The 1960s. A time of sweeping change and clashes of conforming tradition. All around the world, people were discarding the dull and drab misery of the post-wartime Fifties in favour of shimmy-shaking to the intense glow of the Sixties. The backdrops of kitchen tables were painted with the complexity of French cuisine, the suburban community of outdoor barbeques and the inquisitive interest of ethnic gastronomy. Far gone were the stodgy casseroles and wartime rations, and in their place, exciting banquets were marched in to tantalise taste buds.
Mad Men, a period drama series set during the 1960s in the United States, centres around Don Draper (Jon Hamm), a creative director at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. The series also follows the lives of people in his life against the setting of ever-changing social norms and political upheaval of the time. Having received many awards for its historical authenticity, it only remained for devoted fans to recreate the Sixties’ style of food.
And so they did – The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook, written by Judy Gelman and Peter Zheutlin, provides the historical relevance and recipes behind the foods and drinks in the show, cooked and consumed by the various characters. Taking influence from actual cookbooks of the 1950s and 1960s, Gelman and Zheutlin have integrated their culinary knowledge with the styles of chefs and popular restaurants of the time to remain true to the era.
The two recipes I chose to test out on my housemates from The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook were the Sole Amandine Waldorf-Style and Julia Child’s Potatoes au Gratin. From the sound of their names alone, I knew we were all definitely in for a treat. What I found quite intelligent about this cookbook is that Gelman and Zheutlin include prefaces for each recipe or collection of recipes as to how they are devised or adapted from the Mad Men series. The ones I had chosen came from a scene in the first season of Mad Men, where the Draper power couple are dining in an unnamed restaurant where the “interior is suggestive of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel’s Bull and Bear Steakhouse”.
The recipes were straightforward to follow, with the only downsides being that there are no photographs as visual aids so that the reader can see exactly how the meal should look and that, with this being an American publication, all the measurements are imperial and American standard. And the latter issue is easily solved with an online conversion tool. The foods were easily prepared and looked delicious (photograph shown) and, much to my housemates’ enjoyment, tasted delicious too.
With such a myriad of food and cocktail recipes, I will definitely be using The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook again, especially as I’m curious about this Old Fashioned that Don continually quaffs.
The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook by Judy Gelman and Peter Zheutlin is published by Benbella Books, and is available to buy on Amazon.