19 Meals That Defined Our Grandparents’ Generation (But Not Ours)

Written By Jill Taylor

The food our grandparents ate was really different from what we have now. These classic dishes used to be common in every home, creating special memories and traditions. Nowadays, these meals are rare or almost forgotten in modern kitchens. Here are 19 meals that defined our grandparents’ generation.


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According to The Food We Know, meatloaf was popular in the 1940s, which explains why it was loved by our grandparents. Meatloaf is a mix of ground meat, breadcrumbs, and seasonings. Its versatility and low cost made it a family favorite. Baked just right and topped with ketchup, it created a nostalgic aroma that filled the house, signaling that dinner was ready.

Liver and Onions

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Nowadays, we’d turn our noses up at this meal. Liver and onions used to be a popular dish with strong flavors and was usually made from beef or chicken liver. You’d also find it cooked with caramelized onions for a hearty meal. While not as common now, it was packed with nutrients and showed the creativity of home cooks.

Jell-O Salads

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The thought of eating a jello-o salad can send shivers down our spines but they used to be a common sight at family get-togethers and potlucks. These colorful, wobbly dishes were msde by mixing flavored gelatin with fruits, veggies, and sometimes even marshmallows. Jell-O Salads were a quirky and fun part of mid-century cooking, showing off the creativity and experimentation of home chefs back then.

Chicken à la King

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Something that isn’t eaten so often now is chicken à la King. This dish consists of diced chicken in a creamy mushroom and bell pepper sauce, served over rice or toast. Once a special treat, it showcased rich and comforting flavors. Though it’s not as popular now, many still remember it fondly.

Ham and Bean Soup

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This meal used to be a popular comfort food. Ham and bean soup was a hearty, budget-friendly meal that warmed homes in the cold months. Slow-cooked with ham, beans, and veggies, it made a nutritious dish that could feed big families and showed how people cooked simply and resourcefully during tough times.

Salisbury Steak

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Our grandparents would’ve loved Salisbury steak. It was made from ground beef patties covered in gravy and was a comforting dinner choice. Often served with mashed potatoes and veggies, you would find the Salisbury steak a staple in many homes. Easy to make and tasty, it quickly became a favorite classic meal for families.

Cabbage Rolls

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Tricky to make, cabbage rolls, filled with ground meat and rice, were created with love. Cooked in a tomato sauce, they were usually saved for special occasions and family get-togethers. The careful prep showed just how much time and effort went into meals back then.

Corned Beef Hash

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You wouldn’t think to have it at the start of the day but corned beef hash was a popular breakfast dish. Made from corned beef, potatoes, and onions, you’d think it was more suited for dinner. Fried until crispy, it was often paired with eggs.

Chipped Beef on Toast

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Chipped beef on toast, or “SOS,” was a comforting and easy meal. It featured thin slices of dried beef in a creamy white sauce served over toast. Popular in military homes, it was a quick and hearty dish that filled you up and was easy to cook.

Tuna Noodle Casserole

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Grandparents used to love this dish. Tuna noodle casserole is a cozy, budget-friendly meal made with canned tuna, noodles, and a creamy sauce. Topped with crushed potato chips or breadcrumbs, it’s baked until golden brown. It’s a simple and convenient way to feed the family using pantry staples and requires little preparation.

Fried Bologna Sandwiches

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If your grandparents wanted a delicious lunch they’d make fried bologna sandwiches, as they were quick and tasty. Slices of bologna were fried until crispy and served on bread, sometimes with mustard or cheese. This simple sandwich was a childhood favorite for many, evoking memories of carefree days and uncomplicated meals.

Deviled Ham

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Not something that’s popular nowadays, deviled ham is a spread made from minced ham and seasonings. It was a versatile snack or sandwich filling. Often served on crackers or bread, it was a convenient and flavorful option. This spread reflected the era’s penchant for savory, easy-to-prepare foods that could be enjoyed in various settings.

Bread Pudding

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This dessert was made from stale bread soaked in a mixture of milk, eggs, sugar, and spices, was a frugal yet delicious treat. Baked until golden and often topped with a sauce or whipped cream, it turned simple ingredients into a comforting, sweet dish that minimized waste and our grandparents loved it.

Pork Chops and Applesauce

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This dish was considered a classic meal for dinner times. Pork chops and applesauce was a combination of savory and sweet, was a regular dinner option. The tender pork chops paired perfectly with the tangy applesauce, creating a balanced and flavorful meal. This dish exemplified the straightforward yet delicious cooking style of the time.

Welsh Rarebit

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If your grandparents wanted something quick they may make Welsh rarebit. This was a rich cheese sauce served over toast and was a popular comfort food. Made with cheddar cheese, beer, and mustard, this savory dish was both hearty and indulgent. It showcased the era’s love for cheesy, warming meals that could be prepared quickly and easily.

Creamed Corn

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Creamed corn was a side dish made from corn kernels cooked in a creamy sauce. It was a staple at many family dinners. This sweet and savory dish complemented a variety of main courses, offering a taste of summer all year round. Its simplicity and comforting flavor made it a favorite.

Beef Stroganoff

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Not so popular today, beef stroganoff is a dish of sautéed beef in a creamy mushroom sauce, served over noodles or rice, was a luxurious meal often prepared for special occasions. Its rich flavors and elegant presentation made it a standout dish, reflecting the desire for both comfort and sophistication in home cooking.

Stuffed Peppers

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Commonly filled with a mixture of ground meat, rice, and seasonings, stuffed peppers were a colorful and nutritious meal. Baked until tender and topped with tomato sauce, they were a popular way to serve a balanced and hearty dinner. This dish highlighted the creative use of vegetables in meal preparation.

Split Pea Soup

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Split pea soup used to be a popular and nutritious meal. This was made from dried peas, ham, and vegetables, was a warming and nutritious option. Slow-cooked to perfection, it offered a rich and hearty flavor that was especially comforting during colder months. This soup was a testament to the enduring appeal of simple, home-cooked meals.

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