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.


  1. I don't know what I expected to be inside this cookbook Poppy but, Chop Suey Casserole definitely wasn't on my list! (I thought Chop Suey was "out of style" by the 60s. Apparently not:) I must say though, minus the anise seed, the manicotti recipe isn't half bad. (no problem with my spell check, lol)

    Marion has been requesting Prune Bread as of lately. I've been resisting and will not be using Spry or Crisco whould I ever actually bake it!

    Thanks so much for sharing Poppy and for once again joining us for Cookbook Wednesday...

    1. Thanks as always for hosting! I just did my part for Reese's day! :-)

      Good luck if you do make prune bread.

  2. Hee hee! I love the 1950s housewives understanding of "Chinese" food

    1. Those scare quotes around "Chinese" are definitely appropriate!