Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Tomato tutus

I didn't really expect to see synchronized swimming when I opened Craig Claiborne's The New York Times International Cook Book from 1971. There it was, though: the group posed to make a circle, the matching (and kind of ridiculous) outfits:

I don't think the lemon at the feet is traditional, but most of my knowledge of synchronized swimming comes from an episode of Bob's Burgers and an old SNL skit.

So who are these poor swimmers?

Yes, they're frogs, and to make their humiliation complete, they are forced to wear tiny tutus of tomato sauce and parsley.

As funny looking as picture is, I'd rather laugh at frogs for making ridiculous noises when I walk by a pond.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Party with a star! Or at least her recipe...

Yes, cooking can be a chore, but the Betty Crocker writers sometimes wanted it to have a little glamour. Home cooks would likely never be invited to party with Bob Hope or Paulette Goddard, but General Mills seemed to think that having a star's recipe could be the next best thing.

Betty Crocker's Picture Cook Book (1950; mine is first edition, seventh printing) was fortunate enough to get a favorite recipe from Joan Crawford! What kind of concoction could we expect from this star and darling of film noir? Perhaps a good stiff drink?

Uh... not so much. Melt American cheese with a #2 can of kidney beans and some diced green peppers! Dee-lightful!

I think I'll pass on partying like Joan Crawford, "three time academy award winner of the movies." I also think the cookbook writers better concentrate more on recipes than on stars. (Crawford was nominated for Academy Awards three times, but won once. The third nomination was AFTER this collection came out, so I wonder where the writers got their information.) I love that they felt compelled to specify "of the movies," too, just in case readers confused Crawford's awards with all the other Academy Awards.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Did they have sarcasm in the '60s?

School is starting, and fall is coming. Let's try to celebrate the changes with a little reminder of summer. How about "Summer Soup" from my Favorite Recipes of Home Economics Teachers?

Hmm... Potatoes and frozen vegetables boiled together and served in hot milk. Sounds more like "Middle of the Winter and I'm Not Going Out in the Snow to Buy More Food so Just Eat It and Shut Up Already Soup" to me. I'd suspect that the recipe title is meant to be sarcastic, but I'm afraid the cookbook predates irony.

I guess teachers just need to make summer seem less appealing so we won't miss it so much when it's over. This should do the job.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Looking good! Tasting questionable...

Cooks have various interests that sometimes compete. Food should of course taste great, but it should also look appealing. Sometimes one interest clearly wins out over the others...

When I saw this picture in Good Housekeeping's Cooking for the Family (a magazine-ish collection copyright 1971), I saw its immediate appeal, even though I'm not a meatloaf person:

People really did love ring molds for a while, but main dish versions usually consist of rice or noodle ring molds filled with some kind of sauce to use as a topping. This is different-- a ring of meat loaf stuffed with a side of fries. It's very cute and I can see the family appeal. Even if the fries are crispy immediately after the thing is put together, though, they will probably be soggy within seconds. 

I wondered whether the recipe did anything special to try to keep the fries crispy:

Not really; they're just baked and dumped into the ring as a last step. The serving is really cute, but the looks take precedence over the fries being appetizing.

I wasn't sure that this recipe on its own was worth a post, but as I hunted around for other ideas, I came across another example, this time from Good Housekeeping's Clock-Watchers' Cook Book (also magazine-ish, copyright 1967):

This seems to make even less intuitive sense. Meatloaf and fries seem like a good family meal, but throwing fries in with peas and soupy chicken seems less like a great idea. Then I looked at the recipe:

Yes, the fries are cooked in a covered pan with the soup, chicken, and peas until "fork-tender"! The sogginess isn't a bug. It's a feature! I hope the people who made this recipe could convince themselves that they really wanted fork-tender fries.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Home ec and useful aversions....

Sorry I disappeared for a while! Posts will be getting less frequent because work is picking up. I'm a teacher IRL (hence the secret identity in case any of my students stumble across this page). Anyway, big changes in my upcoming schedule, lots of prep... so less time to post.

