Wednesday, October 28, 2020

In Love with the Food Stamp Gourmet

It only took one look at The Food Stamp Gourmet: Patrician Eating on a Proletarian Budget (Wm Brown, illustrated by Gilbert Sheldon, Greg Irons, and David Sheridan, 1971) for me to know I needed this book. Just look at the cover!

How could I not be in love with that underground comix style? Just look at the fat hippie on the cover in his overalls and chef's hat, freshly-plucked chicken in one hand and comically undersized skillet in the other! His friendly mutton chops blend so seamlessly with his hair it seems almost like he's being enveloped in a cloud of smoke. This is a style that I just can't get enough of. 😻

The book has that '70s power to the people vibe too, insisting that even poor people can eat quality food, stating, "Most of these recipes come from Europe, where even the relatively poor care a lot about what they eat. Because they do care, but don't have much money, they've developed many succulent dishes that use cheap ingredients. It's basically peasant food, but it's so good that even the rich sometimes eat it in preference to more expensive dishes." The opening has a mini-tutorial on how to try to get food stamps, and the back cover advertises other books from the same press, including the upcoming plan to ease one's money troubles: How to Stop the Corporation [sic] Polluters and Make Money Doing It. I cannot express how much I love this '70s style.

The recipes, as advertised, tend to call for pretty simple ingredients. My real interest, however, is in the comics that accompany them... the steer tapping a keg, presumably in preparation for becoming a Carbonade de Boeuf. I thought he was pretty stoic about the whole situation, but... looks like he was only stoic until he learned he was on the menu. By the end, he's passed out and the keg is empty-- so I guess it's time to start dinner?

The chicken for the G.I.'s Hungry Visitors' Chicken Breasts is much more proactive than the steer, hopping around and flapping wildly as it attempts to scare off the slightly-crazed looking G.I.

I like that the recipe starts with a personal story of trying to figure out what to make visiting friends for dinner because "the food in that particular town was wretched."

I'm not sure why the actual recipe is illustrated by a hippie showing off a platter lavishly bedecked with a single bean, but I love his enormous teeth and hair frizzing out in all directions. Maybe the chicken actually did manage to outsmart the guy with the gun this time, and so everyone pretended the single-bean dinner was a revelation of the satisfying power of simple ingredients.

Speaking of funny hippies, I also love the fire breather illustrating the Beef Curry recipe (and its story about the yogurt accompaniment having been surreptitiously spiced so that it was even hotter than the meal it was meant to cool).

And finally, a recipe I love both for its title and the accompanying illustrations:

Yes, it's Starving Poets' Pork Chops. You've got to love the illustration showing why the poets were starving-- their tiny fellowships went to beer, poker, and cigarettes of one sort or another. Looks like there wasn't even enough money to heat their living space, if (as Joe Bob says) you know what I mean, and I think you do!

And from the look of it, maybe sometimes they forgot that the pig should be dead before it's put on a platter, but hey, you can't expect poets to be too practical!

I am soooooooooooooo happy I found this book, and it must have been for a good price. I can't remember now and there is no tag on it, so it must have been $5 or less, as I have to do some serious soul- (and Amazon/ Etsy/ eBay) searching to decide whether I'm willing to pay more than that for an old cookbook. It looks like this one usually goes for somewhere in the $20-$50 range, though some extremely optimistic person was trying to sell a copy on Amazon for $948.05 plus tax and $3.84 shipping and handling when I checked prior to writing this post! Anyone willing and able to spend that much is clearly not in the primary audience and does not deserve this amazing book.

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Old-timey cooking for human-ant hybrids!

While I did make fun of the Der Dutchman Amish Kitchen Cooking Cook Book (workers and friends of Der Dutchman, Walnut Creek, Ohio, 1973) for the overwhelming blandness of their main dishes, I think that preference can at least partially be explained because nobody cared about savory food. It was on the table because it was expected to be on the table. The workers and friends of Der Dutchman are, at least according to my calculations, the result of a cross-breeding humans with sugar ants. Nobody cared what the casserole tasted like because everybody was there for the sweets.

