Saturday, December 31, 2016

Poppy's shiny new year!

Now that I'm done with Glamour Magazine's New After Five Cookbook, I wanted to pick a new book to go through in 2017. I'll admit, the book I chose is cheating just a little because it's not exactly a cookbook!

401 Party and Holiday Ideas from Alcoa (Conny von Hagen, 1971) is primarily a book dedicated to the proposition that parties would be far more festive if hosts would simply wrap every square inch of their homes in aluminum foil beforehand. (Alcoa, in case you're wondering, is the shortened name for Aluminum Company of America, It's all making sense now, isn't it?)

If you really need a justification for a foil-shilling book as my year's pick:
1. There are a few actual recipes in here, so hey, it's a cookbook.
2. The foil creations are so weird that I just couldn't keep this to myself.
3. This is the same size and has the same spiral binding as many of the smaller Betty Crocker offerings (like Betty Crocker's Cooking Calendar), so it's an honorary cookbook.

Since the first entry is for New Year's celebrations, I'm going to post it a day early so you'll have time to coat your lampshades in aluminum foil before midnight if the spirit moves you.

Here is what an Alcoa New Year's party should look like:


With all the curling ribbon dangling down in the foreground, it's a bit hard to see just how much of this spread is covered with foil, but it's everywhere. At least you can see the foil-y clocks pinned to the front of each table, and maybe you will eventually realize that the lampshades and even some of the serving platters have a weird, crinkly metallic sheen.

If you want to give a shiny twist to the old cliche of the drunk wearing the lampshade by the end of the party, here are the instructions for making your new chapeau (or vase, since they're pretty much the same thing, according to the directions):

Just mold sheets of heavy-duty foil over a bucket and trim it to make petals!

For the vase, "Arrange flowers in any container that will fit into foil mold, add bare twigs to hold pretzels."

Yep. Apparently for a New Year's party, besides foil lampshades, one also needs foil vases full of flowers and pretzels on sticks, like so:

I mean, every time I walk by a flower arrangement, I think about how much better it would be if I could also eat pretzels that had been suspended on sticks above it. Don't you?

A few ideas are actually kind of cute, like this little guy:

Of course you need a lemon piglet for good luck in the New Year! This decoration is a real anomaly too, as it's not got much aluminum in it-- just the curly little tail!

And yes, as promised, there are some actual recipes. The lemon piglet is perched next to some Stuffed Tomatoes:


I'll admit, I'm not a fan of any mayonnaise-based salads, so this hybrid of pea and egg salads crammed into raw tomatoes leaves me-- like the salad-- cold. Your mileage may vary.

As far as I'm concerned, the scariest-looking thing on the menu is under the pretzel-flower arrangement on the bottom left of the party picture:


The poor fish looks mortified to have woken up on a foil platter mounded with lemons and leaf lettuce, and fronted by some kind of little appetizer-type things convinced that they are really tiki cocktails. Is there any way to slide off of the platter and into the nearest body of water without drawing too much attention?


There's not much chance of getting very far if one's guts are ripped out and replaced with seasonings and sliced onion, though.

Even though the last recipe I'm listing probably tastes fine, the name is enough to make me write a new song (to the tune of "Brick House"):


Punch from a fish.... House! It's mighty briny. Spittin' it all back out! From a fish.... House!

And on that note I suspect that like 2016, I've worn out my welcome.... Happy New Year! And get ready to hear from Alcoa all through 2017.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Super-Stealth Health Food and Top Secret Ingredients

I'm a sucker for '70s community cookbooks with pictures of very '70s kitchens on their covers.

That led me to the creatively-titled Cook Book: Favorite Recipes from Our Best Cooks (by the Ladies' Prayer Band in Bonds Chapel Church, Waverly, Ohio, 1976/77).

All that brick, the shiny brown linoleum with a rusty shag rug off to one side, the dark wood and plaid border wallpaper, the way the harvest gold counters match the chicken railed in by the stove vent... I just love this kitchen (and wish I could check out the cookbooks on the built-in desk)!

