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
In the rosier days of season two, Betty prepares a dinner party for Don's colleagues with dishes and drinks representing countries around the globe — an extremely ambitious menu for someone who might be mistaken for just another pretty face. But I suspected Betty's motives were more about perception than ambition. Betty is the kind of character who is unafraid to exist on the leading edge of social acceptability.
A May 29, 1964, recipe in The Oklahoman proclaimed: “Iced shrimp served with a tangy cocktail sauce is the number one appetizer from Maine to California.” The recipe goes on to say a concoction of ketchup, horseradish and lemon calling itself “cocktail sauce” is considered “unthinkable” in some circles. Remoulade, the story says, is the preferred condiment for the dish. Betty Draper could've written the article.
In an article dated Feb. 22, 1963, the writer proclaims: “This is the era of the dip.” Needless to say, “Mad Men” has a number of scenes and scenarios that give merit to this argument — though not in the culinary context it was intended — including Freddy Rumsen's Mozart-machine, a John Deere mower taken on an indoor jaunt and castwide decision-making deficiencies. The recipe attached to the article is a newfangled play on chips and dip, eliminating the chips altogether and
Finally, in a September 1961 article advising readers on how to throw their own luau, I found a dandy recipe for Banana and Bacon Hors D'Oeuvres. Betty would definitely throw a luau, but I can't see her serving bananas and bacon in the same dish. Betty's proclivities aside, this sounds like an Oklahoma crowd-pleaser, and I can't imagine a more appropriate offering for a “Mad Men” watch party on God's red earth.
These should help your party hum, but if they don't I can assure you the new Mrs. Draper has a song and dance that promises to get things moving.
Check Thursday's edition of Mood for cocktail ideas.