Dawn Pisturino's Blog

My Writing Journey

Thanksgiving Dinner from the 1950s Housewife

on November 6, 2021

Thanksgiving menu 1950s style

Clear chicken or turkey soup

Bread sticks

Salted almonds



Roast turkey

Giblet gravy

Chestnut stuffing

Mashed potatoes

Brussel sprouts

Jellied or whole cranberry sauce

Romaine salad with French dressing

Cheese plate

Hot mince pie




How to make chicken or turkey bone soup

“Never discard the bones of turkey or chicken as they always will make a delicious soup. Scrape the meat from the bones, break the bones, pack in a kettle, and cover with cold water, adding a small onion. Cover closely and simmer very gently for three hours. Strain and cool. One-half hour before it is to be served, return to the fire, and for every quart of stock, add one cup of the cold meat, season, and keep hot till needed. This soup may be greatly improved by adding to it, three minutes before serving, ten oysters to each quart of soup.”

Chestnut Stuffing

1 quart chestnuts

1/4 cup bread crumbs

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons cream

Salt and Pepper

1/2 teaspoon onion juice

Shell and blanche chestnuts and cook in boiling water until tender. While hot, rub through coarse sieve. Mix with remaining ingredients. Makes 2-1/2 cups.


Formal Table Settings and Service

Housewives of the 1950s set their holiday dinner tables with their finest china, bearing the most exquisite designs. If the dinner was served in courses, a different design might be used with each course. All the dishes used in one course would match.

Place Plate – 10-11 inches across. This was the base plate on which the dinner plate was set.

Dinner Plate – 10-10.5 inches across, used to serve the meat and side vegetables.

Entree Plate – 8.5-9.5 inches across, used to serve an entree, salad, or fish. May have been used for dessert if the fingerbowl was brought in on it.

Dessert Plate – 7.5-8 inches across, used for dessert or salad. Used for the cake plate at tea.

Bread and Butter Plate – 6-6.5 inches across.

Soup Plate – 8-8.5 inches across with a broad, flat rim. Or a bowl could substitute.

Cups and Bowls

Cream Soup Cup – A low, broad cup with two handles, 4.5-5 inches wide and about 2 inches deep. Used for purees, bisques, and cream soups.

Boullion Cup – Looked like a tea cup with two handles that was used for clear soups, consommes, and bouillons.

Chilled Cocktail Bowl – A low, broad bowl inside a separate container. The bowl would be used to serve grapefruit, shrimp cocktail, and other chilled foods. Crushed ice would be packed around the bowl.


Colored glassware was very popular in the 1950s and would have matched the colors in the china dishes. Crystal glassware was preferred for formal dinners, either etched, cut, or rimmed with gold.

Goblet – The main component of the glassware setting. Two other glasses would have been set alongside the main goblet, usually a claret glass and a champagne glass.

Sherbet Glass – A medium sized bowl on a short stem used to serve sherbet, ice cream, and other frozen dessert.

Finger Bowl – a low, broad bowl used to dip the fingers in water.


Polished silver gave an air of sophistication to the table setting. Besides the usual dinner knife, fork, and spoon, the 1950s hostess might have provided an array of cutlery including a butter knife and smaller knives and forks for fish, entrees, salad, and fruit.

A List of Useful Serving Pieces

2 or 3 tablespoons

2 or 3 dinner forks for serving

Medium sized carving set

Butter knife or butter pick

Gravy ladle

Sugar tongs

Pie or tart server

Cold meat fork

Olive spoon or fork

Berry spoon

Jelly server

Preserve spoon

Long-handled fork and spoon

Pickle fork

Pierced server

Salad dressing ladle

Lemon fork

Asparagus server

Entree server

Cake fork

sardine server

Ice tongs

Ice spoon

Sugar spoon

Sugar sifter for powdered sugar

Ice-cream knife or server

Cheese server

Melon knife

Grape scissors


The 1950s hostess preferred white linen damask for a table cover at dinner. The napkins always matched the tablecloth. Monogramming was very popular in the 1950s.

