Holiday Food Ads from 1983.

I scanned several pages from the December 1983 issue of Woman’s Day, and now I’m gonna write about them. I bet you didn’t see that one coming. Eh, you probably did.


When I was tiny, my mother had many magazines just like this, filled with holiday recipes and gift guides and craft ideas. She kept them in an otherwise unoccupied kitchen cabinet, and somehow, thumbing through them became one of my own Christmas traditions.

At the time, most of those magazines were already old, and some were older than I was. I took such secret glee in reading recipes for out-of-style foodstuffs. In fact, it was partly those magazines that fostered what’s become a lifelong passion of mine: Weird, ancient appetizers!

Even better were the advertisements, and that’s why I’m here tonight. In an issue that featured everything from a Pac-Man Christmas comic to a photo of the Dungeons & Dragons Fortress of Fangs playset, the food advertisements were somehow even more interesting.

I could gush about every one of the 50+ ads from this one issue of Woman’s Day, but to keep things on balance, I’ll stick with five. Get ready to see everything from fancy crackers to lobster dip shaped like a penis.


I absolutely hate ham, and can’t remember a time when I didn’t. I kind of internally chuckle over the strange extremes people go to when naming their triggers, and yet, when I really think about it, even the mere mention of ham is enough to make me spend twelve hours under a blanket, waiting for it to rotate out of my short term memory.

So I’m a little shocked at how palatable I’m finding this particular ham. Adorned with Dole pineapples and Sue Bee honey, it looks more like cake than meat. Is this what Cobain meant by “doll steak?”

I wouldn’t eat it, but I wouldn’t be opposed to looking at it while I ate something else. Given my history with ham, that’s a big step for me.


Crackers topped with weird junk is my favorite category of appetizers, whether it’s Christmastime or not. They’re canapes for people who don’t know how to make canapes. I can’t even pronounce canapes.

Whenever these appetizers turn up in print ads, the toppings are usually daring, and always liberally applied. Take a look at the fruit-topped cracker in the upper left. Either English Wafer Biscuits had a seven inch diameter, or those strawberries were only sliced after they’d been zapped by Wayne Szalinski’s ray gun.

I love all of these ideas. Strawberries and cheese? That could work. Cottage cheese with cucumber origami? Hell yes. Eggs and capers? It’s like this ad was made specifically for me. I’m even okay with the one on the lower-left, despite the very real possibility that there’s HAM under that orange. My loyalty is blind and boundless.


Longtime readers know of my affinity for Chex Mix, and I don’t mean that preassembled bullshit from the supermarket. I mean Chex Mix you make yourself. AWFUL Chex Mix, with burnt pieces and badly distributed splashes of Worcestershire. Love it!

It sorta makes sense, because by the time I started paying attention to Chex Mix advertisements, they were well into the Charlie Brown era. Seeing the Peanuts gang cart around trays of Chex Mix made me a fanatic, and to this day, no holiday season is complete until I’ve made a batch.

I’m of the mind that the six people seen here are actually in Heaven. Hear me out:

Notice how the three couples don’t seem to know each other. They’re euphoric, but splintered, and I imagine Heaven to be just like that. Also, they’re standing in an angelically white room, a room that could not have possibly been in anyone’s house. The final clues are that the only thing to drink is soda and the only thing to eat is Chex Mix. Yeah, this has to be Heaven.


I’m sorry, but that looks way good to me. A turkey and egg pancake topped with giant gloppy slices of cranberry sauce, garnished not with parsley, but with a sprig of romaine lettuce? Brother, I like my elegance trashy! If people didn’t serve this on old paper plates that said “Happy Anniversary!” on them, they did it wrong.

Bonus points for the completely unrelated cherry tomatoes lurking ominously in the background. They raise so many questions! How often do you see an open-ended food advertisement? The next three pages should’ve featured a dystopian collage of erupting volcanos and wolf faces. Instead I got directions on how to turn beads and pipe cleaners into inedible gingerbread men.


…but it wasn’t a rock!

Look, I know it was 1983 and all, but I’m pretty sure the shape of a penis was just as identifiable back then. Did the people at Mirro really not notice that their purportedly “lobster-shaped” mold looked so much like… that?

The black olive eyes do nothing to hide its true form. Cock Lobster was available for just four dollars, a price so affordable that it gives me pause. Just think about how many people may have inadvertently served their guests jellied johnsons.

These are alarmingly easy to find on eBay, so if you’re a carcinologist or just someone who wants to eat dick-shaped lobster dip, you’re in luck!

I dunno, maybe I should’ve scanned the Pac-Man comic and written about that instead.