Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A Cavalcade of Catsups

Does it seem a little weird that Heinz always advertises "Tomato Ketchup"? My guess is that most people don't think there's any other kind. The Household Searchlight Recipe Book (1936) reminds us that there were all kinds of seasonally-appropriate "catsups" for home cooks to make.

Tired of pickles and want to use up the end of the cucumber run? How about this:

Of course, I'm not a fan of any condiments (with the possible exception of hot sauce) anyway, so the thought of cucumbers cooked with sugar, cinnamon, onion, cloves, and vinegar holds zero appeal for me, but maybe this sounds like a reasonable way to use up the crop for other people? I kind of wonder if a step is missing, too. There is no milling or pureeing step, so it seems more like this would be a relish than a "catsup."

What if you're the kind of person who wants to put catsup on your pork chops, but you worry that would seem weird? Well, maybe this would help:

I'm not sure how well a basic spiced applesauce would play with mustard, onion, and vinegar, but apparently it's a treat in Texas.

And maybe it's a little early to start thinking about Thanksgiving, but we're less than two months away now. What if you might want some festive catsup for the turkey?

It's sieved cranberry sauce with vinegar: the perfect holiday companion for catsup fiends!

Okay, just in case you wanted the classic, it's there too:

Now you have the perfect catsup for any fall occasion. Don't say I never gave you anything.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Bizarro-Chinese and Hatted Casseroles

The nip of fall in the air makes my mind drift to Silver Shamrock masks that will turn people's heads into snakes and bugs (the plot of Halloween III for those who aren't familiar with it), but it's probably more common for people's thoughts to go to hearty casseroles.... And since casseroles go with the theme of my blog better than malevolent magical masks, I'll go with that.

Today's casseroles are from my favorite recent rare find-- "The [Columbus] Dispatch Cookbook" newspaper supplement from October 14, 1979. Today we're looking at entries from the "Penny-Pinching Main Dishes" section, and I love them for their questionably "ethnic" '70s style.

First up: Chinese Eggs. If you're imagining some variation of the delicacy known as the preserved egg or the century egg, then you are seriously overestimating the authenticity of "Chinese" cooking in '70s Ohio.

I guess the vegetables and rice are what is supposed to make this Chinese? Maybe? But putting them it into a casserole seasoned with paprika makes the authenticity questionable at best. What really puts it over the top in my book is the cheese topping! The absence of cheese is, at least in my mind, a major feature of Chinese cooking. A cheese-topped casserole is the anti-Chinese meal as far as I'm concerned... so maybe this is Bizarro-Chinese?

This next recipe is probably at least closer to the cuisine it is supposed to represent. (It would be hard to get LESS representative, though, so that's not saying much.)

Okay, I seriously doubt that canned tomato soup is a big ingredient in Mexican cuisine, but at least this features chili powder and a corn derivative. It's not calling for, say, ginger or gefilte fish. I mostly picked it because I love the name: Mexican hat. I guess the cornbread on top is supposed to be a hat. The thought of a casserole wearing a jaunty little hat is just making my day, so I will leave you with that image. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Beef: It's what you feed men, apparently...

It's no secret that I have long been fascinated by "lady food"-- you know, the stuff that got served mostly at "ladies' luncheons," where women apparently subsisted on bouillon and fruit or sandwiches that were impossible to eat gracefully or canned pears dyed pink and garnished with candy.

But what about men? What were they expected to enjoy by virtue of their testosterone? James Beard had some ideas in Hors d'Oeuvre & Appetizers (1963, but mine is the eighth printing, 1972). (And just so you know, my mom's friend insists the proper pronunciation is "horse doovers." It should sound like something you'd have to shovel out of a stable if you say it correctly.)

When the recipe starts with "Prepare dry mustard with the syrup from preserved kumquats," I almost expect this to be a ladies' luncheon recipe. It's making something savory oddly sweet and calling for making one's own condiments in a way meant to impress guests. However, the kumquat syrup is probably a little too extravagant for the ladies. They would get syrup from canned fruit cocktail.

