Saturday, May 28, 2016

June--the month of creme de menthe and cabbage

It's almost June! The month when mosquitoes really start to get serious... and when my beloved sugar snap peas come out. (I would eat them by the boat-load if boats could get anywhere near my apartment.)

Speaking of mixed blessings, the upcoming month means it's that time again-- Time to check in with Glamour Magazine's New After Five Cookbook (Beverly Pepper, 1963).

So what awaits us in the month of June? To help combat the Monday blues, the first menu is brought to us by the Royal Society for Putting Things on Top of Other Things:

The first item is pretty standard: baked meat loaf topped with ketchup. Then comes broiled tomato topped, for some reason I do not fully understand, with creamed corn. Next: cabbage and apple slaw on top of more cabbage. Top it all off (Hey! Don't roll your eyes at me!) with ice cream topped with mashed defrosted raspberries, slivered almonds, and a canned peach half. That's almost enough putting things on top of other things to give a thing-topper a real sense of purpose!

If meatloaf and a downmarket version of peach melba seems a little too pedestrian, maybe Tuesday will be more to your liking:

Cold Chicken Velvet: because everyone has always wanted to know what a can of cream of chicken soup would taste like with raw egg yolks, ice cubes, and croutons. Serve it with some skewered lamb kidneys and mushrooms.

Now, the carrot and celery salad may be pretty tame compared to the rest, but keep in mind that your celery, carrots, escarole and French dressing are supposed to be garnished with sliced banana too. Then dust off that ancient bottle of creme de menthe in the back of your liquor cabinet 'cause you have to pour it over honeydew wedges for dessert.

Get ready for a deep sea adventure on Thursday:

I expected Deep-Sea Macaroni to be the dish my mom (and just about everybody else's, I think) made when we were out of everything else: whatever pasta or noodles we had on hand, a can of tuna, a can of cream of mushroom soup, and some frozen peas. (Kraft sold the orange cheese powder from their mac and cheese dinners in canisters, like their sawdust/parmesan blend. I would turn my dinner neon orange on tuna casserole nights, trying to get it down.) Anyway, this is not that recipe. Nope. This is macaroni with onions, cream of shrimp soup, tomato sauce, and mashed anchovy. Maybe that sounds good to you, but I suddenly feel a bit more favorably inclined to plain old tuna and cream of mushroom soup.

The rest of the dinner is pretty standard: peas and mushrooms (using leftover mushroom stems from Tuesday's skewers!), another carrot/ celery/ French dressing salad, this time with green pepper and onion instead of banana. I could go for some Gorgonzola and crackers, though.

And just because I'm a little ray of sunshine, here's one extra Monday:

I wanted to see what "Quickest Meat Balls" were. I thought at first they might be vegetarian "meatballs" since the recipe starts with canned mushrooms, canned wild rice, frozen peas, and a bouillon cube. (Wait-- canned wild rice? I didn't know that was even a thing, but it is, and I could try a 15-oz. can for just $3.49 plus $15.32 shipping. Methinks I shall pass on that deal.) Then I saw that all those ingredients are just supposed to go under the canned meatballs. There's no real trick to making super-quick meatballs except grabbing a damn can opener.

Plus: another French-dressed salad! Another box of defrosted berries!

So what have we learned?
  1. Even when berries are in season, always use frozen.
  2. Honeydew with creme de menthe is arguably classier than watermelon with vodka.
  3. When in doubt, dump a can of creamed corn on top.
  4. If it's hot outside, enjoy your canned soup with ice cubes!
  5. You could get almost ANYTHING from a can in the '60s. (On a related note, it is now easier to find canned cat food with wild rice in it than it is to find canned wild rice meant for human consumption.)
Have a great weekend! Now, go put some things on top of other things.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Calypso Cooler and SALADettes?

It's almost Memorial Day. Rather than getting preemptively annoyed at the families with 726 sticky, screaming kids who magically appear in every public place (Grocery aisles! Parade floats! And worst of all, in front of me at the Whippy Dip!) during summer holidays, I will instead focus on the happier aspect of nice weather. Today's booklet is "Let's Eat Outdoors" (American Dairy Association, undated, but probably 1960s).

