Seventies Theme Party Ideas
Since I've had my seventies page up, I've had a lot of people write to me because they were planning a 70's theme party and wanted suggestions. I had a few ideas, and I got a lot more from the folks on the alt.culture.us.1970s, rec.food.cooking, rec.food.historic, and alt.creative.cooking newsgroups. At first I just collected ideas for party foods, but as people asked for them and shared them, I've also compiled some ideas for decorations, party favors, entertainment, and more. So, if you're planning a party, here are our suggestions and ideas.
Seventies Party Foods
"The thing I think of most as 70s food is fondue. Didn't everybody who was truly hip have a fondue pot then? Of course that was probably more for "grownup" parties. At the parties I went to, I remember Pringles potato chips, and Bugles, and French onion dip made with Lipton soup mix and sour cream, and lots and lots of Hawaiian Punch (my friend whose house we hung out at in high school was Mormon, so none of that evil Coke for us there!)
My husband suggested sangria, which reminded me also of those nasty KoolAid-like fruit wines (Annie Greensprings, Boone's Farm, etc.--not wine coolers, those were 80s). He also remembers a lot of Hamburger Helper--but even in the 70s, did anybody have the nerve to serve that to company??
I also had a sort of icky thought...in the mid-70s, beef prices went through the roof, and there was an organized beef boycott by consumers who thought somebody had to be taking advantage and getting rich off this. People tried various alternatives, including...horse meat. Some American supermarkets actually carried it for a while. My husband says he remembers his mother cooking it (said it was tough and strong-tasting, but edible). Don't know if you could find it now, or if you'd want to, or if your guests would touch it, but it's authentically 70s!"
"I've got a couple interesting party food recipes from the early to mid 70's (this was when my parents did the party thing). One involves Bisquik dough balls around various things (cocktail weenies, button mushrooms, green olives) then rolled in poppy seeds or sesame seeds then baked. I've also got a couple real doozies--those infamous jello salad recipes."
--Denise A. Lane
Crepes of any kind, ham, seafood...
Swedish Meatballs or Meatballs in a tomato sauce
Fries & Gravy
Steak Tartar or Steak Dianne
"Munchos!! Yeah! How about Ritz & ham slices? Gooood Cracker! Then you can wash it all down with a big tall glass of Fresca."
"Popcorn fresh from our Joe Namath popper!"
"You can add some popcorn you can still buy as Orville Redenbacher introduced his Gourmet Popping Corn in 1970. Snapple started in '72 so there's another beverage. And whatever dessert you end up with, top it with Cool Whip and you're in! Do that layer thing with chocolate pudding and Cool Whip in a sundae-type glass and they'll be happy....Also granola and carrot cake, both must-have '70's foods! And '70's brownies...but they just wouldn't be the same without the magical ingredient ;-)"
"Jiffy Pop popcorn"
"Don't forget the Tang . . .
How about the Pillsbury Wienie Wraps? Didn't they come out in the 70s? Crescent rolls wrapped around hotdogs with cheese enclosed. Yum-yum!"
"It's not made anymore but does anyone remember Shake a Pudding?"
"So surely you remember Great Shakes? Somehow they tasted just like real shakes that you'd get from the ice cream parlor."
"Didn't Bill Cosby and Jello Pudding get going big in the 70's?"
"How about one of those huge, hand-out-20-spoons-and-dig-in! Farrell's Ice Cream Parlor Sundaes? I'd love to make something like this for my son's birthday, which is on the 26th of March."
--Senshi So Sugoi
"It just wasn't the Seventies without an orange covered in tin foil with skewered pineapple, ham and cheese chunks."
--Rhinda "groovy" Larsen
"Well, your seventies may not be my seventies, especially since I grew up in the house of a radical anti-war college professor & a human potential movement trained shrink; Dad Lebanese and Mom Southerner. A party I remember from 1970 (I was 8) was Camryn Manheim's big brother's college graduation party. My dad made tabbouli for 75 people, and the Manheim family housekeeper fried up a truckload of chicken. Tabbouli was a big party hit for us throughout the 70s. The radicals ate it, the conservative cousins spurned it. Hummous was another (and baba ghannoush but I think that's more esoteric, at least for a 70s crowd).
