Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Recipes from the straight and narrow

I've heard the south side of Chicago is the baddest part of town. I don't think the same could be said of the Southside Christian Church in Muncie, Indiana.

Two Hundred Tasty Treats (Christian Women's Fellowship of Southside Christian church, undated, but addresses have no zip codes and phone numbers are two letters and five numbers, so I'd guess sometime in the '50s or early '60s) suggests this is a pretty straitlaced place.

Want a nice punch recipe to make your party more memorable (or maybe less memorable, depending on how many cups the guests drink)?


Tough. The above recipe is the entirety of the "Beverages and Sandwiches" chapter. Unless your guests want a big cup of sandwich spread, you'll have to get your sin-juice recipe elsewhere.

Want some fancy hors d'oeuvres for the party?


Well, there's no point in putting on airs. This is the whole chapter, so you can either make popcorn balls or the ubiquitous Lipton onion dip.

And if you want some luxurious seafood recipes, well...


That's the full seafood chapter. If canned tuna sounds luxurious, you've hit the jackpot. Otherwise, you're clearly not tithing enough and you've got too much money left over to spend on frivolities.

The women's fellowship really loved to bake, though, so the cakes and frostings section is filled. Even here, though, they're pretty uptight. I've seen the Bible Cake recipe dozens of times-- to the point where I almost believe it was a requirement for all those old church cookbooks.


They almost always have the actual ingredients listed after the Bible verses, though. That's not the case here. If you don't have your verses memorized, the Christian Women's Fellowship expects you to haul out the Bible to figure out the recipe.

Looks like the south side of Muncie is the austerest part of town.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Summer offerings for the upcoming solstice

It's a weekend in mid-June! It doesn't get much better than this.... (Well, honestly, I might prefer a cool and spooky late October weekend if it didn't mean spending every single waking moment grading papers and planning classes because fall is the only time I can reliably get a lot of work, but I digress.)

Ahem. In any case, let's celebrate early summer with some traditional trappings: hot dogs and root beer floats! Our hot dogs come courtesy of Ruth Berolzheimer's 500 Tasty Snacks (1950).


Bonus if you're feeling too hot: these franks are cold. Plus, they look like they're part of a sea creature with a series of interior-facing eyes and endless rows of flippers.

Don't risk charred edges or grease flare-ups roasting frankfurters in a camp fire! Keep them nice and chill in some bouillon-flavored gelatin with hard-cooked eggs and celery. I'm sure the kids will be thrilled.

I know I suggested a root beer float for dessert, but Berolzheimer's 300 Ways to Serve Eggs (also 1950) offers something even better!


How about a Root Beer Egg Shake? No actual root beer (or ice cream), just root beer extract, raw egg, milk, and orange juice! Okay, it sounds more like an instant breakfast gone horribly awry than a dessert.

Why are you looking at me that way? Did I not deliver on the hot dogs and root beer?

Those recipes don't really count, huh? Fine. Here's something (also from the egg book) that should make you happy.


Why would I think a pretty standard zabaglione recipe would make you happy? Well, it's guaranteed to give you a "happy ending"...

...from someone who was clearly naive to the implications of "happy ending," especially when it's in quotation marks.

I'm just not sure how zabaglione would manage to pull that off....

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

It's a weird day in Pittsburgh

The sun is out (and ready to make me look like a boiled lobster)! The sky is blue, and all the leaves are green. Seems like a good day to head down to the rivers.

Today we have the Three Rivers Cookbook (Child Health Association of Sewickley, PA, copyright 1973, but mine is from the 1977 ninth printing). I picked this up at a garage sale because it looked well-loved and I liked Susan Gaca's cover art. If I can't actually visit a river, at least I can stare at the cover and try to mentally will the barges to move. (There's a fun summer day!)

If the illustration looks suspiciously like Pittsburgh, that's because Sewickley is a suburb of Pittsburgh, at least according to Wikipedia.

The beginning of the book made me think that it might be written for people just like me:


Yep, it starts out with a slushy drink to take the edge off "when you've read too many recipes"!