The cover hints at the sunny outlook of the cooks who helped put this compilation together. They are always willing to look at the bright side to the extent that they make dietary excesses seem perfectly reasonable. That salty, greasy, deplorable mess of a casserole that I adored as a kid (and still occasionally try to more healthily recreate today, on evenings when I'm on my own for dinner so no one else will know how much I still crave it)? The good people of Waverly know it as this:


This isn't Tater Tot Casserole, as it was known in my house-- even though it covers the same slick of creamy, salty soups and burger with the same fleet of golden-brown Tater Tots. No, this is healthy because it's Vegetable Casserole. There's a whole bag of mixed veggies inside, so it's clearly good for you.

I also learned, tragically too late, that the "dessert" my mother-in-law makes every year for Christmas-- the one I love so much that she always tucks away an extra square or two to send home with me-- is not actually a dessert at all:


If I'd only known this confection consisting of layers of buttery nuts, cream cheese, sugar, pudding, and Cool Whip was really a SALAD-- well, then I could have felt pretty self-righteous about eating it-- maybe even had a double serving to double the healthfulness.

The good people of Waverly aren't all such optimists, though. A surprising number of cooks seemed pretty reluctant to give up their secrets, considering they were volunteering to send recipes to a cookbook. Some omissions are kind of blatant:


With so much white space in the recipe, the 1/2 c. ______ stands out above the cup of sugar. (I'm pretty sure the omitted ingredient is butter, based on the other, similar recipes around it.)

Some omissions are really sneaky:


All looks in order (except for using the regional term "mangos" to mean "green peppers") until we get to the very last line, where careful readers learn we can substitute 1 c. _____ for 1 c. meat.

Dee Steward doubled down on refusing to name that secret ingredient:


This recipe for Lazarus (a department store chain bought out by Macy's that once had restaurants in its Columbus, Ohio, location) Mexican Beef Sandwiches helpfully gives recipes for large and small batches. The third ingredient is a mystery, though. For a large batch, use 1/3 c., and for a smaller batch, use only 1/4 c. A third of a cup or a quarter of a cup of what are apparently up to the cook's discretion, as the detailed instructions for mixing (Combine all ingredients (except bacon)) don't provide much in the way of help.

As always, a few recipes are just plain weird. I'll end with something a little different:


Something Different in Fried Chicken browns the bird before coating it in sour cream, brown sugar, and bacon bits and throwing it in the oven. Never mind that it appears not to really be fried (unless we count the pan-browning)-- what will it be like coated with sweet brown sugar and those bits of artificial smoke flavored gravel known as bacon bits? Maybe "different" is the kindest description one could hope for....

Have a great Wednesday! I'll spend it wishing I still had one last piece of "salad" to finish off...

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Christmas dinner from way up north, where the air gets cold

Want a genuine Christmas dinner from waaay up north? You're in luck! I recently found a copy of Alaska's Cooking (Anchorage Woman's Club, fifth printing, November 1965), and I put together this holiday menu from their suggestions.

For the appetizer:


The Holiday Salad - Tart Treat is one of those delightful aspics that starts with lemon gelatin and gets filled up with chili sauce, canned shrimp, and celery. It's the appetizer for the people who think that cocktail sauce is the real draw when the host serves shrimp. Finally, an excuse to eat a bowlful of shimmery, jiggly chili sauce!

For the main dish, I'll present two options. If you just really like the look of red and green on a holiday table, try Noel Casserole:


This doesn't sound too bad. Full of red tomatoes and green peppers, it might not exactly be a traditional Christmas dinner, but it would look festive as hell. (Don't ask me about that Chinese-character-esque thing in the corner. I have no explanation, and a Google reverse image search concluded that it was an anchor. My guess is that the Anchorage Woman's Club thought the combination of veggies and shrimp with rice made it a Chinese dish, even if the chili powder seasoning and casserole cooking method suggests more of a fusion of southwest with midwest. The Chinese character probably loosely translates as "serious misuse of resources.")

If you would prefer to use the main dish to HORRIFY the children, though, you might want to check out the wild game section instead:


Reindeer: It's low in fat, high in protein, rich in minerals, and guaranteed to make the kiddies cry when you pull an old bulb-style red holiday light out of the Swiss Steak or Hungarian Goulash and exclaim that whoever cleaned Rudolph did a piss-poor job.

