“The legendary spread of the South”
A Blue Plate Peanut Butter billboard c. 1950s. Blue Plate peanut butter debuted in the ’40s, and was sold in both chunky and smooth. Their natural partner, fruit preserves and jellies, also debuted during the ’40s; flavors included: pineapple, plum, crabapple, strawberry, peach, apricot, blackberry and mint. During the ’50s, both the peanut butters and jellies were sold in collectible glass tumblers, decorated variously with flowers, circus animals, flying ducks and polka dots. Ads promoting peanut butter introduced recipes, including many different takes on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, pancakes, stuffed yams and one for “Peanut Meat-loaf,” with an ingredient list of chopped meat, an egg, an orange, raisins and peanut butter.
Blue Plate Foods was founded in 1929, originally operating out of a small building in Gretna. Their first products were shortening, and of course, mayonnaise. Freshness was the selling point – freshness of the ingredients, and, as a local company, the freshness of items delivered to grocer’s shelves the day after production.
The 1929 newspaper ads for Blue Plate Mayonnaise claimed it was as good as homemade and provided recipes for salads named for the shapes you could assemble them into. The “Candle Salad” called for a pineapple and green pepper candlestick, a banana candle, a cherry flame and mayo to look like wax melting down the banana. Even more interesting was the recipe for the “Covered Wagon Salad,” with ingredients including animal crackers, lettuce, mayo and jellybeans, all held together with toothpicks.
Blue Plate Sandwich Spread (spices, relish and pimientos mixed into mayonnaise for spreading on sandwiches and “even good mixed into mashed potatoes!”), various salad dressings and salad oil were introduced in 1930, followed soon by remoulade sauce and a “complete, economical, delicious” dehydrated soup mix.
The 1938 debut of Blue Plate Margarine included a free kitchen bowl with purchase, a promotion that was repeated two years later with the debut of coffee. In ’40, Blue Plate joined the local coffee business and was producing coffee and chicory coffee from a building on Magazine Street, with tea following soon after.
The 1940s were a time of big change for Blue Plate. In ’41, Blue Plate moved into New Orleans, setting up production in a newly built modern factory in Mid-City. The canned foods division was also very active, providing canned Southern favorites such as mustard and turnip greens, okra, tomatoes, green beans, Crowder peas, yams and even shrimp and oysters. Hickory and hot barbecue sauces arrived shortly after.
Blue Plate left New Orleans and moved to Tennessee in 2000. The only products still produced today under that name are the sandwich spread and, thankfully, mayonnaise. What would a New Orleans poor boy be if it wasn’t dressed with Blue Plate?