Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Cans, cans, cans, sour cream, and cans

What's for dinner? If you're like me, you may not normally know until about two minutes before you start fixing it. The women of 1963 tended to plan ahead a little better, judging by Grace White's What's for Dinner? Meal-Planning Cookbook.

The claim that it is a complete guide to meal-planning makes sense. Most of the recipes are listed as part of a set menu.

Convenient? By 1960s standards, it probably is. Many of the recipes call for convenience foods, and a lot of the menu plans stress how little work there is to do once all the prep is done. (Of course, sometimes the prep is pretty substantial, but that somehow doesn't seem to count.)

Creative? I'm not sure about that. The menus are all set, and the recipes don't usually list variations to fit a family's tastes or available ingredients. The only possible claim to creativity is the listing of a few "Nice to Add" recipes, untethered to any specific menu, padding the last page or two of each chapter. If you're feeling super-creative, you can throw a gem like this into the dinner rotation:

Yep-- cans of condensed consomme congealed in the fridge and layered with barely-spiced sour cream is sure to make any dinner an adventure. Garnish with a thin slice of radish if you feel particularly wild.

Most of the menus have a theme. Snowing out and you don't feel like picking up any groceries? Your theme can be "High Style 'On-Hands'":

Raid the pantry for onions, radishes, biscuit mix, and cans of applesauce, luncheon meat, sweet potatoes, and blueberry pie filling, and dinner will be on the table in no time! Or at least 30 minutes of baking time plus however much prep time you take... which is basically the same thing as no time in '60s cooking terms.

Just for fun, let's check out the main course, Dixie Dandy:

Dixie Dandy: It's the red-orangiest! A perfect flotilla of apricot/mustard-slathered, clove-studded canned meat cubes on a sea of applesauce amidst sweet potato waves.

I think it's making me a little seasick....

I wasn't sure how to finish this post off, so here's a little something that shows the cookbook's fixation on weird parfaits in a perfectly '60s way:

Canned fruit cocktail, miniature marshmallows, and sour cream! It's '60s "salad" admitting it's really dessert by dressing in an ice cream cone.

(Plus I can't resist any mention of tutti-frutti because of my love of Rob Zombie films... If you're interested in a very vulgar, NSFW clip that would definitely not get played in the '60s, click.)

Have a great Weird Parfait Wednesday!


  1. It's a technicolor dream or do I mean yawn?

    1. It's... uh... something! Really something.

  2. Now you have me thinking, Poppy. I'm wondering whether National Can Month was a product of the 60s. From the looks of this "menu" it certainly looks like it. Sorry though, these all deserve a spot in the regretable food category, most importantly that parfait!

    Thanks for sharing, Poppy...

    But, Parfait Wednesday does sound like an interesting series of posts doesn't it? (there are so many "unique" parfaits in old cookbooks, lol) Although, requests have been streaming in for the return of Cookbook Wednesday:)

    1. National Can Month definitely sounds as if it could be an idea from the '60s! Those recipes definitely call for an abundance of canned goods.

      I'd certainly enjoy a resurgence of Cookbook Wednesday. :-)

    2. I was curious to see exactly when National Can Month started. It seems it's a "leftover" from the 40s, lol...

    3. I guess that makes sense. Maybe people were really excited to get their canned goods once rationing was over!