For dessert, if you want to trick guests into eating something fruitcake-esque without realizing that's what they're getting themselves into, try this next-of-kin:


Christmas Pie re-purposes Brazil nuts and the crust, and the chiffon filling hides the candied cherries and rum. (At least the alcohol is not cooked out, so maybe guests will be pretty forgiving about the fruitcakey vibe.)

Let's not forget the beverages. The kids might forgive you for the reindeer if they get their own treat:


The "Lemonaid" even allows you to use up peppermint sticks you might have lying around as decorations. (Would they work as straws? They're not really hollow, but the candy typically has a lot of air worked into it. So maybe it would work? Go suck a lemon and get back to me on that one.)

The adults can have their own punch:


Nothing says, "I am committed to making my guests think I actually sprung for Champagne" quite like floating scoops of lime sherbet in the punch.

There you have it: A genuine mid-'60s holiday feast from Santa's neighbors to the south. Now I'm off to bake cookies and then spend the evening drinking Prosecco so I will be ready to help Ralphie's dad pronounce that fancy Italian word on the side of the mystery crate. I hope you have a similarly great day ahead of you!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

A Christmas Special!

It's time for a Christmas Special!


Okay, not that kind of special. I mean this kind:

It's the Women's Circle Home Cooking Christmas Special 1978! This was advertised on the back of the December issue I featured a couple weeks ago, but I didn't have to just gaze longingly upon the ad since several Home Cooking issues came in the same baggie-- all for 70 cents! That's less than the original owner paid for just this one magazine. I am quite the smart shopper. (Of course, it helps that I was willing to wait almost 40 years and pick them up at a thrift shop-- not much of an option for somebody who wanted to cook in 1978).

To get in the holiday spirit, I'm going to start with a recipe that just makes me happy (and not weirded out):

My grandma used to occasionally make Church Window Cookies (sans coconut) for Christmas, and I absolutely loved them. I would magically materialize anytime somebody pulled out a bag of those miniature fruit-flavored pastel marshmallows. (The green ones were great to flatten between my thumb and finger and pretend they were crushed flying saucers, and the pink ones could be red blood cells. Yep, I was a weird kid.) Mix those sweet babies with chocolate and pecans and I was ALL IN. I can't believe I completely forgot about these until I came across this recipe. These may fall more into the candy camp than the cookie one, but call them whatever you want. I'll eat 'em if you ditch the coconut.

For those who wanted a more sophisticated dessert, the magazine offers this specialty:


Instant Zabaglione Royale-- for when you want and excuse to add wine to instant pudding mix.

Of course, it's not all desserts. Here's a gourmet side to offer with the fancy zabaglione:

When I see "Gourmet" in these old cookbooks, I automatically assume it means there's a can of cream-of-something soup in the recipe, but I was wrong this time. "Gourmet" in this case means using a jar of Cheez Whiz.

My favorite part of the magazine, though, is a section on some very special food gifts:


They're Gifts for Dieters! You'll note that a lot of these do not look very diet-y (Nutty Coconut Brownies with frosting? Panamanian Coconut Candy?) The note at the top of the first page suggests a need "to match the delicacy to the dieter." The desserts are low sodium (as many desserts are--) and thus, diet! Ta-da! The Panamanian Coconut Candy is also gluten free, proving that gluten free really was a thing before it became a fad.... In any case, the low-sodium offerings are the easy ones.

The prize for the most clearly diet offering goes to the dressing:

Can you imagine the look of joy on someone's face when they get a jar full of pineapple and V8 juices mixed with celery seeds, garlic, and mustard powder? Priceless! It would definitely be worth having the Polaroid ready for that moment.

The prize for the most impractical food gift has to go to this entry:


Don't get me wrong-- I loves me some guacamole (although maybe not with mayonnaise mixed in)-- but it does not make a good gift.