The book has one of the highest concentrations I have ever seen of "salads" that are clearly desserts. The book has five different variations of "Cheese Salad."

They differ primarily in what proportion of the dairy fat should come from cream cheese v. whipped cream, which flavors of Jell-O work best, and whether the marshmallows should be measured by the piece or by the pound.  (They all have the smallest proportion of pineapple allowed by law to call this a salad, though.)

Similarly, there are three different versions of this "salad."

Yep-- that cup of pineapple means all that brown sugar, butter, and lime Jell-O can masquerade as a salad.

Some salads make an effort to sound as if they're full of fruit.

Note that the only measured ingredients are the Jell-O, sugar, Dream Whip, and cream cheese. Plopping a single black cherry on top of each serving would still technically complete the recipe, and the salad would have just as much actual fruit as a hot fudge sundae.

And speaking of ice cream...

Yep, there's an ice cream salad too. Or you can just make an ice-cream-topping-type sauce and pretend it's a salad if you eat it on top of bananas.

If salads aren't enough to fill you up and dinner is just not the same without a little bread, then there's also the option of having a nice, sweet spread on that slice. I'm not talking about something like jam or jelly. Who wants fruit to water down all that sweet, sweet sugar?

Those with the most restraint can go for the "Maple" spread variety.

It has no actual maple (or even maple flavoring!), but only four cups of sugar.

Alternatively, the white sugar spread offers four cups of sugar in an equal amount of corn syrup:

I'm not sure why this labeled white sugar spread when it has just as much brown sugar in it, but at least it does have white sugar.

If you don't want to go to the trouble of heating up the stove, there's always another option:

Just stir brown sugar and a quart of marshmallow topping into a half-gallon of Karo syrup!

The fact that the main dish is so flavorless is way less of a problem if everything else on the table is so sweet that people at least occasionally have to take a bite of it to avoid fourth-degree sugar shock. Have a VERY sweet weekend to train your system for all the Halloween candy you're not actually going to give out!

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Low Sodium, High Weirdness

Psst! Wanna hear a secret?

Yeah-- you know it's not going to be a good secret if it's coming from me. I don't have news about a new horror movie Rob Zombie is working on or leaked proof that PB Max is just about to be re-released to make up for the lack of trick-or-treating this year. Nope. I've got Secrets of Salt-Free Cooking (Jeanne Jones, 1979). It has plenty of the super-bland, super-boring recipes that are the hallmarks of this genre.

Yeah-- guests are sure to be excited when the hors d'oeuvre is cooked and chilled string beans. (At least this calls for fresh green beans rather than draining a can and dumping it right onto the crudité platter.)

The book also offers recipes that are such sad substitutes for popular items that you're probably better off just making something else rather than trying to reproduce the thing you actually want.

I'm not one of those die-hard bacon lovers, and I've enjoyed plenty of avocado-and-veggie-"bacon" sandwiches, but subbing bacon with unsalted mayo lightly seasoned with Bakon (smoke-flavored yeast, which I didn't even realize was a thing, but it's still around!) is a step too far. Just skip the BLT altogether rather than pretending this sad little pile of ingredients is a functional stand-in.

The best part of the book, though, was the recipes that seemingly come out of nowhere. Some of these recipes really just made me wonder what thought process could possibly have led to the recipe. Occasionally, Jones seems to realize this and provides an answer.

Why the hell would anyone want Low-Sodium Jelled Milk? The end note claims that mixing jelled milk "with an equal amount of low-sodium low-fat milk" will make it seem richer, so I guess this is an attempt to make low-fat milk seem more like whole milk. (And if you're wondering about the low-sodium part, a cup of milk has about 5% of a day's worth of sodium, so Jones recommends mail ordering canned low-sodium milk! That seems like a lot of work to eliminate a pretty minor source of sodium...)

The jelled milk is followed by an even weirder cereal topper.

Again, there's a brief justification for Egg-and-Milk Cereal Topping-- it will make the cereal higher in protein! (And covered in egg slime possibly laced with salmonella...)

Sometimes, though, the reason for the recipe is a complete mystery.

