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Monday, May 21, 2018
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Appetizers from the ‘50s and ‘60s still rock

I get a tad nostalgic when it comes to retro cookbooks, vintage Pyrex and reruns of “Leave It to Beaver.”

So I didn’t hesitate to volunteer to help my friends John and Penny Smith put together a menu for a sock-hop fundraiser they’re hosting at 7 p.m. this Saturday night at the Firehouse Cultural Center in Ruskin. John is competing for this year’s honorary mayor of South Shore.

The menu called for appetizers from the 1950s. Channeling my inner June Cleaver, I was all over the challenge.

Sock hops were a bit before my time, so I really can’t say much about them from personal experience. In the late ‘50s and early ‘60s I was fed fish sticks and put to bed before my parents dined.

The stereotypical 1950’s appetizers? Everyone loves pigs in a blanket, seasoned Chex mix and Swedish meatballs.

For further inspiration, I paged through my mom’s 1956 “Betty Crocker Picture Cook Book,” which still falls open to the batter-spattered pages of Hermits, Jubilee Jumbles and Coconut Kisses. Mom obviously turned often to her trusty advisor, Betty, for cookie help.

But what caught my eye, besides the ever-present strands of pearls and frilly aprons, were the appetizers that were popular then and still have retro appeal today.

Cheese balls rolled in chopped nuts, deviled eggs, stuffed mushrooms and cheese puffs have a timeless appeal, as do pinwheel sandwiches. Starting with an unsliced loaf of bread and removing the crusts, you’d slice the loaf lengthwise into three or four layers and spread filling such as tuna salad, ham salad or egg salad on the bread. Then you’d roll each layer into a log, and slice into small, individual sandwiches.

Another old-fashioned appetizer idea that’s still around today is a crudites platter featuring cut-up vegetables, such as carrots, celery, snap peas, cauliflower and jicama, surrounding a dish of creamy green onion or spinach dip.

Hot dips like crab and artichoke dip or hot cheese are also longtime favorites.

Mousses and pates are spreads or pastes made with meat, and were on most appetizer menus in the mid 20th century. These were traditionally served with crackers, vegetables or a sliced baguette.

And when mushrooms collide with crab, sausage, spinach or bacon, they transform into little retro rock stars. Still as cool as ever.

So if you’d like to take a culinary step back in time, come join me at John’s sock hop. Be there or be square!

Lynn Kessel is a freelance food columnist and blogger. For more of her recipes, visit southshore.tbo.com and enter the search words Lynn Kessel or look for her blog at www.lynnkessel.blogspot.com.


1/4 cup cilantro leaves

2 scallions, cut into thirds

1 garlic clove, minced

1 jalapeno, chopped

One 10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry

1/2 cup mayonnaise

4 ounces cream cheese (1/2 cup)

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice


In a food processor, pulse the cilantro, scallions, garlic and jalapeno until finely chopped. Add the spinach, mayonnaise, cream cheese, lime juice and salt to taste, then puree until smooth. Transfer the dip to a bowl and refrigerate until chilled before serving.

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