Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Slick Chick '78 and the Guide to Modern Meals

I always wondered where '70s cooks got the idea that Spam and fruit cocktail might make a fine main dish, or that ham and processed cheese on potato-chip-coated white bread is a nutritious lunch, and today I have one of many answers:

Guide to Modern Meals (Dorothy E. Shank et al., second edition, 1970) was one home ec textbook that sent high schoolers on the course to serving up those meals.

I even know who learned (or perhaps, "learned") from this book, as it still has the stamp in the front where users had to sign their names. I kind of wonder how they all turned out... The first few list real names, so I imagine them as being pretty earnest and trying their best, checking to make sure their sample menus written for homework had enough cottage cheese to help meet the milk requirement and enough fruit cocktail to meet the fruit and vegetable one. I'm pretty sure later students "Moose" and "Slick Chick '78" took this all a bit less seriously. The teacher was lucky if they remembered to fill out sample menus in the study hall before class... and those probably counted cheese Tid-Bit crackers as the milk and Hawaiian Punch as the fruit. (Confession: My parents quit buying Tid-Bit crackers because when I was little I pronounced it "Tit-Bit" and they were embarrassed if I asked for crackers when anyone else was in earshot.)

There are waaaay too many lessons in the book to pack into one post, so let's just look at a lunch menu the students were supposed to make in class:

Yep, this is a lunch menu, not a dessert party menu. Clearly, Dorothy E. Shank et al. had no fear of sugar.

They also were perhaps some of the most anal-retentive people around. The book is packed with super-detailed charts to help with planning even the most mundane meals. Here is the first 2/3 or so of the chart showing the supplies needed to make this sumptuous repast of salad, cinnamon rolls, and pudding:

As I hinted, there is still plenty more of this chart on the next page, as well as "The Work-and-Time Schedule for Preparing Lunch in a Double Class Period" (parts 1 and 2, one for each period), a complete layout for how the table should look when it's set, and a list of criteria for evaluating the lunch when it's all over. I don't even make such detailed plans when I spend the whole day baking on Christmas Eve, but this little meal is planned down to the plate to hold the sliced lemon.

Lunch is, as I noted earlier, almost entirely sugar. The first item is at least a bit more substantial: a salad.

The salad is mostly apples, though, so it's still pretty sweet. The sliced celery and English walnuts add at least a little variation. 

If you want to fit cinnamon rolls into even a double class period, they can't really be the yeast kind, so the rolls start out as baking powder biscuits:

It's a pretty familiar recipe, but I love the standards set out at the bottom: biscuits should be "pleasing in flavor." I would hope that everything should be pleasing in flavor. If not, I've been seriously misunderstanding one of the main purposes of recipes for all these years (although it would help explain a lot of the recipes I've featured on this blog.... Maybe a pleasing flavor was something cooks only occasionally aspired to, so it was worth noting if that was the goal?)

A few extra steps can turn biscuits into cinnamon rolls (or the more charming "pinwheel biscuits"):

Then to round out this "balanced" meal, we need a milk component:

Chocolate cornstarch pudding should do. Maybe the students can even use it as a dip for their cinnamon rolls if they feel creative. 

So there we have it-- an example to show what '70s students learned in their home ec classes. The recipes certainly aren't crazy, but the way they are planned and combined into a "meal" certainly gives me a sense of how some questionable aesthetics could emerge from classes like this. 

Happy Wednesday! Now go make a bunch of seriously-detailed charts to plan your next meal of Watergate salad, blueberry muffins, and custard.


  1. Happy Wednesday Poppy!!!
    Well it looks like I would definitely have failed this class. As I read that recipe for the biscuits, I "learned" that those Cinnamon Buns I shared the other day were actually Pinwheel Biscuits!!! I don't mind, they were still awesome! (and easy:)

    That planning chart is simply ridiculous! I don't know how else to put it, lol...

    Thanks for sharing, Poppy...I don't mind saying this is not one of my fave textbooks, lol...

    1. That's right! I thought you might be amused to see that they were pinwheel biscuits! :-) In any case, students in this class wouldn't have time to actually make yeast breads, so that would be a great source of comfort for you.