Classic '50s Appetizers

by Kristie Brown
Food from the 1950s is typically filled with more fat and calories than today's offerings.

Food from the 1950s is typically filled with more fat and calories than today's offerings.

Any gathering is ripe for fun and good conversation, but a themed party adds flair to an evening, and it provides your guests with the opportunity to play along. A 1950s-themed party allows your guests the chance to put on their favorite poodle skirts, grandmother’s brocade shift and swing jacket or their father’s letterman sweaters. Watch 1950s-era movies with your kids to garner excitement for the party. Crank up a mix of Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, Ella Fitzgerald, Bill Haley and the Comets and Nat King Cole, and enlist your kids' aid in creating an array of classic 1950s appetizers, which you should call canapés to be perfectly era-appropriate.


Club sandwiches cut 2 inches square, triple-layered with cold cuts, cheese, lettuce and thinly sliced tomatoes, are a classic, filling finger food. Kid-friendly versions can be single layer. Egg salad spread in lettuce cups, or minced dried beef mixed with cream cheese and spices and molded into a ball, are both classics and are served with rye crisps. Mix ranch dressing, which was first served in the 1950s, in with your cream cheese for an extra zing. A cheese or paté aspic remains a classic when served on melba toasts. Don’t forget to serve your grandmother’s signature deviled eggs on the table.


Purchased or homemade fondue is kept warm in a pot over gel fuel; skewers of bread, apples and fresh pears are the dunkers. Small cocktail wieners float in a bourbon sauce, which is still appropriate for children as the alcohol cooks away; however, the taste may be a bit too strong for them. Pour a classic cheese rarebit over toast points. A broiled, cooked bacon and creamed-cheddar-cheese mixture on baguettes adds a heady kick to the warm canapé offerings.

Don't Forget the Toothpick Food

No '50s dinner party is complete without meatballs kept warm in a chafing dish and topped with your favorite grape jelly-barbecue sauce mixture. Toothpicks spear the little nibblers. Cantaloupe and honeydew slices are wrapped in prosciutto and secured with a toothpick. Small, pickled vegetables should be served with a votive holder on the side filled with toothpicks.


Today’s cereal mix baked with salty pretzels and a soy-sauce marinade is yesterday’s cocktail hash. If you’re a Southerner, whip up a batch of your family’s cheese straws and toss in a bowl before company arrives. As much as it feels like cheating, pour a can of mixed nuts into your grandmother’s candy dishes and place around the room. Make sure that none of the children or guests have nut allergies, though, before including them on the menu.

Drinks and Libations

Ice-cold colas in the bottle or country club punch are the mid-century way to go. Keep spiked punch for the grown-ups in a separate punch bowl in the kitchen; make sure adults have different-style glasses so kids don’t accidentally drink the wrong punch.


  • “Watkins Cook Book”; The J.R. Watkins Company; 1938
  • “The New Good Housekeeping Cookbook”; Dorothy B. Marsh; 1963
  • “Your Westinghouse Refrigerator: Over 100 Delicious Recipes”; Mrs. Julia Kiene; 1948

Photo Credits

  • Hemera Technologies/ Images