What would taste better in 1960 than it does now, and what would taste worse?

From watching the first episode of 11.22.63 on Hulu last night, and from having read the Stephen King book…

Capsule summary for those who aren’t aware of the story: an old man discovers a portal to a date in 1960 in the back of the diner he owns, and wants to use it to keep Kennedy from being assassinated. But he has cancer and won’t last the 3 years of waiting it will take to foil the assassination as it happens, so he recruits a younger man he knows to go back in time and stop it.

As he’s educating the younger guy on 1960s life, he mentions that everything tastes better back then. And the younger guy finds this out for himself on a test run to the past- in the book, it was the best milkshake he ever had, in the hulu episode it was the best piece of pie.

For milkshakes and pie I can buy this: the milk, cream and butter would have been fresh and locally sourced from a farm that didn’t inject their grass and clover eating cattle with hormones or steroids.

And for other farm-related things I can see this being true as well- especially tomatoes, since they probably weren’t bred for hardy transport over taste yet.

But other things I’m sure would taste worse. Coffee for example- nothing but Maxwell House made with inferior Robusta beans. And beer would have all been tasteless swill at that time probably: I remember reading that the tasteless mass consumption type of “American” style beer like Budweiser and Miller started after prohibition ended. Microbreweries were 25-30 years in the future and there probably weren’t many places selling imported beer back then.

So what things would have tasted better, and what worse in 1960 (I didn’t start existing until 1964)?

Better: Olive oil, because the limited imports back then were not bogus products suffering at the hands of corruption

Better: Most cuts of meat, from steak to pork, because butchers were more plentiful, and the meat was more often purchased fresh with intent on more immediate preparation. Also, the iron skillet was still the go-to.

Better: Baked goods and pastries. You were getting a mom ‘n’ pop cake/donut/cookie, from a local bakery. I’m begging the question, but I will say that IS better

Better: Chinese Food. Today’s Chinese food is a product of the franchise model, where egg rolls and dumplings, etc are delivered frozen to Chinese restaurants/take outs. It’s not a family rolling wantons, eggrolls or stuffing dumplings anymore and they ain’t killing chickens fresh out back either. Sure, we have some modern, authentic exceptions.

(I started existing in 1967)

I’ll debate your Chinese food example. There was much less range in Chinese food, and it tended to stay away from hot and spicy. Your typical Chinese restaurant was big on Chop Suey and the like. MSG ruled. I’ll take more recent Chinese food any day.

No debates! If you lived it, then I’ll concede.


I think maple syrup, for one. It’s getting hard to find, most big brands are now “Table Syrup”, which is corn syrup with artificial maple flavor.

Regular soft drinks tasted better because they were made with real sugar.

Diet soft drinks tasted better because they were made with cyclamates.

There’s plenty of real maple syrup out there, just as good as that which I remember from the 1950’s and 60’s. It’s just more expensive than the “maple flavored” syrup.

One thing to remember though, is the fact that taste buds change with age. Some of those flavors and savors of our youth cannot be recaptured because the neural pathways have changed more than the food has.

American beer - better. Now before all the craft beer geeks (of which I am one) go nuts, I mean American macrobrews. Back in the 60s we still had a large number of regional breweries turning out quite a variety of decent to exemplary beers. Then the consolidations began, and we lost oh so many noble warriors against sobriety.

But it seems to be all or nothing. Nowadays, aside from the expensive stuff, most pancake syrup doesn’t even claim to be maple-flavored.

What a fun question!

Perhaps the “better” or “worse” argument can be avoided by simply pointing out what tastes different now; people can make their own choices as to which they prefer.

The first thing I thought of was Tang. Truly, the early Tang had a gawd-awful artificial taste - which I actually like better than the “improved” Tang that is available now.

Carbonated beverages like Coca-cola would have been made with real cane sugar in those days and that’s definitely a different taste than what you get now (in the US, anyway; other places still do use cane sugar).

To follow up on Philster’s point about meat, pork would have been fattier/moister. I have a lot of old cookbooks, and if I use any of them to make port recipes today, the pork comes out nasty and dry. It’s my understanding that pigs have been bred to make their meat less fatty.

French fries! Although they were unhealthy in all kinds of ways, old-school French fries tasted wonderful.

Soda fountain drinks like Cherry Coke or Lemon Coke made with coke and syrup, Green Rivers, Vanilla Phosphates. I’m not sure if they make them with any different ingredients now, but the on-the-spot mix somehow resulted in a better tasting drink.

I also remember beef as tasting so much better than it does today. Pork, however, was much fattier and pork chops were not nearly as good as they are now.

Same can be said of Pizza - at least in my part of the world. It was recognizable as pizza, but there was nothing adventurous about it yet. Very plain and bland ingredients at first.

(I started existing prior to 1963)

We were getting farm fresh milk and eggs delivered to the door (thanks, little insulated box on porch) until the mid-1970’s, so if fresher and local is better, then yes… Milk and Eggs were better.

(Grew up in Philadelphia, PA, USA)


It’s funny how experiences vary, isn’t it? You were remembering fatty pork fondly just as I was being glad it was leaner now!

Specifically, McDonalds french fries. Back then they still fried them in beef tallow.

Chinese food is oh so much better now. Back then you were lucky to find a Cantonese place that catered to white people. It turned me off Chinese cooking for years until a friend introduced me to Hunan and Schezuan places in the 80s.

Well, I was around then, but I can’t swear to my recollection of taste from that far back.

Hence the argument, which relies on testable facts.

Everything would have been better, or equally good, if you knew where to get it.

Right, and the overwhelming majority of food–everything not wild-caught or gathered–is farm-related.

A lot of this thread seems to be “the food now is crap because I go to crap chain restaurants and only buy big-box mass produced crap.”

People if you want good food go to good restaurants that buy locally sourced food and buy locally sourced fresh food yourself. I live in the middle of a big city yet I have easy access to locally sourced fresh meat, dairy and veggies.

Pretty much everything would taste better in 1960 than now. It’s been 55 years. Freezer burn at the least.


Are we talking quality of the food, or of the preparation? Most vegetables were probably better then, being fresher and local and not bred to withstand shipping at the cost of flavor… but on the other hand, it was the fashion at the time to boil most vegetables into unrecognizable flavorless mush. Give me modern veggies stir-fried or lightly steamed over mushed fresh veggies any day. And, of course, properly-prepared fresh over either, but that hasn’t changed with time.

Pretty much anything that there’s now an industrial version and an artisan version, like coffee or beer, is probably better now, in that the industrial version was pretty much the only one available in 1960.

I suspect the main reason a pie would taste better would be because it would likely be made from scratch, either at someone’s home or a bakery, not because the basic ingredients are fundamentally different. In other words, a pie made today or in the 1960s using the same recipe would be pretty much the same, especially if you went out of your way to use the freshest ingredients.

The bigger issue is that a lot of products like say… milkshakes have probably started using things like thickeners, etc… in lieu of more expensive ingredients. And to some extent, the use of industrially packaged things like meat rather than a dedicated butcher shop might mean that those products are worse today, but I don’t honestly know if that’s true or not. Factory farming was a thing back then as well; just not quite as prevalent as today.

That said, I suspect that pork products back then would be a different ball game regardless; back then, the pigs were different- bred to be fairly fatty, and flavorful, and sometime after that, with the anti-fat diet movement, they were subsequently bred to be much, much leaner. I don’t know if vegetables are really that much changed; from what I can tell, the hybridization efforts, etc… kicked into high gear in the 1940s, so in 15-20 years, they’d have been eating tomatoes pretty similar to what we have today.