Why add a cup of chopped lettuce to a quick bread batter? It's not subbing for higher-calorie ingredients. I can't imagine it will add much in the way of taste or texture. It's just there, for no apparent reason, and Jones has no plans to explain it.

A few recipes seem to exist just because Jones apparently had odd and very specific tastes, and imagined that someone else must share them. Have you ever wished you could eat parsley like it was cotton candy?

Well, the author is convinced that somebody else wants this besides her, and maybe she's right. If there's a big enough market for mayo-and-marshmallow "salads" to show up in nearly every regional cookbook, maybe there was a bigger market for parsley "cotton candy" than I imagine. The world is a big, weird place. (I just wish it had been big enough to sustain PB Max!)

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Funny Name: "Bubba's Got a Girlfriend!" Edition

This recipe title from Recipes You'll Flip Over (Cedar Rapids Association of Gymnasts, 1983) makes me giggle because I imagine a hick family with strict (and not-very-creative) naming conventions that wasn't expecting a girl. "These are my kids Bubba Junior, Bubba-Joe, Bubba-Beau, Bubba-Jeb, Bubba-Merle, and...

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

IDK about IDS

"WTF is IDS?" I wondered when I picked up Favorite Recipes of the Women of IDS (1973, but mine is from the second printing in 1978).

I wasn't sure, but apparently the women of IDS have hair made out of butterflies and flowers. The inside cover specifies that the recipes are from the marketing department of Investors Diversified Services, so I guess these women turning into summer meadows were married to investors. I'd have expected them to be hippies, but I guess butterflies and flowers didn't like damn dirty hippies and got associated with them against their will. Butterflies and flowers prefer trophy wives.

Then when I looked at the recipes, I kept having WTF moments, as the recipe titles so often flew in the face of my expectations. Sometimes that was just because I'm ignorant. When I saw Pizza Frita, I expected fried dough covered in tomato sauce and cheese. I was completely mystified to find yeast doughnuts.

I guess my lack of Italian heritage meant that I didn't realize pizza frita is just an alternate name for zeppole.

Sometimes, maybe I'm being a little too picky in my definition. Succotash should be a mixture of sweet corn and lima beans if I'm being a purist or corn and other shelled beans if I'm being more generous.

Can green beans stand in for more hefty legumes? And is it really succotash if it's bound with mayo and cheese and topped with bread crumbs?

Sometimes, my knowledge of '60s and '70s food trends misled me in this book. To most of the rest of America, cheese balls were big wads of cream cheese blended with other cheeses and maybe rolled in nuts or chipped beef. The women of IDS thought of something entirely different.

The women of IDS made cheddar dough to wrap around pitted dates stuffed with pecans.

When I saw Orange Ring Mold, I immediately imagined orange gelatin with semi-random additions of whipped cream, canned fruit, pickle juice, olives, etc. That's not what the women of IDS call an orange ring mold, though.

Apparently, they call fruit-flavored monkey bread an Orange Ring Mold!

Sometimes I suspected the women of IDS of being just a bit pretentious. Think IDS women's sloppy joes are just ground beef with ketchup, brown sugar, and maybe some spices, just like those of the peasants? Think again, buddy!

These are the wives of investors! They make sloppy joes out of crab and olives! (The tomato soup and American cheese help keep these at least a little more down-to-earth.)

Sometimes they made substitutions that just seemed wrong.

Does flattened-out biscuit dough from a can really count as a tortilla? (And for that matter, does ground beef mixed with "catsup" really count as taco meat, even if it does have a dash of cayenne?)

Reading through this book sometimes felt like stepping into a parallel universe where nothing was quite right... and that's what made it so much fun. Hope you enjoyed our step into the alternate '70s with the butterfly-bedecked investors' wives.

Saturday, October 10, 2020

The church ladies' balls

When my sister sent me Saint Edward's Cookbook (undated, ca. 1970s), she included a note observing "These church ladies are really into balls," so I figured I'd use a post to show you the church ladies' balls. (Well, at least some of their balls. They were really into balls, so this is just a sampling.)

There are common (but still inexplicable as far as I'm concerned) cheese ball recipes, like this popular mixture of crushed pineapple and green peppers with cream cheese.