You can't have a 70s party without quiche.
Avocado was the designer color so we must have been eating guacamole...
Further notes on what some people ate at 70s parties--my parents didn't eat hash brownies because they didn't do drugs, but many other people did.
I do remember that anything ethnic or "natural" was big. People experimented, brought back recipes from their travels, did weird things. In the late 70s I used to make an onion quiche with a whole wheat crust. Anything from the 1st Moosewood Cookbook. "
"My mother loved to throw parties...she used to make all sorts of hors d'ouvres...She would make little canapes with ham and sandwich spreads. She would set out blocks of Swiss and Jack cheese. She would wrap bacon around water chestnuts and pineapple, cookies; at least 5 diff. kinds. And punch with champagne. And don't forget the sour cream with onion soup mix."
"One year for a Christmas party ('72? '73?) my culinarily challenged mother made the following:
Take a whole, raw cabbage. Level off the bottom so it'll sit on a plate w/out rolling. Cut a hole out of the top that's big enough to fit a small can of Sterno. Skewer a bunch of cocktail weenies (or, I suppose, Vienna sausages) on toothpicks and stick all over the cabbage like a porcupine. Light Sterno You now have your own li'l weenie roast.
The sound you now hear is the sound of me gagging. haha.
But my mom really did make this...big hit with all us kids, even though each and every one of us burnt our fingers and/or dropped the little weenies in the Sterno."
"Meat on a Stick--Kabobs were very popular at our gatherings. We would vary them depending on what we were doing. Sometimes I marinated cubes of beef and skewered them with peppers & onions, grilling them to order.
Teriyaki Chicken Skewers were popular as well.
Mexican Food--lots of taco feeds. Would set out bowls of the following and let people make their own: spiced ground meat; shredded chicken; grated cheddar (yes this was before I ever heard of Mexican style cheeses); shredded lettuce; diced tomatoes; guacamole (avocado mashed with lemon juice, salt and a shot of hot sauce); different salsas; refried beans & rice for sides.
Made a lot of soy burgers--the chili soy burgers were the best. This was back in the early 70's. Would grind cooked soy beans and combine with sautéed onions, chili powder, garlic, salt, pepper and shape with one of those hamburger presses. Made whole wheat hamburger buns, home made mayonnaise & home made ketchup to go with them along with lettuce and tomatoes.
Did a fair amount of Spaghetti Feeds, Luaus and Make your Own Pizza parties where the host/hostess would provide the main ingredients and guests would bring along easy to carry components.
Thinking back, if I were to think of the one party type food theme that seemed to really get most playing time in my social circle, it was the 'Make Your Own' gig.
I think it was probably born of a more casual entertaining style that became popular in that decade, plus back then it seemed like the economy was a little strained.
Entertaining by serving full course sit down dinners was something we just couldn't afford and pot lucks were a great way to continue getting together and having fun."
"Groovy food? Everyone made the Alice B. Toklas brownies. They usually tasted awful as I recall. After a while the taste didn't matter though.
My recollection of the late 60s and early 70s food tended to be vegetarian and a lot of bread. Lentils, lentils, lentils. To this day I cannot stand the sight or smell of lentils. People made the most awful lentils casseroles. Huge pots that seemed to sit in the refrigerator for months on end."
"I have a book called "Square Meals" by Jane and Michael Stern. It has lots of recipes from the '50s through the '70s. There is, however, a great deal of difference between the early '70s and the late '70s. I think that sour cream-and-onion soup dip was there throughout. We used to make little pizzas on English muffin halves."
"7 layer taco dip:
grated cheddar cheese
Serve with nacho chips."
"Mine [7 Layer Dip] starts with refried beans, then
a sour cream/taco seasoning/mayo mixture
chopped ripe olives
I love the stuff. ;-)"
"It seems to me everyone served those meatballs in grape jelly (which I didn't like even then!). Also chips and Lipton onion soup dip (which I like still)."
