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24 Mad Men Meals That Are Deliciously Outdated

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24 Mad Men Meals That Are Deliciously Outdated

Mad Men ran on AMC for seven glorious seasons, beginning in 2007, and portrayed one of the biggest paradigm shifts in modern history. Led by the almost offensively handsome Jon Hamm as Don Draper, the show depicted some classic cuisine of the time — a time when men ate red meat for lunch or poured themselves a scotch for their mid-morning meeting. But which dishes did those ad men of '50s and '60s Madison Avenue eat?

1. Caramelized Onion and Shallot Dip

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Season 1 sees a nod to Pete Campbell's motif wedding present, a ceramic chip-and-dip bowl that he associates with a California dip. “We went to these people's house and they had one,” Pete says. “It had sour cream with these little brown onions in it. It was very good.” In the Season 2 finale, the last time we see him, he holds a rifle bought from the same store where he returned the bowl — a fitting metaphor for his marriage.

2. Corned Beef Hash With Eggs

Image Credit: Jeremy Noble – CC BY 2.0/Wiki Commons.

In Season 3, Don is in charge of cooking while Betty recovers after giving birth to Eugene. In a tender moment, Don cooks an evening snack of corned beef hash with over-easy eggs, sharing it with his firstborn. There is much to make of Don Draper's meal choice — as we know, any man with a secret military past knows how to cook corned beef.

3. Rum-Soaked French Toast

Image Credit: Missvain – Own work, CC BY 4.0/Wiki Commons.

In another father-daughter scene, we see Sally reciprocate her dad's cooking when she runs away and joins him in New York City. Don wakes one morning to noise in the apartment, then finds Sally preparing French toast in the kitchen. As he sits down and tucks in, he queries what's on it. Sally replies, “Mrs. Butterworth's.” When she shows him the bottle, he tells her it's rum. Disappointed, she asks whether it's bad. Fittingly, Don smiles and says, “Not really.”

4. Betty Draper's Gazpacho

Image Credit: Elke Wetzig – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0/Wiki Commons.

Gazpacho is a Spanish summertime cold tomato soup adorned with bell peppers, cucumber, garlic, and onion — the perfect way to kick off Betty's “around the world” dinner party for Don's associates. Mad Men is good at giving simple concepts a strong narrative influence: serving a European dish like gazpacho not only denotes an upper-class perspective, it shows a culture looking outward for the first time.

5. Ribeye Steak Cooked in Butter

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Pete Campbell spends much of the series playing catch-up with the more masculine colleagues surrounding him. Pete's dark family relationship is counterbalanced by his marriage to his long-suffering wife Trudy, reflected when Pete seems overjoyed that she asks what he wants for dinner. “Ribeye, in the pan with butter,” says Pete. By ordering steak, Pete aims to project masculinity like Don Draper, whom he idolizes throughout the series. Nothing beats ribeye steak, seared to perfection, then basted in melted butter — if it works for Mad Men, then it works for me.

6. Canned Ham

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In the opener for Season 4, we see Peggy and Pete brainstorming the Sugarberry account for canned ham. In an idea that would get them canceled today, they plan a commercial where two women fight over the last can in the store. While canned ham is not a meal, there are many simple recipes to incorporate canned ham, such as Yummly's macaroni and cheese dish.

7. Waldorf Salad

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Who doesn't love a Waldorf salad? First seen at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City in 1896, the salad was created for a charity ball. Fast forward six decades, and Don Draper meets another hotelier, Conrad Hilton, at the same hotel. “Best kitchen in the world,” says Hilton, suggesting Don order one. “Got a salad named after it.” Don declines — a fruit and nut salad covered in mayonnaise isn't for everyone.

8. Orange Sherbet

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In Season 5, Don takes his new wife Megan to Howard Johnson's, which is a great reflection of his mysterious persona. Don, an all-American man, represents the all-American restaurant and hotel chain, a once-proud part of American culture. However, when presented with their famous orange sherbet, Megan shows disdain for not only the dessert but the whole experience. The controversial orange sherbet causes a feud, and Don does what Don does best — he gets in his car and drives off.

9. Cheese Fondue

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One of the more trope-ish recipes in the Mad Men repertoire, beer cheese fondue makes it into the opening episode of Season 6, where Don's neighbor's wife hits on him shamelessly during a New Year's Eve dinner party. What is the dish they are all enjoying? A cheese fondue. The '60s and fondue are like the '80s and electro music, and while some may scoff at a dated recipe, a cheese fondue is great — as long as nobody double-dips.

10. Candied Yams

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In the opening of Season 4, Betty and Sally celebrate Thanksgiving with Betty's new husband, Henry, and his family. When Sally refuses to eat her candied yams, an exasperated Betty embarrasses herself and force-feeds her poor daughter. Nobody would need to force-feed me candied yams — especially the toasted brown sugar and marshmallows.

11. Spaghetti

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In the episode “At the Codfish Ball,” Don's wife Megan wins the day by coming up with a slogan for his Heinz campaign: “Some things never change.” She finds inspiration after cooking spaghetti for Sally, reflecting on how three generations of her family have enjoyed the same recipe — hence, some things never change. However, we can all agree that Megan's recipe looks somewhat dry and bland.