Since I'm talking about teachers, I thought it was the perfect time to break out 1966's Favorite Recipes of Home Economics Teachers: Vegetables Edition Including Fruits. There is something about the awkwardness of "Vegetables Edition Including Fruits" that endears the book to me. "Vegetable and Fruit Edition" was apparently too simple a title?

A big part of me also wonders how many people really want home ec teacher recipes. I am not too interested in recreating most of my home ec experiences. One teacher had us make a "salad" out of cold french fries and mayonnaise and I could never figure out the point. It was disgusting AND unhealthy, so why bother?

Even the good stuff could be less appetizing in home ec. During one class we made a cheesecake, but there was barely enough time to finish making it and the lesson couldn't spill over into the next class, so we ended up eating it piping hot out of the oven. I love cheesecake, but it's a LOT better if it has time to cool. Cool, it's thick, creamy, sweet, and rich. Hot, it just feels greasy and slippery. The sweetness barely registers.

Now that I've looked over the cookbook, though, I wonder if home ec teachers actually had a secret agenda of giving students an aversion to things they shouldn't be ingesting anyway. I know high school teachers worry about students getting drunk, so how might they steer students away from alcohol? Here is one suggestion:

Prunes! Nothing will make alcohol seem less sexy than fermenting grandma's cure for constipation.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Creature Feature in a Can

I mentioned before that in addition to old cookbooks, I love cheesy horror movies. The two sometimes have more in common than one might imagine, especially when it comes to visuals. Today's creature feature comes from the Better Homes and Gardens Casserole Cook Book (copyright 1968, but mine is the fifth printing from 1970).

I'm not sure exactly what it is, other than some kind of alien splayed out. If we are lucky, it's a dead alien with its legs in the air like a dead cartoon animal. Maybe the green is bits of a shredded internal organ leaking out. If we're not lucky, this is of the facehugger variety and getting ready to clamp those tentacles over our faces and subdue us with the green stuff it is emitting. I'm not sure which it is, but I'm not getting any closer to find out.

What is this creature, exactly?

It is a Mexicali Casserole, of course! Strangely, there is no mention of anything green in the recipe, so apparently I am correct that the creature is creating/exuding the green stuff itself.

I was also wondering whether canned tamales were really a thing anymore since good fresh or frozen tamales are more available now. It appears that they are, and just as disappointing as one might imagine! Should you ever desire to make your own alarming and possibly deceased alien, you can still find canned tamales for the legs. I know my life is richer for knowing this.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Gat.... oh!

Sometimes part of the joy of food is anticipation. Plenty of people daydream about perfectly roasted turkey, savory stuffing, and sweet, creamy pumpkin pies in the week leading up to Thanksgiving. Lots of others plan their birthday cakes well in advance. (I know I'll be making a fudgy chocolate cake with French silk icing for a friend in just over a month.)

What would you imagine if friends asked you over because they were making a gateau? If you didn't already know that was a fancy French word for cake, a quick internet search could tell you as much. Many definitions would even mention that gateaux are usually iced and/or filled with custard or other delicacies. Maybe you would spend the day imagining rich layers of chocolate, nuts, fruit....

Now, imagine your friends have a copy of 1974's Suppers and Buffets by Marguerite Patten. The author, unbeknownst to you, is using a different connotation of gateau, one that focuses more on the bread aspect of cake than the sweet one. You will have to think quickly when your friends present you with this:

Objectively, pancakes layered with creamed cauliflower are pretty weird, but they wouldn't necessarily be terrible if you liked cauliflower and knew that was what to expect. Adding the word "gateau" to the title, though, seems like it would make the whole idea harder to swallow....

I also love the line "Top the pile with the chopped chives and parsley, if liked." The author somehow seems to think that the potential problem with this recipe is that some people may not like chives and parsley as a garnish. I have trouble imagining anyone who would be excited by the prospect of pancakes with creamed cauliflower but would see a bit of parsley on top as the real deal breaker.

