The real Mad Men guide to food and drink: The Playboy Gourmet, 1961

The Playboy Gourmet

Mad Men may have ended, but our infatuation with 1960s style, inspired by Mad Men’s attention to detail, endures. Sure, Don Draper may be the same man at the end as he was at the beginning of the series, but we aren’t. And that’s the weird thing about Mad Men. The Sixties was the decade of change, but does Don Draper really change?

Us, well, we’re in love with the 1960s, specifically with the design and aura of the decade . Me, I love looking at the furniture and structures. I made my house into a contemporary mid-century mod. My best friends’ family Christmas card has the exact look of an advertisement from the 1960s. They went to a professional photographer who recreated it perfectly.

Or there’s the Mad Men books, such as the Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook. Or Mad Men on the Couch: Analyzing the Minds of the Men and Women of the Hit TV Show. Or Celebrating Mad Men: Your Unofficial Guide to What Makes the Show and Its Characters Tick. Or, even better, the republication of the 1962 classic How to Drink Like a Mad Man. And that’s not even mentioning all of the academic work on the show and our fascination with it.

But if you want the real thing, the real guide to being a Mad Man, you need The Playboy Gourmet: A Food and Drink Handbook for the Host at Home.20160104_135651

This book is the shit. The real shit. Not some academic work. Not some book trying to recreate the look and feel of the show, which is itself removed by over 50 years from the actual decade it portrays. This book is from 1961, when Don Draper didn’t even have a contract yet. Everything about this tome screams 1960s. And it’s cool.

The Introduction is by Hugh M. Hefner, no less:

“Bread and wine and kisses,” said Swift, are the fare of bacherlorhood. For eighteenth-century tastes, such Spartan provender may have been sufficient; for the cultivated twentieth-century bachelor, kisses still offer sweet sustenance, but his bread and wine at any given meal are more than likely to be interspersed by a half-dozen Oysters Rockefeller, a steaming tureen of Petite Marmite, tender Tournedos with Foie
Gras, a bowl of salad greens and artichoke hearts tosses iwth olive oil and wine vinegar, a blazing dish of crepes with curacao, a redolent wedge of bleu, a piping demitasse of Cafe Brulot, and–to top it off–one small, suffusing, slowly sipped amber glassful of “pre-expulsion” Chartreuse. Decades of marination in world-wide gourmandise, it would seem, have ripened his erstwhile nodding acquaintance with matters gustatory into a deep and rewarding association; he has learned to delight in and insist on the best in food and drink. But such standards permeate every level of his urban-oriented life; the clothes he wears, the pad he rents, the car he drives, the job he holds, the diversions he seeks, the company he keeps and how he keeps it–all are meticulously selected and zestfully enjoyed. Neither dilettante nor voluptuary, he has simply acquired the faculty of living modern life to the hilt.

I didn’t know Hugh Hefner was such a wordsmith or gourmand. But the way he introduces the book is genius. Maybe you didn’t catch the subtext here, but I’m pretty sure he’s crediting himself with creating Don Draper.

20160104_135726Don Draper wants the kisses, certainly, but he also wants his Old Fashioneds. And his Oysters Rockefeller. He is the embodiment of the ripening Hefner mentions. He delight in and insists on the best in food and drink. He has the pad, he drives the car, he wears the clothes, he has the job, and he keeps the company. Certainly not a dilettante, Draper still lives modern life to the hilt.

But what created it? “Decades of marination in world-wide gourmandise,” that’s what. What Hefner’s saying is that Playboy changed the world. It started in 1953, and men have changed so much since its publication that they now demand the best in everything. Since Playboy, men are more sophisticated. They have become the Don Drapers. Or at least they want to be him.

And we do, too.

20160104_135639Every potential Don Draper should have a copy of this book.

But good luck getting one. I pulled mine from a house that was about to be torn down. Amazon has a few used ones available (The Playboy Gourmet: A Food and Drink Handbook for the Host at Home), but most places only have the 1972 version, which is definitely not the same.

I have no doubt that in the coming months, you will see quite a few recipes from this wonderful book of 1960s style. I can’t wait to drink like a true Mad Man.


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