Mad Men: Cocktails, Lingerie, and Heart Disease?

Cigarette smoke, skinny neck ties, girdles, big juicy t-bone steaks, 3 martini luncheons, iceberg lettuce wedges, pineapple upside down cake, oysters Rockefeller, shrimp cocktail, and heart disease???

Please indulge me this week. I am one of the throngs anticipating the return of Mad Men to television. The early 1960’s thematic show transports us back to an era that seemed glamorous, but actually, was it? I mean I love the clothes and party atmosphere. But from a heart-healthy perspective, so much has happened since then that I’ll go to an era-themed cocktail or dinner party just for fun, but that’s it for me.

4 Reasons to Feel Grateful

Here are 4 reasons to feel grateful for living right now due to the advances that have been made since the 1960’s in the prevention or curing of heart disease.

  1. Consider the numbers. In 1965, 42% of the country smoked cigarettes. Heck, even high schools had smoking break places to congregate. Growing up in North Carolina, I can attest to the fact that sample cigarette packets were given out on street corners and in banks. In 1960 the famed Framingham Heart Study first published the link between smoking and an increased risk of heart disease. In 1964 smoking was also linked to an increased risk of cancer. By making smoking public health enemy Number One, the rate of cigarette smoking declined to 22% by 1995. Today smoking is banished in most public places and all government buildings.
  2. It wasn’t unusual in the 1960’s for someone in his 50’s or 60’s to die from heart disease. And, if someone was lucky enough to survive a heart attack, it generally left him severely debilitated. Yes, HIM, because heart disease was considered a man’s disease. Back then, if a woman presented similar symptoms to a man, she would not have been tested for possible heart problems. Instead, she might have been given tranquilizers for hysteria. Today, we know that heart disease is the leading cause of death for women, more than all cancers combined.
  3. 1968 was the peak year for deaths associated with heart disease. Since then, the age expectancy of Americans has risen by 6.6 years and 70% of that gain is due to a decrease in deaths from heart disease.
  4. Research regarding the risk factors for heart disease were just becoming known in the 1960’s. Today because of public health campaigns, most of us know our numbers such as blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar, and are aware of risk factors like smoking, obesity and physical inactivity. We take this knowledge for granted.

But back to Mad Men. This week my friend Judy Gelman sent me recipes from her new book, The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook: Inside the Kitchens, Bars, and Restaurants of Mad Men by Judy Gelman and Peter Zheutlin (Smart Pop, 2011).

Below are two classic favorite–Oysters Rockefeller from New York’s Grand Central Oyster Bar and Sardi’s Hearts of Palm Salad. Personally, I don’t do recipes that require this much butter anymore, but what the heck, what’s life without a little abandon…. Meanwhile, I plan to enjoy and then hit the gym on Monday morning!

What are your favorite recipes from the early 60’s? Any that you miss?

Susan Levy
Publisher, Well-Fed Heart

Recipe for Oysters Rockefeller

Photo by Nina Gallan

Courtesy of The Grand Central Oyster Bar
New York City, New York
Yield: 24 oysters (about 4 servings)

  • Rock salt
  • 2 dozen large (or 3–4 dozen small) oysters, opened and on the half shell
  • 4 medium shallots (about 1/4 cup), minced
  • 1 small stalk celery, minced
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, minced
  • 3/4 cup (1 and 1/2 sticks) butter, softened and divided
  • 2 cups fresh spinach, coarsely chopped
  • 1/3 cup soft bread crumbs
  • 1–2 drops Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Sprinkling of freshly ground black pepper
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons Pernod or Anisette
  1. Preheat oven to 450°F. Fill 4 pie or cake tins (or a baking dish large enough to hold oysters) with rock salt, but no more than half full (use just enough salt to keep the oysters from rocking back and forth). Place the tins in the oven briefly to warm.
  2. Prepare the topping: Saute the shallots, celery, and parsley in 4 tablespoons of butter in a heavy skillet for approximately 5–7 minutes. Add spinach to the skillet and allow it to wilt for a minute.
  3. Pour spinach mixture into a blender. Add the remaining butter, bread crumbs, Worcestershire sauce, salt, peppers, and Pernod or Anisette. Blend for a minute at medium speed. Top each oyster with about 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon of the mixture, depending on the size of the oyster.
  4. Remove the tins from the oven and embed the oysters firmly in the hot salt. Return pans to the oven and bake for about 4 minutes, or until the butter is melted and the spinach is lightly browned on top. Serve oysters right in the tin.

Recipe for Sardi’s Hearts Of Palm Salad

Photo by Nina Gallant

From Curtain Up At Sardi’s By Vincent Sardi, Jr. (Random House, 1957)
Yield: 2 servings

  • 6 lettuce leaves
  • 6 whole pieces canned hearts of palm, drained (about 21 ounces)
  • 6 thin slices pimiento
  • 6 sprigs watercress
  • 4 tablespoons Vinaigrette Dressing (see recipe below)
  1. Place lettuce flat on dish. Arrange hearts of palm in a row. Arrange pimiento slices across lettuce and decorate at side with watercress. Serve with Vinaigrette Dressing.

Vinaigrette Dressing

Yield: 3/4 cup

  • ¹⁄₂ dill pickle, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped onion
  • 1 teaspoon capers, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped pimiento
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped hard-boiled egg white
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¹⁄₄ cup olive oil
  • ¹⁄₄ cup white vinegar
  1. Place the finely chopped ingredients in a small bowl. Sprinkle with salt and add olive oil. Stir thoroughly while adding vinegar. Keep in refrigerator. Always stir before using.

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