1963 Thanksgiving Menu: The Appetizers

As I explained last Friday, I am making a whole Thanksgiving menu from the 1963 Better Homes and Gardens Birthdays and Family Celebrations. First up on this menu, or any menu really, are the appetizers. On this particular one, they were the tomato starter – hot or cold, curried wheat bites, melon pickles, and assorted olives. I will confess that I did tweak one thing on this menu and I do have a really good reason for it. The pickles and olives were meant to be served with the main course part of the meal which is where a lot of menus place them. It makes sense as they act as a palate cleanser. I moved them with the appetizers because that is what my Grandma McDowell always did. A relish tray always accompanied her deviled eggs and stuffed celery so that is where I instinctively put them. Just my little nod to her.


I chose to do the cold tomato starter because it served less. I was not making this menu for Thanksgiving so four servings were perfect instead of eight to ten. I will include the hot tomato starter in the recipe but just note that I have not tested it myself. The cold tomato starter kind of tastes like a bloody Mary without the spiciness or vodka. I love tomato juice but if you don’t, the seasonings do not change the taste in any dramatic way. You will still just be sipping tomato juice and therefore you may want to try the hot version instead.


The pickles and olives were store-bought. I just picked two olives that looked good to me that day. The melon pickles were a little harder to find. I eventually found them at a booth in an antique store in St. Marys Georgia that sold pickles, preserves, and barbecue sauces. My melon pickles just happened to be of the watermelon variety. You can order the melon pickles online but to be quite honest you could easily substitute any good cucumber pickle you find at the grocery store. There are also tons of recipes to pickle your own if you would like to venture down that lane.


Last up are the curried wheat bites which were immensely easy to make. It’s as easy as melting butter, mixing in some spices, and adding the cereal. The only issue I had with these little bites is the fact that they suck up the butter mixture rather quickly. The end result is some bites that have all the flavor while others are more subtle. Also if you don’t like curry powder just switch up the spices. You could do chili powder and cumin or maybe paprika and garlic powder. It is all up to you and your tastes.


All and all it was an easy time putting together this appetizer spread which is what you want on a day like Thanksgiving. There are so many dishes that go into the main meal, quick tidbits to tide people over are perfect.


Curried Wheat Bites

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Easy appetizer from the 1960s using spoon size Shredded Wheat cereal.

source: Better Homes and Gardens Birthdays and Family Celebrations


  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ginger
  • 3 cups spoon size shredded wheat cereal (not the frosted kind)


  1. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat.
  2. Mix in the curry powder, onion salt and ginger.
  3. Add the cereal and toss in the butter mixture.
  4. Heat for about 5 minutes over low heat, stirring frequently.
  5. Drain on a paper towel.
  6. Serve warm.

Tomato Starter - Cold

  • Servings: 4: 1/2 cup serving
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

An easy starter made from tomato juice which was a popular ingredient in the 1960s. This recipe is the cold version. In the notes I put the ingredients and recipe for the hot version.

source: Better Homes and Gardens Birthdays and Family Celebrations (1963)


  • 2 1/4 cups tomato juice
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon celery salt
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce


  1. Combine all the ingredients together in a pitcher and chill for an hour. Stir before serving.


  • Vegetable juice (brand name V8) can be used instead of the tomato juice. It will have a slightly different flavor profile and I would probably not use the celery salt.
  • Toss in some vodka and a little hot sauce and you pretty much have a bloody Mary!
  • For the Hot Tomato Starter – makes 8 to 10 servings:
    • Ingredients are 6 cups of tomato juice (46 ounces), 1 can condensed consommé, 1 teaspoon grated onion, 1 teaspoon prepared horseradish, dash of pepper, 1 teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce, 1 lemon sliced and whole cloves.
    • In a saucepan, combine the tomato juice, consommé, onion, horseradish, pepper and Worcestershire sauce. Stud the lemon slices with the whole cloves and add to the tomato mixture. Heat till just boiling. Serve immediately with a lemon slice floating in each cup.


9 thoughts on “1963 Thanksgiving Menu: The Appetizers

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