Wednesday, October 29, 2014

All Good Things

After four years, 266 posts, countless jello molds and one very important pair of skinny jeans - I have decided it is time to call it quits. The Retro Weight Watchers Experiment is officially OVER. For realzies this time. I feel pretty confident that I have done just about all I can do here. I have made my own Catsup. I have gelatinized every possible food from tuna to pimentos to beets. I have "Fluffed" a Can of Mackerel. And of course, I have Spectacular-ized a bunch if innocent Frankfurters.

It just feels like there is something I forgot to do.

Something really, REALLY important.

Oh yeah.

This never happened...

I never met Jean Nidetch. 

I tried. I wrote letters. I did research. I sent emails. I thought about searching for Jean on a recent trip to Florida - but promptly chickened out. I just couldn't see myself as a creepy retirement home stalker.

For Christ's Sakes I even sent a letter to freaking Katie Couric begging for her assistance with meeting my idol. (Hashtag YOLO?)

In a last ditch effort, I finally tracked down the contact information for one of Jean Nidetch's family members who lives in New York City. Out of the blue, I sent this poor, unsuspecting young woman an email. Here is a carbon copy of what I wrote:

Hello --

My name is Mimi. I hope you do not mind my reaching out to you via email, but I would like to get a message to your Grandmother, Jean. Here's why...

For the past 4 years, I have been working on a blogging project which is devoted to the food and fun of the original Weight Watchers program from the 1960's/70's. My blog, "The Retro Weight Watchers Experiment" is a tribute to the work of Jean Nidetch and the life-changing institution she created.

Over the past 4 years, I have re-created almost every gelatin mold, frankfurter casserole and tuna/mackerel dish you could ever imagine. I have done unspeakable things with cottage cheese. I have literally had a BLAST learning about the history of Weight Watchers and creating an online community of fellow "Retro WW Fanatics"... Including my mom who actually followed the program in 1972 and lost 90 pounds.

One of my goals was to meet Jean. But unfortunately, I never made that happen. And it breaks my heart.

As I begin to wind down my project and close up shop on the blog - I feel like I must (at the very least) contact Jean to let her know how much she has changed my life. I lost 40 pounds on WW in 1999, and if it weren't for WW - I never would have had the confidence to make that happen.

My only hope is that she will be able to take a look at the blogging project I have created in her honor. It is fun and silly, but there is a lot of love and admiration behind it. And there are a lot of people who have connected with me through this project, because they feel the same way I do.

If you could somehow share this message with your Grandmother, I would be so very grateful. I do not know her current health condition, but I very much hope she is healthy and happy.

Thank you so much. I am currently working on the final post for my blog, and if there is any way I could include a quote or comment from Jean - that would truly be the cherry on the top of this marvelous journey. Please let her know it would mean the world to me!

Have a wonderful week and thanks so much for your time and consideration.

After a few days, I got a very nice response. It was short and sweet:

Thank you for your support and admiration.  Congratulations on your success.  It is wonderful to hear of another person who my grandmother’s life has so positively affected.

Best of luck to you on your blog and all your continued success.

Welp. I do believe THAT, my friends, is what they call in the business - "The Brush Off". But its OK. I am fine. Really.

No. REEAALLLYY. Its fine. I'm over it.

If there is one thing Weight Watchers has taught me, its that the journey is everything. Its truly not about the destination. And boy oh boy, have I enjoyed this journey! I have met some unbelievably fun and talented and inspiring people on this blogging adventure. I have tried so many new things and challenged myself in so many ways. I have had a blast. And it was life-changing. Simple as that.

Funny thing is, I am sorta glad we are ending in a totally different place than where I expected. I always pictured my final post would be all about my meeting with Jean and how cool that would be. Talking about the past, and all the wackiness of the Retro days. You know...drowning in nostalgia and whatnot.

But in the end - this post is dedicated to all of US. Right now. The losers. The winners. The fighters. The Weight Watchers Warriors who are still living the dream over 50 years later, and getting better all the time.

We are pretty freaking awesome. Let's never forget that.

So here's to the future of Weight Watchers. What lies ahead is so exciting!

And the beat goes on...

Monday, June 30, 2014


Here’s a fun fact about me: I have a Master’s Degree in Existential Phenomenology.

I am not even messing with you.

So when I got my assignment for the First Annual “Pieathalon” Retro Blogging Challenge, I was a little disappointed in myself.

