Cocktails, smoking and sex appear to play a much more central role than food does in the AMC drama Mad Men. The food however, whether prepared at home or eaten at iconic New York restaurants, has been more prominent than many may have realized. Scheduled to return to the air on Sunday, March 25 for season five, the series has highlighted some of the most popular dishes of the 1950s and 1960s. And most of them are detailed in The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook.
Authors Judy Gelman and Peter Zheutlin have arranged their book like most other cookbooks. There are chapters for appetizers, salads, main courses, and desserts. And of course there is a chapter on cocktails. For nearly all of the 70 recipes though, there is a paragraph or two--and sometimes more than a page--describing which episode and scene it appeared in, and why it's significant to the show and the era. There's the steak tartare Don ordered at Sardi's in season 2, during a clandestine meeting with Bobbi Barrett. There are mint juleps, served at Roger and Jane Sterling's Kentucky derby themed party in season 3. And there's beef wellington from season 1, when Joan and Roger were lovers, and Roger ordered lunch from room service, in an attempt to get Joan to stay the rest of the afternoon.
The descriptions and backstory for each dish is fascinating. For the avocado and crabmeat mimosa for example, there are two pages about season 2, episode 1, in which Better Draper revises her husband's room service order to something classier than the B.L.T. he tried to order. Mrs. Draper, like many young wives in the early 1960s admired Jackie Kennedy, and the avocado and crabmeat mimosa was the salad Mrs. Kennedy once served as a first course for a state dinner. There are stories about everything from politicians and the civil rights movement, to Julia Child and iconic restaurants such as the Grand Central Oyster Bar. And there is history. Like why we stuff eggs, the growth of Chinese restaurants in the 1960s, and the roles women, and occasionally men, had in the kitchen.
Most recipes in The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook are sourced from cookbooks and magazines of the era. There's Julia Child's potatoes au gratin, stuffed crown roast of pork cookbook from the 1964 bookThe Small Kitchen, rumaki from Craig Clairborne's The New York Times Cookbook, and gazpacho from the Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook. There are no cooking tips or sidebars offering kitchen wisdom, but most of the recipes are accessible enough for the average home cook. And this book isn't as much about the cooking, as it is about the eating and drinking. For Sunday's premiere of Mad Men season five, I know I for one will start paying a lot more attention to the food.
Tini Bigs is hosting a Mad Men premiere party on Sunday, March 25. They will air the show (with sound) at 9 p.m. and 11:08 p.m. Guests that attend wearing their favorite Mad Men inspired attire will get a classic cocktail from the Mad Men cocktail guide http://www.amctv.com/shows/mad-men/cocktail-guide for just $6. Each new season five Mad Men episode will air at Tini Bigs with the same drink special.