On many icy nights last winter our house and the homes of our friends were turned into 1960s versions of America’s test kitchen as we hosted or attended Mad Men style dinner and cocktail parties to elicit feedback for recipes being considered for inclusion in The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook. We stocked up on maraschino cherries, anchovies, and Worcestershire sauce. Gin, whiskey, and orange and blue curaçao became new items on our shopping lists.
In our quest to serve foods authentic to the era, all recipes were prepared as they would have been in the 1960s with one exception: we did occasionally use a food processor. Sixties-era cookbooks appeared on our doorstep as friends pored through their bookshelves, often finding cookbooks their mothers had handed down.
For hours on end before guests arrived at our house on successive Saturday evenings, Judy and our friend (and force of nature) Donna, who made it across town on snow clogged roads in her tiny Ford Escort, deployed every utensil, cutting board, mixing bowl and pot and plan in our house in a cooking orgy that would have made Martha Stewart blush.
Events started with cocktails such as Blue Hawaiis or Mai Tais, and then moved on to canapés, deviled eggs and rumaki (chicken liver and chestnut wrapped in bacon). Almost everyone had heard of rumaki, but many had never tried it and were curious to give it a go. When dinner was served, we’d savor hearts of palm salad, sole amandine, crown roast, and potatoes au gratin. Over food and drink we shared memories of our parents’ dinner parties, glimpsed from stairs or hallways when we were Sally and Bobby Draper’s age.
When friends hosted a ”tasting” for us party, guests arrived in ‘60s attire and we listened to music of the era. The Stork Club Cocktail, based on the original recipe from the eponymous nightclub, was the evening’s featured libation, and its biggest hit. We mixed it in a punch bowl to take some of the labor out of making drinks individually and the first batch quickly disappeared. The cocktail led spontaneously to another popular 60s activity: party games. But at our age Twister seemed too dangerous.
“It was like role playing,” says our friend Debbie who knows a few things about throwing a great party. “We went back in time and recreated the social world of our parents. We saw it, but we didn’t live it. Then, for a few nights, we got to experience it.”
The process sometimes involved washing cocktail sauce out of carpets, but it was always, as Pete Campbell might say, “swell.” As our friend Dave, who is much funnier than you’d expect for a lawyer in a pink button down Polo shirt, kept saying as he refilled his glass with yet another Blue Hawaii, “this is so groovy!”
NEXT: The Playboy Club debuts on NBC and we’re just Mad about Playboy!