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Dinner and a Show: 'Mad Men' Returns

The Food Dude has helpful hints for your “Mad Men” watch party.
by Dave Cathey Published: March 20, 2012
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Our cries of “Free Don Draper!” have finally been heard.

You asked. Now it's time to receive the long-awaited answer: AMC will welcome back its popular show, “Mad Men,” at 8 p.m. on Sunday. This calls for a watch party.

The freewheeling, hard-partying mad admen of early 1960s era Madison Avenue in New York are masters of a universe under attack by progress. History teaches us the social changes awaiting the boys and girls of Sterling-Cooper will surely destroy the milieu in which they've built their success and prosperity. As season five begins, the threat to their stranglehold on the good life is outside their window.

Those who evolve will survive. Or will they?

What allows “Mad Men” to take nearly a year and a half off is founded on first-rate writing. Yes, there are soapy elements as is wont to happen in any serial, but the storytelling is masterfully layered with social context depicted in the past but relevant to the present. The writing teems with style and is practically void of judgment.

Television writing that allows viewers to judge behavior or construe irony without a “helpful” nudge is a rare and precious thing in the land of laughtracks, audience plants and staged reality.

As you watch the last vestiges of pre-equality culture unfold on AMC in painstaking period detail, you'll want to play along when it comes to the food for your watch party.

To gain some context, I reached into The Oklahoman archives to find party-friendly recipes published between 1962 and 1967. What I found was a world without guacamole, sliders, hot wings, salsa, egg rolls, queso, pizza bites and store-bought cheesecakes.

Instead, I found canapes, shrimp cocktail, potato chips and dips, sardines, canned corned beef, cheeseballs, meatballs, finger sandwiches and parfaits.

But space wouldn't allow me to share all the treasures. So, I picked those I thought Betty Draper, Don's ex-wife, most likely would prepare for a cocktail party.

Betty's thrown-over ex (who deserves it) is part patriarchal archetype in distress, part outlier. He arrives in the mad fray with Jay Gatsby subterfuge and Steve Jobs foresight. The comfortable world he fought ruthlessly and unflinchingly to build is crumbling in the wake of Betty's exodus and his own leap into the kind of executive-secretarial union that became stereotype by the late 1970s.

In Betty, Don saw a means to a new beginning, which he got — plus a whole lot of mean Betty putting an end to their marriage.

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by Dave Cathey
Food Editor
The Oklahoman's food editor, Dave Cathey, keeps his eye on culinary arts and serves up news and reviews from Oklahoma’s booming food scene.
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Coming Thursday

Check Thursday's edition of Mood for cocktail ideas.

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