Food blog

Fading Flavors: The Forgotten Comfort Foods of the Past

Once-popular comfort foods that no one eats anymore

The changing landscape of comfort food

What foods do you turn to after a long or difficult day? If you’re like most Americans, your comfort food of choice is pizza. Other popular answers include chocolate, ice cream, and macaroni and cheese. But just a decade ago, that probably wasn’t the case. As tastes and trends change and new foods and dishes are created, so do our comfort food choices.
Just as new comfort foods are introduced, old ones are phased out. In some cases, they fall out of favor entirely, disappearing from just about everywhere except perhaps your grandparents’ holiday tables. And when that generation stops hosting family meals, those recipes are likely to disappear from everywhere but the history books. Wondering what dishes and foods past generations turned to when they needed a little comfort or a little pick-me-up? Read on as we explore some once-popular comfort foods that no one eats anymore.

Tuna Noodle Casserole

Fueled by the endless products available in newfangled supermarkets and marketing aimed at homemakers urging them to try the latest kitchen gadgets, the 1950s was a time of some truly strange food creations. From savory Jell-O salads to spicy banana dishes, some ’50s foods never made it out of the decade. Others, like ambrosia salad and a plethora of casseroles, haven’t quite faded away.
Tuna noodle casserole wasn’t actually invented in the 1950s. The recipe first appeared in a Pacific Northwest magazine in 1930. It was popular in the region well into World War II, where it gained popularity as a cheap, quick, easy-to-prepare dish. By the 1950s, it had spread throughout the Midwest, where it became a mainstay on many dinner tables for decades to come. That is, until the late ’90s and early 2000s marked its downward trend.
While other casseroles continued to be popular comfort foods, it was the main ingredient in tuna casserole that spelled its end. After decades of steady growth, canned tuna sales began to decline in the 1990s, thanks to growing concerns about its healthfulness and sustainability.

Chicken à la King

Many of today’s comfort foods, like biscuits and gravy or macaroni and cheese, are pretty much ubiquitous across much of the U.S. But without the Internet and social media to share recipes, it wasn’t uncommon for comfort foods of decades past never to spread outside a particular region.
Such was the case with chicken à la king. At the turn of the 20th century, this recipe was both a comfort food and an upscale restaurant dish. The dish features diced chicken with mushrooms and peppers, served in a cream sauce and poured over toast. While the name may sound a bit French, the dish was born and bred in New York City.
Between 1910 and the 1960s, the dish appeared on more than 300 menus in restaurants throughout the city. But by the late 1970s, it had already begun to fade. You may not be able to find it on a menu anymore, but this once-popular comfort food is surprisingly easy to make.

Milk Toast

Long before a bowl of cereal and milk became a breakfast staple, another simple, comforting dish held a similar place. Milk toast dates back to at least the 1800s. The dish begins with a slice of toast that is buttered, torn into pieces, and sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar. Then it’s topped with milk heated on the stove and seasoned with salt.
While it’s hard to say exactly where this simple dish got its start, it’s known that recipes for milk toast were included in cookbooks as late as the 1930s, including some that offered dishes for the sick. While you may not hear much about milk toast in the States these days, a similar recipe is a popular childhood lunch in Hong Kong. Condensed milk toast is toast spread with condensed milk and butter.

Sloppy Joes

In the 1990s, Sloppy Joe sandwiches were a staple of cafeterias and potluck dinners. But the messy creation was actually invented decades ago. Some believe it was created in 1930, when a cook named Joe from Sioux City, Iowa, mixed “loose meat” with tomato sauce and served it on bread. Others claim that iconic local hotspot Sloppy Joe’s Bar in Key West, Florida, was the sandwich’s birthplace (via Blue Apron). Regardless of its exact origin, the sloppy joe became a beloved comfort food that gained popularity across the country.
However, despite its past popularity, Sloppy Joes have slowly fallen out of favor in recent years. As food trends have shifted toward healthier and more diverse options, this messy sandwich has lost its appeal to many. While you may still find it on some menus or at nostalgic gatherings, it’s no longer a common comfort food.

Bottom line

Comfort foods have always played an important role in our lives, providing comfort and a sense of nostalgia. But as times change and culinary tastes evolve, some once-popular comfort foods inevitably fade into obscurity. Tuna noodle casserole, chicken a la king, milk toast, and sloppy joes are just a few examples of dishes that were once beloved but are now rarely found on dinner tables.
While these comfort foods may have lost their popularity, they still hold a special place in the memories of those who enjoyed them in the past. Exploring the history and decline of these dishes allows us to appreciate the ever-changing nature of food culture and its impact on our culinary choices.
As we continue to seek comfort and satisfaction from our favorite foods, it’s fascinating to consider which current comfort foods may eventually fade away, making way for new creations and flavors that will capture our hearts and taste buds in the years to come.


Some once-popular comfort foods that have fallen out of favor include tuna noodle casserole, chicken à la king, milk toast, and sloppy joes.

Why did these comfort foods fall out of favor?

The reasons for the decline in popularity of these comfort foods vary. Factors such as changing food trends, health concerns, sustainability issues, and the introduction of new and diverse culinary options have contributed to their decreased consumption.

What role did the decline of canned tuna play in the decline of tuna noodle casserole?

Tuna noodle casserole, once a dinner table staple, experienced a decline in popularity due to declining sales of canned tuna. Growing concerns about the health effects of tuna consumption and its sustainability affected demand and led to a decline in consumption of this comfort food.

Where did chicken à la king originate and why did it lose popularity?

Chicken à la king originated in New York City and was a comfort food as well as an upscale dish in the early 20th century. Over time, however, it gradually lost popularity, possibly due to the lack of widespread recipe sharing prior to the Internet era.

What is Milk Toast and why is it no longer commonly eaten?

Milk Toast is a simple dish consisting of buttered toast sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar and topped with heated, flavored milk. While it was once found in cookbooks and was a comforting option, it has fallen out of popularity in recent times, especially in the United States. However, a variation known as condensed milk toast remains popular in Hong Kong.

Why have sloppy joes lost their appeal as a comfort food?

Sloppy Joes, messy sandwiches of ground meat and tomato sauce, were once popular but have lost their appeal in recent years. As food trends have shifted toward healthier and more diverse options, the popularity of Sloppy Joes has waned, resulting in a decline in their consumption as a comfort food.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *