What Did They Cook in the 1950s?

What were you, your mother, or grandmother cooking in 1954, the year that Rusty and Kit went to Europe? If you didn’t live through it, and the recipes have long been thrown away, consider these facts: in 1953, Cheese Whiz and Saran Wrap were invented. In 1954, the first TV dinner, Trix cereal, and peanut M&Ms were introduced, Burger King was founded, and food rationing finally ended in Great Britain.

If you’ve been searching for an old family recipe, you might want to check out these blogs and cookbooks.

Mid Century Menu is a blog devoted to remembering and trying out recipes from the mid 1900s. There are lots of recipes for jello salads, hot dogs, casseroles, cocktails, and even Spam!

Another blog, Hey, My Mom Used to Make That! is devoted to vintage recipes. The blog is organized by decade, with old photos to complement such recipes for Tuna N’ Waffles (made with that versatile ingredient, cream of mushroom soup), and Crisco’s Chocolate Fluff Cake.

Taste of Home published the winning recipes from 1954 Pillsbury’s Grand National Recipe Contest. The winning recipe was My Inspiration Cake, a pecan and chocolate cake with chocolate frosting. The second place winner was Blueberry Boy-Bait! Other recipes posted include Cinnamon Nut Crisps, Ye Olde Saffron Braids, and Maple Syrup Layer Cake.

For more savory recipes check out the book Feeding the Nation: Nostalgic Recipes and Facts from 1940-1954. Recipes include Steak and Potato Pie and Stuffed Marrow and Eggless Sponge Pudding. Hmmmm.

Photo from Seattle Municipal Archives licensed by CC under 2.0.

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What Was Life Like in 1954?

What was the world like when Rusty and Kit traveled to Europe in 1954?

Without the Internet, news was not as immediate and not necessarily instantaneous. What the average person knew about the world and current events was from the radio, newsreels, newspapers, books, and the movies. TV was just beginning to take center stage.

The average U.S. salary in 1954 was only $2,900, and the average rent was $85, but for 22 cents, Americans could watch movies, such as: Dial M for Murder, starring Ray Milland and Grace Kelly, and Sabrina, starring Audrey Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart.

Before The Tucker ~ Tyler Adventure took place, Kit and Rusty were both working at NBC in New York City, down the hall from Barbara Walters.

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Single in New York in 1954

When you want to be an actress, living in New York City is a dream, especially for a girl from the midwest. For Marialyce Tyler, moving from South Dakota to the Big City in 1954 was exciting. With a couple of college friends, she lived in two different apartments on the Upper West Side of New York, right near Central Park, on West 74th Street and West 68th Street.

West 74th Street

Rusty described the apartment on West 74th Street as the old Borden Mansion. According to Rusty, they lived in what was the old library.

We were on the first floor, a 14-foot ceilinged room with a huge marble fireplace, tall windows draped in dark red velvet and then beyond a huge room that had three twin-sized beds, a very large and long dark mahogany dining table, chairs, etc., a small one-person-at-a-time kitchen, and beyond that a bathroom that had been made out of a closet.

From The Tucker – Tyler Adventure, written by Katherine Tucker and Marialyce Tyler and edited by Nancy Cowan and Tara Taft.

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Writing a Travel Memoir

I knew my mother had written letters home from her trip to Europe in 1954, but I had never seen them. In fact, I had no idea they still existed. Until one day in 2007.

With plans to rent a slide projector so that we could look at Mom’s slides of her trip, I asked her what it was like to be on the Queen Mary. I was looking for the details, and she referred me to her letters. Letters?! What letters? Much to my surprise, my mother’s letters were in a box in the next room waiting to be read. All 69 of them.

I began reading them out loud. Written on airmail stationery, in black or green ink (Mom’s favorite color), the letters were written to my grandmother back home in South Dakota. I stumbled over the words, squinting at her writing, and promised to type up the letters so that she could read them on her own.

TTA Letters

As I typed up the letters a month later, I was captivated. The letters were full of life and personality and included details of the people she met, the food she ate, the places she visited, and the unplanned events that just happened.

The following spring, I showed the letters to Mom and her friend, Kit. In 1954, Kit and Mom (or Rusty as Kit called her) traveled for 3 months together, from New York to Europe, calling their trip, “The Tucker ~ Tyler Adventure.”

As I watched the two women in their 70s giggle at their memories, I began taking notes. I learned that Kit’s families had saved her letters as well, but it wasn’t until 2010, that I approached Kit’s daughter with the idea to put the letters of their trip into a book.

The Tucker ~ Tyler Adventure, written by Katherine Tucker and Marialyce Tyler, with their daughters, Nancy Cowan and Tara Taft, will be published soon. For the next several weeks, I will include a few background details about their trip, extras that weren’t included in the actual book, and I’ll let you know when the book is available.

It’s 1954. Pack your suitcase and get ready to travel to Europe with Kit and Rusty aboard The Tucker ~ Tyler Adventure!

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The Lost Art of Travel Letter Writing

When I traveled for 3 months in Australia, I felt a little guilty. Not about the trip. I was happy to be there. I was in between jobs and paying my own way. I was in my 20s and without any responsibilities. But I knew I should be writing letters home. Descriptive and detailed letters like my mother had written to her mother when she traveled to Europe in 1954.

But it took so much time, and I just didn’t have the patience. It was all I could do to keep a journal and write a postcard now and then, and that was in the days before email and texting.

When my mother traveled throughout Europe in 1954, she wrote 35 letters home in just 3 months. Plus postcards.


Her writing was so detailed and descriptive that her hometown newspaper published excerpts of her letters (after her mother edited them, of course).

Fort Pierre Times

I still keep a written journal when I travel, though I usually start out strong and by the end of the trip, I’ve slowed down or even stopped; the details of the last few days left only to memory.



Though I blog about my travels, and document the details with photographs, letter writing is a more intimate mode of expression. There’s a difference in the process as well as the outcome when typing and using a mouse to record travels vs. the hand to pen to paper approach.

When was the last time you wrote a letter to share your travels? Or even kept a journal?


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Available now!

Pack your bags and get ready to join Kit and Rusty as they climb aboard the RMS Queen Mary and embark on a three-month journey to post-war Europe in 1954.  You’ll eat the food, see the sights, and meet the people through the eyes of two twenty-something year olds as they write letters home in The Tucker Tyler Adventure.

TTA Cover


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