"Aerosol Cheez-Whiz! Need I say more? Or perhaps any of the myriad manifestations of Spam.
You may want to take a few minutes at your local library to look for Better Homes and Gardens-type "Entertaining" books from the period. The proliferation of thin, hard-bound, "special occasion" and "regional cooking" books began in the mid-to-late '60s and are usually pretty easy to find in junk stores and used book stores as well."
--Ignatious J. Reilly
"I was in high school in the early 70s and the main thing that I remember about the party food were little pizzas made either on an English muffin or made with those rolls that come in a tube. We'd have a big bowl of pizza sauce out and several different toppings and everyone made their own."
"Nachos, that were made from tortilla chips and a baking sheet, shredded cheese and sliced jalapeno peppers then broiled quickly.
Fritos and French onion dip was also big. Mini pizzas made on Poppin' Fresh Biscuits. For some odd reason we had sliced date nut bread a lot too."
"How about round sugar cookies, frosted with yellow frosting and the never-to-be forgotten smiley face? Have a nice day!"
hmmm as I recall my mom use to make a dessert/salad thing called Watergate Salad in the 70's. You couldn't go to church potluck without someone making it. I think it was green pistachio pudding (out of the box) with a can of pineapple, whipped cream and mini-marshmallows and nuts, mixed together. It actually was kinda tasty. Also Jello-poke cakes were big back then.
Please (!) tell me - how on earth you could forget about the coolest of cool, show your loved one how much you care (alcoholic) drink: Cold Duck?????
For those who don't know - it was a sparkling, sweet, reddish wine.... totally cool then and a total gross out now. However, it's one of those things that I would have to serve at an ultimate '70s party. Put a fire in the fireplace, serve some fondue and Cold Duck (or vise versa).... with the long version of "In A Godda Da Vida" on a vinyl record playing in the background.
If you were classy you had Mateus. IT was imported!! ;o)
Although Cold Duck was big in the early 70s when I was in school, by the time the mid 70s rolled around the big 2 were Blue Nun and Black Tower.
According to Food Network's "Top 5", the"Top 5 food fads of the '70s" are:
5. Carrot Cake
4. Harvey Wallbangers
3. Hamburger Helper
2. The "Scarsdale" Diet
"Remember rumachi? I don't remember when it was a fad exactly. This was an appetizer. Chinese? You took a water chestnut and a chicken liver, wrapped them with bacon and held it in place with a toothpick, then roasted them on a cookie sheet in the oven."
"Anything in a mold. I was flipping through an old cookbook the other night and that was definitely all the rage. Salad, fruit, jellied ... anything. And the more food colouring the better!"
"Fondue was more of a 60s thing. In the 70s, "health" and "natural" foods were all the rage. Harking back to parties 20--30 years ago, I remember dishes that are still common today. Lots of chips & dip, fresh vegetable & fruit platters (the more elaborate, the better), cheese & crackers (the more variety, the better) and, of course, plenty of molded jello salads! My favorite was always a red jello salad with plenty of shaved carrot, cooked cranberries and lots of chopped walnuts. (Molded aspics were more popular in the 1950s and 1960s.)
Hmmmm .... strawberries dipped in chocolate were popular (especially in winter, when fresh strawberries were scarce). Also, a brick of cream cheese, a bowl of black caviar and a plate of crackers was a welcome party treat in the 1970s
Fresh melon balls were also popular at summer parties. Back then, you'd cut a watermelon in half length-wise and use a "melon baller" to hollow out the rinds. Then, you'd fill one of the empty halves with balls of watermelon, muskmellon (cantaloupe) and honeydew melon.
At more raucous parties, vodka'd watermelon would be served. You'd cut a hole in the rind of a watermelon, pour in as much vodka as the melon would accept, and then leave it to chill in the refrigerator for a few hours before your party."
"I seem to recall that crepes, unusually flavored ice creams, and sangria were popular. Also quiche, but towards the end of the '70's."
