19 Horrifying Thanksgiving Dinner Ideas From Vintage Food Ads

Ahhh, it wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without a pack of cigarettes and some hearty Spam Birds, would it? Let’s dig in!

19 Strange Thanksgiving Dinner Ideas From Vintage Ads:

1. Old Gold Cigarettes w/Turkey

2. Holiday Vegetable Loaf With Apple Rings, Mashed Potatoes and “Cranberry Turkey”

3. Hot Dr. Pepper Cocktails

4. SPAM Birds

5. Mayonaise, Jell-O & Cranberry Sauce Candles

6. Mayonnaise On All The Things

7. Butter On All The Things

8. Cigarettes With All The Things

9. Beer with All The Things = Freedom

10. Banquet Frozen Thanksgiving TV Dinner

11. Orange Mallow Yam Yums

12. Duck in a Box

13. Clear Mushroom Soup With Whipped Cream

14. Frozen Jellied Turkey Vegetable Salad

via flickr.com/photos/charmandpoise

15. Bugles, Whistles and Daisy’s Trim-a-Tree Dip

via flickr.com/photos/x-ray_delta_one

16. Pumpkin Pie With Black Splotches Of Flavor Magic

17. Cranberry Surprise

Eat-Mor Cranberry Booklet, circa 1940, via flickr.com/photos/alsis35/

18. Leftover Turkey WIth Mayonaise and Jell-O

Clearly, what all this proves is that AMERICA MAKES THE BEST OF EVERYTHING! I mean, look at this guy:


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Riese is the 39-year-old Co-Founder and CEO of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, blogger, fictionist, copywriter, video-maker and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and then headed West. Her work has appeared in nine books including "The Bigger the Better The Tighter The Sweater: 21 Funny Women on Beauty, Body Image & Other Hazards Of Being Female," magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

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  1. Dear lord all this ‘food’ is terrifying. The world has just become a much darker place.

  2. brb, off to make a Hot Dr. Pepper Cocktail so I can join the “proud crowd.”

      • Jay

        I get lots of weird reactions from people when I tell them I actually prefer soda room temp or slightly warm. It just tastes better.

    • I just tried heating up the rest of my Dr. Pepper from lunch, and meh. Blander than the cold version. Maybe would have been better with lemon, which I did not have.

      #14, Frozen Jellied Turkey Vegetable Salad, is in favor of AIDS awareness, so that’s good.

  3. Some of this food looks like it might actually be pretty good.

    • See, I thought that too, but then I realized that it’s 2:50pm and I haven’t eaten yet today. So I’m not sure if I’d feel the same way on a full stomach.

  4. Bri

    I actually drink hot Dr. Pepper in the winter; I didn’t think anyone else did that. I wouldn’t add lemon, but it’s actually really good by itself. (Don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it!)

    • We tried the Dr Pepper cocktail last year on retro Christmas night. I didn’t really like it. My sister swears it would have been better with the original Dr Pepper recipe.

  5. VA

    What is in “cranberry surprise”?

    Do I want to know? Probably not.

    Also, is it bad that I kind of want to try the orange marshmallow yam yums?

  6. Blehhhhh. Thank goodness for the Thanksvegan posts, otherwise I’d never get my appetite back.

  7. My family totally makes marshmallow yams every year!! No orange slices though.

    • riese

      I love marshmallow sweet potatoes , but I dunno about the oranges

    • Yup we do marshmallow sweet potatoes with orange. It’s totally legit. I think it’s the only recipe on this list that tastes good and won’t give you cancer.

  8. Jess

    Just Mouthopen Sitting Here, no worries…

  9. Nothing makes me gag faster than the smell of yams cooking and I hate mayonnaise, so about half this list is my worst nightmare of Thanksgiving foods

  10. I’m not sure, but I think I just threw up in my mouth a little.
    Personally think the “candles” seem the most disturbing. Just… no.

    • Right? I don’t want my salad to fall over and light me on fire, thank you.

      • my whole life all i’ve ever dreamed of is my salad falling over and lighting me on fire

  11. The heated Dr. Pepper is mos def a regional thing. My mom’s folks from Illinois/Michigan/Wisconsin will pour a mug of Dr P and pop it in the microwave. Also, mayonnaise, Jello and meat should not be consumed in any combination. *shudders*

    • i lived in michigan for 21 years and never saw a heated-up doctor pepper! what is this madness

    • It was popular here in the ski towns of Colorado too. My ma tells me stories about skiing and heading back to the lodge for Hot Dr. Pepper Cocktails back in the 70’s.

      • Jay

        I’ve heard it’s a German thing to drink soda and other “cold” drinks warm. I like it.

