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Gastro-Disasters: Spectacularly Appalling Food Adverts from Yesteryear

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Mmm-mm. Dee-lish!  They sure knew how to make a meat paste look tasty back in the day. Just show it being squeezed through a grinder – always a mouth-watering visual.

This is an example of where the food might actually have tasted just fine (depending on your tastes), but, before the advent of the “food stylist”, things often looked ghastly in their advertisements.  We’ve become so accustomed to highly-polished, Photoshopped food presentation, that food in vintage advertising just looks unpalatable.

Here are some adverts from decades past where the food may or may not have tasted fine, but the presentation makes things look downright inedible by today’s standards.  Bon appetit! 


food advertising

Okay, I can read that the bits that look like maggots are actually slivered almonds – but they still look like maggots!


Steaming sausages atop a mound of veggies and toast – sounds good in theory.



What’s in the blender? Answer: “A whole new world of cooking…. sauces you thought only professionals could prepare.”


Am I alone in thinking that maybe the raisins aren’t adding “a touch of magic” to these meals?


Eegad!  This is truly horrifying.


A sandwich only an Australian could love.

1968 food advert

Dear God.  I enjoy a big gristly hunk of meat as much as the next guy – but can we get a food stylist on the set, quick!  Evidently, in 1968, they didn’t know that we consumers don’t like our meat to look like it’s actually part of an animal.


Those are some deep red wieners!  (And is the pile of radishes in the corner really necessary?)


No amount of garnish can save this gastro-abomination.


To be fair, I’m not sure it’s possible to make mustard pickles look appetizing.



Sweet Lord, that’s a lot of fake mayonnaise.  This should fulfill your fake-mayonnaise allowance for the next couple years.


These Polynesian Meat Rolls are spectacularly appalling.


For more truly unsavory meats check out this article: Ugly Vintage Meats: Before There Were Food Stylists


I can think of a lot of ways to describe this snack – “pure natural goodness” isn’t one of them.


Rule #1 for food stylists: Make sure your food doesn’t look like it has a bloody tumor.


Wow.  That’s an impressive wedge of fat on that veal chop!

hot dog vintage advert

Try serving these at your next party.  You’ll be the talk of the town.


A pizza with Chef-Boy-Ar-Dee sauce, anchovies, boiled eggs, raw onion and a center of caviar?  Well, there’s no denying it’s original.  And how about those chicken legs – don’t they look tasty?


Call me crazy, but I’m thinking they could’ve made that ham look a bit more appealing.  As it stands, I think I feel a tad squeamish – let’s call it day.  Until next time.

  • NGO

    Gotta love how the steak provides the perfect “snug harbor” for that tomato (Maggi brown liquid ad).

  • brightlight

    The one for the ‘Lady Scott Napkins’ is styled correctly since its probably Beef Wellington.

    • Yeoman Lowbrow

      Aha! You’re right. I got so used to seeing mountains of gristle, I took this for a thick coat of fat. Now it actually looks quite yummy.

  • yllas

    Dang. I hate to say it, but some of that made me hungry.

  • Steve Mills

    Piccalilli relish might not look great, but that’s good stuff. I had to try it when I spotted it in the section of British food in our local store, and after hearing Aunt Bee mention it.

  • s0nicfreak

    The processed cheese one is gross just because the idea of eating a piece of processed cheese that thick is disgusting, but I don’t think the ads themselves are bad. Meat is kinda gross looking when you really look at it… I think we have become accustomed to meat ads where the meat doesn’t actually look like meat.

  • GlennC777

    The explanation at the top of the article couldn’t be more wrong. It has very little to do with polished presentation; it’s almost entirely that tastes have changed a great deal from the earlier post-war period, in which a lot of the conventional wisdom around nutrition had to do with combining a variety of canned and otherwise processed foods to create a (presumably) balanced dish or meal. There was a recent Fresh Air interview about this exact subject.

    • Yeoman Lowbrow

      I agree; I’m old enough to remember these very dishes on plates before me, and, trust me, there was no whinging about ‘too much fat’ or ‘meat in a can’. But that doesn’t negate the fact that food presentation has changed dramatically, and it’s fun to marvel at the difference 4-5 decades can make in the way we are sold our meals.

  • Derek_Gunn

    This shows far more about the changes in us – or more exactly, the commentator – than anything else.
    The Beef Wellington looks about a good as a dinner can be to me. With health fashion, I think the fat on the steak will be increasingly appealing.
    Of all the ads, only the ground chicken paste and hogs head put me off.

  • Andrew Ayers

    Meat comes from animals, and meat has fat. If you want flavor, if you don’t want a dried out nugget, you want your meat to have fat. I don’t understand the hate for this; I tend to wonder if some people dislike meat because they are getting dried out flavorless nuggets served to them. I mean, if you’re going to a restaurant and ordering a sirloin steak, you’re going to end up disappointed. Spend the money on a well-marbled, on the bone rib-eye cooked medium to medium rare, with a pat of seasoned butter on top, and be amazed. Also, on a roast you want a large fat-cap on it, otherwise, it’s going to dry out like crazy as you roast or bbq it (personally, I like to smoke/bbq mine – especially a nice brisket). You can trim it off afterward, if you want, but you’re also trimming off the flavor as well.

  • Jules C.

    Thanks for the great LOL. These pics will help stay on your diet. Am still laughing at these creepy ads for foods, especially your comments!

  • AlanOne7

    Most of this stuff is still more nourishing than the microwave pizza and energy drinks we consume today.

    Oh, and I like pineapple upside-down cake.

  • Retro

    Written like a true, no-nothing, 9-year-old brat. You just don’t like old photos of food. LOL

    • Yeoman Lowbrow

      Yeesh. You must be a joy at parties. We’re just having fun with pictures of food. Relax.

  • Joe Smith IV

    So much here: (1) where can I buy Rosella mustard pickles? (2) I may make the Polish pizza tonight. (3) “Curious green vegetable called the ‘chili?'” At that time, a canned chili was as crazy as a ghost pepper. (4) The Scandinavian pizza is still very popular in Europe. (5) In 20 years we can have the same article with “hot pockets” “twinkies” and putting foam on dinner plates.

  • Chester Chihuahua

    One of the reasons a lot of this looks unappealing is that the lighting used to photograph it seems very unnatural. It looks like it’s just one big bright flash that produces strong reflective highlights. As a result, a lot of the surfaces look like shiny plastic. And the colors are off (either due to the lights used when the picture was taken, or because the prints have aged for decades) so again it looks fake and unnatural.

    • carlbradley

      Yes—these are actually scans of the ads that were printed in magazines—so you have three layers of errors!

  • lizzie

    I’d never seen a neon red hot dog before arriving to the small town my mother retired to. The greasy place that serves them burned down and the townspeople cried and mourned. LITERALLY. Also how did you miss commenting on that ‘Ah so’ teriyaki chicken ad? Wow.

    • The thing I like about that ad is the bread slice instead of a bun. Growing up, I ate more hot dogs that way.

  • mrmessma

    Am I the only one that doesn’t mind knowing meat comes from animals? Also, sausage, vegetables on toast is nutritious and sounds delicious.

  • Mapster68

    Vegemite. I tried it, once, tasted like processed, uh, well, never mind. Let’s just say I’ll take Spam any day over that!