Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Food: Recipes, cookbook reviews, food notes, and restaurant reviews. Unless otherwise noted, I have personally tried each recipe that gets its own page, but not necessarily recipes listed as part of a cookbook review.

A 1950 recipe calendar for 2023

Jerry Stratton, December 28, 2022

Hope Lutheran Church 1950 calendar: “My faith looks up to thee.” From a 1950 recipe calendar of Hope Lutheran Church, Milwaukee.; calendars; Milwaukee

If you have any 1950 calendars lying around, you can use them in 2023—or you can use this wonderful old collection of recipes tied to the seasons!

Old cookbooks are not alone among the ephemera that often raise more questions than answers. Old calendars, with their strange holidays and even stranger assumptions about how you use them are also often like peering into a different country. But what about old calendars that are also cookbooks?

On the same online group that produced the wonderful Deplorable Gourmet—a few months before our Texas meetup—a friend posted the enigmatic (and always exciting) words “I found a cool cookbook for you. I’ll bring it to the meet.”

It turned out not to be a cookbook, but a calendar, a 1950 calendar from Hope Lutheran Church of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It took me slightly longer to track down where they were than it should have because while they provided their address on the calendar, they did not include either the town or the state where the address was located. This was well before zip codes, too, and the phone numbers are all five digits with a word in front of them, that is, Division 2-0471 and Kilbourn 5-5524.

That Hope Lutheran is part of the “Missouri Synod” sent me up the entirely wrong tree, as there is in fact a Hope Lutheran just outside of St. Louis, Missouri.

But once I tracked down the cross streets, it turns out the church is still there, at 1115 N 35th St, Milwaukee, just like the calendar says. And it’s still Missouri Synod.

Kaestner, the funeral home that sponsored the calendar for them, is long gone, although (some of) their records appear to be preserved at the Milwaukee County Historical Society.

Each month has a collection of season-appropriate recipes, although, oddly, the recipes are behind the month. That is, January’s recipes are only visible during February, the Fourth of July recipes only show up when you switch the calendar to August, and Thanksgiving only shows when you switch to December. The recipes for the month are on the same sheet as the month, which makes it impossible to see them both at the same time!

Flipping the page up to find the recipes wouldn’t have been difficult, although the pages do have a tendency to stick together. It’s on very thin paper, making it susceptible to whatever subatomic force causes thin pages to sometimes feel and act like a single page. But it still seems odd, because it means that the month-appropriate illustrations are also mismatched.

1943 recipe calendar January: A 1943 calendar showing January on the very front page.; calendars; food history; vintage cookbooks

On this calendar, January is the title page—so if there are to be January recipes, they’d have to be underneath.

It may just have been an artifact from how and when the calendar was made. I found photos of a very similar 1943 calendar, right down to the same warning not to tear off the pages as the months pass, that uses the same format. There’s no title page to put January’s recipes on the back of. The very back page has Christmas recipes, indicating that, rather than cut January’s recipes, they did indeed put the month’s recipes on the back of the month’s calendar.

It isn’t obvious from the PDF, but the Hope Lutheran 1950 calendar is constructed the same way as the 1943 example. The pages that appear to precede January in the PDF are a sort of cardboard folder enclosing the calendar. The calendar itself starts with January and is of a very different, very thin paper.

Both the backward design and the thin paper may have been the result of paper rationing during World War II: thin sheets use less paper, and removing the title page would have saved at least one full sheet. It’s possible they hadn’t updated their processes by 1949, when a 1950 calendar would have been printed.

But weird historical discrepancies and the lingering effect of war is not what made this find cool (although, see below when I start talking about the holidays they chose to include). Perhaps in another year it would have. What made this find really cool now is that 1950 and 2023 are calendar-identical years.

January 1 is Sunday in both 1950 and 2023. Neither are leap years. And while this isn’t entirely odd—there are only fourteen calendars as far as dates are concerned—even Easter is on April 9 in both calendars. Easter is on a lunar calendar. Even in calendar-identical years, there’s no guarantee that Easter Sunday will match up. So it’s a happy coincidence that between 1950 and 2023 it does match up.

