Dinner in the Fifties



"My mother would spend a good part of every day cooking, baking and planning to serve a well-balanced and delicious meal for her family. All of our family always sat down at the dinner table about the same time every evening, between 5:30 and 6, and grace was always recited." ~ Lorraine Rusconi, 62


In the 1950s, women took on the the task of meal preparation.  Dinner was the most time consuming meal of the day, and the woman might begin working on it as early as after breakfast cleanup.

"My mother and grandmothers would always cook three meals a day. Breakfast cleanup would just end and preparations for dinner [the midday meal] would begin." - Diana Langley, 51

Meals usually consisted of an entree, the main course and dessert.   This required time, patience and skill.  In a home economics book from the 1950s there was a list of how to prepare for dinner.  As you will see, not not was the preparation of the meal demanding, but it also required etiquette.  

1.  Have dinner ready: Plan ahead, even the night before, to have a delicious meal-on time. This is a way of letting him know that you have been thinking about him and are concerned about his needs. Most men are hungry when they come home and the prospects of a good meal are part of the warm welcome needed.

  2.  Prepare yourself: Take 15 minutes to rest so you will be refreshed when he arrives. Touch up your make-up, put a ribbon in your hair and be fresh looking. He has just been with a lot of work-weary people. Be a little gay looking and a little more interesting. His boring day may need a lift.

  3.  Clear away the clutter. Make one last trip through the main part of the house just before your husband arrives, gathering up schoolbooks, toys, paper, etc. Then run a dust cloth over the tables. Your husband will feel he has reached a haven of rest and order, and it will give you a lift, too.

  4.  Prepare the children. Take a few minutes to wash their hands and faces. If they are small, comb their hair and, if necessary, change their clothes. They are little treasures and he would like to see them playing the part.

  5.  Minimise the noise: At the time of his arrival, eliminate all noise of washer, dryer, or vacuum. Try to encourage the children to be quiet. Greet him with a warm smile and be glad to see him.

  6.  Some DON'Ts: Don't greet him with problems or complaints. Don't complain if he's late for dinner. Count this as a minor problem compared to what he might have gone through that day.

  7.  Make him comfortable: Have him lean back in a comfortable chair or suggest he lie down in the bedroom. Have a cool or warm drink ready for him. Arrange his pillow and offer to take off his shoes. Speak in a low, soft, soothing and pleasant voice. Allow him to relax and unwind.

  8.  Listen to him: You may have a dozen things to tell him, but the moment of his arrival is not the time. Let him talk first.

 9.  Make the evening his: Never complain if he doesn't take you out to dinner or to other places of entertainment; instead, try to understand his world of strain and pressure and his need to be home and relax.

  10. The Goal: Try to make your home a place of peace and order where your husband can relax.

This is just one example of the patriarchal society of the 1950s and how it affected all parts of the home, even the dinner time.  The woman's place was in the home, and because of this, the kitchen became her domain.  "Home kitchens featured brand new appliances in fancy colors like blue and yellow and the side-by-side refrigerator-freezer was filled with convenient products, courtesy of the huge new supermarkets." (MSNBC, news article)  A woman took pride in her kitchen and her appliances.  Tupperware parties were all the rage.  The fifties has been known to have been called the "casserole decade" due to all the assortment of canned soups in the market place.


As you will see, dinner time has changed drastically from this formal, time consuming, sit down meal of the 1950s, to "the quicker-the-better" drive through fast food nation we live in today.

Useful websites: