Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Hostess with help from imaginary chickens and pigs

Feeling helpless? I've got just the thing!

Hostess Without Help (Helen Worth, 1971) promises to to let readers enjoy the party with their guests, even if they can't afford help. If you look at the cover, taking in the smiling fish pressing its nose against a carrot, the enormous chickens dancing around the tiny pig, the peg-legged sheep sniffing a mushroom, and the rabbit getting ready to vault over a beet to startle a drugged-out owl, you may figure out that the promised party recipes are not why I chose this book. I got it because I'm in love with Sylvan Jacobson's illustrations.

Yes, some of the recipes are interesting...

This is the type of book that suggests turning caviar into a bombe with the help of instant onion, lemon juice, beef bouillon, and, of course, gelatin.

It's also the type of book that illustrates the idea with a picture of a fish who thinks a Bombe of Caviar sounds groovy.

It's the kind of book that suggests an easy way to impress guests with turtle soup:

Mix canned turtle soup with puréed frozen peas and a bit of sherry!

And of course, get a little turtle to look on with a surprising amount of approval.

The best pictures are often on their own, though, standing outside of specific recipes. If the thought of working all alone on a party is overwhelming, the book provides some adorable (if imaginary) waiters:

The chicken and pig theme is the most common one. Those little guys can help with anything-- even building up a fire for the fondue pot:

You've got to love the chicks struggling with their loads of kindling and the pig carrying a whole load of logs over its head. Even the fondue pot is smiling!

My favorites might be the funny chicken-and-pig pictures that actually go with weird-ish recipes. Here's an interesting use for sherbet that Betty Crocker wouldn't dream of:

Regardless of whether you're sold on a sherbet/ white wine/ rum float, this pig being served by an extremely strong chick seems ready for more!

I'm not sure whether the other chicks have gotten into the punch even though they're clearly underage, but enough of them seem to be precariously perched that I would guess so.

If you're not a fan of whimsy, this book will make you break out in hives. I just want to take this book to park, lie on a blanket, and spend a few hours gazing at the sky with it as we tell each other our deepest chick-related secrets.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

The pineapple that saved summer vacation

It's getting to be that time of year when displays of folders, backpacks, and number two pencils on display everywhere make my blood run cold. Next week is my last official week of being semi-off-duty (I'm never really off, but summer work is a lot lighter!), and it's going to be filled with syllabus-writing and class website construction. Fun.

That means today I want to post a fun, summery recipe that always makes me smile when I see it. 

Yes, from McCall's Cocktail-Time Cookbook (1965), it's the Cheese Pâté Pineapple.

Yep, it's just a cheese ball covered with sliced olives and dressed up to look like a pineapple from a fever dream, and I can't help loving it. The garish, almost-neon orange contrasted with the olive-and-red speckles (Maybe it's a pineapple with olive pox!), the carefully-sculpted lines between the olives, the real-pineapple crown-- it's just so beautifully improbable. Someone even added a champagne coupe in the foreground to suggest that this is a sophisticated appetizer, not an edible craft project. The photo could almost be a surrealist artwork. It's... It's indescribably beautiful. It reminds me of the fourth of July-- which is much further from the start of school than today is. And that's why we're all staring at a (literally) cheesy pineapple right now. 

P.S.- I will have one last bit of summer fun on this blog a week from Monday, just as classes start. 

Wednesday, August 8, 2018


You know you're in for a treat with a gelatin-based cookbook.

The Knox Gelatine Cookbook (1977) does not disappoint. It's loaded with all the congealed-kitchen-sink salads, unspreadably-thick condiment molds, and even (gasp!) palatable-sounding fresh fruit pies anyone could hope for.

I got totally sucked into the chapter announcing that Knox had discovered "The great American snack-time revolution." What was it? Knox Blox, the brand's version of Jell-O Jigglers.

Jell-O's plain, fruity fingers had nothing on Knox as far as gelatin-based finger-food was concerned, though. Knox was all-in! How all-in?

Well, they weren't aiming just for the kids.

Even though the bad knock-knock joke title makes these sound kid-friendly, "Orange-You-Glad" Blox make sure you're glad with the addition of white crème de cacao.

The Knox recipe creators also saw Knox Blox as replacements for all kinds of desserts-- not just a little fruit-flavored snack for the toddlers.

No, the whole family could kick back, watch a baseball game, and enjoy the wonder that is chocolate watered down, then thickened back up with gelatin. (Why eat straight-up chocolate anyway, or mix those chips with cookie dough, when they could be eaten in blox form?)

The grown-ups could chase the kiddies away from the intriguingly two-layered Grasshopper Grabs:

Yeah, kid, I know it has ice cream and chocolate pudding mix in it, but the crème de menthe means it's for mommies and daddies!

If the kids really insist on having their ice cream ruined with gelatin, there's a banana split version of Knox Blox:

If you think you can get out of having to eat Knox Blox by claiming a preference for savory snacks, well, not so fast! The Knox Gelatine Cookbook has more than considered that possibility.

For a general audience, there's the tomato-juice-and-veggie Blox-Busters:

Salad aficionados might prefer Crab Louis en Blox:

And those who have never been to a Jewish deli may trick themselves into thinking Salmon "Lox Blox" is a suitable substitute:

Then again, if they're smart, they may not....

Anyway, I hope you can see how the blox sidetracked me so much that I haven't even mentioned "Pantry-Shelf Supper" or the ice-cube-tray-molded salad toppers. They might show up someday, but I had to present the blox in all their glory!

