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Posted on Thu, Apr 22, 2010 : 6:30 a.m.

An anthropological study, thanks to Gourmet Magazine

By Mary Bilyeu

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As anyone who knows me or reads my posts can attest, I adore thrift shops. And I love to find unique and unusual items, rather than merely looking for jeans or sneakers or scarves. A light green Depression-era Fiestaware cup for 80¢ ... a $4 black denim jacket with a heart-shaped lace insert on the back ... a Jewish cookbook written in French ... these are prizes.
Gourmet Magazines.JPG

Issues of Gourmet from the '60s and '70s.

Mary Bilyeu, Contributor

And yet another treasure found recently at the PTO Thrift Shop was an assortment of old Gourmet magazines, ones nearly as old as I am!

Not only were they in nearly pristine condition, but they were only 50¢ apiece — the actual price of the copy from September, 1969. (The other two issues are from 1975 and 1979.) And they document a different era, a different time, seemingly an entirely different culture.

On the very first page of one issue, in the "Sugar and Spice" section featuring letters to the editor and reader-submitted recipes, an offering of Applesauce Cake was sent in by "Mrs. Bernard Maggin" of Rockville, Md., rather than Sandy or Anne or whatever-her-own-first-name-was Maggin.

The ads are also most entertaining. American Express called itself "The New Money" several decades ago. Godiva chocolates cost only $9.50 per pound, as opposed to their current price of $40. Hamilton Beach was singing the virtues of "the fool-proof food processor that even speaks metric," in case anyone was "worried about the new metric measurements" back in the days when we were all told that switching to that system was imminent. A 1976 Chrysler New Yorker Brougham is not only as big as my Suburban, but it proudly boasts that "Most every luxury is standard. Like power front disc brakes, power steering, and power windows" and even an "electronic digital clock." But I think my favorite is for the Kodak Ektasound gadgets. "Ektasound cameras don't need movie lights. All you do is drop a sound film cartridge into the camera. Plug in a mike. And put the sight and the sound of your holidays ... right on the film. Then you can relive it all in bright sound movies with your Kodak Ektasound movie projector!"

Gourmet 1969.JPG

Mary Bilyeu, Contributor

Of course, Gourmet magazine is — sorry, was ... some of us still can't believe it's gone — devoted to food. In 1975, there was an entire category in the Recipe Index for "Pâtés and Terrines." On page 58 of the copy from 1969, in the "You Asked For It" section in which readers can ask the magazine to hunt down recipes from their favorite restaurants, there is this quaint request: "Are you familiar with the hors d'oeuvre baba ghanouj, that thick oyster-colored cream made with aubergine, sesame oil and probably onion or garlic?" Of course, now you can find it at any grocery store! But when I was 6 years old, apparently baba ghanouj was quite the rarity.

My, how the times have changed!

Mary Bilyeu has won or placed in more than 60 cooking contests and writes about her adventures as she tries to win prizes, feeds hungry teenagers and other loved ones and generally just has fun in the kitchen. The phrase "You Should Only Be Happy" (written in Hebrew on the stone pictured next to the blog's title) comes from Deuteronomy 16:15 and is a wish for all her readers as they cook along with her ... may you always be happy here. You can contact Mary at or follow her on Twitter ( And look for her new food blog:



Sun, Apr 25, 2010 : 1:07 p.m.

This was such an enjoyable read. I don't know what I liked more - Mrs. Bernard Maggin's mention or the New Yorker and its "digital clock." Thanks, Mary.

bill s

Sat, Apr 24, 2010 : 9:41 p.m.

I also enjoy reading old magazines; I love how they allow us to return to day-to-day living at the time of publication. The cars, the appliances, and especally the technology of the era is facinating. There is nothing like seeing an ad for 1960 Corvette with all the trimmings for $2200! Thanks Mary, once again, you've added a little joy to my day! p.s. I can just see you leaping in the air with delight when you found that old Jewish cookbook, IN FRENCH!!! :)

Mary Bilyeu

Fri, Apr 23, 2010 : 7:18 p.m.

The photography really is strikingly different, with all the newfangled digital gadgets and ways to manipulate photos! The old ones have such charm about them... :)


Fri, Apr 23, 2010 : 6:55 a.m.

I love the old photography in these vintage cooking magazines - somehow delectable and scary at the same time (could be the meat images pushed a bit too far into the red spectrum...eep!)

Mary Bilyeu

Fri, Apr 23, 2010 : 4:42 a.m.

The PTO is one of my favorites -- great stuff at astounding prices; I always see people in line with things I wish I'd found first! And Peggy, you're not dating yourself -- you're just remembering a more sophisticated time, and food that didn't involve asking "Do you want fries with that" or "Do you need forks and napkins to go with that?" And your reverie sounds fabulous... :)


Fri, Apr 23, 2010 : 2:26 a.m.

Wow, what a great find. I really love shopping at the PTO Thrift shop too. I scored some pristine Stones and Beatles LPs there and that really made my day. A younger man who saw my treasure groaned in disbelief and envy!

Peggy Lampman

Thu, Apr 22, 2010 : 9:03 p.m.

Thanks Mary--what a score! Oh how I yearn for the days of scratch made terrines, especially those w/a nice baked fresh bread crust--a bit of Maille French mustard...some of Ian's baguettes from Complete Cuisine (oops--I'm dating myself). Peggy