13 Long-Lost Foods That Used to Be on Every Dinner Table
There are some foods that you can probably see yourself eating every day without getting sick of it. Then there are other foods where, well…you just can't picture yourself eating it again. Sometimes these foods fall out of rotation in our home kitchens and then become forgotten about, even if we once found them absolutely delicious. While these classic dinner foods may be far from our tables, they can still be close to our hearts. Here's a look at some long-lost foods that used to pop up on dinner tables throughout the country. And for more nostalgic classics, check out these 15 Classic American Desserts That Deserve a Comeback.
Liver and onions
While once on dinner tables across the country, and a staple at diners, liver and onions has more recently become a rarity when it pops up on plates. The dish, which typically consists of slices of liver, typically pork or beef, and fried onions has its roots in British cuisine. Despite its previous popularity, the purchase of liver has gone down significantly, with some delis selling only a pound every couple of weeks. Don't worry if you're a liver lover, you can still find it on the menu at some old-school diners.
A dish that is so simple, but was always so exciting at the same time, TV dinners were once a staple on the dinner table—or, more accurately, a living room table or on a TV tray table. Frozen TV dinners became popularized in the 1950s, when an advertising campaign for Swanson's burst onto the scene. While there are still TV dinners available at grocery stores—with some that are adaptable for different dietary needs with gluten-free, vegetarian, and even vegan options—TV dinners have become less popular in recent years as some consumers have tried to eat healthier. Speaking of, These Old TV Dinners Will Make You So Nostalgic For Your Childhood.
Today, we typically just see turtles swimming in lakes, streams, and oceans, but throughout the 1800s, turtles also swam in a meaty broth resulting in a long-forgotten dinner—turtle soup. The gravy-like soup was even U.S. President William Howard Taft's favorite food. The soup began to wane in popularity by the 1960s, although it's still served regionally in parts of the country.
Franks and beans
Dating back to the Civil War, baked beans were one of the earliest canned foods that came ready to eat. It's unknown when hot dogs, or chunks of pork, began being added to the mix, but sometime after the Civil War, serving a dish of franks and beans turned into a typical dinner. Although it's no longer popular, the meal is still annually celebrated on July 13, otherwise known as National Franks and Beans Day.
Helpful to busy parents throughout the country, Hamburger Helper first hit American shelves in 1971 in response to increasing meat prices. The boxed meal features dried pasta and seasoning that's intended to be cooked with ground beef. The brand has since expanded to include a host of other helper products, including Tuna Helper, and was most popular in the '70s. Hamburger Helper is one of those 13 Long-Lost Foods from the '70s That Will Stoke Your Nostalgia.
While still ever-popular in Hawaii, Spam has fallen out of favor for many on the mainland. The canned, pre-cooked pork product was first introduced to American palates in the 1930s, and gained popularity throughout World War II because it was affordable, accessible and it lasted longer than many other meats. Since then, it's sold more than eight billion cans throughout the world. If you have a taste for Spam, you can always hop over to the Aloha Islands, where it's sometimes referred to as the "Hawaiian steak."
With so much variety, it's possible that everyone has a casserole that they can call a favorite. The meal, named for the pan it's cooked and typically served in, typically has three main components—meat, vegetables, and starch to bind everything together. Casseroles became popularized throughout the United States in the 1950s. Some varieties are still popular, especially green bean casserole, which is regularly served as a side during holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas. But you can easily bring the casserole back to the table with our list of 45+ Best Healthy Casserole Recipes.
Cheese on a stick—a beautiful idea that's been adapted into several different varieties. One of them, fondue, consists of a communal pot of melted cheese, shared between whoever is at the table, eaten by dipping bread into the cheese on a long-stemmed fork or stick. Fondue hit its peak in popularity in the 1970s and was cemented into history when the Smithsonian added a fondue set to its collection in the National Museum of American History.
Move over square pizza, and get out of the way permanently-soggy sandwiches—the most exciting school lunch day for school children in the South and Midwest was Frito Pie Day. The origins of Frito Pie are disputed—New Mexicans claim it's theirs, but Texans hold a special place in their heart for what they see as their own dish, based on the tales, it was either first created in the United States in the 1950s or 1960s. The dish, which consists of Fritos covered in chili and cheese, spread throughout the country, and it helped that Sonic locations also served their own version of it. Try it yourself with this Frito Pie recipe!
These days, when you're taking a bite of mutton, there's a good chance you're at a renaissance faire. Yet it used to be a classic meat served on the family dinner table. The dish, composed of sheep meat, which was popular in the United States throughout the 19th century, fell out of favor with Americans around the time World War II ended.
Go into any grocery store's dairy section and you'll be overwhelmed with an abundance of choices—almond, oat, skim, soy, coconut, oh yeah, and whole. With all of the choices nowadays, whole milk has taken a step to the side as a top choice, but that wasn't always the case. Between 2014 and 2018, the price of milk steadily dropped after seeing an increase from the mid-1990s to 2007. Throughout the 1990s, whole milk was promoted with the popular "Got Milk?" campaign, which featured some of the most popular celebrities in the 1990s and early 2000s drinking whole milk—the campaign was even referenced in shows like Friends and Sister, Sister.
Before dessert consisted of cake pops and extravagant ice creams there was tapioca pudding—a pudding combining milk or cream (or a vegan substitute) and tapioca, a starchy extract from a cassava plant. While the pudding has been around for longer, the Minute Tapioca Company was formed in Boston in the late 1800s, popularizing the dessert. Since tapioca pudding is not as popular anymore, tapioca can commonly be found as tapioca pearls in boba tea, a beverage created in Taiwan in the 1980s.
Pineapple, mandarin oranges, coconut, and ….marshmallows? Somehow this unlikely grouping began appearing in cookbooks in the late 1800s. It's typically served over the holidays as a dessert, especially in the south.
A previous version of this article was originally published on September 9, 2020.