Eating outdoors was not an opportunity to slack off, either! This is quite a spread-- beans, cornbread, grilled spam, grilled hot dogs wrapped in bacon or dough, pickles, cookies, cake, sundaes.... A patio party was not a break from cooking.

Even the pitcher of milk in the foreground might be an exotic adventure! Okay, that really does look like plain milk, but since this booklet was a from the American Dairy Association, it also had to provide exciting milk recipes.

I think Maple Nut Milk was meant as a beverage, but with all that corn syrup and peanut butter, it sounds more like a dessert to me (and way too heavy to have with a plate full of bacon-wrapped hot dogs).

I was really amused by this one...

...not because the recipe sounds particularly exotic, but because my childhood self would have felt so much more sophisticated knowing I was actually preparing "Calypso Cooler" rather than "milk with some Quik in it."

I also love the little guy at the bottom of the page who looks like he has a telescope growing out of his nose. (That would be painful and annoying! But maybe worth it when the neighbors forgot to shut the blinds?) Perhaps he knows that calling Quik milk a "Calypso Cooler" is a real stretch, so he's trying to help sell the island adventure idea. He's just making me wonder what would happen if he sneezed.

The illustrations do have a certain charm-- especially to sell ideas that are a stretch.

I'm sure real cowboys loved digging into hearty plates full of Beanee Weenees with extra onions.

Is it just me, or is his smile more than a little forced? Maybe it's because he's being swarmed by flies while he tries to eat his wretched Beanee Weenees and still maintain some semblance of masculinity?

Of course, no cookbook of this era would be complete without a scary gelatin-based salad.

"Jellied SALADettes" sound pretty scary, what with the lemon-lime gelatin, pickles, and olives, but on top of that, cooks also need a can of "Stokely's SALADettes"-- now a mystery product. When I tried to look it up, all I could find was other bloggers who also have this booklet wondering what the heck a SALADette might be. Feel free to fill in the blank with your own personal nightmare. I'm going to say that SALADettes were pickled tarantulas.

As you may have gathered based on all the brand names listed in this pamphlet, the American Dairy Association does not appear to be the sole sponsor of this puzzling little pamphlet. As the SALADettes recipe suggests, even Dixie Cups were in on the act! Now before you start feeling too scandalized about using disposable cups for an outdoor party, a note about etiquette:

Yep, they even called in Emily Post to reassure you that it's perfectly polite to serve chicken salad from a Dixie Cup...

...even if the chicken salad does look like some kind of sandcastle that's washing away to reveal its inner construction of fish bones and broken seashells. (Mmmm.... Gritty.)

Now go eat something outdoors. Quick! Before all outdoors is taken over by Memorial Day families with their 726 children.

Happy Cookbook Wednesday! As always, thanks to Louise of Months of Edible Celebrations for hosting.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Strawberries. No shortcake.

I didn't have an actual Strawberry Shortcake doll when I was a kid. My sister had both the regular Strawberry Shortcake and the "Dancin'" version. I liked Blueberry Muffin better. Anyone who can wear an enormous blue hat that is at least as heavy as her own head and drag around a pet mouse named Cheesecake has to have guts. You know her life is not going to be as easy as it is for the girl with the fluffy pink hat and matching cat. It's not blueberry season yet, though, so we're going the easy route with Strawberry Saturday.

I couldn't find much that is particularly disgusting. These are strawberries, after all! Even in the '50s, nobody wanted to mix strawberries with cheddar cheese and mustard to use as a hot dog relish or make a strawberry-and-cream-of-chicken soup casserole topped with crushed potato chips. I did find some recipes that are slightly more daring than strawberry shortcake, though.

If you like strawberry jam with a bit more of a bite to it, 1936's The Household Searchlight Recipe Book offers this suggestion:

(Note that Mrs. Emma Garibaldi listed HER OWN first name, too! This isn't from Mrs. Arthur Garibaldi. She would have understood Blueberry Muffin's charm.)

If you like to take WAAAAY longer than usual to make strawberry preserves, with the added thrill of knowing that your work is likely to start molding in the process, this recipe from The American Woman's Cook Book (ed Ruth Berolzheimer, 1942) might be better:

What fun-- cooking, then dragging the preserves in and outdoors every day for three or four days-- and if the run of sunny days stops, you have to finish cooking them the conventional way anyway! I was wondering why anyone would bother with all this, but then I remembered that houses didn't have air conditioning back then and it all made sense.

