16 Classic Foods We Miss


Before we go on this nostalgic journey featuring the staple dishes our parents served, I must admit that there are foods I do not miss. Those include anything in aspic, objects that came out of a ring mold, and luncheon meat that had… stuff in it. There are probably some entrees that your mother used to make and you miss, though, so let's take a trip down memory lane.

1. Chicken and Dumplings

"A fricassee without dumplings is like a wedding without a bride." (Betty Crocker's Picture Cook Book,1950)

Um, okay, that cookbook editor really took her dumplings seriously. Well, she was right. Stewed chicken is good, but it's way better with fluffy dumplings. Herbed dumplings are even better, and this recipe has been lightened up considerably.

2. Chicken a La King

"Hey, it's s__t on a shingle." — My dad

This meal was one of my mother's standbys when her budget was tight. It is cheap, filling, and fast to put together. You can also serve over any type of starch, such as noodles, toasts, biscuits, rice, etc. I tested an old recipe from one of my vintage cookbooks and, while very good, it was just too heavy for me. This chicken a la king recipe, however, is lightened-up and very satisfying.

3. Boeuf Bourguignon

"It's a perfectly delicious dish." — Julia Child

Child's classic recipe is not difficult, and it's absolutely wonderful. As a newlywed, it was my go-to dinner party dish. Toss a salad, and get some really crusty bread out.

4. Stroganoff

"Sprinkle parsley around with a lavish hand." (The Complete I Hate to Cook Book, 1960)

A working mother, my mom was not enamoured of fixing dinner. She relied heavily on the I Hate to Cook Book. One of her favorites was "Skid Road Stroganoff," a recipe title I adore. I don't use condensed soups, but if you are capable of making a white sauce, that is a good substitute.

5. Swiss Steak

"Midway between pot roast and stew, this is a fine way to use a less than tender steak." (The Fannie Farmer Cookbook, 1896)

Sure, it needs tenderizing, but this steak is well worth the elbow grease. (I like my OXO mallet for tenderizing tough cuts.) Noodles with parsley and butter go well with this and lend to the authenticity.

6. Hash

"A dish popular with many persons is corned-beef hash with poached eggs on top of the hash. A slice of toast is sometimes used under the hash. This suggests a way of utilizing the small amount of corned-beef hash which would otherwise be insufficient for a meal." (Practical Suggestions for Mother and Housewife)

When I was a kid, hash would make an appearance a night or two after a roast beef supper. Thrifty housewives used up those roasts. I loved my mother's version, which included onions, green peppers, and red potatoes. She did hers in the oven and managed to get a nice crispy top on it. Hash has made somewhat of a comeback, and you see it a lot with an egg on top (absolutely excellent). There are so many varieties of hash. In Hawaii, corned-beef hash is very popular. The ingredients are chopped finely, made into patties, and fried.

7. Yankee Pot Roast

"Men especially like this dish..." (Farm Journal's Country Cookbook, 1959)

Well, true, but so does everyone else. I have one of these pot roasts on my stove this very minute and we're all just salivating. The dogs are staring at me, hopefully. Not only will there be gravy, but I will make popovers (below). I feel like June Cleaver.

8. French Onion Soup

"Dress it up with a sprinkling of cheese." (Farm Journal's Country Cookbook)

A "sprinkling" of cheese? Sorry, but that layer of cheese on French onion soup is one of the best parts. The worst part? The dishwashing — be forewarned, it's a mess (but well worth it).

9. Goulash

"An eye-catcher — spicy red sauce trickles through buttery noodles." (Farm Journal's Country Cookbook)

My mother made goulash. My mother-in-law made goulash. The dishes looked totally different, but were both delicious. There is apparently a lot of leeway in making goulash. This concoction is inexpensive, and feeds a crowd.

10. Meatloaf

"My mom makes a great meatloaf..." (Sam Choy's Little Hawaiian Cookbook for Big Appetites, 2003)

Unfortunately, mine didn't, but 4-H saved me. One of our projects was to cook a complete meal from Betty Crocker's The Cookbook for Boys and Girls. I opted for the meatloaf recipe, which, as you can see, is still out there. Baked in a pie pan and topped with mashed potatoes, it is dandy. However, if you want to make a delicious meatloaf that people will really want to eat, Mr. Choy's, referenced above, wins. His contains fresh ginger, pineapple, and has a teriyaki glaze.

11. Potatoes Au Gratin

"You won't go wrong on this." (Farm Journal's Country Cookbook)

Why? Because pretty much everyone likes tender, creamy, potatoes, topped with cheese. Potatoes au gratin look, and taste, great. You used to see this dish a lot at potlucks and, well, funerals. Hey, it's comfort food. It could be 101 degrees in the shade, but on Sunday, my grandmother would take a ham and a pan of potatoes au gratin out of her Wedgewood oven. It would be devoured, and then all the uncles would take their Cokes and cigarettes outside. Yep.

12. Popovers

"High hat muffins, popped so they are crusty shells, hollow inside." (Betty Crocker's Picture Cook Book)

These are not hard to make and holy smokes, are they ever good. If you have never had a homemade popover, try these, and thank me later. They are one of my father's favorite things. They go particularly well with Yankee Pot Roast (above) but are also good with butter. Lots and lots of butter.

13. Creamed Corn

"They'll want more, so make two..." (Betty Crocker's Picture Cook Book)

Homemade creamed corn is nothing like the canned version. If you were scarred by the canned stuff as a child, don't worry. I promise this is different. I like a little Tabasco on mine. It goes with everything — meat, poultry, fish. When fresh corn hits that four-for-$1 price, make this.

14. Succotash

"Cut hot boiled corn from cob, add equal quantity of hot boiled shelled beans; season with butter and salt; reheat before serving." (The Boston School of Cooking Cook Book, 1896)

Although my husband loves the stuff, I have issues with lima beans. However, my way around it was this succotash recipe. Although it still has some lima beans, I found that decreasing those, and increasing the zucchini, worked for me. The garlic-butter-olive-oil and onion combo gave it loads of flavor. Try it with fried chicken and sliced, fresh tomatoes. This is a great summer meal.

15. Coffee Cake

"Hey, how come you never make coffee cake?" — My husband

I think that coffee cake, which is absolutely delicious, just got buried under trendier gluten-free pancakes, cronuts, and Belgian waffles. Let's dig it out, though, because it's so good. I especially like the version that has buttery brown sugar crumbles on top. My mother-in-law used to make a coffee cake, fresh coffee, and have the neighbor ladies over for a chat. Let's bring that back.

16. Meringues

"Fill angel-white or light-brown meringue pie shells with ice cream... You'll have a praiseworthy dessert." (Farm Journal's Country Cookbook)

My Auntie Lo laughed a lot, wore bright-red lipstick, and made the best meringues in the world. When you touched your fork to the delicate meringue, it shattered into sugary shards. She would top pies with them, or fill them with berries and ice cream. They are not terribly hard to make, unless you live in a lot of humidity. If you do, I wouldn't bother.

Okay, readers. What staple dishes do you miss?

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Guest's picture

Loved this! Definitely a trip down memory lane! !

Guest's picture

These comfort foods aren't missing from my house! How about my family's favorite: whipped cream noodles. This is homemade noodles cooked in whipping cream that has been reduced to an oil. Wonderful! Took me years, but I finally figured out how to make a perfect meatloaf: puree the onions. Such a simple thing but I never thought of it in the early years. Sigh. I think I need to head for my kitchen!!