There are recipes that try to stretch the cream cheese with less-expensive ingredients like stinky hard-boiled eggs.

There are celebratory balls for new year's.

Some balls seem downright fishy.

If you want to make sure balls are properly paired with sausage, there's a recipe to accommodate that expectation.

And if you want to ensure the sausage is hard, well, that's covered too.

These ladies are tolerant, though. This cheese can be balled or made soft for those who are just not into balls. 

Just be sure to go ahead and drink whatever's left of the beer for this one.

Thanks to my sister for bringing these balls to my attention!

P.S.- In case you think I'm overstating these church ladies'... ahem... fixations, they also offer a recipe for Hanky Panky.

There's so much hanky panky that it can be frozen! Well, that sounded better in my head than it did on the page. Now it just sounds weird... But you get the idea! The church ladies have sure got ... something ... on their minds.

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

The singular ladies of Saint Edward's

Since I'm not doing much thrifting/ antiquing right now, that means I've been digging through mounds of accumulated books that I didn't have a chance to look at before. I'm glad I have the chance, as I recently unearthed a great regional cookbook my little sister sent me at some point when I must have been busy grading papers or setting up classes. (Well, in truth, I wrote this in June and I am once again grading like crazy, but do me a favor and pretend that I am now enjoying leisurely warm fall afternoons reading old cookbooks on my back porch that is exactly large enough to accommodate my folding chair. At least I can have fun somewhere, even if it's in someone else's imagination.)

Anyway, here's Saint Edward's Cookbook (undated, but I'll guess it's from the 1970s). Saint Edward's must really have expected people in the area to know about the organization on their own because the book offers very few clues. Where is/was Saint Edward's? Is/was it a church or a school? What were they hoping to accomplish with a cookbook? Usually there's at least half a page about the organization and its cause, but this just has a list of chairs and committee members without even naming what committee they were on(!), so I'm starting this one off feeling a bit lost. The name Saint Edward's is common enough that I don't have the interest or patience to use the cover art and list of members to try to figure it out, so this one will remain a bit of a mystery.

In any case, I love that the women of Saint Edward's have their own particular way of looking at the world, and it comes through in their recipes. For example, when I see a recipe that starts out by calling for cake and pistachio pudding mixes and ends with maraschino cherries and cinnamon sugar, I expect it to be a cake recipe.

Nope! This is Pistachio Bread. It's clearly bread and not a cake because it's baked in loaf pans. (Eating this as bread means there will still be room for dessert!)

And if you might want cake for dessert since the bread was clearly not cake, well, the cake may be a bit unusual.

Popcorn balls become Popcorn Cake if the sugary corn is molded in an angel food cake pan, right?

I think I sense a bit of resistance on that question, so let's try this again. Popcorn balls become Popcorn Cake if the sugary corn is molded in an angel food cake pan, right?

Bonus points if the "cake" is set in the refrigerator and becomes so dense that it has to be cut with an electric knife.

The ladies of Saint Edward's actually realized they were a little different. They'd admit to liking their meatballs crazy--

--by which they meant soaked in onion soup mix, sauerkraut, cranberry sauce, chili sauce, and brown sugar. Yep. That's crazy.

Hell, they even sliced their own baby food.

Just kidding! They didn't actually make solid baby food and then have to cut it up again so the babies could eat it. Baby Food Slices were cookies presumably meant for people with teeth, and the recipe writer just thought the best way to make the cookies sound appealing was to advertise that they were packed with sweet, sweet baby food. Yum!

These ladies liked to save money, too. The most intriguing recipes I found suggested that people loved Baileys Irish Cream-- all creamy and beige-- but not Baileys' prices-- so they made their own versions!

The homemade version is kind of like a chocolate egg nog mixed with your favorite liquor.

And lest you think only the younger women were up to these high jinks, Grandma was in on it too.

And grandma liked it so much that the "shelf life" of the mixture could never be determined....

I still don't know a lot about Saint Edward's, but I am really happy I got a chance to discover just how much the women's committee loved sugar in all its many forms.