OMG - I can't even.

How could someone fully grasp the writings of Heidegger, Sartre and Nietzsche -- but then stare at this recipe for "Nesselrode Pie", and feel overwhelmingly perplexed and completely baffled almost to the point of mental paralysis? In the Philosophy business, this is what we call an “Ontological Crisis”. But I digress…

Anyway --after reading the recipe about 50 times, Googling the word “Nesselrode” like a mofo, and then drawing a schematic diagram for myself - I felt ready to get to work in the kitchen.

When in doubt - make a Pie Flow Chart

By the way – this particular Nesselrode Pie recipe is from The Betty Crocker 1971 Card Set (you know the one with the attractive moss green plastic box). History tells us that the Nesselrode Pie was named after Count Nesselrode of Russia, and then became very popular in New York bakeries in the 1950’s. It contains rum, heavy cream, chestnuts, candied fruit, chocolate and gelatin. So I guess this is what the Retro Weight Watchers gals were eating when they fell off the wagon??

According to Wikipedia – this Pie is officially extinct.  That’s right I said EXTINCT!

Well -- not anymore, Bitches!!!!!

I began by pulling out every single bowl and utensil in my entire kitchen. Seriously. I needed 2 pie plates, multiple mixing bowls, a beater, a grater, whisks, spoons, saucepans…the list goes on. Needless to say my kitchen was a total freaking mess.

I set up work stations.

There were things happening in my kitchen that have never happened in there before.

A Full Blown Kitchen Catastrophe

I will spare you all the gory details, but let me just say – after a LOT of intense concentration and some horribly offensive swear words, it all came together.  I wound up with two pie plates filled with Nesselrode goodness sitting in my fridge. But I still wasn’t even close to being finished.

Layers of Love and Anger

Jesus, Mary and Joseph! I still had to let these two separate pies chill completely for hours and then carefully place one on top of the other without breaking the whole freaking thing into a giant pile of gelatinous goo. Not too mention the topping. The God-forsaken whipped topping!

OK. Can I be honest? At this point, I really considered buying a can of Redi-Whip for the topping. But these recipe challenges are hardcore, and I couldn’t risk my fellow Retro Bloggers shaming me for not whipping my own cream. Have I mentioned that these people are not to be messed around with? (Let's just say there's a reason I call them the "Jell-O Mafia") So I slapped together my two Nesselrode Pie layers, and got to work on my whipped topping.

Stiff peaks and all.

So here is the finished product.  Not perfect. But I did it. I FREAKING DID IT!!!!

Look Ma, I made an ACTUAL Pie!

Stiff Peaks, Yo!

As the sun set over the horizon - My husband and I sat down on the couch, and I cut us each a huge slice. We sat there awkwardly and ate our pie together like it was our first date or something. My husband finally looked at me and said, “This is so weird. It’s strange how we’re just sitting here eating this weird pie.”

It was very sweet and creamy. The chocolate layer was delicious. The Nesselrode layer, on the other hand, was sketchy. To be honest, we both felt a tad nauseated after we ate it. Maybe it was the rum soaked fruit? Maybe it was the 3 cups of heavy cream and 6 egg yolks? Maybe it was just the fact that we had skipped dinner, and then slammed down a giant gut-bomb of sugar and fat in the form of a pie. Who knows? It was weird.


I want to thank Kelli from Kelli’s Kitchen for challenging me to make this recipe and for pushing me out of my culinary comfort zone.  I only hate you a little bit, Kelli. (just kidding). I also want to thank Yinzerella over at Dinner Is Served 1972 for organizing this whole shindig.  Bloggers sent their retro pie recipe submissions to Yinzerella, she randomly assigned them to the gang and the Pieathalon was born!

If you have the time and you want to get all up in some Retro Pie Business – go check out the other Bloggers and their recipe challenges. Grab a slice of the Pieathalon!

Brian of Caker Cooking – Chess Pie
Ruth of Mid Century Menu – Avocado Lime Pie
Erica of Retro Recipe Attempts – Curried Egg Pie
Jenny of Silver Screen Suppers --Mile-High Lemon Chiffon Pie
S.S. of A Book of Cookrye -- Upside Down Chicken Pie
Sarah of Directionally Challenged Cooking --Simone's Pet Strawberry Pie
Kelli of Kelli's Kitchen --Butterscotch Pie
Ashley of A Pinch of Vintage --Schoolteacher Pie
Poppy of Granny Pantries --Black Bottom Pie
Carrie of Ginger Lemon Girl --Chocolate "Pie"
Emily of Dinner is Served 1972 --Seafoam Cantaloupe Pie

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Another Sad Pie

When you think of Pie, what's the first thing that comes to mind?