In honor of that coincidence, I’m providing two versions of this calendar. The original (PDF File, 11.7 MB), with all of the church info as well as the recipes on the back of each month; and a version usable as a 2023 calendar (PDF File, 9.4 MB), with the recipes reversed so that if you hang it you can see a month’s recipes during that month.

Print Entire calendar Image: Print Entire Image on macOS.; printing; macOS; OS X

Print in landscape and choose “Print Entire Image”, or the equivalent on your computer.

The calendar measures 8½ inches by 6½ inches (ratio: 1.31), which translates well to 11½ by 8½ (ratio: 1.35). That means you can print it and scale up to the size of a standard printer sheet simply by telling your printer to scale up to “Print Entire Image”.

If you’re going to hang either version like a normal calendar you will want to reinforce the hole on the front page.1 Normal printer paper isn’t strong enough to hold thirteen sheets—or more in the original version. I glued a small piece of card stock from the back of a used notepad over the punch hole. And then punched a hole again through it. A layer of thick tape or several layers of clear tape ought to work as well.2

I apologize for the yellowed background; I did my best to make the pages printable without wasting too much ink, but too much level correction would wash out the text, and filling in with white anyway would make any enclosed letters look off.

The only thing off about the calendar is that it also provides a lunar calendar, and it would be too much to ask that the lunar calendars for 1950 and 2023 also coincide. They are pretty close, however, which is why Easter does match. The phases in this calendar are early by two to four days.3

There are very few holidays on this calendar. Only two months have more than one holiday (September, November), and some (March, June, August, October) have no holidays. Some of the missing holidays are obvious. There’s no “Washington’s Birthday”, “Washington’s Birthday (Observed)”, “Lincoln’s Birthday” or “President’s Day”, just “Washington’s Birthday”. There’s no Martin Luther King Jr. Day—King wouldn’t even be Reverend King for four more years.

There is no “Flag Day” in June—it was only made an official holiday in 1949, possibly when this calendar was being created—but there is an “Independence Day” in July. There’s even a “Constitution Day” in September on the anniversary of the signing of the Constitution. “Labor Day”, of course, was already well-established, and is included.

Ham and olive spread sandwich: Meat and olive spread from the 1950 Hope Lutheran calendar of seasonal recipes.; sandwiches; olive; ham

As a sandwich spread, the meat-olive spread was okay.

More surprising to me, if you look closely at the list of months with no holidays, October is one of them. There is no Halloween in this calendar. Halloween as we know it was still evolving. The family-friendly trick-or-treating tradition that you might expect in a calendar of this sort was very new. It’s possible there was also a religious element to leaving Halloween out—this is a Lutheran calendar and even today Lutherans appear to be unsure whether celebrating it is appropriate—but I don’t think that’s necessary to explain its exclusion from a 1950 calendar. Many things we think of as having been here forever, haven’t.

On the other hand, if you looked at that list of months with two holidays and thought, what is November doing on it in a 1950 calendar of such sparse holidays, remember that this is only slightly after World War II. We were still adjusting to the aftereffects of that second Great War, and our calendars continued to memorialize the first, especially the peace signed on November 11, 1917.

Today, we’ve repurposed Armistice Day to Veterans Day. The change wouldn’t become official until 1954, but some communities were already combining the two celebrations almost as soon as the war ended. This calendar also includes Veterans Day’s counterpart in the other half of the year, Memorial Day.

Now, what about the food?

There are some recipes that definitely frighten away foodies, such as taking canned shrimp and serving over canned spaghetti. That is indeed not something I’d probably do. But the basic recipe—take shrimp, stir-fry lightly in butter with curry powder and onion, serve over a tomato-based pasta—is a very good idea. Or just serve it over rice, with or without tomatoes added.

Recipes from this era, especially in this format, are not meant to be followed. In most cases, they assume you’re going to go with what you got. And what you got, in February in Milwaukee, is not fresh shrimp. What they were showing off was not how awesome canned shrimp is, but how awesome it is that you can eat shrimp in the dead of winter in the midwest. There’s no need to limit yourself.

Corn and ham bread pudding: Bacon-corn fondue from the 1950 Hope Lutheran calendar of seasonal recipes.; ham; corn; bread pudding

Next time I’ll chop the ham instead of slicing it.

