Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Amazing Grange

When I started this blog, I didn't have that many small, local cookbooks because they are kind of boring to look at. They tend not to have pictures, and I initially mostly loved old cookbooks for the mesmerizingly odd pictures that reminded me of my other favorite pastime-- watching horror movies. Now more than two years in (!) to this endeavor, I'm more drawn to the recipes. They tell me what people in a specific time and place liked and expected and could afford... (The answer is mostly "things covered in canned cream soup and/or gelatin," but the things they covered varied!) The recipes show how people talked and how skilled at cooking they expected the audience to be. The sociology minor in me is just fascinated by all that shit and hopes that at least some of you are too. This is the long way of saying that I find myself picking up way more little regional fundraiser cookbooks and regretting the ones I used to ignore because I preferred the more professional, full-color picture cookbooks.

Today we're going to look at another no-frills regional book: Ohio State Grange Cook Book was compiled by the members of the Ohio State Grange Home Economics Committee. (I have the 22nd edition, October, 1968).

I am not sure what the previous owner had stacked on this thing, but the cover is so boring, it's not like it matters that it's messed up. This is totally a book I would have ignored a few years ago.

And I would have missed out on a lot. I'm just giving a sampling today, but there are TONS of weird little recipes that will probably find their way into later posts too.

One thing that struck me about the recipes is how much the writers really expect the readers to know or infer about how to make this stuff. The directions are, shall we say, minimal. How can you make a Heavenly Pie?

Well, you put it in a shell with cream and chopped nuts on top. How you're supposed to put the bananas, sugar, egg whites, and flavorings in that shell is left entirely to your judgment. Slice the bananas on the pie shell, whip the whites with sugar and flavorings, and put that on top of the bananas? Mash the bananas and fold them into the whipped egg whites? Am I on the right track assuming the whites are supposed to be whipped? Mrs. R. D. Sickafoose would probably consider me an idiot for having all these questions. She's actually being pretty specific.

Mrs. N. A. Mealy's Bread Sponge Cake starts with "1 c. sponge." Apparently she's assuming readers are smart enough to know what goes into a sponge starter and how to make it (and that we're not so dumb we'll rip up a few cleaning sponges into a measuring cup). The totality of her instructions is "Let rise 3 hours." What kind of a pan? How long should we bake it? At what temperature? If we have to ask, we're apparently hopeless. At least she gave directions.

Brown Sugar Cake is just one representative of the many that have no instructions whatsoever. Mrs. Frank Evel wasn't the only one who thought all cooks needed was a list of ingredients and they should be able to figure out the rest.

A lot of the recipes amuse me not because they are bad or lack instructions, but because they have crazy names. I really wonder about this recipe title: 

Cocanes? I'm sure the butter cookies are good, but are they really that addictive?  I wondered if I was missing something-- if maybe this was a foreign word because these cookies were a specialty of some little European town and the Birds Run Grange was honoring the members' heritage, but the only reference I found that had any discussion of the cookie's history went straight back to this recipe. Apparently, the Guernsey County Grange heard people really liked cocaine and decided "Cocane" was the perfect name for a cookie.

The title for this next recipe initially seems pretty normal, but as you think about it and read the other ingredients, it suddenly seems very wrong:

Mangoes don't seem especially appropriate for stuffing since there's no real cavity unless you manage to pit them very carefully, and even if you did, why would you stuff them with what amounts to meatloaf and bake them in tomato sauce? I would have been totally perplexed by this one a few weeks ago, but thanks to a Mid-Century Menu post, I found out that some Midwestern cooks used "mango" to mean green pepper. If you know the local dialect, suddenly the recipe makes much more sense.

The name of this last recipe made me laugh out loud:

Yes, the recipe itself sounds kind of odd. The mix of cream cheese, eggs, and tomato soup is apparently a dip when it's hot and a spread when it's cold. I love cream cheese, but I'm not so sure I'd be down with Ring Tim Ditty. Why ruin good cream cheese with canned tomato soup?