I would imagine for the average person it would be stuff like: Boston Creme, Key Lime, Lemon Meringue or Custard. Maybe a great big Apple Pie a la Mode. Or even Pizza Pie or Chicken Pot Pie if you're feeling hungry. Am I right?

But if you hear the word "Pie", and instantly think: Salmon! Canned Peas! Button Mushrooms!

Well then, you might be a Retro Weight Watcher...

You might think the "Salmon Pie" will be filled with delicious fresh Salmon. But alas! The Salmon Pie has a CRUST made of Salmon. Canned Salmon. Mixed with bread crumbs and canned mushroom liquid.

And the filling is made from a can of peas and a can of mushrooms.

Oh, the humanity!

But the entire Pie is one serving! Come on. When does that ever happen?

What are we waiting for? Grab a fork and dig in!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Life of Pie

As I mentioned in my last post, there will be a HUGE Retro-Blogging Challenge at the end of June called "Pieathalon". This involves a bunch of Retro Food Bloggers each choosing a Vintage Pie Recipe which will then be randomly assigned to another blogger, and each blogger must then bake it and write a post about his/her assigned pie recipe.

Initially, I was really excited about this challenge.

Then I got my assignment, and realized: I have no clue how to bake a real pie.

No clue.

You see, I am a Retro Weight Watchers gal - and here is an example of the type of pies we make on the Retro Weight Watchers plan:

They don't have a crust. They don't have fillings or toppings. They really don't resemble a pie at all.

But they typically involve my two favorite ingredients in the world:

And they often contain instructions like:

"Top with dry milk sprinkled evenly", or

"Soften gelatin with beverage in pie pan", or

"Bake for 30 minutes. Pie will be browned but runny."

Seriously. What in the actual Hell?

Pie of Despair

So you will make this brown, runny pie. You will slice it up. It will be sad and very upsetting. You will tell yourself, "It's not that bad I guess". You will eat a few bites, and life will seem a little bit better.

You will then realize when you hold it up, it kind of resembles plastic vomit.

Be Honest. Would You EVER Eat This?

You will throw the rest of it in the trash, and just eat an apple.

This is how we do pie in the Retro Weight Watchers world.

I have no idea how to make a real pie. I don't even know where to begin. But something tells me it is going to be an emotional experience for us all.

Oh, and a special note to the blogger who was assigned my Retro WW "Pie" submission: I am so very sorry.

Monday, June 2, 2014


"Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back IN!"  - The Godfather Part III

I haven't posted anything on this blog since March. (Has anyone even noticed?) At the time, I kinda made a half-assed "grand-finale" post and then disappeared into obscurity for a while. To be honest, I basically just lost my blogging mojo.

But a few weeks ago, my friend Yinzerella sent out an email to my little circle of retro blogging pals (AKA The Jello Mafia) asking if anyone wanted to participate in a NEW Retro Blogging Challenge. This would be similar to the Knoxapocalypse or the Church Lady Cooking Challenge or the Vincent Price Cookalong. But this one would have a new theme: PIES. And it would be called PIEATHALON.

Hellz. Yeah.

So here I am. And not only will I be participating in the Cross-Blog Retro Pie-Baking Challenge on June 30th, but I have decided to devote the entire month of June to RETRO WW PIES!

So....Here's a quick walk down memory lane at some of the Retro WW Pies I have made over the years. (Click on the title above photo to visit the posts):

Totally Not Worth the Effort

A Day at the Ballpark

Almost but Not Quite

Quite Possibly the Worst Pie EVER Made

 But there are oh-so-many-other Pies to be had. And I shall begin my Pie Extravaganza later this week.

In the meantime--please do tell, what is YOUR favorite pie?

Monday, March 24, 2014

In Which I Finish What I Started

Here's the deal.

It has taken me over a month to conjure up the desire to finish writing about the "Retro WW Rules".

And with only one lousy rule left, you'd think I could just suck it up, slap together some scary recipe and get it over with. But Oh. My. GAWD. I don't wanna. Like I really don't wanna. AT ALL.