Monday, August 5, 2013

More '70s health food

I'm not sure where to start with The Wise Encyclopedia of Cookery, 1971 edition (previous editions 1948 and 1951). It covers way more than I would ever expect in a single book, with sections devoted to everything from how to start a frog farm (so you can sell frog legs, of course!) to definitions for both the obscure (Oxygenee, sycamine, citrange) and the [now] common (paper towels, soy sauce). There is advice for arranging and decorating the kitchen, setting the table, and planning menus, along with histories, buying advice, and recipes for all kinds of common fruits, nuts, vegetables, grains, and animals. (I even found a recipe for hassenpfeffer, a dish my childhood self suspected Bugs Bunny had made up because the name sounded so funny. Bugs would be less than thrilled about the directions for skinning and cleaning a rabbit that appear on the preceding page.)

Feeling unsure where to start as I leafed through the book, I spotted the entry for "Health Food Cookery." Let's see how it compares to the ideas about health food from Rodale:

Sorry the columns lean a little, but the book is big and I was trying not to destroy it as I scanned it! This is the best I got from multiple attempts....

Some of the health foods are no surprise: beans, whole grains, dried fruits, yogurt. Some of them have a distinctly '70s health food feel, like carob and blackstrap molasses. What really struck me, though, is how many of the items on the list are supposed to be added to drinks.

A "healthy" smoothie from the '70s might be a glass of milk or fruit juice loaded up with bone meal, carob, fish liver oil, dessicated liver, rice polish, and/or yeast! A cry of "To your health!" before downing one of these was probably less a happy toast than a shouted reminder of why you were expected to chug the sludgy concoction.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Lady Food vs. Family Food

Maybe the divide between food for ladies' luncheons and food for other occasions in many old cookbooks shouldn't fascinate me as much as it does. After all, we still have foods that are pretty clearly intended for women, like light yogurt. Men's fear of seeming too womanly makes Coke Zero emblazon footballs on the cans every fall because real men couldn't be caught drinking Diet Coke.

Yet I can't shake the feeling that women who got together for luncheons were expected to somehow become ethereal beings who needed little more than sweets, relishes, and a little something light and airy to sustain them. How such creatures managed to survive in the world outside of ladies' luncheons or even eat the "hearty" fare families required remains a mystery.

Better Homes and Gardens Lunches and Brunches from 1963 highlights the divide on a single page (making sure to emphasize hearty for the family and fancy for the ladies):

A family meal requires corned beef baked on biscuits with mayonnaise, cheese, tomatoes, and olives. The family needs a side of thick soup filled with potatoes, bacon, and corn. Lest the salad seem a bit too dainty, the recipe recommends onion rings for croutons! The spread is so impressive that it serves as the book's cover:

Contrast this with the spread for the ladies: potato chips, strawberries, angel food cake, and "relishes galore" (I can't help imagining Relishes Galore as Pussy Galore's much less popular sister!) go with Spring Sandwich Puffs. They're essentially asparagus sandwiches, each topped with a tiny souffle.

All so delicate and airy! The relishes are even arranged to look like flowers in vases. I can't help thinking that the little free-form souffles look sort of like what my cat leaves on the carpet after he's eaten canned cat food too quickly, though.

And saying things like that is probably part of the reason I'm never invited to any ladies' luncheons. Well, that and the fact that I don't live in the '50s or '60s.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

The Anti-Reese's Cup

I love Reese's cups, especially the holiday ones because they have the perfect chocolate-to-peanut butter ratio. I have to buy a six-pack or two of the eggs every spring to last until the pumpkins come out in the fall.

Even though they're a little too new for my site, I like the old "You got your chocolate in my peanut butter!" "No, you got peanut butter on my chocolate!" commercials, too.

Marketers have no trouble convincing me that the two great tastes taste great together.

Sometimes I used to wonder what the anti-Reese's would be. Liver and onions? Onions are too well-liked to be one of the two awful tastes that are even worse together, though. What about Jell-O and any of the random ingredients that were thrown willy-nilly into gelatin in the '50s? Again, Jell-O can be perfectly fine in the right context, as can tomatoes, tuna, olives, cauliflower, etc. It's only the combination that makes them sound revolting.

I think I have just met the true anti-Reese's in 1978's The Complete Book of Beans: