food is a simple introduction to poorly photographed foodstuffs and horrid recipes from the Golden Age of Salt and Starch.

The author, James Lileks, is a columnist for the Minneapolis-St. Paul Tribune, and this book is based on his website The Institute of Official Cheer.  He is a funny, funny man with a skewed perspective no matter what he is talking about.  We both love his sensibility.

Another reason we love this book, is our regrettable addiction to those very pamphlets he lampoons, and we own many of those featured in the book.  We’ll share those with you in a later post, but this can serve as their introduction.

I’ve scanned just a couple of pages, so you can get a flavor of his writing:

Some of our favorite things about these old pamphlets are the dishes pictured; they can serve as a directory of when pieces may have been produced.


You’ve got to love the 1950’s when “the girls” played bridge but couldn’t consume any calories, while “the guys” got beans and wienies.  That picture of the hotdogs and beans almost looks like it came from a sci-fi or horror film, “It came from outer space …”  Now can someone please explain to me how anyone could think this was appetizing?

And finally:

I can remember eating jello salads with suppers instead of lettuce salads; thank goodness my mom wasn’t crazy about molding her jello salads, as these are incredibly nasty looking.

If you have any interest in vintage cooking pamphlets we highly recommend picking up this book; ditto if you enjoy humorous essays about the 1950’s and 60’s.

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7 Responses to Book Review: The Gallery of Regrettable Food

  1. Connie says:

    I have read this book and absolutely loved it! Regrettably, my mom must have prepared recipes from the same pamphlet as the author’s mother. Lunch and supper were the most likely meals for these abominations to appear. And we also ate more than our fair share of jello salads instead of lettuce salads. Some of the things mom chose to suspend in jello would have been much better or made more sense in a lettuce salad: shredded carrots, peas, raisins, pears, and mandarin oranges.

    Oddly enough, I am collecting these pamphlets, but from the perspective of the fun graphics and the fab photos. Oh… and the helpful social hints: how to behave at a party, which foods are appropriate to serve at parties, how to decorate for the party, and my favorite hint… what games are appropriate for boys and girls to play at said party.

    But wouldn’t it be fun to through a 60s themes party and serve one or two of these culinary oddities? You will bring back memories for the 40+ crowd and horrify the younger ones. 🙂

    • Second Hand Roses says:

      OK, having a party using the hints in those pamphlets would be a hysterical idea–I have the perfect hostess apron for you to wear. You could have the pamphlets sitting out so people could see what bullets they dodged!

  2. Terri Gold says:

    I thought immediately of jello molds upon reading the title. Actually I’ve never been served one. I’m sad about that. ;-(

    • Second Hand Roses says:

      Oh dear, we aren’t sure where you could even get a jello mold served anymore. You need to make friends with a really old lady who still cooks; that would probably be your best bet, at least for the crazy ones with neon green jello and shredded carrots.

  3. Ruth says:

    Hilarious!!! Love your comments!! Friends lacking bodies …. erect wieners ….. LOL!!! Oh yes ….. Jellied salads …. a staple of the 60’s Bridge Club for sure!!! Very reminiscent of the Coneheads AND dear Aunt Bethany from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation!!!!!
    I love to collect these cookbooks – such a hoot to read!!! I’ve rescued a good many from my grandparent’s home!!

    • Second Hand Roses says:

      Oh, you are one of us; we find these pamphlets absolutely hilarious and well worth saving! Thanks for reading.

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