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The Most Popular Family Dinner from Every Decade

Find a quintessential family dinner for every decade over the past 100 years.

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1900s: Croquettes

Croquettes were a favorite meal of thrifty home cooks, who could combine leftover bits of meat and vegetables with cheese, potato or rice. The mixture was formed into small mounds, rolled in egg and breadcrumbs and then fried.
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1910s: Roast Beef with Potatoes

A flavorful, home-cooked roast was as popular for family dinners in 1910 as it is today. A popular accompaniment was Franconia potatoes: small, whole potatoes that were parboiled, then added to the cooking roast to baste in the juices.
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1920s: Chicken a la King

Chicken a la King was created by a chef at an upscale hotel. Which chef it actually was is in contention, as there are several claims to the creation of this recipe. The dish of diced chicken and vegetables in a rich cream sauce was a 1920s family dinner favorite.
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1930s: Meat Loaf

Meat loaf was a tasty and affordable Great Depression recipe, popular among families when money and ingredients were scarce. Just a small amount of meat could feed a family when stretched with ingredients like crackers, eggs and milk.
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1940s: Chipped Beef on Toast

This simple comfort food dinner made of chopped, dried beef in a white sauce was served to soldiers during WWII, and it was also an option for home cooks limited by wartime rations. The beef and sauce could be spooned over bread ends, toast or biscuits.
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1950s: Tuna Noodle Casserole

Growing up in the ’50s you either loved or hated this popular family dinner! Convenience foods ruled the decade, and this casserole was a great way to use canned tuna, packaged pasta and frozen peas.
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1960s: Coq au Vin

The world was enchanted by Julia Child, a self-taught cook who brought French dishes into homes and to dinner tables. Despite the fancy name, coq au vin is actually a simple and delicious dish of braised chicken. Here’s what happened when we made Julia’s recipe!
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1970s: Pasta Primavera

What a perfect dinner for families in this decade who wanted more wholesome, natural foods. At its simplest, it’s pasta tossed with fresh, lightly cooked vegetables. Some versions also add in a creamy sauce and diced chicken.
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1980s: Tex-Mex Tacos

Tex-Mex, the American take on spicy, vibrant Mexican food really exploded in the ’80s. (Remember the salsa commercials? “New York City?!”) There were chain restaurants like Pollo Loco, Chi-Chi’s and Taco Bell, and at home, families dug into nachos, enchiladas and loaded tacos.
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1990s: Stuffed Crust Pizza

The ’90s loved extremes: extreme sports, extreme soft drinks and yes, extreme food. How do you make a pizza “extreme”? By filling the crust with a thick, gooey core of melted cheese.
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2000s: Bacon-Wrapped Anything

The new millennium saw the rise of bacon-wrapped everything. The craze was fueled in part by popular no-carb diets like Atkins. Families found bacon on the dinner table wrapped around other meats like meat loaf, chicken breasts and pork tenderloin.
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2010s: Instant Pot Chicken

Instant Pot electric pressure cookers were the most exciting appliance of the last decade, saving cooks so much time in the kitchen. Chicken Instant Pot recipes using cuts that normally need a long cooking time, like chicken thighs, were especially popular.

Nancy Mock
Discovering restaurants, tasting bakery treats, finding inspiration in new flavors and regional specialties—no wonder Nancy loves being a food and travel writer. She and her family live in Vermont and enjoy all things food, as well as the beautiful outdoors, game nights, Avengers movies and plenty of maple syrup. Find Nancy’s writing and recipes at her website: Hungry Enough To Eat Six.