I can just imagine the scene: Grandpa Clarence is quietly trying to open a new pair of slippers and Aunt Shirley rushes in and shoves a bowl full of green mush into his lap, yelling, "Quick! Here's my gift and eat it right this minute before it turns slimy brown! Don't worry-- it's low cholesterol and it it will keep you from eating all that ham, gourmet broccoli, and instant zabaglione royale the rest of us will be enjoying as soon as we're done opening gifts."

Great plan. Really helps with the festive mood.

Here's hoping that if you plan to make food gifts, you are a better planner than good old Aunt Shirl.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Not a ringing endorsement...

After Wednesday's Yule Log, I was super-excited to learn that Miracle Whip had a mid-'70s tradition of advertising ludicrous Dole-canned-pineapple-and-gelatin-based holiday recipes. For your holiday pleasure, may I present 1974's entry:

Here we have the Holly Berry Wreath, The wreath is one of those fancy two-tiered creations, with pineapple rings and maraschino cherries arranged in lime gelatin to make the decorated wreath on the top layer, and cranberry sauce with strawberry gelatin to make the festive red bottom layer. I have to admit that this one doesn't sound too bad, really, and it's got a certain alien beauty in its shiny, coiled form.

Where does the Miracle Whip come in? This recipe surprisingly leaves it in an easily-ignored form, mixed with whipped cream and plunked down in a bowl in the "wreath's" center, for those masochistic souls who just can't imagine eating fruited gelatin without fluffy Miracle Whip on top.

The offering for 1976 suggests Miracle Whip learned its lesson and made the secret ingredient a lot harder to ignore:

Revelers were supposed to ring in the season with Winter Sunshine Mold-- apparently a cross-section of a tentacle, complete with suckers and full to the brim with festive little blood clots. Yum!

Well, I guess there are are worse green-slime-spewing, tentacled creatures with whom to share a cold winter night than this this concoction that mostly made sense in a Miracle Whip marketer's mind... but at least Kurt Russell comes with them. The only thing that comes with Winter Sunshine Mold is Aunt Brenda. And she wants the plate back, so don't get it mixed in with your dishes, whatever you do. She's serious guys. She still doesn't have the pie-saver back from last year, and she will not let us forget about it.

Happy Miracle Whip and Ring Mold Saturday, everyone!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Yule be sorry! (No, I'll be sorry that I kept that cheesy-ass title...)

I enjoyed the old Woman's Day from my birthday so much that I tracked down another old issue.

Coming straight at us from December 1975, we have a Woman's Day promising the Best Christmas Ever!

I'm pretty sure my mom had this one because I recognize the candy cane, bell, and star ornaments on the cover. She didn't sew them together into a garland, but kept them as individual ornaments that a certain perpetually-clumsy daughter couldn't break. (I'm serious about perpetually-clumsy, too. I still refuse to buy glass ornaments even as gifts for other people because I know I'll just shatter them-- probably on the way from the checkout counter to the car.)

But you're not here for the crafts-- you're here for the recipes.

If you need to know what a "Busy-Day Dinner" looks like, here's my favorite:


I'm sure Cheese- and Broccoli-Topped French Toast was fine, but when I hear French toast, I think sweet! Telling the kids they're getting French toast for dinner and then presenting them with a plate full of Swiss cheese-topped broccoli is not likely to end well, even if Santa IS watching to find out who's naughty.

My favorite recipes actually came from the ads rather than the articles, though.

Apparently fruitcake was still a popular gift, but '70s homemakers were less and less inclined to make it from scratch. Pillsbury came to the rescue:


Make your fruitcake out of Pillsbury Bread Mix! Somehow, for me this picture is exactly what Christmas in the '70s should be-- mostly faded brown so it looks all natural/ earth mother-y, with hits of red and green from the candied cherries and the scent of real evergreen in the background. The bread's from a mix and the greenery is from the local greenhouse rather than the trees in the yard, but '70s families could play at having a good, old-fashioned Christmas the same way we do.

Pillsbury really wanted into the holiday action. If your family needed a fancy main dish for dinner and the trendy Beef Wellington sounded too expensive and intimidating with its tenderloin that had to be neither over- nor under-cooked, layers of pate and duxelles, and finicky puff pastry, there was always Crescent Ham Wellington. Just heat up a canned ham, cover it with pineapple preserves, and wrap it up in some canned Pillsbury crescent dough. Bake, et voila! Easy and economical Crescent Ham Wellington.

