Don: “What’s on this?”
Sally: “Mrs. Butterworth’s.”
Don: “Go get it.”
Don: “That’s rum. Read labels.”
Sally: “Is it bad?”
Don: “Not really.”
This exchange between Don and Sally happens in season four’s ‘The Beautiful Girls’ when Sally Draper proudly presents homemade French toast to her father. (“Oh daddy, I do it all the time. And there’s no shells in it.”) This episode serves a generous helping of seemingly lighthearted situations that are immediately qualified with some of Mad Men‘s signature dark humor. Like many a character in the show, Sally’s attempts to prove herself end with her falling flat on her face. Literally.*Warning: spoilers ahead in this post and most other ‘Mad Men’ MoFo posts. Spoilers are often necessary to provide context and write freely about the show. I’ll make a note in future posts when they are spoiler-free!
Sally Draper’s coming-of-age story begins in the latter half of the 1960s, where the way the world works, and her world, is shifting. A precocious child from season one, she’s now a child of divorce (cue hysterical Betty: “She’s from a broken home!”) in an era when such a topic is taboo, and carries a longtime insistence that she is, in fact, an adult.
Sally’s role in ‘The Beautiful Girls’ begins when a woman finds her on a train to Manhattan, specifically Don’s office, trying to avoid the fare collectors. Sally expresses her hatred for Betty, back talks Don’s fling of the month Faye Miller, and begs her father, in the thick of his season four downward spiral, to let her live with him. When Don’s secretary suddenly dies at her desk, the employees of SCDP attempt to take care of it without alerting Sally (or their clients), resulting in a darkly humorous series of events. Faye takes Sally back to Don’s apartment, where stilted conversation ensues.
In attempt to prove her adulthood to Don, whom she places on a pedestal for the greater portion of the series, she makes breakfast for him. The fatal flaw of her plan is when she mistakes rum for Mrs. Butterworth’s, revealing that she still is very much a child. While that metaphor was likely in place for viewers, Sally would not appreciate it.
If Sally photographed her food in 1965 with her brand new Kodak Instamatic 404 (that’s Instagram for those of you born in 2001), her set-up might look something like this. A disregard for the subtlety Betty attempts to epitomize, mod patterns, and audacious colors. Groovy.
Sally’s story in this episode ends when Betty comes to SCDP to retrieve her runaway daughter. Sally’s immediate response is to RUN (I can’t say I blame her). Unfortunately, Sally’s escape is stopped by a trip and fall, but she finds comfort in a hug from Megan Calvet. With Faye’s stature unmoved and out-of-focus in the background, the Mad Men creators foreshadow Don’s abrupt transition from Faye to warm, kind Megan as a wife and mother figure for his children. Sally gives up momentarily and returns to Betty with her bruised knees and ego, not for the first or last time.
Take a page out of Sally’s book and make The PPK’s Fronch Toast, then “mistake” rum for maple syrup. It’s not bad; take Don’s word for it. Or you might take a more palatable route and add the rum (or rum extract) to the batter prior to cooking, or make a maple butter rum sauce in lieu of syrup.