Wendy McClure,
The Amazing Mackerel
Pudding Plan:
Classic Diet Recipe Cards
from the 1970s

(Riverhead, 2006)

Wendy McClure's paperback is a collection of more than 200 Weight Watchers recipe cards, circa 1974. She originally published a subset of the cards, accompanied by her mocking comments, on her website in 2003. Her website disclaimer reads, "This site is not affiliated with Weight Watchers International, Inc., whose present-day recipes are very nice and do not look like a -- at all." The book is a terrific complement to the online version, which only offers a few dozen of these delightfully kooky recipes.

Ever wonder how "diet" food got a bad rap? Look no further than these full-color pictures taken with "a prop department that was clearly out of control." The dated dishware and table accouterments top off recipes such as Spinach and Egg Mold, Rosy Perfection Salad, Mexican Shrimp-Orange Salad, Fish Balls and Frankfurter Spectacular.

Any criticisms that McClure had an easy job because she just happened upon a recipe card bonanza are way, way out of line. Sure, Weight Watchers provided some great base material, but this book is a terrific success because of McClure's narration, puns and critical commentary. I wouldn't have had nearly as much fun flipping through a box of recipe cards without the commentary.

McClure even inspired me to dig out a 1970's Good Housekeeping book and e-mail around the best photos of molded salmon puree and exotic "Mexican" food.

by Jessica Lux-Baumann
28 February 2009

Buy it from Amazon.com.