When writer Wendy McClure, of the site Candyboots, stumbled upon a set of 1970s diet cards, she couldn’t stop laughing.
Wendy explained: “When I found the card for the “Rosy Perfection Salad” I Iaughed so hard I started coughing. I waved the card at my mom, who just rolled her eyes. “Can I please have these?” I begged. “What do you want them for?” she asked. “To cook?” “No,” I said.”
Instead of cooking the recipes (and why would she? Why would anyone?), she made them into a book.
Wendy said: “These cards mystify me. None of them have calorie information of any kind, and in some instances it’s hard to tell what’s dietetic about the recipes at all, except that they’re unspeakably grim. And yet also, completely insane.”
Here are 21 of the ‘best’ diet cards from her collection.
1. Molded Asparagus Salad.
“In a small saucepan, sprinkle gelatin over 1/2 cup tomato juice. Stir over low heat until gelatin dissolves. Stir in remaining tomato juice, vinegar, sweetener, salt and hot sauce. Chill until syrupy. Fold in asparagus.” Mmm, syrupy asparagus jelly.
2. Chilled Celery Log.
This recipe for a stuffed, chilled celery ‘log’ invites you to mash a cauliflower, stir in some chopped green pepper, insert the mixture into some celery and then refrigerate for 45 minutes before slicing. Delicious.
3. Frankfurter Spectacular.
Yes, this really is a mixture of frankfurters, pineapple, onion and carrot. To give the dish a particularly jaunty air, you’re encouraged to staple the frankfurters onto the pineapple core before serving.
4. Fluffy Mackerel Pudding.
Do you have dehydrated onion, mackerel, egg and a green pepper in your house? You do? Then you have everything you need to make this delightful pudding. Simply mash everything up, bake the fish-gloop in the oven and top with sliced egg.
5. Crown Roast of Frankfurters.
This meaty crown filled with shredded cabbage is definitely a dish fit for a king, as long as said king doesn’t have eyes or taste buds.
6. Broiled Appleburgers.
These burgers are made with actual beef (rather than mackerel, gelatin or frankfurters), but instead of frying them you’re asked to ‘broil them on a rack’ then serve them with apple because whoever made these cards hates people.
7. Peach Melba.
This dish looks almost normal (if you ignore the ceramic cheetah, that is), but when you check the recipe you find that the cherry-like objects are actually made from diet soda mixed with gelatin. Argh.
8. Stuffed Lettuce Wedges.
“What are they stuffed with?” I hear you cry. Why, cottage cheese, of course! The most disappointing of all the cheeses.
9. Spinach And Egg Mold.
These diet cards were clearly sponsored by a gelatin manufacturer: it’s in everything. This recipe combines gelatin, egg, cottage cheese and spinach to make a radish-topped horror jelly that will haunt your nightmares for years to come.
10. Jellied Tomato Refresher.
This crime scene of a meal is basically a jellified Bloody Mary without the vodka, decorated with bits of green pepper and served in brandy glasses. WHY?
11. Inspiration Soup.
The only thing inspiring about this watery tomato, beansprout, asparagus and green bean soup is the jaunty napkins. The candles are quite nice too.
12. Cucumber ‘Cream’ Salad.
Bet you can’t guess what the ‘cream’ is in this dish. No, it’s not that: don’t be disgusting. It’s cottage cheese, of course! Everything is cottage cheese!
13. Perfect Pizza Lunch.
There is nothing perfect about this. Nothing at all.
14. Frozen Cheese Salad.
“So you want me to mix cottage cheese with blue cheese, freeze it and then serve with brocolli?” “Yes.” “Can I at least cook the brocolli?” “No.”
15. Liver Pâté En Masque.
This mixture of liver, gelatin and green beans with a delicious grey ‘glaze’ is the colour of sadness.
16. Fish With “Butter” Sauce.
The sauce in this dish is made from something called ‘diet margarine’. Nope.
17. Snacks On A Stick.
What was that? You thought this was chocolate ice cream? Don’t be silly. These ‘sticksnacks’ are actually made from coffee mixed with- you guessed it- gelatin.
18. Fruit And Cheese Mold.
This recipe combines cottage cheese with orange flavoured diet soda and - of course- gelatin to create this monstrous, lettuce fringed ring. Kill it with fire.
19. Lettuce Potage.
Spoiler alert: this is just hot, blended lettuce.
20. Fish “Tacos”.
Because all the very finest Mexican food is made from shredded cabbage, bits of cod and a piece of wholemeal toast.
21. Madrilène-Cheese Salad.
This recipe somehow manages to combine all of the misery of the previous 20 into one dish. The red stuff is jellied tomato juice and the white stuff is- of course- cottage cheese. It’s served with lettuce, raw brocolli and a side order of tea towels.