The title is definitely the best part. It sounds dirty because my mind keeps switching the first letters on the last two words, and then it sounds like some kind of a furtive rural sex act. (Hey, let's go out behind the barn and ring dem titties!)

Happy Wednesday! Just steer clear of the barn unless you like ringin' dem titties, in which case, carry on.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Desserts that deserve a chilly reception

I liked last weekend's cool summer desserts enough that I thought I'd run a couple more. Those were a little too tasty for this blog, though, so I wanted nasty but chilly summer desserts... and like pizza, even bad desserts tend not to be that bad. I knew I had to take some drastic measures to find suitable entries. That's right: I pulled out my trusty health food cookbooks!

The Rodale Cookbook (Nancy Albright, 1973) has a very special "ice cream" recipe:

If you're surprised there is no cream in Banana Ice Cream, you clearly haven't read enough '70s health food recipes. This consists mostly of gelatin, eggs, and soy milk (back in the day when soy milk was a beany, homemade beverage that wasn't too gritty if you fixed it just right). The honey, orange juice concentrate, and banana will hopefully cover up all that soy (and the lack of cream). I'm not sure what the texture would be like if the gelatinous primary components are all frozen together and later whipped with the egg whites, but the book insists it will be "fluffy." Fluffy, beany, possibly salmonella-y dessert. Yay.

I think I'd rather go with the current trick of pureeing frozen banana slices with a little almond milk and cocoa powder for a quick, dairy-free soft serve.

Rodale has nothing on The Rosicrucian Fellowship's New Age Vegetarian Cookbook (copyright 1968, although mine is a May 1975 fifth edition). Everyone has heard of flavoring a dessert with oranges and bananas, but I was totally unprepared for this flavor:

If you've ever looked at reddish seaweed on a rock and thought, "How can I make that a central feature in a dessert?", the recipe answers your question. Simmer it with milk, add a tiny bit of honey and vanilla, and turn it into a blanc mange! Personally, I am a bit skeptical of any dessert recipe that starts with "small handful of moss," but maybe I am overly critical...

Or maybe I just prefer blancmanges that come from Planet Skyron and play tennis instead.

Happy Saturday! Have an out-of-this-world weekend!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015


Let's get medical! Today we have another community cookbook from a medical center, but this one is serious about its medical center status:

You can see right from the title that St. Luke's Rx for a Rxecipe Rxendezvous by the Women's Board and Junior Board of St. Luke's Hospital (Cleveland, OH; Sept. 1972) sees itself as the prescription for recipes! The line of people at the bottom of the page looks like a row of cut-out paper ninja to me, but I think they're meant to be medical professionals in surgical scrubs. Maybe the hospital has super-sneaky employees and they are actually ninja who are also prepared for surgery?

If you think the medical theme of the book is a cover-only thing, you are mistaken. There's a whole chapter called "Just What the Doctor Ordered: Low Calorie, Low Cholesterol." It actually contains no calorie counts, so I'm not sure what they consider low calorie. There are no cholesterol counts either, but judging from the recipes, I am not sure the editors would have wanted to include them. (And yes, I know we're not nearly so concerned about cholesterol now as heart patients were in the '70s, but I'm evaluating the book by the criteria of its time period.) Take "Eggs and Bean Sprouts," for example:

This recipe has six whole eggs to serve four people! Given that a single egg yolk has more than half a day's allowance for cholesterol, there is NO WAY this could possibly have been a low cholesterol recipe. 

What has even more cholesterol than egg yolks? Just a page later, we find out:

Yep. Liver is LOADED with cholesterol. I'm not sure what doctor was ordering these recipes, but that doctor was apparently not good with numbers. I'm almost surprised the recipe doesn't include instructions to coat the liver in egg  yolks and dredge it in seasoned flour first, maybe deep fry it in lard while we're at it.... That would be low cholesterol and low calorie, right?

After the "Just What the Doctor Ordered" chapter comes the "Not What the Doctor Ordered (Drinks)" chapter. (Yes, the editors actually put "Drinks" in parenthesis, as if they had to whisper it so the doctor wouldn't hear.)

Here is another case where the ideas about what is healthy don't quite line up to ours today. What drink might we sneak past the doctor if we're lucky?

That's right-- wine-- friend to the heart today! I love any wine instructions that begin with a can of Welch's frozen grape juice, call for a "heavy balloon" to put on top of the fermenting jug, and end with pouring the result "into fancy bottles."

I'm not entirely sure I would trust St. Luke's for recipe advice, but looking at their cookbook is a prescription for fun.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Ice cream crafts!

Try as I might, I can't be curmudgeonly forever. Maybe I'm a bit giddy about a little vacation time, so today is a summery post I picked just because it's got the craft project vibe that I sometimes love. If you want a cool dessert and a craft that uses candy bits in place of glitter glue, this post from The Family Circle Dessert and Fruit Book (1954) is for you.

Today, we're looking at "Party Sundaes." To make it all summer-appropriate, let's start with a cart full of flowers:

If you are not charmed by lollipop "flowers" in ice cream cone flowerpots, I'm not sure we can be friends. The instructions are pretty easy, too:

Just put chocolate ice cream into the cones, jam in a lollipop and some gumdrop leaves, and you're good to go!

Of course, my geeky side prefers this little guy:

In case you didn't figure out what this inside-out ice cream sandwich is supposed to be (besides difficult to eat gracefully, I'm guessing, but that's not really any concern of the 10-year-olds who'd be eating it), it's a "Space Planet." (I'm not sure why the editors thought they needed to add "space" to the name. Where else are there planets? But food, not astronomy, is their forte, so I guess I can let it slide.)

This too has the advantage of being pretty easy to whip up:

Plus it's made with pistachio ice cream! Sign me up-- especially if I can give mine a chocolate cookie "ring" and eat it with people who won't judge me.

(And how sweet is it to have a recipe that ends with "Place planets on chilled serving dishes"?!)

For the more conventionally kid-friendly themes, there's a cute circus theme:

The "Tom Thumb Circus Wagon" is significantly more complicated to make, though.

It involves chopping a big block of ice cream into little bricks, adding candy wheels and animal crackers to the sides, and more candy and animal crackers for the horses to pull the cart. (I think the "horses" look more like sheep, but animal crackers are not usually very zoologically correct.)

For something slightly easier (and more likely to horrify the kiddies), your best bet is "Perky Pete."

"Hey Kids! I hide under your bed when you're asleep!"

To traumatize your offspring forever, just put a scoop of ice cream on a packaged dessert shell, add a gumdrop hat, big red eyes, and a green mouth (or is it a nose?) over a scraggly whipped cream beard. Play some circus music when you bring these puppies out.

Then when the kids are snuggling down for the night, cup your ear and whisper, "What? Do I hear circus music? Maybe Perky Pete will stop by for a visit!" Then laugh, softly. The kiddos will be staring sleeplessly at the ceiling for hours.

Okay, maybe I can't stop being curmudgeonly for even a whole post... but I still hope you'll like these ice cream projects.

Have a crafty and cool weekend!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

It won't be any bother if you stay for lunch (and I might go insane if you don't)....

Last Wednesday we had some Southern hospitality that didn't look very hospitable at all, so this week we are looking at a book on an all-out nice offensive. It is determined to be nice, gosh darn it.

The title pleads, "STAY for LUNCH." The phrases in the background endearingly reassure "really no trouble at all" and "it's the companionship that counts."

Some of them get a little desperate, especially toward the end, from "hate to eat alone" to the simple "stay," huddled in its corner, making the recipients of the invitation feel as if it will be their fault if the rebuffed host is later committed to the psych ward after being found alone at home, chatting incoherently with the wallpaper while wearing nothing but an apron.

Who is so hospitable that they might go insane if their offers are turned down? This book is from the members of the Crippled Children's Hospital and School Auxiliary in Sioux Falls, South Dakota (8th printing, Feb. 1974).

It might be a bit easier to talk people into staying if this were not presented as the ideal party dish, though:

Maybe guests are less concerned about putting the host out with all the extra work of a lunch guest and more concerned about having to act thrilled to be eating a half box of crushed Triscuits layered with canned asparagus, water chestnuts, tuna, cream of mushroom soup, and Miracle Whip. I'm sure the "Unusual and easy!" headnote is accurate, but it doesn't say anything about this being good.

Another contributor dressed her contribution up with a snazzy title:

...a title that suggests perhaps she is not clear on the definition of "sophisticate," a word that I never envisioned paired with "chipped beef." Apparently in her mind, "sophisticate" means "in macaroni and cheese with some green peppers and mushrooms."

Actually, though, mac 'n cheese with peppers and mushrooms doesn't sound bad at all. I could support an alternate definition like that-- especially if it just skipped the chipped beef.

I'm less flexible on the definition of "mousse," however. In my mind, chocolate mousse is the ONLY proper use of the word "mousse," and this recipe does little to disabuse me of that idea:

Grated cucumbers suspended in a Worcestershire sauce/ mayo/ whipped cream gelatin have no business calling themselves a mousse!

I am kind of amused by the picture, though, which looks like a slightly crushed fez that has lost its tassel.

And now, as I gaze upon the recipes I've shared (and more I have stored away for later), I realize that I have been conned into sitting down and staying for a while. Stay for Lunch got me to stay after all! Crafty little devil....

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Things in jars and cakes with weird ingredients: Must be close to fair season!

We are getting close to fair season! I don't really go to fairs anymore, but when I was a kid I was in 4-H and I loved doing cooking projects in the hope that I would take them to the state fair. One year I took an egg project and decided to make a lemon sponge cake to take to judging. When I iced it, the icing would not stick to the cake or smooth down easily, so I plopped it all on top, buttered my hands, and used them to mash that sugary goodness onto the cake's top and sides. When I was done, I decided to decorate it (and distract from any imperfections) with sprinkles. I thought the container had a shaker top but didn't actually bother to check, so I dumped a pile of sprinkles on top. It seemed easier to make it look intentional than to try to take some off, so I used the better part of the bottle and had a very brightly colored cake! (That project did not go to the state fair for some reason...)

Everyone's projects went to the county fair, though, so I'd go to admire my 4-H club's booth and check out all the other exhibits. It's probably not much of a shock that even as a kid, I wanted to see what the grown-ups had cooked. I'd head to the cooking hall to shiver with disgust at all the unidentifiable things floating in glass jars and the weird mold patterns that can grow on slices of cake left in a glass display case in an un-air-conditioned building for a week.

That's the long way of saying that this week, in anticipation of upcoming fairs, we're looking at a few cards from the "County Fairs" section of McCall's Great American Recipe Card Collection (1973).

To represent the "unidentifiable things floating in glass jars" portion, here's a good way to get rid of excess summer crops that ripen just about fair time anyway:

Zucchini pickles!

These seem like pretty standard pickles. I'm just pointing them out because they are a great way to "use" zucchinis without actually having to eat them. My grandma used to can and/or pickle so much stuff... and the good stuff did get eaten. Her home-canned peaches were sure to disappear by mid-winter, but if you checked her basement pantry, you could find rows and rows of the less desirable foods (Canned beets! Grayish "green" beans!). The dates written on them would gradually get older as you peeked into the back rows, often stretching back a decade or more. Those things were clearly never going to be eaten, but I guess grandma could feel good about them because she had been industrious and not wasted food because she canned it. I imagine these pickled zucchini in a neat but dusty row, waiting patiently as the other cans would disappear, year after year. They would secretly be the best zucchini because the best zucchini is the zucchini you do not feel obligated to eat.

For a classier take on canned things, McCall's offers this:

As a kid, I would have no conception of what "Tarragon-Wine Jelly" would taste like (and admittedly as an adult, I still don't have much of an idea), but I would have been mesmerized by the radioactive green glow. My grandma would never can something like this, but if she had, my cousins and I would definitely have stolen it to use as a toxic slime pit for our My Little Ponies to avoid.