Beef rolls chinois also end up being rolled in chives and parsley-- another garnish-y touch that makes it seem not all that far from the ladies' luncheon fare. I guess the middle part-- having actual beef slices with onion rather than minced chicken or some cutely-cut veggie (radish rose? carrot curl?) as the star-- makes this "a real man's snack, definitely not for the female audience." Or maybe it just protests too much because it knows it is only a toothpick's-width away from being served to women.

What if you want to serve egg-based hors d'oeuvres to real he-men?

Chopped raw steak with raw egg, salt, pepper, and chopped onion will do it for you. Apparently real men like to risk getting food poisoning. If that's the case, I will leave them to it. Dyed-pink food starts looking better by comparison, and it is a real contrast to this recipe.

Okay-- one last treat. Even though Beard doesn't push crackers as much as one might expect in a book like this, the cookbook was apparently sponsored by Nabisco. I LOVED seeing the old cracker boxes on the back and thought you might too. Here they are, in all their retro glory:

When I was a kid, I was a huge fan of the Swiss Cheese kind. I wouldn't eat real Swiss cheese, mind you, but put it in cracker form (with actual holes in the crackers! I think that was what sold them for me) and I could eat a whole box. I hope you see your favorite kind.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

The pie illusion

I was paging through George Seddon and Jackie Burrow's The Natural Food Book (1977, though mine is from the second printing in 1980) and was suddenly mesmerized by a picture that alternatively filled me with longing and fear, like that optical illusion that could be a sweet young woman turning away or an old woman staring you down. (Don't look at me that way!) (Am I speaking to you, the reader who is slightly aghast at my comparison, or to the old woman in the illusion? There's the real question, although either answer would still suggest that I am a bit crazy.) Without looking to see what chapter I was in, I tried to take a guess as to what this might be:

Sometimes I see a lovely golden-brown crust, slices of some dark fruit (plums, perhaps?) in a creamy filling. Then I notice that the "fruit" looks oddly greasy and the creamy filling is warty. What alchemy leads to this illusion?

(Don't be put off by the fact that I had to finish typing this recipe. It was in the fold and I could not copy the end of the recipe without cutting the page out of the book.)

waxed paper weighted down with dried beans and bake it for 15 minutes. Remove the paper and beans and bake the pastry for 5 to 10 minutes more, or until it is just beginning to brown.

Reduce the oven temperature to 350 F (180 C).

Reserving 3 slices for garnish, arrange 1/4 pound of thinly sliced salami on the bottom of the pastry shell.

In a mixing bowl lightly beat 2 eggs. Stir in 1/2 pound of cottage cheese, 1 grated small onion, 1/2 teaspoon of dried mixed herbs and a pinch of salt and pepper. Mix well. Spoon the mixture into the pastry shell. Bake the quiche for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the filling is set.

Let the quiche cool slightly. Garnish it with the reserved salami and serve.

Ingredients to serve four to six:
1-1/2 cups (150 g) shortcrust pastry
1/4 lb (100 g) thinly sliced salami
2 eggs
1/2 lb (250 g) cottage cheese
1 small onion
dried mixed herbs

So my "Warty Plum and Cream Pie" is actually Cottage Cheese and Salami Quiche. Is that better or worse than my initial impression? Is it just a lateral move-- neither better nor worse, but simply a different horror? I'm not sure of the answer. I just know that I can't look away.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Prince of vitamins... Sadly, it's in oranges, not raspberries

I'm a fairly health-conscious person who eats a lot of vegetables. I'm sure I get plenty of vitamin A since I eat more than a pound of carrots in an average week. I get lots of C from peppers, and the slightly-obscure K from leafy greens. So I was floored to see this in "Sunkist Orange Recipes for Year-Round Freshness!" (1940, and yes, the California Fruit Growers Exchange thought "freshness" needed to be underlined):

No, it wasn't the vitamin C, A, or B that surprised me. It was vitamin G, which apparently must "be replenished daily."

I had never heard of vitamin G. Did the California Fruit Growers simply make it up so they could sell more oranges, as there was no other source of this elusive vitamin? Was it some kind of joke or slang? Then I checked Wikipedia and found out that it's the Prince of the vitamin world. Vitamin B-2 "is the vitamin formerly known as G."

That's cool to know, but "Orange Beret" doesn't have quite the same ring to it.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Hodgepodge or Wallbanger?