In the opposite extreme on the difficulty-of-assembling scale is a "recipe" from 1966's Favorite Recipes of Home Economics Teachers: Vegetables Including Fruits:

Dump together thawed strawberries and a box of vanilla wafer cookies (crumbled if you feel ambitious, but whole is fine if crushing them would be too much work) and throw in the fridge for a few hours. Dessert is done.

The Art of American Indian Cooking (Yeffe Kimball and Jean Anderson, 1965) recommends a combination that might sound a bit weird but is probably really good:

I'll admit that I was initially kind of hoping there would be some sweet corn mixed in with the strawberry part, but it's just straight-up sliced strawberries and sugar. The corn is in the sweet cornbread topping. I'll bet this would be good with corn in both places-- especially if strawberries and sweet corn were actually in season at the same time, which, sadly, doesn't happen.

The weirdest recipe is from Helen Brown's West Coast Cook Book (1952);

Strawberry-Almond Fritters roll strawberries in apricot jam, almonds, egg, and cracker crumbs before a brief session in the deep fryer and a sprinkle of powdered sugar. They sound like fair food from an alternate dimension where you might also order a "corn dog" that replaces the hot dog with a nice piece of salmon.

Happy Strawberry Saturday! Now get started on some strawberry preserves. If you're lucky, they might be ready by Cookbook Wednesday.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Chow Mein and Prunes

I don't know a lot about the Westchester Branch of Women's National Farm and Garden Association,

but I do know they did not believe in being overly fancy! This no-nonsense Kitchen Bouquets from 1967 is adorned only with splatters from some anonymous cook and the 50-cent price marking of the Goodwill shop. 

I thought the splatters might be a sign that this was a well-loved cookbook, but they are all confined to the cover. Apparently this is a great book to have closed on the kitchen counter as you make recipes from a different cookbook. 

Of course, this has plenty of questionable casserole recipes:

I love the way "Chop Suey Casserole" calls so nonchalantly for "3 lbs. chop suey meat," but luckily Jane Wait specified that meant equal parts veal, beef, and pork for people like me who would assume that this was shorthand for "whatever is on sale cheap this week." With two cans each of mushroom soup, cream of chicken soup, chow mein noodles, plus a can of pimento, this would be enough to feed a small army.

Apparently chow mein noodles were super-popular in Winchester, as "Hamburg-Chow Mein Noodles" calls for them too. I'm not sure why, but I can't get enough of recipes that refer to ground beef as "hamburg." You wouldn't think the missing "-er" would make any difference, but "hamburg" sounds just so much homier. Aside from the usual cream of mushroom soup, this variation has a weird mish-mash of chopped olives, cheddar cheese, and walnuts to give it that certain "I just threw in whatever I found in the back of the fridge and pantry" flavor. 

The casseroles aren't all terrible, though. I was surprised to see a decent manicotti recipe:

(Fun fact: My spell check thinks "manicotti" is not a real world and insists that I really mean it's a "manicurist recipe." I suspect manicurists would taste too acetone-y to be good in a casserole.)

I mostly included this because I love the note at the bottom of the page, specifying that exotic ingredients like ricotta cheese and manicotti are available at the Continental Market. That must have been the go-to place for the hard-to-find, as another recipe tells readers they can find "Greek streudel dough" there as well. 

I think I'll end with a nice loaf of bread to go with our casseroles:

Prune bread is sure to help out if all the cream-soup-and-cheese-filled casseroles take their toll on your digestive tract.... At least, I assume that's why one would eat prune bread instead of, say, pumpkin bread or banana nut bread. I love that the recipe calls for "Spry or Crisco," too. I'm pretty sure Spry had been phased out by the time this cookbook was published, but Betsy Glausser apparently believed in copying her old recipe faithfully. 

Happy Cookbook Wednesday, and thanks as always to Louise of Months of Edible Celebrations for hosting! Now get yourself a can of chow mein noodles and some prunes for a whole afternoon of fun.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Spring Chicken Surprises

Happy Saturday! I got you some seriously cute blue-and-white chickies (from Good Housekeeping's Cook Books 1958 "Poultry & Game Book"). 

