Old cookbooks fascinate me for so many reasons. I love finding the spattered pages or notes in the margins ("This is a good one!" or "Needs more cream soup") that indicate someone actually made a recipe. I love the ways the notes at the beginnings of chapters or recipes suggest the era's social expectations. (So many recipes are labeled as being approved by husbands and/or children! And I always thought husbands and children could be sustained by the same foods as anyone else...) And I really, really love searching for the most disgusting recipes I can find. Who can resist stopping to look at a wreck?
I feel a bit selfish keeping these wonders to myself, so I'm creating a space where I hope I can share them with you too. Since it's my favorite category, I will start with one of the most disgusting recipes I've ever found: Summer Salad Pie from Betty Crocker's Dinner in a Dish Cookbook (copyright 1965, but my copy is from the fourth printing in 1970).
I have to admit, the cheese pie shell sounds pretty good. Filling it with lemon gelatin, tomato sauce, vinegar, celery, onions, and olives does not sound the least bit appealing to me, but anyone who reads many vintage recipe books knows that just about everything imaginable had been suggested as an addition to gelatin at one time or another. Cookbooks would have you believe that people in the '50s and '60s were as obsessed with gelatin as I am with cookbooks.
If a lemon/tomato Jello pie isn't disgusting enough, though, there is still the topper: tuna salad! Again, I have to admit that I hate tuna salad anyway, but I have a hard time believing even those who like it really want to eat it on top of gelatin in a pie crust that is probably rapidly getting soggy.
The Mid-Century Menu bloggers were brave/ foolhardy enough to try this recipe. Go here to see their take on it.
The picture gets me, too. I can almost talk myself into thinking it looks good if I imagine the gelatin layer is chocolate and the topping is some kind of minty concoction, but then the cherry tomato "flowers" ruin the effect. I start imagining the pie is some kind of a primeval swamp and the cherry tomatoes are weird, carnivorous plants ready to swallow anyone unfortunate enough to wade in.
The striped glasses will just stand there and watch. Sick bastards.