12. Chicken Kiev

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Most young food fans have probably never tried the dated chicken Kiev. The '60s and '70s were this dish's heyday, though a well-executed chicken Kiev is still delicious. When Don goes on his first post-divorce dinner date to try his first one, Roger suggests he wear a bib to protect his shirt from the hot butter.

13. Ice Cream Sundae

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Betty's character seems to take a slow nosedive throughout the series and finally leaves her philandering husband for a safer, more reliable man. Her demise begins in Season 6, when she gains weight, starts losing her bond with Sally, and resorts to comfort eating. Sadly, ice cream sundaes signify Betty's sadness — she waits for Sally to depart before finishing her leftover sundae. But let's not blame the dessert… ice cream sundaes have always been there for us.

14. Oysters and Martinis

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In one of the funniest scenes in the show, Roger Sterling pays the price for his textbook indulgence after the elevator breaks down. After a lunch meeting, quaffing oysters and Martinis, Don and Roger come face-to-face with 23 flights of stairs. With important clients waiting upstairs, the pair braves the steps. Don hardly breaks a sweat while Roger almost passes out and duly vomits in front of the important guests on arrival.

15. Lamb With Mint Jelly

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Another part of Betty Draper's “around the world” dinner party is the main entree: roasted lamb with mint jelly. Like its predecessor, gazpacho, lamb shows opulent culinary ambition straight from the pages of Betty Crocker's Hostess Cookbook. Lamb is one of the more expensive meats, putting it out of the reach of middle-to-lower-class cooks. With the mint jelly on the side, a very British combination makes for Betty's showstopping main course.

16. German Noodles

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Betty's “around the world” soiree continues with a home favorite like her mother used to make: German noodles. While German noodles may sound like a funny word combination, the Germans also have very similar spaetzle dumplings. However, as an addition to a menu featuring gazpacho and minted lamb, noodles might not be everyone's favorite. Recipe expert Allrecipes has a simple yet tasty rendition of German spaetzle.

17. Japanese Rumaki

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Betty serves up the Japanese dish rumaki for her ambitious themed dinner party. Surprisingly, this recipe is in Betty Crocker's 1967 cookbook and consists of seasoned water chestnuts and chicken livers wrapped in bacon.

18. Navy Bean Soup

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Taking inspiration from Season 5 and the great Heinz face-off between Megan and Peggy, navy bean soup has similarities with Heinz beans, made with haricot beans — sometimes known as navy beans. While a can of Heinz is hardly a meal (unless you ask Brits about having it on toast), navy bean stew is the closest we can get to a Heinz Baked Beans meal.

19. Salted Chocolate Ice Cream

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Grandpa Gene and Sally form a strong bond in Season 3, especially as Sally acts up a lot, seeking Grandpa Gene as her confidant. Grandpa Gene's curious relationship with Betty notwithstanding, his moments with Sally are heartfelt. In one scene, he goes against his daughter's orders and offers Sally chocolate ice cream with salt on top. This combination is a treat, but why not push it into salted chocolate sundae territory with this Food and Wine recipe?

20. Donut Holes

Image Credit: Dunkin’.

One of the show's stalwart characters, Ken Cosgrove, represented the young, upcoming generation of advertising talent. After Ken beats Pete to the Dunkin' Donuts (its name before changing to Dunkin'), the office receives many samples from the new company — much to his colleagues' delight. You can't recreate a Dunkin' donut, but you can use this Delish suggestion of wonderful donut holes for a perfect dessert or snack.

21. Beef Wellington

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Beef Wellington is still a mainstay on most haute cuisine menus across the world with its rich combination of decadent filet mignon, mushroom duxelles, and golden puff pastry. What else would make the ideal room-service choice for Roger and Joan when they run away for a luxury weekend together in the premiere season? Nothing says luxurious abandon more than a room-service beef Wellington.

22. Joan's Gin Fizz

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Poor Joan Holloway — she is one of the more likable characters in Mad Men, if anything, for her defiant elegance in public while she hides a sad life with an abusive husband. In Season 5's episode, “Mystery Date,” Joan comes to terms with how much she hates her husband, who has just returned from his Vietnam service, and she orders a gin fizz: a lemon and gin-flavored drink. Okay, a drink isn't a meal, but why not recreate this gin-fizz-flavored jello dessert from The Modern Gelatina?

23. The Classic Burger

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In the final season, Peggy and Don win the hearts of Burger Chef clients with her heartfelt story about the American dinner table. She speaks of a connection that Americans are hungry for amid the chaos of the '60s, showing a “Family Supper at Burger Chef” poster. Of course, burgers are still a timeless classic. However, they vary depending on which state you are in — George Motz's excellent Great American Burger Book: How to Make Authentic Regional Hamburgers at Home is full of variations on the American favorite.

24. Pineapple Upside Down Cake

Image Credit: Kimberly Vardeman – CC BY 2.0/Wiki Commons.

One of the show's coolest characters is Salvatore “Sal” Romano, who might sound like a gangster or boxer but is a mild-mannered closeted gay ad executive, married to the frustrated Kitty. During a Valentine's Day sequence in Season 2, Don and Betty relax at the Savoy Hotel as they watch Jackie Kennedy's televised White House tour. Meanwhile, Sal and Kitty watch from their couch as they enjoy a pineapple upside-down cake.



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24 Mad Men Meals That Are Deliciously Outdated

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