I only got them as a pretense, though, to keep you from running away before I got to the less cute chicken pictures, like "Chicken-Octopus Hybrid":

Okay, I know they're just rings of onion, but I swear that chicken has suckers and it is ready to latch onto anything that gets within striking range.

I am also really wondering why the photographer thought it was a good idea to throw a crudely hacked up and just-beginning-to-brown avocado in the background. And look at the size of that seed! There's hardly any actual avocado. What a rip-off. (Just like those suckers will rip off your face!)

The recipe itself is not that bad. It's just chicken with a bit of onion and garlic and some canned potatoes. (I will never understand the obsession with canned potatoes, but maybe that's just me...) How the avocado was supposed to fit into this is anybody's guess.

If a chicken with suckers is a little too exotic, maybe you'd prefer a chicken with a really bad cold instead. May I present "Chicken a la Phlegm"?

Yes, there is some nice fluffy rice with a bit of greenery, and hints of crispy, golden-brown chicken, but it's all peeking out from under a liberal hosing of yellowish slime. The background suggests there's even an option to add orange-brown slime on top of the yellow if only one shade of goo is not quite enough for your taste. Yay!

Okay, this is really just fried chicken curry. It's probably okay if you don't mind apples hanging out with your mushrooms, onions, and teaspoon-and-a-half of curry powder. (This is definitely not from the same book that used a full quarter cup of curry in a few scrambled eggs.)

I hope this recipe is better than it looks. (Not that it would take much...)

Have a great weekend! May you not have the occasion to hose anything down with a thick layer of phlegm. (But if you do, may you at least witness some amusing reactions.)

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Kingan and Screamin'

For Cookbook Wednesday, a ham with a terrible skin condition:

Okay, I know I may be in the minority on hating the fruit-and-ham pairing. Those cherries and pineapples are creepy, though, no matter what you think. That has to be some industrial-grade glaze, too, for them to stick so tenaciously even to the slices on the platter.

Kingan's Meat Recipe Book (undated, the internet consensus seems to be mid-'50s to early '60s) was an advertising booklet for Kingan & Company, and Indianapolis-based food company. (If you want to see the entire booklet, one in better shape than mine, click here.)

The company made ham, obviously, and they had a recipe to help reaffirm my conviction that the only acceptable flavor of mousse is chocolate:

This ham mousse even goes the extra retro mile of making the whole smoky, foamy, jiggly mess in a ring mold so it can corral the apple/celery/mayo combo of Waldorf salad!

And if there is any leftover ham, you can always go with this recommendation for using up leftovers:

Or you could just save yourself some trouble and have some peanut butter toast without dumping creamed ham all over it.

The company mostly made canned and cured meats, but the booklet also has recipes for fresh:

Short Ribs Creole has very little discernible seasoning. I guess the paprika, garlic, and onion are enough to give it the "creole" title in Kingan's estimation, but this combination seems only slightly more deserving of the description of creole than the toy triceratops staring down at me as I type this sentence. The recipe does get tied into Kingan's empire with the addition of "Kingan's Reliable Tasti-Creamed Lard"! (Don't you hate it when your Tasti-Creamed Lard is unreliable?)

The real draw for this book is the pictures.

Maybe it's the sense memory from working for a year in a grocery store deli kicking in, but just seeing half-inch slabs of salami, bologna, etc. gives me goosebumps. Kingan's made cold cuts for everyone's mid-century creepy-sandwich needs:

Some of these are pretty obscure.(Pilot Loaf? I don't know whether I'd be more appalled if it contained people who flew planes or the distant relatives of killer whales.)

Some remind me why I hated certain sale weeks when I worked in the deli. I did not love feeling like a particularly nasty Christmas decoration as I picked slimy red and green lumps off my apron whenever Pickle & Pimiento Loaf was on special.

My favorite, though, is pretty pedestrian. The description of Oven Browned Ham might be a bit to small to see easily, but printed directly below the name on the label is "(Browned in an Oven)." I'm so glad they cleared that mystery up!

The canned specialties are even more varied:

I'm not normally one to think of the mid-20th century as a more innocent time, but... I have to say that the picture of a young girl in that pose directly above the word "WIENERS" would not work today.

You'll notice that variety meats are well-represented, with Liver Spread, Pork Brains with Gravy, and the ever-popular Lunch Tongue.

