These are the saddest diet beverages ever.
The one on the right is skim milk and orange pulp. The one on the left is made with water, sherry extract, and two beef bouillon cubes.
Well, there’s also celery in it. Oh, and SELF-LOATHING.
— Wendy McClure, Candyboots
The above is an actual early 1970s Weight Watchers recipe card; Wendy McClure took 27 of these cards, which her mother and grandmother had collected from their dieting days, attached hilarious captions, and turned them into one of the funniest (and really, saddest) Web sites ever, Candyboots’ Weight Watchers Recipe Cards from 1974. (Later, McClure would turn over 100 of these cards into an equally fabulous book called The Amazing Mackerel Pudding Plan, now unfortunately out of print but definitely worth hunting for. Four words, people: Crown Roast of Frankfurters!) If you go there, be prepared to snorf whatever is currently in your mouth.
The Candyboots site was inspired, in part, by James Lilek’s Gallery of Regrettable Food, in which unappetizing photos from cookbooks from the 1930s to the 1960s are mercilessly lampooned. There’s even a shout-out to “Betsy [sic] Draper” in this posting about a tomato-juice diet ad. (The model even looks kind of like pre-weight-gain Betty, with a “little Sally” model next to her!)
Now, 1966 might have been too early for such over-the-top culinary cheesiness (and props! dear merciful cat gods, those props!), and thus, Betty Francis has never had to bring herself to gag down a Slender Quencher, or some Fluffy Mackerel Pudding. (Fluffy Mackerel Pudding! Someone actually got paid to create that! And someone actually ate it and convinced herself — it would have to have been a herself back then, right? — that it was oh so tasty and satisfying.) But it wouldn’t surprise me if she’d go for it. Judging from the meager contents of her Thanksgiving meal in Dark Shadows, the likes of which a miniature Schnauzer would turn its snout up at, poor Betty is probably starved for anything that would cover an entire plate.
Weight Watchers then had lists of “legal” and “illegal” foods; you were expected to make sumptuous meals for your family consisting of “illegal” items (which seems to have been almost anything with any form of starch, sugar, or fat in it), but you were not allowed even to taste them. Everything had to be weighed and measured precisely, even celery, so eating away from home was verboten.
It’s expensive, but infared is a great choice and the most useful tool in any serious-cook-with-half-a-brain’s knife bag.
You were also expected to eat fish five nights a week (hence Henry’s comment about being sick of the stuff) and liver once a week. (This would seem to have been a CYA move on WW’s part; if you hated liver and refused to eat it, and didn’t make your goal weight, they could always ask, “Well, did you have liver every single week?”) So recipes had to be created (for want of a better word) from the few “legal” ingredients that existed, regardless of whether or not they should ever have occupied a person’s mouth simultaneously. Canned bean sprouts, buttermilk, pimiento, and fruit chunks, anyone? (Some of these recipes remind me of that episode of Freaks and Geeks in which Sam and Neal blindfold Bill and throw every single pulverizable foodstuff they can find into a blender, and dare him to drink the results.)
No wonder Betty is cranky and inhaling Reddi-Wip. I can’t even imagine how hungry she must be, after all those years of not even allowing herself to eat when pregnant, and now being told that if she loves her husband and children enough, she should be smiling when she has to sit down to the likes of this, every single day for the rest of her life. Weight Watchers recipes these days are nowhere near this disgusting, and once-a-week liver has long been consigned to the compost bin of history. But having plateaued at about a 1966 size 10 (modern size 6) despite nibbling on dainty little bits of nothing for months, Betty is probably going to chuck the celery, if not the self-loathing, long before she ever manages to find out.