On Mad Men

Introduction: The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook

By Judy Gelman, Peter Zheutlin

When we first walked into the offices of Sterling Cooper, metaphorically speaking, we knew Mad Men was going to transport us to another time. It wasn’t the retro look of the office furnishings or the decor, or even the fashions, though they helped. It was the background chorus of a hundred electric typewriters clicking away.

Mad Men’s obsessive attention to period detail also extends to its food: what its characters eat and drink, how they eat and drink it, and where. We grew up in the 1960s just a few miles from Manhattan, so many of the foods and kitchen and restaurant scenes brought back childhood memories. When we saw Betty Draper serve Turkey Tetrazzini and stuffed celery, or Carla, the Drapers’ housekeeper, serve potato salad, it was as if we had traveled back to our mothers’ kitchens. When the Draper kids watch Don break out another bottle of Canadian Club or the neighbors come over for bridge night, it reminded us of nights we’d sneak halfway down the stairs in our pajamas to take a peek at our parents and their friends enjoying cocktails and cards.

Judy has a long track record pairing food and literature in two previous cookbooks she co-authored, which naturally extended to curiosity about the food in Mad Men. But when friends learned we were writing a Mad Men—themed cookbook, many were surprised: there was food? All they seemed to remember was a lot of drinking, and maybe Betty making breakfast or dinner in her kitchen.

But there is plenty of food in Mad Men. Sometimes it’s front and center, but often it’s a background detail,  …

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