Centerpieces and Decorations

Flowers were popular centerpieces in the 1950s. The colors had to blend in with the rest of the color scheme. Candles were usually white or natural wax color. The candles were lighted before the guests entered the dining-room and were kept burning until after they left the room.

From The American Woman’s Cook Book, 1950


Sounds like a lot of work! A lot of serving to do, and a lot of dishes to wash! But the 1950s housewife took pride in setting a well-appointed table. She derived satisfaction from pleasing her guests. Of course, we all know that that does not always work with family.

Most importantly, however, Thanksgiving is and was a time to spend with family and friends and to be thankful for what we have. Washing dishes is a small price to pay.

Thanksgiving Prayer

Lord, source and giver of all things, we give You thanks and all the glory on this Thanksgiving Day for the splendor and majesty of creation. We give You thanks for the blessings of family and friends: both those gathered around this table and those who are present only in our hearts. We give You thanks for this food, prepared by loving hands, and for the graces You provide to nourish our spirits, souls, and bodies so that we may continue to serve You passionately. Help us to be faithful stewards of all we have been given. May we reflect Your love and that which we have received to all those we meet, especially the less fortunate in our midst. Amen.

Practice Gratitude – Conversation Starters for Around the Table

Name two things you are thankful for this year.

Who are you thankful for, and why?

What part of nature is inspiring and beautiful to you?

What is something that makes you laugh out loud?

What is an unexpected blessing you’ve received this year?

Choose someone you are with and share three things you admire and appreciate about that person.

What is something you love about your family?

How are you going to practice gratitude this year?

Have a Safe, Happy, and Blessed Thanksgiving this year!

Dawn Pisturino

November 4, 2021

Copyright 2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.


13 responses to “Thanksgiving Dinner from the 1950s Housewife

  1. Yes Dawn a beautiful reminder of so much good back in those fine days of genuine family tradition, full of love and beautiful standards! Sad to see what has happened to this nation especially the nasty displays of arrogance and disrespect for just about anything good in recent years that has the name American associated with it, all triggered by the most nefarious enemies among us!

    But, the good thing is Truth never dies and will always prevail like Justice; as the light overcomes all darkness or despair! The power of prayer and hope are what this is all about, just like those original Pilgrims proved back in 1620 when they crossed an ocean in wooden ships putting everything on the line to find peace, freedom and to build a “Home Sweet Home!” Home is where the heart is, and that is what you and anyone thinking about this right now should focus on for this coming Thanksgiving, letting all the good flow from within pouring out from the heart to all those we love and care about, while even extending some of it to those who are having it very tough and even alone! We can begin with prayers and then genuinely put our best foot forward like those brave and good heartened Pilgrims did way back in the day!

    We can be the “New Pilgrims Now!” It’s about overcoming all the odds that can at times be stacked up against us! We’re from “the best of the best” and not quitters; “We Shall Overcome!”

    God bless you and yours, and a Special blessed Thanksgiving! Amen.

    Brother in Christ Jesus,


    Liked by 1 person

  2. Myheartscry says:

    Wow, what an intimidating list. It would take me a whole month to prepare for it.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Americaoncoffee says:

    A very well attributed and virtuous share Dawn. A recanting of history is what the USA needs right now. Thanks again.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Timothy Price says:

    This is a really cool retro post. What a lot of work to prepare Thanksgiving dinner. I suppose people were much more thankful in the ’50s. While reading through all the steps I started thinking about “A Christmas Story” where the dog gets his head stuck in the turkey and they have to go to a Chinese restaurant for Christmas dinner.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. […] Thanksgiving Dinner from the 1950s Housewife — Dawn Pisturino’s Blog […]

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Man alive. Makes me look like a barbarian, doesn’t it? In the true English tradition of moral imperialism, I’ve been proud to report that my family eats Thanksgiving dinner with utensils – where a lot of families we know just order pizza. (How droll.)

    A humbling thought, anyway, that the Day had still clung to so much value even a few decades ago. Which means it’s not so long ago that we can’t realistically bring that value back. Thanks for posting this.

    Liked by 1 person

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