Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Sue Swanson says: Everyone loves chicken salads.

Here's another awesome pamphlet that was handed down from me in Mom's cookbook, from the Swanson chicken people:


Sunshine salads! From the C.A. Swanson & Sons company! Coincidentally, all of these happen to contain poultry. Did the cartoon quisling chicken give it  away?

Something weird about that illustrated salad bowl, though. There's nothing in it except the serving utensils, which look as if they are submerged in some kind of clear salad soup. The celery leaves seem to have grown up around the bowl like a bowl mane. Bizarre.

We know that everyone loves chicken salads---delicious, meaty salads!---because Sue Swanson says so, and she wouldn't lie about something that important:


Who was Sue Swanson? Was she a member of the Swanson family (others being Carl A. and sons) or a phony baloney mascot* like Betty Crocker and Ann Page?

Martin Jones, in his 2007 book Feast: Why Humans Share Food, says that in 1950s TV, "While a real Lucille Ball buzzed hectically and humorously through through a fictional family life, so a make-belief Sue Swanson (dreamed up by the advertising people) reassured real-life housewives that they need not feel guilty about not cooking home-made meals for their families." Sue looks matronly and a little icy. You might think that the ad boys would have made Sue prettier if she was fictional, but then, housewives might have responded poorly to some young, overpainted hussy.

There's no date on this booklet, but we can fix it to no earlier than the mid-1950s, I think; also, since the Swanson address has no zip code, it must be older than 1963.

The product on the bottom left of the page is a Swanson TV dinner. The Swansons, inspired by tray meals served on airplanes, invented the TV dinner in 1952, and Swanson TV dinners were available from then until 2009. The Swanson company didn't last that long; there's no company HQ at 1202 Douglas Street in Omaha anymore. The company was bought up in pieces, and those pieces have been rebranded over time. The only Swanson that exists anymore are canned poultry and broth products, owned by Campbell's. Chick Transit Gloria Mundi, I guess.

As for the brief "Sunshine Salads" booklet, the recipes were pretty commonplace for the most part, merely using cooked frozen or canned poultry instead of buying fresh and cooking it, then cooling it. If anything, these salads would be more popular now than they were at the time, salads having come into their own. Of course, I had to look for the most repellent recipe in the booklet to scan, and that was easy:


Savory Chicken Loaf made with unflavored gelatin, mayo, canned chicken, French dressing, and so on, chilled in a loaf pan.

There may come a day when these kind of meat/gelatin loaf foods will begin appearing in small hipster restaurants, and some will dig it ironically, and some jaded palettes will thrill to something unfamiliar, and there will be gelatin-based cold meat recipes on Food Network, and in magazines, and then we'll be stuck with this kind of thing again.

That day may come. But it is not today.
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*Not that I have anything against advertising mascots. Hell, I wrote a whole novel about advertising mascots come to life, as you can see on the right.
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