But then I found out that Pittsburgh's ideas about food and drink are... well...


I'm just going to say I've never longed for a drink made with clam juice and ketchup. (Plus, when I tried to look this up online, most people seem to think that J.D.A. is Jack Daniel's mixed with Amaretto.)

The book does have quite a few (questionable) regional recipes, like this one that's supposed to mimic a soup from Old Original Bookbinder's restaurant in Philadelphia:


I doubt that Bookbinder's felt too threatened by this version of their signature soup, though. A can each of tomato soup, pea soup, and lobster with some sherry couldn't be much of a match for the fresh vegetable and turtle or red snapper-based original.

A lot of common recipes seem familiar at first, and then I just have to wonder whether there's something funny in the water of those three rivers.


Stuffed cabbage usually has a beef and rice filling and a tomato sauce topping. Occasionally, I'll see raisins or apples in there somewhere. (Not that I understand the appeal, but they're not uncommon.)

Gingersnaps, though? Ginger? Snaps? And cabbage? With hamburger and tomato sauce?

Here's another one that goes off the rails. To me, the appeal of fruit salad is that it's very light and refreshing. Why bother with dressing when the fruits' natural juices make it plenty tasty? Of course, some people like to add a little something so it's not too plain, and the idea of honey dressing makes a certain kind of sense.


I can't imagine tasting a fruit salad and thinking it needs to be doused liberally with mustard-and-onion-juice-flavored oil, though, even if it has some honey in it....

I wasn't sure how to end this one, so here's a fun fact: Mr. Rogers made Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood for WQED in Pittsburgh. I found this out because of the sinister portraits of Corney and Lady Elaine in the dessert sauces section.


If you are insufficiently creeped out, just imagine them dousing each other with the Rum and Lime sauce for Melon Balls and then... well... let's just say that particular episode would never air.


You're welcome for that mental image!

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Maybe let's not give peas a chance...

It's pea season again! I do find fresh ones irresistible, as you'll see in this pea post from a previous June. (I was even prepared to post the shortcake again, until I checked and realized I already had written it up.)

No pea shortcake this time! Just some classic '60s recipes full of peas from Favorite Recipes of America: Vegetables Including Fruits (Favorite Recipes Press, 1968). First we have a recipe suggesting a way to turn mushy, overcooked canned peas into a time-consuming and fluffy main dish that still tastes like, well, canned peas.


Yay.

If you want to upset a southern cook by messing with pimento cheese in the most mid-century way possible...


...try using eggs and saltines as a filler, baking it in a ring mold, and then mounding the center of the unmolded abomination with hot peas.

If your preferred genre is luncheon meats, there's this little number:


Fill broiled bologna cups with hot peas! (Who knew slices curled up just so they could be pea-holders?)

If your real favorite '60s style is of the canned-pineapple-in-everything variety, here's a suggestion:


At least this insists on frozen peas, not canned. The pineapple sweetness won't be buried in moldy old Army sock smell.

My favorite recipe might be the next one because the title hints at one very peculiar level of hell, but the ingredients create a different one.


Is it better or worse that Peas Chambourd is not canned peas and onions cooked in raspberry liqueur, but canned peas and onions cooked in a casserole dish filled with catsup?

I'm not sure, but either way.... Ewwww!

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Flash 'em some lamb chops and blueberries

You'd think this cookbook would focus on cooking for... you know... two people.

After all, the Meals for Two Cookbook (ed. Ruth Berolzheimer, 1950) specifies two right there in the title.

You might want to fortify yourself with a little something before I tell you the next bit.

No, I know tomato juice with a little Tabasco and dried basil isn't quite enough.

I mean make yourself a nice two-tone: tomato on the bottom, sauerkraut juice on the top. Drinking sauerkraut juice should prepare you for anything.

Okay, now even if the recipes say they're for two...

Well, you'd better double up because you're not just cooking for your husband (and yourself), doll.


You better make enough for the boss, too. Impress him with your border of mashed potatoes around that meaty chop so your husband can get that raise he always wanted.

Your husband is not the mild-mannered guy he pretends to be at home, either. He wants you to impress all the guys he knows.


That's right. He's going to boast about your big bursting blueberries to everybody.

And people think the fifties were so buttoned-up.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Stuck in an elevator with the June issue of Gourmet

It's time to set the Wayback Machine for June, 1977!

I'll admit the enthusiasm is a little forced. Granted, not everything I write about in monthly installments can be quite as entertaining as last year's 401 Party and Holiday Ideas from Alcoa (Conny von Hagen, 1971), but the pretentiousness of old issues of Gourmet makes them not nearly as much fun as I'd hoped. I wanted the issues of Gourmet to be like watching an old episode of Frasier, but they're more like actually getting stuck with the character in an elevator, and he just wants to tell me about the very expensive and sophisticated trip he's planning while I push the button to get off several floors too early so I can take the stairs the rest of the way. (This issue recommends a holiday in Genoa and a Hungarian riding tour.)

However, this month I got to feel a little bit of superiority as I was paging through. This recipe is nothing especially surprising or spectacular, BUT...


I did get to laugh a little that the writer (Fanny Todd Mitchell) felt compelled to provide a translation for pesto. Apparently even an unsophisticated 2018 reader is more likely to be familiar with the mixture than Gourmet's hoity-toity original readers. I've got something on those fancy-pants 1977 readers.

And as I read through this recipe from an article on ricotta...

I suddenly began to suspect that this was a recipe for the rich people's version of shit on a shingle. It's got the dried beef, and ricotta and eggs bolster the milk that's always in the recipe-- a little bit of spinach to class it up, and of course, a longer cooking time than a simple creamed mixture because they're not rushing to have dinner on the table by the time dad gets home... Still, this seems a bit like someone is trying to play a joke on those supercilious readers. I just wish the recipe suggested serving this with slices of Italian bread and had a title like Textural Slate à l'Excreta, but that might have given away the game.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Outdoor cooking for fancy friends and/or commoners

It's grilling season! While I've posted plenty of outdoor cooking recipes, I'll be the first to admit they're not exactly sophisticated. (My preferences are decidedly downscale.) Today, we're going in the opposite direction:


The Complete Book of Outdoor Cookery (1955) is a collaboration between the well-respected cooks and authors Helen Evans Brown and James Beard.

I often find the menus and attitudes more engaging than the recipes themselves:


That's an interesting assumption that readers have fancy friends, who are surely sick of common upscale dinners like Tournedos Béarnaise and must be treated to grilled eel or roasted kidneys at their own separate party. Readers with some prole friends might want to give those commoners Tournedos Béarnaise with new potatoes, green beans almondine, and a bottle Vosne Romanée as an act of charity, though.

A lot of these recipes remind me that I'm not looking through a Betty Crocker cookbook.


This one does start out with an electric skillet or chafing dish, so it might seem akin to some of the good old home-cooking books (if not actual outdoor cookbooks!), but then it ends with adding Cognac to set the steaks and sauce ablaze. That's not how Betty's recipes usually work! Serve this one with fresh asparagus, Cabernet Sauvignon, and fresh pineapple and berries mixed with eau de vie de framboise... Nope, not a Betty Recipe. She'd recommend canned asparagus and end with pineapple and raspberry sherbets.

The book isn't all upscale, though. There are a few recipes for rich people who want to pretend they're slumming.


Minute steak, sautéed onions, fried potatoes, beer, and apple pie with cheese-- it's less pretentious, though it sounds more like something to whip up indoors on a particularly blustery fall day than something to make for an outdoor party.

My favorite dinner might be this (maybe literally?) heart-stopping upscale/ downscale combo:


Salisbury Steak Béarnaise is basically a two-to-three-inch thick hamburger patty quickly seared on the outside, rare in the middle, topped with a buttery sauce, served with creamy fettuccini Alfredo, and accompanied by cherry tomatoes, pears, and Gorgonzola. I guess it's for people who don't mind cheaper ingredients as long as they are slathered in and surrounded by (often expensive) dairy.

You know, even as a prole, I can recognize the appeal of that.