The third installment in our “Holiday Appetizers Through the Decades” series—celebrating the 1950s with a trio of retro Dips for Chips.
The 1950’s was the poodle-skirt decade, marked by rock and roll music and the shift from radio to television. While the Korean War kept things from being too jolly, the holiday season got back on track after the lean WWII years. Tinsel-laden trees hid wrapped Ginny Dolls and Matchbox cars underneath, while after the Christmas dinner the new home slideshow projector showed family photos before heading to bed to wait for Santa.
On the food front, convenience foods continued to be popular during the 50’s, like the TV dinner to go along with the new TV set, and the rise of hamburger chains like MacDonald’s dotting the nation’s rapidly developing national highway system. Casserole-style meals from tuna noodle to tater tot were all the rage (often thanks to condensed soup), with frozen vegetables to keep things “healthy.” Onion soup mix dip was a party hit (and still is today) at backyard barbeques and holiday parties, and molded gelatin salads glistened on beds of lettuce. We found an article in April 1955 celebrating all things Dips — “Dips for Chips” to be exact. With the holiday season coming up (not to mention the current football season), we know dips are a big part of any party appetizer spread.
It was tough to choose which ones on longtime food editor Nancy Dixon’s list to make (“for before-show parties, after-eight Scrabble nibbling, or TV-tidbits”), but I settled on Confetti Dip, Plaza Dip, and Sharp Dip…then got to work! You’ll be able to view, save, and print the individual recipes at the end should any of them tickle your fancy.
Confetti Dip was first. It had an interesting preparation method — beaten eggs were combined with sugar and vinegar, then slowly cooked over a pot of boiling water until thickened. The mixture was then beaten with cream cheese and a little butter to form what looked remarkably like cake batter.
Then the chopped onion, red pepper, and green pepper joined the party.
After chilling for a few hours in the fridge the resulting Confetti Dip was smooth and creamy, with perfect crunch from the veggies. I liked it on a cracker, but potato chips would, of course, also work.
Then it was on to Plaza Dip. I found a few other versions of Plaza Dip online, all with similar ingredients, but no real origin of the name besides the obvious assumption that it had something to do with the Plaza hotel. It was definitely the most fragrant of the three dips thanks to the anchovy paste (which you may omit if you want) and hard cooked eggs.
It also had a lot of zip from the addition of grated horseradish and hot sauce, so if you like a smooth dip in the style of soup-mix onion dip, and can take the heat, you’ll like this one. Potato chips with ridges will do the best job holding onto more dip!
And finally, I got shredding (cheddar cheese, that is) for Sharp Dip, which should really be named Sharp Cheddar, Olive, and Pepper Dip. A whole pound of Vermont sharp cheddar cheese was added to green peppers, stuffed olives, hard cooked eggs, onion, and garlic for a trip to the food processor.
The resulting pulsed mixture was thick and spreadable, with the pungent aroma of cheddar and the salty kick of olives. Because it’s so sturdy you could serve it with potato chips, crackers, or even veggies. This was my favorite of the “Dips for Chips” (my fellow taste-tester and co-worker Heather Atwell agreed), and I was pleased to see it keeps well in the fridge so I could enjoy it for days. Yum…
1950’s Dips Recipe Links
Classic Holiday Advice from the Yankee Magazine Archives
At Home in New England by Duncan MacDonald (1958) Whenever possible I have taken the trouble to pick out my own Thanksgiving bird, and I am of that vast majority that stay with the traditional turkey. I have no secrets for picking out a good bird. I just look for a deep-chested one with fully-fleshed drumsticks, and I usually buy a larger bird than I’d planned. Better to face days of leftovers than a scrawny roast on “the” day! O.K. You Wrap It! by Eric Wahleen (1959)
“This ‘big surprise’ for Aunt Helen has to be wrapped for under the tree and no back talk from you, Charlie,” says the “little woman.” “Yes, stupid, the wire, too!” In the wee small hours when “nothing is stirring, not even a mouse,” Charlie, a mechanic by trade, decides in his despair that the joke is really not on him at all—it’s on Aunt Helen!