  12. If I think butter on All The Things is a good idea does that mean I have a problem? I think I have a problem…

    • Lanie

      Actually my Mother used a Paula Deen turkey recipe that involved putting butter under the skin of the turkey to add moisture and it was lovely. It may have been the best one yet. So I support your butter appreciation at least on the glutton holiday.

      • Cooking a chicken or turkey without stuffing butter under the skin isn’t even an option! Yup, I definitely have a butter problem.

    • No I think it means youre Irish, cuz I also thought that one was totally normal.

    • yeah i think it is totally normal to make turkey like that (idk, i’ve never eaten a thanksgiving turkey), i just wanted to include that picture ’cause it’s funny. there were a lot of ads about butter; what i find interesting about it is that there’s no awareness that it’s not “good for you”? like they’re trying to sell it as something that’s healthy in the same way they’re trying to sell cigarettes and mayonnaise and beer (which is also normal), which definitely isn’t done anymore. like everyone still eats and drinks those things, but they don’t do so because they think it’s good for them in those quantities, they do so because it’s good, period.

  13. Fried Spam with eggs, Spam sandwich, Spam salad, Spam Musubi? Definitely YES!!! Spam Birds? NOOOOO!
    Also, I just picked up marshmallows, brown sugar, & a can of pineapples for Yams. It’s not Thanksgiving for my family without my Mom’s sugar infused yams. But now I’m thinking we should change the yams so it’s not loaded with sugar. Hmmmm

  14. Kate

    When I was a teenager and on Weight Watchers at my mother’s request (for the millionth time) I found this website of old Weight Watcher recipe cards. They are equally horrifying: http://www.candyboots.com/wwcards.html

    Also, cigarettes are good with every meal, and I will stick to that until I’m 30 and force myself to quit.

  15. Just heat Dr. Pepper or Diet Dr. Pepper in a saucepan until steaming hot.

    I never knew it was so simple! I’d have been making hot Dr. Pepper all this time if I’d have known! Better go catch up, and also reheat some expensive-tasting peas while I’m at it.

    (Seriously though I could eat about 1/3 of that dip tree platter in one sitting.)

  16. I wonder what the lady in ad 7 had to do to become the senior home economist. What does the junior home economist do? Do they get stuck making the Jello salads?

  17. LeTiss

    butter as a baste…standard and lazy. but by george it’s good.

  18. Susan

    Awesome collection. It reminds me of one of my favorite websites/books, the Gallery of Regrettable Foods. :)

    • Mer

      every holiday my mom puts this book out and our family howls with laughter over it!! My favourite is the cabbage that looks like some sort of freaky alien brain.

  19. Paula

    If anything this calls for a themed thanksgiving party.

  20. My mama’s been making me hot Dr. Pepper with lemon for years! It has a strange calming effect on me now. Reminds me of childhood, I guess.

  21. Cat

    If someone tried to serve me turkey or chicken without having cooked it with butter under its skin, I would throw that plate of food on the floor. standard.

  22. “You’ll thank the day you bought your first carton.”

    Oh, America.

  23. Mel

    “Of course, you can make just about any meal something special by using butter when you cook”. Normally I’d agree with with this, but I don’t think even butter could save either of those Jell-O recipes.

  24. Alix

    Beer and cigarettes with thanks giving dinner? As long as its not going in the turkey, sign me up.

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  26. Rey

    Honestly grateful for this open thread and cheery holiday Straddler stuff online. For us introverts it’s a fine line between blissful solitude and feeling a bit lonely doing a solo Thanksgiving, and the online Autostraddle community is helping me stay firmly on the blissful solitude side.

    RN I’m at work (voluntarily; it’s wonderful because I love my lab job and I get all the science equipment to myself today).

    Later I will enter the ‘over-estimated cooking abilities with ambitious menu’ phase. Which doesn’t take much; I’m not much of a cook. But hopefully later I will be enjoying my mashed garlic yams with mushroom gravy, homemade cranberry sauce and/or cranberry bread, roasted Brussels sprouts and the traditional fresh mango for dessert heh. My first vegan Thanksgiving. I will share with my room mate hopefully, if he’s around.

    So, thanks for being here Straddlers! Happy Thanksgiving!

  27. A+ for the AIDS awareness ribbon on the Frozen Jellied Turkey Vegetable Salad

  28. #7 doesn’t disturb me all that much. I think even the venerable Alton Brown had one turkey episode that involved rubbing butter into the bird’s skin.

  29. DAN

    I’ve made hot Dr. Pepper before (sans lemon). Not bad.

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