To represent the treats that will be piles of mold spores by week's end, I picked a cake that also falls into the unlikely ingredient category:

I'm not sure even the McCall's editors were convinced by this mish-mash of a cake loaded up with cocoa, cinnamon, cloves, mashed potatoes, pecans, raisins, and maraschino cherries since this only gets an honorable mention ribbon in the picture. It sounds more like something one would throw together for last-minute (and not particularly beloved) guests, but is probably no worse than the chocolate cakes featuring ketchup or sauerkraut as the secret ingredient at my old county fair.

This all makes me glad I'm not a fair cooking judge! Have a happy and non-judgmental weekend!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Yeah.... let's just focus on the guac

I've often mentioned that I'm glad to be looking at books from older times rather than living in those older times. The casual racism and sexism can come through loud and clear. Given recent events, though, it's hard to feel too smugly superior looking at this 1958 cookbook (though mine is the 1963 printing) from the year 2015:

The Women's Auxiliary to the Ocean View Memorial Hospital in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, thought it was a great idea to have the stereotypical Mammy serving up turkey on their cookbook cover. Because of course they would.

The book is packed with titles like "Plantation Soup" and "Jefferson Davis Pie," just in case the antebellum longing wasn't palpable enough.

Of course, the editors might argue that their racism was equal opportunity:

They were perfectly happy to include these caricatures with the recipe for "Chinese Chop Suey" (which at least is stir-fried rather than pressure cooked and has soy sauce and Chinese [bead] molasses rather than cottage cheese and sour cream)...

...and they thought it was a fine idea to represent chili sauce with these sombrero-clad Mexicans resting in the shade of some cacti.

Of course, the defense that they turned all kinds of groups into stereotypes would fall as flat as a glass of Coke left in the sun on the front porch all day. In the immortal words of Batman, "That's not helping."

It seems sizable segments the Carolinas have not progressed nearly as much as one would hope in the 50+ years since this book was printed.

There are plenty of weird recipes and oddly charming and/or puzzling pictures once one can get past the outright offensive ones, so entries from this book will show up again.

For now, though, I will leave you with one related to an entirely different (and much more lighthearted) current controversy: guacamole.

There are certainly no peas in this recipe, but I'm pretty sure purists would not be so excited about this guac being a cream-cheese-based dip! Those touting the "healthy fat" in avocados would be horrified as well, since this version is loaded with dairy fat.

It sounds pretty delicious to me. Avocado, cream cheese, hot sauce, lime juice. What's not to like? I'll be offended by the rest of the book and give this recipe a pass.

Happy Cookbook Wednesday! Thanks again to Modern Day Ozzie and Harriet for hosting.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Poppy's Toothpick and Ice-stravaganza!

Happy Independence Day (at least for American readers)! When I think party food, I think of small things on toothpicks and/or ice, so today we're looking at "Good Housekeeping's Appetizer Book" (1958) for some inspiration for our fourth of July party.

With the sauce's red glare and shrimps toothpicked midair, I thought this might be the most secretly patriotic appetizer picture I cold find.

There's not much that could be more '50s American than a basket with shrimp bursting out of it willy-nilly, held aloft on crimson picks and awaiting a dunk in a hefty goblet full of something ketchup-y looking.

Need to make your own shrimp explosion? Here's the recipe:

Pretty easy: quickly cook shrimp in water with pickling spices (?), refrigerate, then toothpick the little buggers. The recipe merely suggests arranging the shrimp "in dish on tray" or even worse, simply supplying the toothpicks and letting guests spear their own, but CLEARLY the best way to do this up right is to make the rocket shrimp display!

I think the dip in the picture is the "Spicy Dunk Sauce":

Surprisingly enough, it may even be a little spicy, what with the horse-radish AND two full dashes of "liquid hot pepper seasoning."

I'm kind of puzzled by the quarter teaspoon of "bottled thick meat sauce." Do they mean steak sauce? Do they mean a thick barbecue sauce? Maybe that weird British brown sauce? Would that tiny amount be enough to notice? In any case "bottled thick meat sauce" does not sound particularly appetizing to me.... Sort of sounds like it should be overcooked liver baby food or something like that....

