Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Hot Salsa and Cold Veal for June

It's June, so Modern Meal Maker (Martha Meade for Sperry Flour Co., 1935) is once again here to tell us what to make for the month. Since the weather could be warming into the uncomfortable zone, the book offers up an old-school summer favorite. If you've read Grannie Pantries for any more than a week, you can probably guess what kind of summer favorite it is.

Yep-- Aspic! Well, "Jellied Veal Loaf," but it's clearly an aspic, even if the title doesn't say so. The fact that this is made with unflavored gelatin even makes this sound slightly less revolting than the usual mid-20th-century attempts to make people eat chopped up egg, pickle, celery, and meat floating in an oozy block.

Slightly more unusual is the recipe for salsa.

This might be truer to the more general meaning of salsa as sauce than what I'm used to. Instead of a tomato-based dip, this cooks down dry chilis with some seasoning and oil, and instead of being billed as a snack accompaniment or a taco topper, it's supposed to be served on spaghetti! (The book specifies that the kiddos will probably prefer plain buttered noodles when this is served for dinner.)

Of course, a major theme in this book is eat more Sperry Wheat Hearts, so we can't go without a wheat heart recipe or two. If the family is up for hot food and wants to continue the Mexican-ish theme, there's Wheat Hearts Hotcha:

If it's too hot for corn, peppers, pimientos, olives, and ground round bound up in a thick wheat cereal glue, then maybe a cold wheat heart dessert will work better.

I've never had this, but I can almost imagine grandma pulling a log of congealed cereal full of grated pineapple and marshmallow bits out of the fridge for a summer dessert and/or breakfast. (The differences between breakfast and dessert were sometimes pretty minimal....)

Why not start off the summer months by congealing a block of something edible? (I'll admit that I occasionally puree cottage cheese in lemon Jell-O and top it with berries for a summer "pretend cheesecake" breakfast. Don't tell anybody.)

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Funny Name: Light a Match Edition

While I do think that chili made with canned tomato soup and macaroni, then topped with Bisquick dumplings is kind of an odd dish, that's not the reason I picked Joyce Baird's recipe from Everyday Cook Book (Trinity United Methodist Church in New Springfield, Ohio, 1976).

I think we can all agree that "Chili-Dump" is not the most appetizing name for a recipe. I don't want to think about a food exiting before it has even entered! (Especially chili!)

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

General Electric Gets Artistic in the Kitchen

Today, let's go back to a time when modern technology could fix any problem! The General Electric Kitchen Institute offered up The New Art of Buying, Preserving and Preparing Foods in 1935 as a way to help drum up business for their stoves, refrigerators, dishwashers, mixers, etc.

This was a fancy book for the time, as it has full color pages scattered throughout rather than just one on the cover. Of course, the most prominent pictures are not of the food, but of the awe-inspiring G-E kitchen.

I love the promise that "Kitchen work will become kitchen play in the new guest room of your home... your General Electric Kitchen." I'm sure all the farmers who had to cook up big dinners for their 18 kids plus the farm hands thought of their labor as "kitchen play" once they had electric appliances.

It would definitely be worthwhile to get rid of the old kitchen since doing things the old-fashioned way resulted in "lost youth and beauty, and impaired health."

I thought the passage of time resulted in lost youth, but what do I know? The only selling point I'd have needed would have been the knowledge that I wouldn't have to tend a fire or drippy ice blocks in the ice box.

I prefer the look of the more colorful old-fashioned kitchen to this boring all-white room, but the bland electric appliances will each help "pay for the next through actual savings effected." It's not entirely clear how that will happen, but modern electric is magic!

I love the color pictures of the food too. Of course, there are a lot of chilled recipes to show off the new fridge.

Maybe the family will be excited about eating a wonky heart of cat food and liver spots afloat on a sea of radish roses and shredded iceberg lettuce.

If they can't be persuaded that Molded Chicken Salad is a delicacy, maybe they would prefer a spotted alien bug with a couple dozen legs, its green guts spilling out of a hole chopped in the middle.

Okay, maybe you can talk the kids into this one, as it's the ever-popular 24-Hour Salad, a fine excuse to pretend that eating a mound of marshmallows and whipped cream is good for you.

Step 4 is a bit of a puzzle, as I had no idea what Emrelettes and Rubyettes were. Based on the picture, I assumed they were a brand of maraschino cherries, but Emrelettes are peeled seedless grapes that have been dyed green and flavored with creme de menthe. Rubyettes were peeled grapes with red food coloring and cherry flavor. So that's one mystery solved.

My favorite picture might just be of the Grapefruit and Orange Cocktail.

I just love it because the one on the right looks like it has a color-reversed image of Audrey II from Little Shop of Horrors growing out of the middle.

If you want an actually horrifying recipe, though, this frozen salad might fit the bill, even though it didn't merit a picture.

Most of it sounds fine-- Cream cheese! Pineapple! Whipped cream! Pecans!-- but any combination of these things that also includes salad dressing, Maraschino cherries, and green peppers is asking for trouble.

And the least appealing photo may be the evidence for why there were so few vegetarians back in the day. I'm not entirely sure what is on this plate, as it's not explained, but here is the delicacy known as Vegetable Plate Individual Service.

Dinner should not be mounds of steamed cauliflower, carrots, and lima beans with a heaping helping of pond slime. Even the cute little tomato hollowed out to accommodate additional carrots, limas, and pond slime does not help. This is just sad.

Thanks for admiring the "new art" of modern electric cookery with me! Now I'll get back to hoping modern technology will help make my world happier and more convenient, even though I know it will probably just result in a new way for bots to inundate us with propaganda and scams....

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Menu for a quiet Memorial Day

Memorial Day is supposed (in theory, anyway) to be a more subdued holiday since it is a memorial, after all. Of course, in practice it generally means families with 523 young children going to the park to incinerate pounds and pounds of hot dogs and hamburgers while the parents get more and more hostile thanks to the increasingly whiny kids and the dwindling beer supply.

This year may actually be more subdued since we're not supposed to have big parties. I'm not counting on it, though, so here are a couple of holiday recipes from Minnesota Centennial Cook Book: 100 Years of Good Cooking (ed. Virginia Huck and Ann H. Andersen, 1958) to help ensure that nobody will want to be a guest at your place. You don't want to be too obvious about the fact that you are trying to dissuade people who invite themselves over, so you can initially tell them that you're having coneys and macaroni salad. That sounds pretty normal, right? (And not initially repulsive to people who aren't as damn picky as I am.)

Then you can drop hints that the coneys aren't exactly hot dogs topped with meat sauce.

No-- they're Tuna Salad Coneys! Who can resist sitting in the sun eating hot tuna, egg, and American cheese salad  from a hot dog bun?

And if that doesn't scare them away, you might let slip that the macaroni salad isn't exactly traditional either.

The pasta is just a vehicle for serving rapidly-browning bananas, oranges, canned pineapple, and chopped marshmallows in a pineapple-juice-and-egg-yolk dressing!

If you're lucky, the menu plan will be enough to ensure you can be like me and spend a quiet afternoon checking out a repository of old Maine cook books. You won't even have to follow through with your threat to make the recipes.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Stairway to Hot Dish Heaven

When I got Minnesota Centennial Cook Book: 100 Years of Good Cooking (ed. Virginia Huck and Ann H. Andersen, 1958), I was not sure what to expect except for hot dish. (A lot of places write it as one word-- hotdish-- but this book consistently writes it as two, so I'm following their lead.)

The book has all kinds of recipes, from those for things that are decidedly Minnesotan (like moose and wild rice) to those that are decidedly not. (A surprising number of recipes call for avocados and/or shrimp, which are not exactly products of Minnesota.) Since I got it because I wanted to see hot dishes, though, I'm going to present all the hot dish recipes in roughly ascending order of deliciousness based on their titles.

The most utilitarian title gets last place. 

Quantity Hot Dish: The title tells you that the writer has nothing to say about how it tastes or even what's in it. It just makes a LOT (of noodles and ground beef in a sweet tomato-and-veggie sauce).

Next come the recipes that at least give away the main ingredient(s) in the title. Since dried beef was generally reserved for days when the pantry yielded little else, I'm going to guess that Corn and Dried Beef Hot Dish is the next lowest rank.

Is being baked with noodles, canned corn, cream of mushroom soup, and beefsteak sauce preferable to being made into shit on a shingle? I have no idea which fate is better for dried beef, but at least it had an alternative possibility. 

Chili and rice are both low-cost but generally pretty good if they're made well, so that's enough to put Chili Rice Hot Dish in the middle of the pack.

I'm not sure how exciting chili seasoned with "a dash" of chili powder and diluted with a cup of celery would be (not to mention using some tomato juice as the only tomato component), but hey, it's not dried beef and canned corn.

We're getting a little more upscale at the middle of the list.

This time, diners get STEAK with their tomato-and-onion flavored rice rather than weak chili.

Now for the upper echelons of hot dish deliciousness, we'll look at the recipes with adjectives in their titles rather than simple names of ingredients. The lowest rung here uses a single simple adjective.

I'm not sure how well zesty applies to Zesty Hot Dish since the only real flavoring that might even come close to being described as zesty is the can of tomato soup. The bar must have been pretty low in 1950s Minnesota.

I'm not entirely sure what the title of the next recipe refers to.

Are diners supposed to be licking their plates? The casserole dish? The serving spoon once the last serving has been scooped onto a plate? Or was the licking incidental and not actually related to the potatoes, onion, creamed corn, pork sausage, and tomato soup in Lickin' Good Hot Dish? 

And finally, the hot dish to which all other hot dishes should bow down, at least, based on its title:

Two kinds of steak! More than a pound of American cheese! Canned corn, noodles, and cans of chicken rice soup, pimiento, and mushrooms! Heavenly Delight Hot Dish has it all.

Well, all except Tater Tots. You might have noticed that none of these recipes feature the starchy treat that might be the most famous crown atop hot dishes. Tater Tots were first commercially available in 1956, so apparently they were not widespread enough by 1958 to make it into this cookbook. That doesn't matter, though, because hot dish could apparently ascend to heaven even without tots.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Bananas: Holiday-Style, Husband-Pleasing, or Elegant!

After last week's post on all things bready, I wanted to continue checking out old banana bread recipes. If the novelty has worn off of plain old banana bread but you still have leftover bananas, and you want to go to a different time and place (say, winter holidays in the mid-20th century), then The Illustrated Encyclopedia of American Cooking (the editors of Favorite Recipes Press, 1972) offers a couple of unique banana bread recipes.

If you can find a cup of mincemeat somewhere, there's good old Banana-Mincemeat Bread.

Or if you're the type who actually likes holiday fruitcake, then Banana Holiday Bread might be fun (if you didn't use up all the dried and candied fruit on Wednesday's beef tongue).

For those who are cooking to please a husband (the highest calling non-libbers could hope to aspire to in the '70s🙄) who isn't into mincemeat or candied fruit, then something more basic, like a banana pudding, may be in order.

I've tried to figure out what "Husband-Pleaser" was code for in the old recipes, and my best guess is that the recipe would not involve a mix. (Feel free to speculate if you have better ideas.) (And "Jiffy" in the recipe title is usually code for using a mix.)

And finally, if you're tired of all this comfort food and want to make something a little more elegant with your extra bananas, I offer Elegant Banana Pie.

I'm not sure what's so elegant about banana slices suspended between layers of cinnamon-coffee gelatin, but the recipe says it's elegant, so it must be true!

Have an elegant weekend at home! (I will elegantly be watching some horror movies hosted by Joe Bob Briggs as I sip canned wine from Aldi. It's pretty good, and they deliver!)

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

A Construction Project for All Your Italian Needs

I'll admit that I didn't expect the Sunset Italian Cook Book (ed. Jerry Anne DiVecchio, 1972, though mine is the 7th printing, 1975) to be all that authentically Italian. Considering that I have zero Italian heritage so far as I know, I'm not much of a judge. The book starts off by noting that serving multiple starchy dishes together (like, say, garlic bread with spaghetti) is considered to be an Americanization by actual Italians, though, so I'm giving it the benefit of the doubt.

Well, the part that really sold me on its authenticity was its guess about just how far readers would be willing to go to get authentic European-style breads. Since people now at home with time on their hands anyway might be ready for a major diy project, here is a '70s idea to fill a weekend or two with hard physical labor just so it will be easy to accidentally incinerate the homemade bread and have a good blowout fight about whose fundamental inability to follow simple directions has now ruined the last of the dwindling grocery supply.

All it takes is at least a dozen concrete blocks, a 28-gallon drum, a 1-pound size can, 129 or so bricks, concrete wire, chicken wire, cement (some blended with mud), a door, exterior latex paint, a hoe, plenty of wood for fuel, a fireproof container, and an oven thermometer that goes up to 700º. 

And of course, you have to remember to start heating the oven hours before you will actually need it.

But hey, it's a far out thing to have in the back yard!

At least the Adobe Oven Bread recipe will make a couple of loaves of bread, so you won't have to fire it up every day.

If your plans for the coming weekend aren't quite this ambitious, the book also offers a way to use up what's left of the long-lasting vegetables with any dried/ candied fruits you might have leftover from Easter (or Christmas!) with a less-popular cut of meat.

Or if you would prefer to spend your extra hours on a smokehouse or a serious grill, I've got you covered on those fronts too. I'm going to limit my diy efforts to making my own sub buns using a bread machine for the dough and an electric oven to bake. (Man, I feel way less accomplished about that achievement now that I've written this post....)