If you miss the days of presiding at a dinner party in a patchwork hostess gown and decorating with macramé, join me in a look at how the domestic arts were celebrated during the 1970s in the pages of Sphere magazine.
Published by Betty Crocker, Sphere was dedicated to homemakers interested in widening their world by preparing fine food and adding creative touches to their lives. It debuted with its February/March 1972 issue and continued until October 1978, when it changed its name to Cuisine.
Issues of Sphere topped the counters of our Sycamore Street kitchen for years. The magazine’s recipe for “Austrian Peaches” Christmas cookies and its cooking lesson for making English muffins were real keepers.
Sphere’s “Kids Cook” feature was a regular Saturday project for my friend Mary and me. After my mother set up our workstations, we looked at the photos of a youngster following the simple step-by-step instructions and made Jack-o’-Lantern Pizzas, from the October 1976 issue; a Snake Sandwich filled with bologna and chopped dill pickles, featured in October 1977; and Italian Easter bread, from the pages of the March 1978 issue, among others. Best of all was making a cupcake garden from the April 1973 issue, where we baked cupcakes in flowerpots and then decorated them with gumdrop and marshmallow flowers.
For Christmas 1977, Mary and I made the “Kids Cook” Yule Log cake by baking a flat cake, rolling it up and frosting it to resemble a Yule log, attaching cupcake “stumps” and decorating it with toys. In fact, it was so easy, successful and impressive that I’ve resurrected the recipe every so often, most recently for a New Year’s Day get-together this year.
Earlier this month, I OhioLINKED Kent State University Libraries’ run of this terrific magazine. Let me tell you about some of my favorite finds, first on the subject of cooking.
Forget serving Haggis and whiskey for a Robert Burns birthday dinner tomorrow! Instead, read the Scottish poet’s Tam O’Shanter aloud after polishing off Sphere’s Scottish dinner menu from April/May 1975, with ha’pennies, Brussels sprouts with Bombay dip, sherried beef broth with anchovy toasts, leg of lamb with tatties and parsley jelly, stuffed baked tomatoes, cauliflower with egg sauce, farm bread and butter and nun’s pudding. Or fix a Scottish picnic with Scots eggs, salmon cress sandwiches, cock-a-leekie salad, ladyfingers with lemon curd filling, shortbread and fresh fruit. I’d gladly provide background music for your dinner party by playing “Comin Thro’ the Rye” and “My Love’s Like a Red, Red Rose” on my harp!
Tired of being grounded by this brutal winter weather? Pack your bags for a dining-table journey to several foreign destinations by fixing Danish smørrebrød (November 1972); Hungarian goulash and noodle pudding (September 1974); four different Finnish breads and homemade beer (March 1975); an Acropolis buffet including Greek kabobs, spinach pie, and Melomarkarona cookies (April 1978); a Swiss raclette (March 1976); or a Dutch/Indonesian Rijsstafel (October 1976).
Treat fellow Anglophiles to an English pub party with dishes like Cornish pasties, chutney and marmalade pudding from a sweet trolley (April 1976). Or throw an Indian Summer soiree, like Sphere suggested in September 1975. Serve popcorn, herbed cashews, salted pumpkin seeds, hot rum and cider, hunt roast with berry sauce, seasoned spinach, escalloped corn, Indian fry bread, and apple and peach cobblers. Don’t forget to follow the instructions for sewing a Seminole-design hostess apron and table runner to match!
There’s no shortage of clever ideas in the pages of Sphere. Invite friends over for a Programmed Potluck. In this October 1973 article, the hostess plans to prepare hot spiced cider, beer-marinated roast, and pineapple cheesecake. To ensure a harmonious meal, she provides each guest with a recipe for a specific dish, including a lime gelatin mold with melon balls and pears, hot German potato salad, bean salad and carrots tossed in butter and black walnuts.
“Experience the Great Outdoors” on your next camping trip with a roundup of recipes from Sphere’s May 1974 issue. Seven different menu choices are designed especially for easy cooking on propane stoves and open grills. What backpacker wouldn’t want to refuel with French onion soup, beef Stroganoff and a fruit gelatin dessert?
Meet new neighbors by fixing Sphere’s May 1973 Moving Day Dinner of flank steak and sausage, herb zucchini, cheesy bread, and ambrosia, then tuck it in a picnic basket with paper plates and plastic flatware for easy cleanup. Or, share leftovers of Connecticut Beef Supper like a Chicago bachelor did with his new neighbors in the February 1976 issue.
Now, let’s flip through Sphere’s pages to find some craft projects with real Seventies flair. Remember making a twig weaving wall hanging, sand castings, batik clothes, and decoupage boxes? You can try your hand at them all again with Sphere! If you’re feeling adventurous, Sphere’s April 1977 issue can help you build a Scandinavian four-poster bed, convertible chair and family breakfast table, or make breakfast pass-through shutter insert panels with crewelwork nasturtiums, like my mother did in 1972.
Hopeful brides-to-be, follow Sphere’s cooking lesson for the Brazilian “Hoping-for-a-Husband” coconut torte, then plan “A Heritage Wedding for Today.” This August/September 1972 feature presents an exclusive Sphere design for a bride’s dress made of ivory-colored Kettlecloth with a décolleté neckline and sleeves that arch above the shoulder line and curve into a flair at the wrist. Crewelwork depictions of Queen Anne’s Lace, lunaria, wheat shafts and mushrooms are embroidered on the sleeves and hemline. A spectacular wedding cake has 12 alternately stacked layers of date-nut and lemon pound cake, each covered with a cranberry, apricot or plum filling and sprinkled with fruit liqueur. The cake is frosted with coffee buttercream and decorated with sliced-almond lunaria and mushrooms, thistles and sunflowers made of meringue.
Even Sphere’s ads are enticing! How could I have forgotten about Betty Crocker’s Banana Walnut Snackin’ Cake, that fantastic moist cake you just mixed up and put in the oven, without a big mess to clean up? Or the fuel shortage, which Coats & Clark combated by offering four craft books with ideas to keep warm? Wonder if Waverly Fabrics’ will ever reintroduce its Old Sturbridge Village Collection? There were ads for a St. Charles fashion kitchen, just like the one in my Oxford house, and the Campbell’s Soup ad with a recipe to make a New England Boiled Dinner, which my mother tore out and has been fixing ever since. Remember Foods of the World, the Time-Life Books series with easy-to-follow recipes, how-to illustrations and step-by-step instructions for recreating the cooking of countries like Germany, Italy, and provincial France? Here they are in their pristine glory, before I stocked up on used copies of them at several Friends of the Library book sales!
Sphere also did its part to introduce the latest in cooking innovations. “Pots of Gold” (April 1976) described how electric slow cookers can be a wonderful kitchen aid, explaining their advantages and limitations, offering basic cooking techniques and starter recipes, and suggesting how to adapt your own recipes to the new appliance. The next month, Sphere told readers to be enthusiastic, not fearful, of microwave ovens and how to make the most of these space-age appliances. Tips for operating and practicing using the new Cuisinart food processor followed that October.
Recurring magazine features include book reviews, wine recommendations, profiles of herbs, the latest in fashion, ways to save money around the house, and gift shopping suggestions. In the January 1976 issue, I spotted the mug that I still have from The Horchow Collection’s hand-painted ceramic tea set.
And there in the pages of the November 1976 issue was the heart-cheeked doll with a big hair bow from The Whole Kit and Kaboodle Co., Inc., just like the doll I brought home from Mohonk Mountain House the following summer.
Are Sphere recipes in your cooking repertoire? Let me know what your favorites are!