RULE #9: MILK - You must use your daily allotment of milk. Women and men 16 ounces. Skim milk or buttermilk may be used interchangeably and at any time.

So I was going to make this thing called "Milk Ice" where you take a packet of Knox Gelatin and put it in the blender with some dehydrated milk, vanilla extract, water and fruit. No doubt it would have been awful. And smelly. And ridiculous. AND OHMIGOD I JUST CANNOT DO IT.

So instead, I am just gonna sit here and drink some reconstituted dehydrated non-fat milk powder straight from a Pyrex measuring container. As a punishment. Cause that's all I got left in me to give, folks.

After 4 years of blogging about Retro Weight Watchers food, I think I have finally hit the proverbial wall.

What does this mean?

I have no idea. But stay tuned, because this thing has to end somewhere. Somehow.

And you are all in this with me. Whether you like it or not.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Rules for Using Fruit

There's a LOT to cover with this rule. So let's get right to it.

RULE #8 : FRUIT - Select one Vitamin C fruit - orange or grapefruit - each day. Otherwise, vary selections. Fruits may be eaten raw or cooked. One-half cup equals 1 fruit, except where otherwise marked. 
No bananas, cherries, dried fruits, grapes or watermelon. 
Women: 3 fruits daily. 
Men: 5 fruits daily.

Keep in mind--this rule comes directly from the ORIGINAL Weight Watchers cookbook, 1966. The fruit rule was later revised to allow ONE serving of banana, cherry or grape per week. So calm down, banana lovers.

The fruit recipes provided in the Original WW Cookbook include a TON of gelatin molds. They also often involve strange combinations with other foods like celery, pimentos, onions, green peppers, and the list goes on. Cottage cheese makes many appearances, too.

And I never in my life realized there were so many different ways to prepare a grapefruit!

But...One fruit recipe in particular caught my attention. Mainly because it had "cheese balls" in the title. Anytime you mention cheese balls, I am SOLD. So here we go...

I have to admit, I am not a fan of mixing sweet and savory flavors together in my salads. Call me a prude, but I think it goes against the rules of salad making. A salad should either be ALL fruit or ALL vegetables, in my opinion. Once you start putting apples in your garden salad, things get crazy! The next thing you know there are pecans in there. And raisins. And OH my GAWD, the humanity!

Anyway -- this Retro WW Salad goes against all of my OCD salad rules. But here it is. Apples and celery and pimentos and all. God help me.

 What's your take on fruit salads? 

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Toasting the New Year

Happy New Year! Lordy, I have so many resolutions for 2014, but for now I just need to get through these last few gosh-danged Retro WW RULES. So here we go...

RULE #7: Limited Vegetables - Select any one of the following vegetables and use at dinner only. Only one serving, or 1/2 cup, permitted. Vary your selections from day to day.

bamboo shoots
brussels sprouts
oyster plant (WTF?)
*tomato juice

* Tomato juice may be taken at any time. Limited to 12 oz daily.

So there you have it. The vegetables with which we must be ever so vigilant. God forbid you eat an extra beet or something.

Since I eat enough carrots to choke a rabbit, I could never follow this rule. But in the spirit of celebrating the New Year, I decided to find a nice healthy vegetable juice "cocktail" recipe to help me toast 2014. Which, by the way happens to be the year I plan to complete this insane experiment. What does that mean? I don't know. But this has to end somehow. Right?

Anyhoo--I boiled it down to a choice between 2 recipes: "Cucumber & Tomato Cocktail" and "Carrot Milk". After a very deep conversation with myself about how I might feel after drinking warm, cooked carrots blended with skim milk - I opted for the "Cucumber Tomato Cocktail"

It was a good choice! Just pop a few ice cubes in a blender with some dill, 3/4 cup tomato juice and 6 slices of cucumber, and you've got yourself a very refreshing glass of Retro WW deliciousness! CHEERS!

I hope the New Year brings lots of good health and happiness to all of my fabulous readers! I love you all! I would also like to dedicate this post to a very terrific lady who was recently taken from our world too soon. Heidi from "kitschenfeast" was one of the first people who inspired me to start blogging, and although we never met in person, I feel like we became friends through this crazy world of writing and retro cooking. I will miss her "voice" every day.

Here's a truly awesome guest post Heidi wrote for the Retro WW Experiment a few years ago. Rest in Peace, my friend.