The only thing that could make this ad better would be if we got the recipes for Molded Cranberry-Wine Jell-O salad and Creme de Menthe Pie too.

My favorite recipe, though, is for a very ... unusual... Yule log. If you've always thought of the treat as a sponge cake lavishly coated with chocolaty goodness, you are in for a surprise.

And by surprise, of course, I mean canned pineapple rings, slivered almonds, and candied cherries layered with honey-and-pineapple-juice-laced Miracle Whip and frozen into a solid "log" inside a coffee can. You know-- that kind of Yule log.

Maybe the slivered almonds on the outside make it look a little log-like, but cut into that baby and it has the cheery, eye-searing colors of an edible ugly Christmas sweater.

I can't think of a better holiday gift for you than this bloodshot yellow eye-log, so we're ending on this high note!

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Funny Name: Hostile Fruit Edition

Seriously! Do not cross those apricots:


Don't say The No-Cooking Cookbook (Lillian Langseth-Christensen, 1962) didn't warn you.

(For a note about Funny Name Saturdays, click here.)

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Congealed Holiday Fun!

When I found a random baggie with three Women's Circle Home Cooking magazines from the '70s at a thrift shop, I said "Oh, yeah!" maybe a little louder than I intended. At least, the person browsing the shelves of yellowing romance novels gave me a look suggesting she thought I was getting a little too hot and bothered about reading material that didn't have Fabio on the cover, but whatever.

The nipples on this cover just  happen to be maraschino cherries... on a very mismatched chest... made out of some kind of a melting greenish pillowy dessert and a pile of fruit salad gloppily barfed into a lettuce-lined serving dish. 

Without rippling pecs or hair blown by a capricious breeze, this is an honest cover-- more honest than contemporary cooking magazines' spreads of perfectly-styled farro bowls topped with sustainable seafood and wilted beet greens. This is food you'd see sitting on the dessert table at Grandma's.

That quietly melting pistachio-looking dessert is actually not made of pistachio pudding, but that other standby when you need a green dessert:

It's lime gelatin with cream cheese and whipped evaporated milk, layered with chocolate-peppermint pudding. 

I see minty desserts made with lime Jell-O often enough to know they must have been a thing, but I can never quite wrap my head around it. I love the tang of limes-- enough that I was always the weirdo with the green slushie when all the cool kids ordered red flavors-- and I love weird pepperminty things enough to stir a drop of peppermint flavoring into my oatmeal on occasion-- but limermint? Pepperlime? They seem like they're clearly not meant to be a hot couple. Maybe people are suggestible enough that they don't notice the lime and think it's just mint? That's my theory, but I'm not going to try it out. 

I also love that this has no name other than "Our Cover Dessert." And you better love the black and white drawings of people obliviously knocking presents out of each other's arms and of kids admiring really out-of-scale catcher's mitts and bicycles just as much as I do, or you are wasting your time here. 

What else might be featured on the Christmas buffet, besides limermint confections? There are plenty of other other gelatin-based possibilities.

Any good holiday party needs red and white ring salads to offset the green dessert. The white mold promises to be a delight, consisting of unflavored gelatin and sieved cottage cheese. (At least there's not much of an incentive to overeat this part of dinner-- and not much in the way of consequences if you do anyway.)

The red part gets a little more imaginative, providing a choice between savory and sweet options:

There's a tomato juice, onion, and celery mold if you want to get your veggies. (It wouldn't take much work to make this a Bloody Mary mold if that's your thing! That could help make Christmas easier to deal with....)

There's also a red-hot and applesauce mold if you're really into the mid-century hobby of pretending that dessert counts as a salad. 

If you need a cheap gift to stick under the Christmas tree, this magazine has you covered:

Buy up all the rotting bananas on clearance at the grocery store and make pints and pints of banana jam! Now that I see this, I'm kind of surprised no one in my family ever tried it.

Finally, if the rich foods of the season take their toll, you can go home to a lean veggie dinner:

It's lean, right? It starts with a pound of fresh broccoli, a carrot, an onion, a zucchini, and some mushrooms... I'm sure the cup-and-a-half of shredded cheese is just a little addition for flavor and nothing to derail the post-holiday diet. 

