Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Carodelle and "Chinese" Secrets from Birmingham

Want to know a secret?

The secret is that you're not going to learn much about southern cooking from Cooking Secrets from the Birmingham Woman's Club (undated, but the back cover advertises the 1962 Pontiac Catalina, so I'm guessing 1962). That's because this cookbook is not from the Birmingham you are probably thinking of. It's from Birmingham, Michigan.

The title also has me wondering how a single woman can consider herself to be a club, but that's just my sarcastic way of suggesting that this is probably from the Birmingham Women's Club.

There are some interesting recipes in here. The first chapter, titled "Esquire Section," is devoted to recipes from men, such as this:

Sunday Brunch Carodelle is interesting on a number of levels. I have some trouble imagining what it would taste like to heat ham, bacon, sour cream, sherry, capers, Jones little sausages, oysters, cheese, tomato soup, mushrooms, and olives together... I could easily see combinations of several of the items on the list making a nice sauce, but ALL of them together? It feels like a hot ham and cheese recipe, a sausage tomato sauce recipe, and an oyster appetizer recipe got forcibly crammed together for no apparent reason.

I was also really curious about what carodelle meant because I hadn't heard of it before. Apparently, it's not a very popular term. When I looked it up, Google asked if I was looking for caramel recipes, crocodile recipes, or caravella recipes. That's a pretty diverse list, and none of the items have anything to do with this recipe. Your guess is as good as (and quite possibly better than!) mine as to what carodelle means.

I love that this is to be served over "antique toast"! It sounds suspiciously like Texas toast, but I like the implication that the bread is just really old. How is it still edible? I imagine that it is some kind of cursed antique bread from the Curious Goods store in the TV series Friday the Thirteenth. Sure, you could eat your antique toast, but then you'd age rapidly and die within a day because the bread had stayed young by preemptively stealing your life... or something like that. In any case, somebody would definitely have to die.

The most prominent part of this cookbook is not the recipes but the ads. There are TONS of ads, and anytime a page has a little extra space, it's filled with an all-caps line begging "PLEASE PATRONIZE OUR ADVERTISERS."

It's kind of cool to see the old ads, though. I'm really intrigued by this one:

I just cannot resist the little lightning-bolt guy standing on top of the stove, offering mom a taste of soup as her husband and son smilingly peek in, apparently completely unsurprised that there is a little lightning-bold guy standing on top of the stove holding a spoonful of soup. I'm a bit worried that this is some kind of an elaborate ploy to electrocute mom because dad has taken out a big insurance policy and he promised Timmy a new TV set when they get the payout.

Living better electrically, indeed!

Occasionally the ads seem to go with the nearby recipes. Today we hear that French women don't get fat, but this ad picks a different nationality American women who want to be thin should emulate:

Chinese women apparently have secrets to staying thin: vegetables, chopsticks, and well-rinsed rice!

This is right across from a dubiously Chinese recipe:

Yes, Chinese Chicken Goulash. There is nothing more Chinese than a traditionally Hungarian dish. To be honest, the only word in this title that really makes sense is "chicken."

How is the recipe Chinese? My guess is that throwing rice into anything gave '60s recipe writers in the midwest an excuse to call it Chinese. When the ingredient list starts with butter and ends with rich milk, though, its claim to Chinese heritage is shaky at best.

How is this recipe goulash? The most important ingredients in traditional Hungarian goulash (beef, veal, pork, or lamb plus onions and paprika) are mostly missing-- this only has the onions. This doesn't even have the elbow macaroni and tomatoes of the traditional American version!

They might as well call this Russian Chicken Paella or Swiss Chicken Gumbo. But what can you expect from Birmingham, Michigan, except geographical confusion?

Have a minimally confusing Wednesday!


  1. I'm calling the lightning bolt guy "Mr. Zappy". And also, why is no one horrified that he's hanging out on the stove?

    1. They think if you have an electric range, Mr. Zappy has to live there. That's because they were so used to Mr. Flamey hanging out on their old cook stoves. ;-)