The Noodles and Beef with Sauce and the Spaghetti & Meat with Sauce look a bit wormy, but apparently that wasn't too much of a problem at the time.

If you needed Ox Tongue, canned Hamburgers, Lima Beans with Sauce and Ham, or some Picnic Spread (full of ants, I assume) Kingan had you covered.

For those who missed military chow but did not want to buy actual Spam, there was even "K-P Luncheon Meat"!

The late '50s/ early '60s were a deeply weird time, but just like your humble writer, they may be amusing to view at a suitable distance.

Happy Cookbook Wednesday, and  thanks again to Louise of Months of Edible Celebrations for hosting!

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Well, Everybody's Cooking in a UFO

Today's theme is out of this world.

I'm starting with the most palatable version: Galaxy Cookies from the 1969 Betty Crocker's Cookbook (although mine is the 1977 printing). I used to stare at this picture in my mom's cookbook when I was a kid because I thought these looked so awesome.

And the idea of stuffing nuts and chocolate chips into the middles of buttery cookies sounded absolutely amazing to me! For some reason, we never made them, though. 

Surprises from space aren't always so sweet, though. If you meet up with an unfriendly alien, you could get into a fight that ends up with you serving the alien's brain at a feast...

...garnished with cucumbers, peppers, and olives, and surrounded by orange fruit cups to raise the humiliation factor by 763%. (The General Foods Kitchens Cookbook, 1959)

Or, if the species just wants to reproduce, maybe you will run into some alien seed pods.

Just hope they stay external and nothing will come ripping out of your chest. (300 Ways to Prepare Eggs, ed. Ruth Berolzheimer, 1950)

So why the space theme? A new retro-looking (very offensive and NSFW Rob Zombie) video gave me an excuse to pull out some of the alien-looking pictures I had been holding onto but I didn't quite know what to do with. Plus I have been grading final projects and I just started a third job, so I feel like my brain has shipped off to outer space. I hope it comes home soon. Unless it is full of alien seed pods... Actually, that might explain a few things.

Happy Saturday! If you do see a UFO, have fun with it.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Melting penguins, making muffins, drying flowers, and other things to do in the microwave

Spring is once again making the dinosaur hordes that live atop my desk restless... in the interests of keeping the house cool and the dinos quiet, we will once again be delving into the wonders of microwave cooking, as they were conceived of in the 1970s.

Tappan's Microwave Cooking Guide (1979), as you might expect from the standing rib roast on the front cover, is yet another '70s microwave cookbook that insists pretty much everything can (and should!) be cooked in a microwave.

What sets it apart is how dedicated it is to showing how microwaves work.  How dedicated? Let these little penguins show you:

Aww! What an adorable plate full of icy penguins! These little guys are in a microwave cookbook, though, so you should have a good idea of what's coming next:

Melted penguin heads! For science! "Note the penguin in the center has melted less because it was shielded from the microwaves by the surrounding mass." I guess it's good to be that one.

Aside from melting any excess ice penguins one might have lying around, Tappan microwaves had plenty of uses. Got a whole lobster?

Pop it in the microwave!

Like crafting?

Dry your flowers in the microwave!

And while this book, like others, suggested that microwave-baking was a fine idea, it at least acknowledged that micro-baked "goodies" were not going to look as attractive as conventionally baked ones and suggested ways to fix them up so they'd at least appear to be more delectable:

Add cinnamon crunch or cinnamon and sugar! Add toasted coconut or chopped nuts! Maybe the improved looks will allow you to pretend that the texture is not the same as that of the sponge you'll use to wipe the counter when you're cleaning up afterwards.

The enthusiastic "Yes!" on this page suggests that the previous owner was indeed able to suspend disbelief in the yumminess of microwaved muffins. This book belonged to someone far more optimistic than I. (Not that it's a difficult bar to hurdle...)

And in case you're wondering, yes, this book does have the traditionally questionable microwaved casseroles, like this diet delight:

Canned tuna and mushrooms over unseasoned mashed cauliflower! I'm sure the dried minced onion and tomato juice topper was enough to... uh... shore up one's resolve to eat a lot less.

Happy Cookbook Wednesday! Now go out and microwave something that logically, you probably shouldn't.

Thanks again to Louise from Months of Edible Celebrations for hosting.