I collect vintage recipes- not just from cookbooks published in the 1950s but also those that were handwritten. Handwritten family recipes tend to be more authentic as far as what was being served at that time since many published recipe booklets were really ads for various food products.
Women in the 50s generally ate simple, wholesome foods and served them in a manner that wasn't necessarily picture-perfect by today's standards. (Have you seen the Regrettable Food Gallery over at Lileks?) People didn't cook with the idea that they would be posting pictures of everything they ate on facebook, nor was there pressure to make elaborate meals like a celebrity chef.
The photo above is from a 1950s Maine seafood recipe book. It looks pretty delicious to me!
A presentation like the salad above was common and also appears in a cookbook. Pictured below is a roasted chicken with homemade cranberry sauce also in a cookbook- very simple. I think some people might scoff at the stalk of celery thinking it an inelegant presentation.
I think when there's less pressure to make dinner into a modeling show and more emphasis is placed on creating nourishing, simple and wholesome good food, it is far more satisfying.
2012 is about "HOW DOES MY FOOD LOOK" and getting fleeting, in-the-moment good feelings from excessive portions overloaded with fats and sugars and large helpings of "likes."
1950 was more about "How does my food make ME look and feel" with the good feelings coming from eating a balanced diet that lead to good health and enjoying a meal with friends or family while sitting down together at the table.