"You got me rummaging through my cookbooks & my memories. Here are some suggestions: Stuffed mushrooms as an appetizer (I remember a book called "Life is too Short to Stuff a Mushroom"!); Spinach salad layered with lots of bacon, frozen peas, eggs, & mayonnaise; Surf'n'Turf, aka steak & lobster; chicken breasts baked in mushroom & white wine sauce; mushroom & cheese omelets (yes, for dinner!); quiche Lorraine(which was so popular it inspired the backlash book title "Real Men Don't Eat Quiche"); beef stroganoff; lasagna (yes, it's mainstream now, but it was newly popular then!); manicotti; Cornish game hens, any style; and for dessert, a Bundt cake, baked in a fluted Bundt pan and drizzled with some sugar/water/lemon glaze. "
Hope this helps!
Your humble & obedient servant,
More food suggestions:
I know of a party snack that my friends and I always used to make. It was those all famous "mini" Egg Rolls. Pop the whole box of 'em on a pan, put them in the oven for a few minutes and waalaah! You'd eat those while reading HIGH TIMES magazine! hahaha
I love your 70's party page. Since I've hade some retro parties myself, I have some suggestions.
My first thought was Easy Cheese. Someone else described it as "aerosol cheese wiz." But it was (and is) still known as Easy Cheese, made by Kraft. The truly scary thing about Easy Cheese is that you can still buy it today in a variety of different flavors. It, of course, has to go on either Ritz Crackers or Wheat Thins (or if you're desperate, Saltines). And you have to make the star shaped spritz by holding the nozzle against the cracker. Later you can make some sort of abstract pattern or smiley face.
Another party snack I remembered is alternating layers of cream cheese and salami. You'd make it about four layers of cream cheese in between 5 pieces of salami, then cut into pie shaped pieces and put tooth picks in them. I liked them best when the cream cheese layer was relatively thin.
Jiffy Pop is a must, but I think it came out in the 60's. You still have to have it.
My retro parties always include fondue. I had a retro New Year's eve party and found a cheese fondue recipe with champagne in it. It was truly wonderful.
People used to serve those little sweet gherkin pickles with tooth picks. Nuts in shells with a nutcracker (those small metal ones, not the wooden ones you see at Christmas) were big too. Duncan Hines cake mixes.
Space food. These were chocolate flavored soft sticks, individually wrapped. They came in a box of like a dozen. There's a website where you can get them again. Boxes of them can sometimes be found on Ebay.
Here's some links that folks have suggested:
In late 1999 the Columbus Dispatch did a series of articles on food trends and recipes of the 20th century. The article on the 1970s, "Quiche, granola and salad bars sated the 70s me generation," was great. They used to let you link to it, but no more--and now they're charging you $1.95 to see it. If you want to read it, you'll have to go to their search page and search for that title (after you register for the site, of course). The article ran October 13, 1999.
From Britain's Times and Sunday Times come these recipes for Seventies Classics "These dishes are from the days when men were men and women weren't afraid of garlic."
And Birmingham Post offers us Seventies Style: Food We Were Fondue Of.
Peggy's Antiquated 1970's Recipes features our favorites--fondue, tahini dip, carob fudge, and more (some of which may actually be edible!)
Recipes Of the Hippie Children shows us some really weird food ideas for a children's party, circa 1974
The Food Timeline offers these suggestions of popular American foods of the 1970s.
Food of the 70s features people's memories of their favorite junk foods of the decade.
President and Mrs. Gerald Ford hosted a state dinner at the White House in honor of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip on July 7, 1976. The visit by the Queen was part of the celebration of the bicentennial of the American Revolution. This page features photos, a menu, Betty Ford's memories of the event, and more.
Hometown Favorites This online grocery store of the past offers candy, condiments and other food items, including some hard-to-find nostalgic ones and some regionally-distributed brands.
Candy You Ate as a Kid, CandyDirect.com, CandyFavorites.com, and The Candy Baron are retro candy stores featuring your favorite sugary junk foods
Seventies Party Decorations, Party Favors, Entertainment, etc.