And looking at the context for that dish—having “hearty food on hand” after spending a morning sledding with your kids—this is exactly what’s needed. Mom didn’t stay home to make a gourmet meal. She went out sledding, too. Maybe I’d steer clear of this dish today; but when I was a kid, after spending an afternoon building “a hearty appetite”? I’m pretty sure I not only would have eaten this, I would have loved it.

It’s also interesting what “seasonal” means in this calendar. September’s recipes are cookies and a bread pudding. What happens in September? Kids go to school, and they make new friends. These are recipes that help make them “feel welcome to bring their friends to their homes”.

October brings us back to hearty meals to feed the hungry athlete after a rousing game of football. And to feed the athlete’s hungry family, because the family is out in the bleachers, too. The kids are “cheering their schoolmates on”. Mom and dad are enjoying the shared family experience and the shared community, in a sport that binds families and communities together across both space and time.

If you can use October’s entry in 2023 in the manner it was designed to be used in 1950, I envy you.

While I intend to make at least one recipe a month from this calendar once 2023 arrives, I’ve tried a few already. August’s ham and olive spread is fascinating, much like a ham/olive loaf but ground instead. I made the whole thing in a food processor. Whenever I acquire a new cookbook, I try to make at least one recipe I wouldn’t normally make, and this is that recipe for this cookbook. It’s surprisingly good on a sandwich, but I wasn’t planning on adding it to my rotation until I tried it in a standard lettuce salad. Over salad it tastes a lot like, and has a very similar texture to, bulgogi, one of my favorite Thai dishes.

October’s bacon-corn fondue is not at all what I would consider a fondue. It’s more of a bread pudding, but it’s a very good one. It was creamy and delicious, and contra the near-complete lack of spices (just a quarter teaspoon each of pepper and mustard) very flavorful. I replaced the bacon with ham. While bacon will enhance almost all foods, few foods will enhance bacon. This is not true of ham, which is almost always improved by the food it improves. Less philosophically, I had some ham I wanted to get rid of before traveling.

I baked the “fondue” for an hour and twenty-five minutes, probably because the casserole dish I used is thinner and taller than an 8x8 pan, which, I suspect, is what they assume you’ll use. The greater depth probably kept it from cooking through in the specified hour’s time.

Butterscotch bran bars: Butterscotch bars from the 1950 Hope Lutheran calendar of seasonal recipes.; brownies

These golden butterscotch bran bars were very tasty.

May’s butterscotch squares recipe sneaks in some bran for mom, because May is Mother’s Day. There’s a typo in the instructions, which is dangerous for a focused person like me: it has you mix the eggs with the vanilla and salt, but it never has you add them to the dough. Fortunately I noticed the discrepancy during prep. I chose to add the egg mixture after creaming the shortening and sugar, and before adding the soaked bran.

“Soaked bran” is a new term for me. I took ½ cup of bran (what the recipe calls for) and added water a quarter cup at a time until it seemed soaked but not watery. That took ¾ cups of water.

These are very nice bran squares.

Happy New Year, and I hope you enjoy this unique historical glimpse into both seasonal 1950 food and the evolution of calendars past the second World War! I’m looking forward to trying a new recipe from this calendar each month come January.

I’m especially looking forward to July’s Almond Jam Bars, September’s Princess Pudding, October’s Harvest Pudding or Dutch Apple Cake, and November’s Cranberry Ice Box Pudding.

Hope Lutheran Church 1950 calendar: “My faith looks up to thee.” From a 1950 recipe calendar of Hope Lutheran Church, Milwaukee.; calendars; Milwaukee

A 1950 calendar of seasonal recipes.

Recipe calendar for 2023 from 1950: A 1950 calendar of recipes—perfect for hanging in 2023!; calendars

Updated to 2023 and ready for hanging!

In response to Vintage Cookbooks and Recipes: I have a couple of vintage cookbooks queued up to go online.

  1. You’ll need to reinforce all of the holes if you are a rebel who ignores the advice not to tear off previous months.

  2. You can also buy hole reinforcers but then you’ll have a bunch of hole reinforcers left over.

  3. Apropos of nothing, in 1950 Christmas Eve had a full moon. In 2023, the full moon isn’t scheduled until December 26.

  1. <- Cookbook archive
  2. Eddie Doucette’s Home Cooking ->