What if you have a ton of leftover toothpicks and want another overly-complicated composition to show off some speared tidbits? And what if you feel a bit ripped off that the shrimp recipe didn't necessitate a trip to the dime store for craft supplies? You may want to try this:

This big wheel of cheese surrounded by "frankfurters," olives, and salami "cornucopias" is the "Nosegay Appetizer."

This appetizer is truly made for the OCD cook: It starts with a "plastic foam circle, 9" in diameter, 1" thick" and requires quite a bit of precision. The center needs exactly 17 cubes of sharp Cheddar, not only on a pick but also dipped in salad dressing and parsley on only one side.

Then the hot dogs must be cut in half lengthwise, filled with sharp cheese spread, reassembled, cut into half-inch pieces, picked, and carefully arranged to surround the cheese cubes.

At least the olives are easy, but then the salami cornucopias have to be snipped, rolled, secured with a  pick, and filled by pastry bag with a homemade seasoned cream cheese before being jammed into the outer perimeter of this big ring o' saturated fats.

It's a holiday, though, and maybe you're not OCD. What if you want to actually spend some time doing something other than making toothpick-based craft projects that will be demolished the second you set them out?

I've saved the easy app for last.

This is "Olives in Ice." Can you guess how to make it?

Maybe a little more complicated than you envisioned, but still not bad. The day before, put a water-filled ring mold in the freezer and re-marinate the olives in garlic, lemon and cloves. The day of, drain the olives and dump them in the ice ring with some carrot curls and celery sticks.

Or you could just dump a drained jar of olives into the ice ring and spend your holiday trying to keep the kids from setting each other on fire.

I'd stay in the back working on the Nosegay Appetizer, though.

Happy Independence Day! May your toothpicks and patience be infinite!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Chippers, loons, moose, and Lutheran ladies

My grandparents used to flee summer's most oppressive days by driving their camper up to Minnesota. Grandpa would spend his days fishing while grandma would find loon postcards and write me updates about what the "chippers" (her nickname for chipmunks) were up to. (Mostly they were looking for food, but I always wanted to hear about them anyway.)

In that spirit, we're taking a field trip (mostly) north with The Lutheran Ladies Cookbook (1970).

Lutheran ladies do live up to the reputation Garrison Keillor has given them:

It has everything I've been led to believe a "hot dish" should contain: meat, starch, and copious amounts of canned soup. This is not even limited to one can of cream of mushroom soup, but goes the extra can to include vegetable soup as well!

Hot dish isn't all that Lutheran ladies are good for, though.

What do you suppose this roast is made of?

Congratulations if you guessed venison! Lutheran ladies really like game, too.

I'm not sure what makes "Spicy Barbecued Roast Venison" spicy. My understanding is that chili sauce is mostly a sweet and sour thing... Pairing that with sweet spices, current jelly, and lemon also makes me think this is probably more sweet and sour than spicy, but whatever it is, it's so red the hunters can pretend it's a fresh kill all over again....

Venison is not the only game in this book. Alaskan Lutheran ladies might make this next one:

If you've got extra moose, cook it with some catsup, canned mushrooms, and sour cream for a stroganoff.

With all the game recipes, I was a little afraid to find out what what Lutheran ladies would do with my chippers! Luckily, I didn't find any chipmunk recipes. They must be too small to bother with.

And while I was a bit horrified to see catsup in a stroganoff recipe, I knew it was a somewhat common variation. Another recipe showed me that Lutheran ladies have NO business trying their hands at Creole cooking:

Okay, they've got the onion... and maybe if we feel generous we can allow the substitution of ground beef for sausage. But canned cream soup? Chow mein noodles instead of rice? There is noooo way this has any business being called anything other than extra-salty hot dish!

Far from cooling me down, this post has gotten me steamed! So much for the Lutheran ladies of the north.

Happy Cookbook Wednesday, and a thank to to Modern Day Ozzie and Harriet for hosting!