Ugly Vintage Meats: Before There Were Food Stylists

Cookbooks and adverts prior to the 1980s had a knack for making food look downright horrible.  Even tasty dishes could look horrifically inedible in the hands of an old school food photographer.  Looking at these vintage pictures of grey and grizzled meat, it is instantly apparent that we take for granted the skills of the modern food stylist….


pot roast from hell

Barf!  Take a good long look at that meat.  In the hands of a modern food stylist, this pot roast will make your mouth water.  This grey, fatty mess, on the other hand, will cause quite a different physical reaction.


grey and sickly meat

Who wants to take the first bite of this apparently diseased pot roast?  And take note of that glistening fatty coat.  Deelish!  For more on this check out: Vintage Gristle: Glistening Mounds of Mid-Century Meat


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I’m not sure spearmint gum is a great combo with hamburger meat to begin with; and the fact that the “hot sandwiches” look like ghoulish Halloween snacks doesn’t help matters.


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The shimmering glaze is a little troubling, but at least it distracts you from the “prune stuffed” nightmare within.

Again, this might actually taste okay; but in the days before food stylists, meat had a tendency to look stomach turning.

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The once noble salmon reduced to this… the indignity of it all!

Still, it at least appears the proto-food stylist was at least trying.  Trying and failing, but trying nonetheless.


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The obvious question is, with fantastically awful food ideas like the one above, could even the modern day food stylist, with all the powers of Photoshop at his or her disposal, be able to make them look edible?


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From the Pillsbury’s Meat Cook Book ©1970.  Words fail me.



It’s as if this early food stylist was trying to tell us something with this red “X” – what could it be?

Of course, the smells emanating from this German liver sausage would be all the warning you’d need.



I’ll give credit to trying to bedazzle this gut-wrenching mess with a hardboiled egg inside, but it’s a lost cause – nothing can save this dry discolored briquette .

meat loaf afterbirth

When your meatloaf resembles afterbirth, there’s a problem.


Whatever it is, I think it’s done.


sausage horror

I know this was a decade or so before food styling became a formal science; but, they still should have known better.

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