Because electronic entertainments have become so ubiquitous today, it’s often hard to recall what people did with their leisure time before television, gaming and the internet.
What they did was play cards. Canasta was one of the most popular card games of the 1950s. It’s a rummy-derivative, and a glance of one of the many variations on the rules is enough to give you the cold sweats.
One of the ways card playing could be made more sociable was to serve food and drinks. This recipe from a homemade booklet from one of the more genteel neighborhoods of Pittsburgh Pennsylvania also indicates that those snacks were pretty healthy. This is good because looking at the cut of women’s clothing from the 1950s also gives you the cold sweats.
If you’ve ever wondered who on earth ate all those molded salads you see in cookbooks from this era, then here’s your answer. It was that or starve while playing cards.
Of note is the curious case of the last instruction in the recipe: “Chill.” back then, it meant to place the molded salad in the refrigerator so that it could set — but now it also means to relax, calm down. After making the Canasta Special and some cocktails, a hostess could, indeed, chill.
When the novelty of playing cards wore off and the prospect of gossiping over a Jell-O salad no longer seemed appealing, many women took “chill pills” instead.
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