I'm also puzzled as to why you'd boil all the vegetables together first if they're going into the oven anyway. Why not just roast them to concentrate the flavor? (And why boil the broccoli for more than double the time of the much harder carrots and onions?)

The holidays are a time of great mysteries....

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Funny Name: First Word, Take Two

Is it wrong that I want this Leona Flannery (in Very Tastefully YoursClark County Extension Homemakers' Clubs, 1977) to have been friends with Mrs. Solon Scrudder?


They could get together to make some Keelime Pie and Tall House Cookies.

In any case, if I have my choice of pies, I'll make a beeline for the keelime!

(For more about Funny Name Saturdays, click here.)

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

A Glamour-ous End of the Year

December! It's the month when I traditionally begin wishing I could hibernate until family gatherings are over and warmer weather is creeping back in. Instead of passing out until mid-April or so, I will just have to content myself to say goodbye to Glamour Magazine's New After Five Cookbook (Beverly Pepper, 1963). We've spent a whole year getting to know what 1960s couples might have put on their dinner tables, so let's see what kinds of comfort they might have reached for as the days got shorter and colder.


One option was to make spaghetti and dump a can of pepper pot soup on it. Not so much an option anymore, as canned pepper pot soup has pretty much disappeared. It also seems kind of weird to eat it on top of spaghetti since along with plenty of tripe and potatoes (but apparently, no peppers), the Campbell's version already had macaroni in it. Then mix canned beets, cauliflower, cucumber, French dressing, and anchovy paste for a salad that is sure to be... uh... memorable? (Adding a little extra rum to the Baba au Rhum Cream Cakes might just help make that memory go away.)

Friday's seafood gets better treatment than the anchovies did...


Shrimp with some vegetables and actual seasonings (more than a single dash of Tabasco, even!) over rice should be fine. I'm not sure what makes green beans mixed with onion and French dressing then poured over lettuce into New Orleans Bean Salad, exactly, rather than, say, Minnesota Bean Salad. I love the simplicity of the Avocado with Sherry recipe. You don't really have to read past the title. A recipe is included, but it's exactly what you imagine. 

Another Friday offers an entirely different take on seafood:


Here we have mackerels stuffed with packaged stuffing and wrapped in bacon, then basted with lemon juice, tomato juice, and white wine. Maybe that's not bad? (Don't know, because I am not a fish person!) The part of this recipe that (unnecessarily) scared me was the dessert. What is Dijon froth? I immediately pictured whipped cream mixed with mustard. In fact, Dijon Froth is just orange-flavored instant vanilla pudding mixed with Cointreau! The liqueur makes it French-- not mustard!

Like November, December offers a holiday menu:

The menu seems strikingly similar to Thanksgiving's-- turkey, cranberries, sweet potatoes. The additions of soup and rolls, and the swapping of mince pie for plum pudding with egg nog sauce, are enough to make this a Christmas menu. (If you're wondering how the cook is supposed to make the plum pudding, the weekly shopping list specifies to buy "1 small can plum pudding." Only the egg nog sauce requires preparation.)

What have we learned for December?
  1. Anything served in the same meal with shrimp can be labeled "New Orleans."
  2. Always add sherry to canned soup served in December. It's just more festive.
  3. You might need a recipe to pour sherry on an avocado, but not to put butter on lima beans or broccoli. 
  4. Babas are just yeast cakes, not grandmas, so splitting one is not nearly as violent as I might have imagined.
  5. Tease Christmas guests by putting pictures of cocktails at the top of the menu, but not actually offering any damn cocktails. 
That's it for Glamour! Maybe I'll find a new theme for the new year.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Funny Name: Repeat That First Word Edition

I'm guessing Mrs. Solon Scrudder (in Collection of Recipes, Midway Assembly of God Women's Ministries Dept., 1978) didn't understand the legend of how that common chocolate chip cookie recipe got its name.


Or maybe she just thought the inventor lived in a high rise?

(For more about Funny Name Saturdays, click here.)