In 1974, a little television program called Happy Days hit airwaves and the world was never quite the same. Over the show’s 11-season run, viewers learned new catchphrases that have stood the test of time, they were introduced to national treasure Henry Winkler in his scene-stealing role of Arthur “The Fonz” Fonzarelli, and Milwaukee—the city where the still-popular program was set—was thrust into the small screen spotlight once more. Though it’s been 40 years since Fonzie (literally) “jumped the shark” and ushered in the show’s end in 1984, the city and its indelible connection to the seminal sitcom endures to this day.

Depending of who you ask locally, Milwaukee’s continued statue-inspiring affinity for Happy Days 50 years after the series premiered is either bothersome or something to be embraced. Christina Ward falls into the latter faction. The Milwaukee-based writer and independent food historian—whose previous books chronicle the unexpected culinary influence religious cults have on society and the impact corporations played on American cookbooks—takes a fun and decidedly lighter approach with her latest work of food-focused literature. The Milwaukee native and self-described “longtime fan” of Happy Days applied her extensive food background, her writing skill, and her voluminous knowledge of the iconic TV series to create Happy Days: The Official Cookbook.

Available “wherever books are sold” as of April 16, it features close to 90 recipes for nostalgic noshes and diner-caliber drinks that have any Happy Days-loving home cook covered from “Aaaay to Zucchini Bread.” The tome of TV-inspired treats spans 176 pages of timeless recipes you could imagine being served at the Cunningham house or being enjoyed by the gang at Arnold’s between quips. The glossy pages of this hardcover collector’s item also features photos from the series, references to the show to explain each food item’s inclusion, and a Happy Days trivia question accompanying every recipe.

Being an officially licensed collectable affiliated with Happy Days (a show set in the Midwest during the 1950s and ’60s), many of the cookbook creations nod to a, well, less adventurous era in dining. Still, Ward manages to modernize some of the selections—such as the “Shrimp-and-Crab Stuffed Crepes à La Chez Antoine”—or, as in the case of the fruit-forward “Potsie’s ‘Ketchup’ Freeze,” base an entirely new concept on a specific reference to the show. You’ll even find air fryer recipes and a listing of vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options. Much of Happy Days: The Official Cookbook is composed of dishes that could’ve been enjoyed generations ago, but are rendered even better through contemporary culinary knowledge and the availability of better ingredients than Mrs. C could’ve ever sourced from the market.

We bypassed the dozens of breakfast options, salads, snacks, side dishes, dinners, desserts, and much of the Arnold’s-inspired edible Americana in favor of one drink and a sandwich. The “Sugar Lips Smoothie” is simple and classic, but leaves room in the recipe for improvisation.

We decided to blend raspberries and blueberries into a combo of honey, Greek yogurt, and oat milk. “Sip on it, Potsie!” we said as we enjoyed the rich, creamy, and altogether refreshing concoction. Was there ever a smoothie in Happy Days? Hell no. Was this smoothie good? You bet.

Wanting to make something that was more likely to have been enjoyed by someone on the series, we also prepared the “Splish-Splash Tuna Melt Sandwich,” which got its name from a song Richie, Ralph, and Potsie’s band played.

The heaping mix of canned albacore tuna, diced red onion and celery, salt and pepper, mayo, a dash of Dijon mustard, and melted cheese that was stuffed between two slices of crispy pan-cooked bread, the Splish-Splash honestly made us wonder why we don’t eat tuna melts more often. It was an accessible yet slightly elevated take on a greasy spoon sandwich standby. The recipe calls for two to four slices of cheese. We found three to be just right. Next time, we’ll try cheddar instead of the sliced muenster we used because it was already purchased and in our fridge.

In all, Happy Days: The Official Cookbook does a great job honoring the series while also serving as a relevant kitchen resource for home cooks of any ability. In the future, we’re excited to try our hand at a few of the 15 dessert items (including a “Thick Milwaukee Malt”), start a lazy Sunday with the savory riff on “Cunningham’s Strengthening Scottish Oatmeal,” and maybe even attempt a Nanu Na-NEW (Sorry!) crossover recipe with “Mork’s Red, White, and Blue Gelatin.”

It’s been a half-century since its TV debut, but Happy Days still holds a special place for some. As long as that’s the case, Milwaukee and the seminal sitcom that’s set here will always go hand in hand. With Happy Days: The Official Cookbook, that connection only grows stronger and infinitely more delicious. You can order the book online or get it from your neighborhood book retailer (such as Boswell Book Company, for example) now.

About The Author

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Co-Founder and Editor

Before co-founding Milwaukee Record, Tyler Maas wrote for virtually every Milwaukee publication (except Wassup! Magazine). He lives in Bay View and enjoys both stuff and things.