Saturday, January 23, 2016

Horror comedy? You betcha!

I recently became completely addicted to the Fargo series-- meaning I watched the very first episode and within about two weeks I had seen the entirety of both seasons, even though I am not usually the binge-watching type. I can't resist the combination of hilarious and terrifying-- either in entertainment or in cookbooks-- and the series delivers. If an episode can show a murderous couple trying to escape into the night, slightly delayed by the husband's interest in an unexplained object hovering over the scene and the wife dismissing it with "It's just a flying saucer, hon. We got to go," I'm ALL IN.

This is the long way of saying that I decided to go for recipes from the frozen north today. My recipes aren't specifically from Bemidji or Duluth (where season 1 was set) or Luverne or Fargo (where season 2 was set), but they're at least from the Minnesota/ Dakotas area. More importantly, they're hilarious/ terrifying.

I will start with my most subtle example of horror comedy from The Lutheran Ladies Cookbook (1970):

I know, deep-fried cauliflower is a staple of fairs, one of those foods that allows kids to tell their parents that they ate their vegetables and the parents to half-heartedly believe the assertion even though everyone knows these little nuggets are just an excuse to eat deep-fried dough. The self-deception is of course part of the comedy and the actual nutritional content compared to plain old cauliflower the horror, but I also picked the recipe because it shows our long history of trying to pretend cauliflower is something else. Now that people are trying to use cauliflower for everything from rice to mashed "potatoes" to pizza crust, we're facing a shortage. I love glimpsing the roots of new crazes in the state fair-style recipes from South Dakota....

Here's another trick: imagine some custard. I instantly think of those little glass custard cups slightly jiggly as they come out of their oven steam-bath, vanilla perfuming the air. If I change the recipe to carrot custard, it's still not too hard to imagine even though I've never tried it. I picture orange cups, perhaps scented with cinnamon and ginger, whispering of pumpkin pie. That's not what is on the minds of the St. John's Ladies Gp. of Motley, Minnesota, though:

This is a savory custard, the carrot and eggs mashed up with crushed crackers and shredded cheese and topped with bacon. It might sound good to you sweet and savory lovers, but carrots with bacon and cheese? I think broccoli would sound like a better pairing, but "Broccoli Custard" would probably be a pretty hard sell....

For some really oddball recipes, I moved on to Stay for Lunch (eighth printing, 1978, members of the Crippled Children's Hospital and School Auxiliary, Sioux Falls, South Dakota):

You know you're in for something weird when the head note admits that the recipe "sounds strange." Should you try it? Maybe-- if you like bread spread with jam, topped with an American cheese-studded souffle mixture, and baked. I've never personally had a yearning for runny, hot jam topped with puffy, American-cheese-filled eggs, but the thought of that gooey concoction does make me laugh a little and feel a bit terrified.

Let's cap off this horror comedy feast with that most mid-western of dishes: the Jell-O salad:

Polka-Dot Cups mostly sound delicious: cherries, orange Jell-O, pecans, cream cheese. But just to add the horrifying element, these initially yummy-sounding cups can stare up at the person ready to eat them with green olive eyes!

Have a horrifyingly funny weekend!


  1. Fargo is everything! Season 2 hit it out of the park EVERY SINGLE EPISODE.

    Love a post if it includes the dreaded olive alien eyeballs.

    One final thought: Growing up & residing in upstate NY, I have not experienced many fried veggies. So, fried cauliflower is a new one on me. It conjures up images of that Hidden Valley Ranch commercial where all the citizens in the magical village are stuffing their faces w/ raw veg smothered in ranch dressing.

    Have a great weekend, Poppy! :D

    1. My favorite was actually season 1 because I have a thing for malevolent hillbillies, but both seasons were awesome!

      I didn't realize the deep fried veggie thing was regional. I grew up accustomed to seeing deep fried cauliflower, mushrooms, and zucchini at least (sometimes others too, like eggplant if the place was exotic) at fairs and parks.

  2. I'm always amazed at where cauliflower is on the totem pole these days, Poppy. However, growing up in an Italian household, breaded cauliflower and growing cauliflower was somewhat of a tradition. I can honestly say that "our" deep fried cauliflower never included flour!

    I know nothing about Fargo except to say my son-in-law works in North Dakota. Is that anywhere near Fargo, lol...

    Those last two recipes are truly gruesome! The Jam Souffle brings new meaning to temperamental, lol...Thanks for sharing, Poppy...

    1. It seems like Italians always know about the cool vegetables before everyone else does. ;-)