Back to long, busy days and cool nights-- seems like a good time to pull out the slow cooker, right? Today we're looking at "Rival Crock-Pot Slow Electric Stoneware Cookbook" (undated, but online sources suggest this is from the '70s and that sounds about right).

This booklet cracks me up because the last quarter or so is devoted to shilling for a Crock-Pot accessory: the "special Bread 'n Cake Bake pan." Apparently it's a roughly coffee-can-shaped insert that allows cooks to make (you guessed it!) bread and cake in their Crock Pots to save energy by not turning on their ovens and to make cakes that are "extra moist, even textured, [and] full of flavor."

Of course, that's not all! There's more! The bake pan will allow cooks to mix up casseroles at bed time, refrigerate the ingredients in the pan overnight, and "Simply pop it in the Crock-Pot in the morning" for a no-fuss start to the busy day. What kind of casserole might work well? How about Hearty Hodgepodge:

It's a mix of ground beef, green pepper, and onion with cans and cans and cans of veggies (Tomatoes! Lima beans! Peas! Mushrooms!). I like canned tomatoes, but I'm not so sure about the rest. Canned peas and lima beans are already cooked until they're mushy and metallic-tasting and smell like moldy wet cardboard. Mixing them with rubbery mushrooms and then cooking it all up for another 8-10 hours just seems like overkill to me. I thought my mom cooked veggies until they were beyond dead, but even she wouldn't finish off canned peas by cooking them for another third of a day.

Much more promising (and deliciously retro!) is this cake recipe:

I know the casserole recipes were meant to make the insert seem more versatile and attractive, but for some reason I suspect the cake recipes are far more persuasive.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Playboy's Hero

I recently acquired a copy of The Playboy Gourmet by Thomas Mario (1979) to enjoy in my tiny moments of free time. It's a nice change of pace to read a cookbook that assumes a man will do the cooking, counter to most vintage cookbooks. There's a certain playfulness and enjoyment in the approach to cooking that is often lacking, and I was surprised that in acknowledging this difference, the introduction didn't take this as an opportunity to put women down for being unimaginative. It notes merely that most women are stuck "doing a sadly repetitive job, a get-it-done-by-six job," when "every bachelor's passion for the culinary arts is ... touched with excitement by the simple fact that he doesn't have to cook." I love the recognition that context makes a difference, and that if men's cooking differs from women's it is more due to social expectations than to any inherent factors.

The enthusiasm often comes through in a bit of hopeful pretension (I wonder how many of this book's owners really cooked "standing before a chafing dish in a penthouse or in a houseboat galley in the Caribbean"), but I like it better when it comes through in a bit of unexpected playfulness. The contrast between the two tones may be my favorite part. I laughed when I came upon this picture:

There is something magnificently ludicrous about making hero sandwiches into royalty by posing them with crowns. I have no natural resistance to this level of silliness in a book that also begins the sandwich chapter by pronouncing that "The butter [for sandwich fillings] must be the best 93 score to be had" and "The kind of bread a sandwich chef selects shows, perhaps more than anything else, his skill and authority."

Of course, I had to see the recipe that inspired this royal photo. When I looked up "Hero Sandwich," though, all I found was this:

The "Hot Beef Hero" sounds enticing: strips of sirloin mixed with green pepper, onion, and tomato, topped with a pizza-ish sauce and served in Italian rolls "with a fork to spear any escaping beef." There's nothing wrong with this recipe, but it's clearly NOT the one in the picture.

(It also leads me to wonder what the appropriate props for this sandwich should be. If the other sandwich is royalty, should this be a superhero, accessorizing with a cape and maybe a beef symbol to wear in the upper third quadrant over its "chest"? There is no picture, so the world will never know.)

I searched the sandwich chapter and just as I was losing hope, I found this on the last page:

In Playboy, royalty comes topped with tomato, hard-boiled egg, Genoa salami, Provolone, smoked ham, cucumber, onion, and pepper salad, all "cut as thin as humanly possible." It may not be able to decide whether it is a sub or a hero, but it definitely believes in dressing well.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Bisquick Party!

