Collecting Cookbooks, Magazines & Ephemera While Losing Weight: An Interview With Retro Mimi

When I stumbled upon Mimi and her Retro Weight Watchers Experiment, I couldn’t take my eyes away…

I wanted to; but I couldn’t. *wink*

You know what they say, “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em,” so I decided to join Mimi — in an interview.

When did you begin collecting Weight Watchers publications?

A couple years ago. It’s hard to say–it just sort of “happened.”

Did you set out to purposefully collect Weight Watchers items — or did you sort of realize that you were doing so over time?

It all started with one cookbook: a fellow WW member gave me a copy of The 1972 Weight Watchers Program Cookbook. I became so intrigued with it that I had to know everything about this crazy & wonderful program. Incidentally, my mom lost a great deal of weight on the 1972 WW program after I was born–so this added to my fascination with it. After I got my hands on that first retro cookbook… pretty soon, I started looking for more information, recipes, books, magazines, etc.

It became a hobby (read: obsession), and people started giving me their old WW stuff. The WW magazines are my favorite. They are hard to find, but they really contain some of the best “gems” and really represent the evolution of the WW program over the years.

What’s your criteria for collecting Weight Watchers publications? Are issues limited to a specific time period, condition rules, etc.

I am really only interested in the magazines from 1970-1976. These were the really wild and wacky years. Or as I like to call them: The Knox Gelatin years… The liver-once-a-week years…. The Fluffy Mackerel Pudding years. So the recipes are really horrifying and funny. But there is also something endearing to me about the program during these years. WW was so genuine and sincere about helping its members. It was like a family. Or a secret society or something. Really kitschy and cool.

How many do you think you have?

Maybe 50? But growing every day…

How do you organize them?

Since I reference and use them regularly–they are kept in a jelly cupboard in my kitchen alongside all of my other favorite cookbooks–both retro and otherwise.

How do people react to your collection?

Most people think my retro WW magazines are pretty odd. Most of the recipes are gag-inducing. Some of the recipes literally make you say “what were they thinking??” My husband tries not to look at them anymore. He had a bad experience with an aspic, and that scarred him for life.

You’ve been putting your collection to use; tell us about your blog and the Skinny Jeans Project.

My blog www.theskinnyjeansproject.blogspot.com is both a tribute and an adventure. As a Weight Watchers lifetime member who has lost over 40 pounds on the modern day WW program, I wanted to pay tribute to the history of WW and all of the brave women (including my mom) who followed this program in the early days. I also pay tribute to Jean Nidetch–the founder of WW and author of all of the publications I reference on my blog.

But most of all–my blog is a crazy adventure that I decided to embark upon as I turned 40. I figured it was time to do something BIG. I wanted to get back into my “skinny jeans”, so I thought I would incorporate the rules and recipes from the 1970’s WW program into my current weight loss plan and write about it. I re-create some scary retro WW recipes and yes–I even eat them. At times it is horrifying. At times it is delicious. You never know what dietetic disaster will end up on the platter… Maybe a giant Mackerel and Cantaloupe Salad? Maybe a Crown Roast of Frankfurters? Maybe a Chicken Buttermilk Loaf? Stop by and check it out! I dare you…

Because you use the books and magazines as intended, do you consider them collectibles?

I guess so. To me they are both collector’s items and cherished resources. Not all of my Retro WW magazines and cookbooks are in mint condition, but I love them all just the same!

Do you think you will begin collecting other cookbooks, health & diet publications, etc. from that period — or will you remain a Weight Watchers purist?

I admit that I am drawn to any cookbooks or magazines with a good selection of gelatin mold recipes. Better Homes and Gardens Circa 1955-1970 are my current fave. I also cherish my Knox On Camera cookbook from 1962. It’s a bit creepy, but I have a slight obsession with Knox Gelatin and anything that can be gelatinized. There’s something wonderful to me about “gel cookery” and the women who took that much time and effort to prepare something so disgustingly weird.

I also love any cookbooks or magazines focusing on the topic of retro dieting. I recently picked up a cookbook from 1961 called “Glorious Eating for Weight Watchers” for .50 at a flea market. It was published by Wesson Oil, had nothing to do with Weight Watchers and mostly contained pictures of fried food. I found this to be quite strange. I had to have it.

Anything you’d like to add or mention about your collection that I didn’t mention?

Aside from the recipes, which is what I love most about my Retro WW Magazines–each issue features a fashion section, a “success stories” section, and many valuable articles about health and fitness. But the best part of WW Magazine HANDS DOWN is “Ask Jean…” where readers get to write in with their questions, comments and complaints and have them answered by Jean Nidetch–the founder of WW. These letters and responses are never dull, because, well…let’s just say: Jean has chutzpah and tons of charm. To say the least.

So do you, Mimi; so do you.

I’d like to thank Mimi for sharing more information about her collection — even more than she shares at her blog. For quick retro WW bites, follow Mimi on Twitter @RetroMimi — “Sometimes its easier to swallow in small doses!”

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Deanna

Deanna is the founder of Inherited Values, among other sites. She is also an antique dealer.

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