You might try decorating with posters--that Farrah poster with all the teeth and cleavage, the one that every teenage boy had on his wall--or anything blacklight, the Bee Gees, stuff like that. You could buy a couple of old Tiger Beat or 16 magazines (you can always find them on eBay) and take the teen idol pinup pictures out and hang them up--or just leave the magazines lying around on the coffee table for people to giggle at. Really dated 70's books are good for that, too.
These are a few places that sell vintage and reproductions of seventies stuff that might be good to decorate, wear, or give away as party favors:
ShinDigz Party Superstore
For printed invitations, have a look at these on the DressThatMan.com site.
If you're doing a Web-based invitation, you can find some great 70s graphics on these sites
DC's Groovy Graphics
Hippie Stuff Graphics
Designed to a T
You could tape some 70's TV shows off Nick at Night or TVLand or your local independent station and play them during the party--even with the sound off, a few episodes of The Partridge Family or What's Happening or Starsky and Hutch would really help set the mood.
Music, of course, is easy--I especially love the Rhino Records' Have a Nice Day collections, but you can find a lot of other fun 70's compilation CDs, often in the bargain bins (if you live in the Northwest, Fred Meyer always has some good ones). I have a particular fondness for the obscure stuff that doesn't get much airplay these days even on the oldies stations, but that got run into the ground on the AM pop stations back when it was on the Top 40--that's the kind of stuff that will make people say "Oh my *GOD*, I haven't heard that in YEARS, I used to have the 45...I wonder what happened to it?"
This 70's lyrics quiz could make a diabolical, fun party game. The 70's Game is a board game of seventies trivia. And of course, there's always Twister! A costume contest could be fun, if your friends are creative that way--maybe something like "Come as your favorite 70's TV character."
I have gone out to eBay and bought a lot of retro stuff like lava lamps, a few strobe lites, etc
I can probably get around hanging Farrah pictures by finding a life size cardboard cutout of her someplace. Since I live in NJ no doubt there is probably a movie memorabilia store right in NYCity that would have something like this. Do you remember when the "thing" to do was have your photo taken with a cardboard cutout of President Reagan (God I can't believe I admitted that).
For the tables I thought I'd have them do the table cloths in black or tie-dye and then I noticed on one of the sites you mentioned they had yellow smiley balloons, centerpieces, etc. so I started going in that direction.
I read too that a cool way to do invitations would be to have Tshirts made up with party details on back. Could get expensive but if I do the Tie-dying myself and get a good printer program for the PC I have I may be able to do them as favors for an "I survived a 70's flashback" party take-home. I'm into scrapbooking BIG TIME and I know that there is every kind of sticker, paper, etc out there so I can make my own traditional invites if I go that route. Finding invitations on the web has been tough - everything is disco or 50's oriented.
I purchased a few 70's cd's over the weekend - I thought I might rent a juke box from one of those companies that lets you pre-program the music by picking it all from a choice list.
I'll probably also get some retro toys & candy - I think CaliforniaCandy.com has a lot of crap like wax lips, abba zabba bars, necco wafers, etc. and I thought if Valet parking was done at the catering hall I'd buy either mini rubix cubes or happy face key chains and have the parking attendants put one on everyone's key ring as they leave.
I just got a great suggestion from someone to try and rent a foosball table for our 70s party. That would be awesome!! I can't tell you how many quarters we put into those things. We've also managed to scrounge up 3 lava lamps, and were reminded that those fiber optic lamps were a big thing, too.
Just wanted to let you know that the party went well. I had around 30-35 people show up for the festivities. The clubhouse had two separate but connected rooms, so we had plenty of space for eating and dancing. I had decorations and plates, etc. with the smiley face, some patriotic decorations, and '70's posters (mostly Bee Gees, because I've been crazy about them since the mid-'70's!). Party favors included pet rocks I decorated myself (glue guns are awesome!), smiley rings, pop rocks, and "40 sucks" lollipops. The dining table was decorated with smiley faces, pictures of notable persons of the '70's, and small snippets of '70's trivia. In the dance area, I had a disco ball, a strobe light, a lava lamp, and a flashing traffic light. I also had a '70's quiz with 13 questions, a "guess which song is not a '70's song" game, and an opinion book (or slam book) for people to sign. In case this was a local phenomenon, it's simply a spiral notebook, everyone signs in at a number, and then goes through, answering each question in the book by underlining it and writing their number beneath it. We had a lot of fun with these in high school, because then, you'd write a person's name on each sheet and everyone who signed gave their opinion of that person!!! There were prizes for the winners of the quiz, the song guess, and a dance contest. (LaraJean- that's where the stuff you sent me came in!). I also had an all ladies dance ("We are Family") and an all guys dance ("Macho Man"), a soul train line, we did the "Locomotion" and a tribute to the U.S. ("Mother Freedom" by Bread). I gave song lyrics to 3 songs including this tribute song. Also, everyone got a copy of your website, Mary, as the definitive '70's portal. Food included lots of CiCi's pizza and Subway sandwiches, as well as my "Joe Cool" birthday cake with the candles "39?" on it. Feel free to pass this on by adding it to your website if you'd like, Mary. I want to thank all of you again for your enthusiasm and advice. '70's forever!!!!
As for music, no disco party would be complete without "The Hustle". There are web sites that show the dance steps; teach guests how to do the Hustle
Serve fondue; a 70s cultural, as well as gastronomical, icon.
Try to give mood rings as party favors; they can often be found at dollar stores and other discount shops. Other good party favors would be toe socks and colorful suspenders.
Make banners with expressions of the day, painted in Day-Glo colors.
If possible, find a working 8-track tape player and tapes with the appropriate music; the "ka-chunk" of tracks changing will add to the ambience.
Have a "Pet Rock" table, where guests can make their own and take them home.
Create a bulletin board with pics of tv duos; match up the correct partners (or character with show, location, job, etc.)
See if you can find magazines from the 70s and decorate with ads from products such as "Hai Karate", "Gee, Your Hair Smells Terrific", etc.
I make my guests dress in retro clothing. The Good Will or thrift stores are great sources. If you get desperate or want to go all out there's always Ebay and a host of retro websites out there to buy from. Everything from platform shoes to brushed denim pants. Personally, I own tuxedos going back to the 30's and suits from early 60's, late 60's and late 70's with shirts to go with them. All of them came from thrift stores and Good Wills. The suits/ tuxedos were usually $6-$15 each. Women's retro clothing is generally easier to find.
I'm into the retro world, so I have retro electronics all over my house. Get a cheap 8-track player at the Good Will or on Ebay and some 8-track tapes. At my New Year's Eve retro party as part of the festivities I pulled the sealed plastic off a Donna Summer 8-track I picked up cheap. It doesn't hurt to have vinyl around either.
Another thing I like to do is set up TV's with 70's shows or movies with the sound off. That way you can listen to your 70's music compilation (preferably through big old speakers) and have the visuals for people to comment on when conversation slows down. I've used James Bond movies and TV shows like The Avengers for 60's parties. 70's might use Happy Days, Roger Moore Bond, etc. The TV's I use are period too. You can get an adapter to hook up a dvd player. I have an old B&W Zenith I got for $30 on Ebay that's hooked to a DVD player to watch B&W shows & movies. My theory is information overload at these parties.
Lava lamps are important. 70's games are a good idea too. Ouija boards were big in the 60's and 70's. Rubik's cube was late 70's, I think. You can probably get away with Twister.
I find retro parties where numerous decades (50's, 60's, 70's, 80's) are involved can be fun and allows for more variety in food and dress.
Other sites with ideas for a 70's theme party:
Party-Oz 70s/Disco Party
PartyPlansPlus.com '70s Disco Party Theme
How to Throw a 70s Party
DressThatMan.com's Throw the Ultimate Disco Party!
Good luck--and if you have suggestions to add, please send them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org !
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