Whether you’re throwing a “Blast from the Past” themed party for your parents’ birthdays or anniversary, or just want to throw a theme party for your friends, a 1950s or 1960s themed bash is bound to get attention. It’s easy to find decorations and costumes for a decade party, but you can create an even more authentic atmosphere with some retro-inspired appetizers.
Mixes and Dips
Introduced to Americans in the mid-1950s, party mix was a ubiquitous appetizer and snack during the 50s and 60s and beyond. The seasoned mix of cereal, pretzels and nuts is easy to make and serve, and should be included on any of your mid-century party menus. For seasonings, try onion soup or ranch mix. Also include chips, vegetables and a variety of dips; pimiento, deviled ham and cheese, sour cream, guacamole, horseradish and seafood dips were popular in the 1950s. If you're serving kids and adults who love the flavor of ranch dressing, you can include it and still be true to the theme of the party. This popular flavor was invented in 1954. Dipping took on a new form in the 1960s, when fondue parties were all the rage. Recreate the hippy-dippy atmosphere with a fondue appetizer station. Offer a selection of breads and cheeses to dip, or bring the trend into the 21st century with fruit and chocolate.
Tropical and Bacon Appetizers
During the 1950s, many American GI’s returning from the war in the Pacific were bringing with them a taste for the cuisine of Polynesia and Hawaii. Hawaiian buffets were a popular trend through the mid-50s, one that can serve as inspiration for your 50s theme party. Serve grilled or broiled pineapple wrapped in bacon, pork-based appetizers or tropical fruit salads for an appetizer. Even if you aren’t planning a tropical soiree, just about anything wrapped in bacon brings a taste of the 50s to your party. Seafood, such as shrimp or scallops, is a safe bet, but for a true 50s inspired appetizer, try wrapping pineapple stuffed dates, stuffed olives or chicken livers and water chestnuts with bacon.
In the 1960s, American cooks were heavily influenced by French cuisine -- Julia Child’s “The Art of French Cooking" was a bestseller -- and ethnic foods. When you’re planning your 60s style party, choose complicated, showy appetizers with a foreign flair. For example, pâté and crackers were a staple at most upscale 1960s cocktail parties. Serve cocktail sized croquettes, mushroom strudel or pastry turnovers filled with cream cheese and meat. Or try Asian-influenced appetizers, such as mini egg rolls, spring rolls, teriyaki chicken or beef skewers.
Some appetizers that were popular in the 50s and 60s still have retro appeal today. Make a cheese ball by mixing cream cheese with a flavorful cheese and rolling in chopped nuts. Serve with crackers. Deviled eggs, stuffed mushroom caps and cheese puffs have a timeless appeal, as do pinwheel sandwiches. Start with an unsliced loaf of bread and remove the crusts. Slice the loaf lengthwise into three or four layers, and spread filling, such as tuna salad, ham salad or egg salad on the bread. Roll each layer into a log, and slice into individual sized sandwiches. Bring more 50's flavors to these classics by substituting ranch dressing for the mayonnaise.
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- Food Timeline: FAQs Popular 20th Century American Foods
- "The Party Girl Cookbook"; Nina Lesowitz and Lara Morris Starr; 1999
An adjunct instructor at Central Maine Community College, Kristen Hamlin is also a freelance writer on topics including lifestyle, education, and business. She is the author of Graduate! Everything You Need to Succeed After College (Capital Books), and her work has appeared in Lewiston Auburn Magazine, Young Money, USA Today and a variety of online outlets. She has a B.A. in Communication from Stonehill College, and a Master of Liberal Studies in Creative Writing from the University of Denver.