I love looking at old vegetarian recipes because they are so earnest-- like sad-eyed puppies in the pet shop window. The writers knew vegetarianism was not a popular option, and the heavy, "earthy" (as in tastes like dirt) recipes the cookbooks usually contained did not help the cause. When I was paging through Family Circle Vegetables and Meatless Meals Cookbook (1978), though, I noticed something unusual. What do you notice about the spread of bean dishes?
If you noticed meatballs in the middle casserole and sausage slices in the bottom one, well before vegetarian substitutes were readily available, then you too might wonder about the title. Is this really a meatless meal?
That bottom one is Basque Garbanzo Casserole, so let's check it out:
Besides the easily-spotted pepperoni slices, it also contains a whole chicken breast. Hmmm. Is this a fluke? Let's check the recipe for the middle casserole, an Indiana Bean Bake:
Unless you don't count a pound of ground chuck as meat, then this too doesn't seem to live up to the cookbook's title. Well, what about that top recipe, Mexican Pinto Bean Pot, which is red and shiny enough that I'm not sure what's in it:
The pound of Italian sausages may be a bit hidden, but this too is full of meat! So what's going on?
The secret is the "and" in the title. This is actually more like two cookbooks: the front has recipes for vegetables and the back has recipes for meatless meals. (Well, "meatless" if one doesn't consider seafood to be meat... but that's another conversation!)
In all, 12 of the 18 bean recipes in the "vegetables" section are actually loaded with meat, which is odd since beans are one of the few vegetables already high in protein. I guess the authors liked overkill.
The other thing that amuses me about these recipes is the way editors label dishes as having a particular ethnic origin that doesn't seem to have any relationship to the actual ingredients. Who would think of pepperoni as a traditional Basque treat? What makes Italian sausage part of a "Mexican" bean pot?
Maybe people's odd-o-meters were so skewed by things like disco and shag carpeting that recipes like these wouldn't even register until the odd-o-meters were re-calibrated.