I've made it through two weeks in the new semester! Two weeks of classes interrupted by students who don't understand why I won't sign an add form for someone who thinks it is fine to wander into a class that is in progress and bring it to a screeching halt. Two weeks of trying to continue to write comments that strike the right balance between being encouraging and constructively critical even after several hours of grading. I think it's time for a party.

Let's have a Bisquick party!

"Betty Crocker's Bisquick Party Book" is from 1957 and I am intrigued by the cover. Is that a pan of enchiladas? Made with Bisquick? The cover photos aren't labeled, but I'm pretty sure my guess is right:

Chicken enchiladas made with Bisquick tortillas! I am crazy for enchiladas, and these initially don't sound too bad. The filling is appropriate: chicken, olives, onion, and cheese. The sauce might be a bit bland (seems like a lot of water and not much chili powder for 16 ounces of tomato sauce), but these are still more exciting than I expect for such an "exotic" recipe in the '50s.

I can't get over the mental image of Bisquick tortillas, though. In my mind, they're kind of biscuit-y and soak up a lot of the bland sauce, turning to a sodden, mushy mess. The picture doesn't  look so bad, though, and the ingredients for homemade flour tortillas are not much different from the ones in Bisquick. It's probably just my mental association of Bisquick with biscuits that makes Bisquick tortillas sound like a bad idea. I'm intrigued (but not enough to try making this!).

Whoever put this booklet together really liked the idea of Bisquick rounds stuffed, covered with sauce, and baked. Just a couple pages later is another party idea that probably sounded lovely in the '50s:

Tuna Royals are for "When you hadn't planned a party, but you have one." I love the description. It's meant to emphasize that this is easy to make with ingredients that most home cooks would already have on hand, but it's also a backhanded acknowledgment that they would probably make something better if they'd had time to plan.

So what might do the job of filling up unplanned guests? "Thinner Pancakes" (2 c. Bisquick mixed with an egg and 2 c. of milk) rolled around tuna, veggies, and cheese, then topped with a canned cream of celery soup sauce.

Now I'm busy imagining trying to scoop salty, soggy, tinny pancakes out of a baking dish, pretending that the topping doesn't look phlegmy and that they're actually quite festive.

I guess it's not so bad that the party's over. Grading almost sounds appealing in comparison.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Squashing September

I'm never sure how to feel about September. I start missing the long, warm days and hate knowing that this is just the start of our slide into deep-freeze conditions. I also kind of love the early chill and the whisper that Halloween is just around the corner (even if I know I'll be too busy with school work to properly enjoy the season).

So what does Betty Crocker's Cooking Calendar (1962) have to say about this bittersweet transitional month?

It's the month of squashes and melons. That kind of fits my feelings about the whole month. Summer squashes and watermelon are okay, I guess. I mean, I'll eat them if they're there, but I won't seek them out. That's the side of September that I sort of like-- crisp mornings, a promise of something better later. But winter squashes and pretty much all other melons just repulse me, just like the knowledge that winter is slowly but surely coming.

I've chosen two recipes to highlight the change from summer to fall. First up: enjoy the last of summer!

Few things can say "Late Summer Produce" as efficiently as "Corn-Stuffed Zucchini." Well, maybe "Tomato-Stuffed Watermelons" or "Peach-Stuffed Peppers," but you get the idea...

This recipe doesn't sound too bad-- zucchini (unsurprisingly) stuffed with corn, onion, chives, and cheese. The amount of salt really makes me wonder, though. Two teaspoons of seasoned salt PLUS another teaspoon of regular salt for just six servings? I love salt, but that sounds a bit high even to me (especially if one uses canned corn rather than fresh).

The second recipe from this chapter does its best to make the slide into the fall and winter season seem cozy and appealing:

It's winter squash stuffed with sausage! Pictures like this are what cause me to buy a winter squash every few years thinking that I must be misremembering my dislike for them. They're so pretty and cheerily-fall-looking! How could I hate them? And then I'm gagging after taking a few bites. Something about the thick, goopy texture coupled with their inherent sweetness is more than I can handle.

If you are a fan of these beautiful little squashes, the recipe couldn't be much easier:

Cut, partially bake, fill with crumbled sausage, finish baking, pour off fat (Yum!), and serve.

So happy(ish) September! And if you're like me, have fun searching for Halloween goodies to make October extra special.