The first rule of a 1950s dinner party? Set a busily beautiful table and top it with elaborately designed, delightfully low-brow foods. We're talking broiled grapefruit, Jell-O molds, cheese-filled celery stalks, deviled eggs and pimiento-stuffed olives -- arranged in patterns, placed on tiered servers, layered to improbable heights or speared with frilly toothpicks. Move on to the main course with more purely '50s fare, like chicken divan, tuna casserole, Swedish meatballs or pineapple-Spam kabobs. Dip pieces of pound cake and fruit into chocolate fondue for dessert, or serve up slices of a mile-high chiffon cake.
Make your 1950s dinner party authentic by scouring vintage cookbooks for recipes. You can find them for resale online and from used bookstores. In addition, a number of classic cookbooks have been resurrected for reprinting. The 1953 edition of "The Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook," for example, is once again for sale -- and on the shelf at many public libraries. There are several Web sites and blogs devoted to midcentury recipes, easily found through a Google search. Your favorite food and recipe magazine may have an online archive that dates back to the 1950s. Or, you can ask your mother or grandmother for a few family favorites from her recipe collection.