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Funny Name: The Garden's Been Overrun Edition

The title of this recipe from Helen Worth's Hostess Without Help (1971) sounds like the sarcastic nickname someone might give their midsummer garden:

Instead of being named after an over-zucchinified garden, Zucchini Colony is named after the Colony Restaurant, the originator of this recipe. The whimsical book also offers a picture of a chicken and pig demonstrating what might happen if you accidentally overcook the zucchini:

If you don't have a chicken to alert you to the billowing smoke and a pig with a fire hose to extinguish the fire, you're really missing out!

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Gourmet gets (relatively) practical, for a change

The August 1977 edition of Gourmet thoroughly shocked me by recommending an activity that even my farmer grandpa would have approved of.

Fishing! Of course, he mostly fished in the pond out back rather than trekking to the Ozarks, per Gourmet's recommendation, but fishing is about the most down-to-earth recommendation I've seen from the publication.

The recommended recipes follow the fishing theme, with this recipe for fish stuffed with... well... fish.

I can't see grandma ever puréeing one kind of fish in the blender so she could spread the mush over another kind of fish.

My favorite fish recipe is from the "Gastronomie sans Argent" section, though. What better way to enjoy a cool, refreshing fruit salad in the summer...

Than to mix it with a couple pounds of flounder? Wait... Don't answer that. Suggesting that maybe the fruit salad and fish would taste better separately will mark you as a yokel who'd rather just fish in the pond out back after a day of working on the tractor rather than flying to the Ozarks with expensive new fishing equipment for a vacation from all those hours in the office.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

At least I didn't put the lima in the coconut

It's hot enough to melt a Nazi's face off, so today I'm going for an all-salad menu selected from the Betty Crocker's Salads (1977) section of the Betty Crocker's 4 in 1 Cookbook Collection (1980).

We'll need a main course, so how about a cold version of meatloaf? 

No, I'm not talking cold meatloaf sandwiches. This is a salad menu! It's everyone's favorite '70s salad variation (gelatin!) mixed with everyone's favorite smelly meat-based goop their dad used to eat out of a tube (braunschweiger!). What could possibly go wrong? (Answer: Someone actually tries to consume it.)

We'll need a starchy side, so macaroni salad should fit the bill. 

I hope you like crushed pineapple and maraschino cherries with your macaroni, cheese, celery, and mayo because that's what you're getting. 

Now we need a vegetable-based salad, maybe livened up with some citrus. 

No, that's not Lemon-Lime Salad. It's Lemon-Lima. As in lima beans. With lemonade concentrate. And horseradish. Because... reasons? Maybe just throw on some pomegranate seeds for luck and hope nobody will ask questions. 

And for dessert, I hope you like pineapple. Yeah, I picked another pineapple-based recipe, but this one is way different from the macaroni salad. 

It has pickled beets, coconut flakes, and miniature marshmallows. As one does. If one is... well... chasing the miniature marshmallow dragon?

Have a happy mid-summer weekend! If yours involves lemonade, please use it responsibly. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Rice recipes 'n' racism

Rice Recipes Old and New Presented by Comet Rice (undated, but but Michigan State University Library's Alan and Shirley Broker Sliker Culinary Collection estimates it as 1950and offers a full scan of the booklet here) presents a diverse array of rice dishes with all the cultural sensitivity and culinary accuracy one would expect of mid-century Texas (Comet's home). That is, of course, very little, which should come as no surprise from a booklet showing hoop-skirted southern belles watching a riverboat while the white-gloved black butler lights candles for dinner.

The cover's racism is pretty laid-back compared to the illustrations for some of the recipes, though:

The illustrator couldn't decide between mammy or butlers drawn in the most cartoonishly stereotypical ways possible, so readers are treated to both mammy and a whole chorus line of butlers.

My personal preference is for the more inexplicable pictures.

Why is a woman in an apron and graduation cap pointing at a steaming turkey while lecturing a room full of women with identical hairstyles? Why is all of this next to the recipe for Spanish Pork Chops with Rice? Your guess is as good as mine. I'm going to say that the turkey studied physics and was getting ready to graduate, so the "teacher" stole its cap, killed it, cleaned it, cooked it, and then exhibited as an example to the other women of the perils of getting too much non-housekeeping-related education. They're just pretending to pay attention until she turns her back and they can sneak out of the room.

You might look at the recipe and ask what makes the pork chops Spanish, anyway. My guess is that it's the tomato juice. A rule of old cookbooks seems to be rice + tomato juice = Spanish. It's an immutable law, regardless of how well it actually represents Spanish cooking. This recipe seems downright authentic compared to some of the others.

Do you like Chinese food?

Here, Chinese Eggs means not century eggs or tea eggs or even egg drop soup. Nope. It's deviled eggs baked in a cheese sauce, even though one of the defining characteristics of Chinese food, so far as this non-expert is concerned, is that it is not covered in melted cheese.

Do you like risotto?

Well, if you answered yes, Comet Rice certainly hopes you don't know what the term risotto means, because here it's a fancy-sounding name for rice sprinkled with a little Parmesan and liberally doused with a cinnamon-and-ginger-spiced mushroom, chicken liver, and tomato sauce.

Even in the face of all these fancy recipes, sometimes I'm still amused by the simplest. This recipe for Rice with Poached Eggs seems like straightforward comfort food, and it manages not to misrepresent or insult anyone.

The picture, though...

I think I'd title this "Don't eat the yellow snow."

See, Comet? You can be amusing without being a jerk.