Saturday, December 30, 2017

I'm not so sure ham will play along

I hope by this point that if you had ham for Christmas, it's been eaten. If not, my new McCall's No Time to Cook: Meals in Minutes (1985) has a pun for you:

Play it again, ham! What a majestic spread of ham-filled leftover magic, from the almost-too-pretty-to-eat Baked Ham-and-Cheese Fondue to the utilitarian-trying-to-look-fancy Ham-Rice Loaf to the WHY? of Ham Mousse and Banana-Ham Fritters.

The most '70s of all may be the fondue:

A quick read through the recipe loaded with ham, cheese, and creamed corn set into a slice-able egg custard reveals that this is less of a traditional fondue and more of a quiche with a bread cube sort-of crust-- so it's still a popular '70s dish, if not exactly the one conjured up by its name.

The Ham-Rice Loaf is a little more basic:

Rice, green pepper, peas, and ham all loosely bound with a bit of tomato sauce and fancified with halved olives. Wee!

The Stuffed New Potatoes sound delicious:

I'm a sucker for anything with potatoes and cream cheese! However, the fact that cooks were essentially expected to make two dozen miniature twice-baked potatoes makes me seriously question the book's "meals in minutes" premise. This would be delicious, but it's not the kind of thing anyone I know would describe as quick or easy.

I know ham and fruit is a classic pairing, even if it's not one that I could personally find exciting, but is there really much call for Ham Hash in Papaya?

My childhood grocery stores were not the type that would have a stock of papayas waiting, and you can bet that even if we did find a couple, our first move wouldn't be to fill them with celery, onion, ham, and potato cubes and bake them in a fashion that makes them look like Marge Simpson has a very scary infection down there.

Much more palatable-looking are the fritters. Who doesn't love some golden-brown deep fried goodness?

Ground ham and cheese rolled in boiled bananas before frying might be enough to make you think twice about whether you really want all those oily calories, though.

Of course, we can't forget about the pièce de résistance, the Ham Mousse. The thing is, the recipe was spread out over multiple non-consecutive pages, and I am too damn lazy to try to scan it all and piece it together, so I'm just giving you the glorious picture all by itself:

Rest assured that this daisy from the gates of hell is loaded with all the gelatin, white wine, hard-cooked eggs, pimiento, ground ham, whipped egg whites, and mayonnaise that you are imagining. It looks pretty impressive, but this is one flower I would not recommend stopping to smell!

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

I'm no hero

I don't want to waste any time getting around to writing about a terrific holiday gift from one of my dear friends.

I think the book would approve of my speedy recognition, as it's McCall's No Time to Cook: Meals in Minutes (ed. Elaine Prescott Wonsavage, 1985). 

When I jumped like a wooden rabbit hopping over be-mushroomed broccoli and "Puffy Broiled Fish" to check out my new book, I found a lot of things to love... the "attractive party fair" of foot-long open face sandwiches engineered to be nearly impossible to cut up and serve without someone getting mayonnaise on their tie, a pimiento-cheese smeared cucumber on their shoe, or an anchovy fillet down their décolletage. I'd list the recipes, but if you can see the pictures, you pretty much know the recipes. Just put a base layer of butter and mayo down before your ham with pears, pineapple, and cherries or bologna rolls with green pepper strips. 

The book has a nice children's take on the '60s lady's luncheon staple of sandwich loaves:

It's a "Zebra" Peanut Sandwich Loaf. (I guess the scare quotes are to reassure us that it's not made with real zebras.)

I've never seen a zebra with peanut-colored stripes, but I'll bet this peanut butter and cream cheese filled iteration of the sandwich loaf will be more attractive to kids than the ones calling for deviled ham or cottage cheese mixed with pineapple and garlic powder. (You'd always have one picky kid like me bitching about the raisins and another totally unreasonable kid bellyaching about the nuts on top, but that's what you sign up for when you try to feed kids anything.)

My very favorite sandwiches might be in the hero section, though, as the writers seemed to have no idea of what a herosandwich is. I always thought they were Italian-inflected and served in a long roll split down the middle. You know, not quite like this:

Just pile a bunch of meatballs on top of a loaf of bread so they're bound to fall off! The meatballs might seem somewhat traditional, but these are a little fancier than you may be expecting:

This is the meatball version of Beef Bourguignon! All the little steps it takes to get to the final step of mounding the meatballs all over the bread would take at least an hour, so I'm not sure how this fits the "no time to cook" theme either. Maybe the note that the meatballs may be frozen is supposed to mean it will be speedy in the future? In any case, the mountain o' beef bourguignon "hero" is the closest we'll get to a traditional hero. 

The next hero is an ever-vigilant crime fighter, keeping watch with its three bloodshot eyes:

Or maybe it's just waiting for a chance to eat me? Am I the only one who sees an alien with three eyes, a gill/ nose hybrid, and a mouthful of lunch meat and cheese teeth eyeing me up? It might look vaguely hero-ic, what with the cold cuts, but this is a sandwich that's not traditionally given the hero treatment.

This behemoth is the Reuben Hero. I'm not a Reuben lover, scholar, or admirer-from-a-safe-distance, but even I know Reubens are supposed to have corned beef and sauerkraut. With the turkey and cole slaw, this is closer to a Rachel I think....

This is still not the furthest the book strays from the idea of a hero, though. That would be this little number:

Granted, the Mexican inflection makes this the one I'd be most interested in, but in no universe is chili and tortillas baked in layers a hero! I can countenance calling any of the other items so far at least a sandwich, but this leaves me no alternative but to call shenanigans!

Saturday, December 23, 2017

I wish you a moldy Christmas

Since Jell-O salads are such a favorite, I thought the best Christmas gift I could bestow might be a sampling of molded "delights" from the Better Homes and Gardens Christmas-Time Cook Book (1974).

I'll be sweet and start out with some pretty molds that might even taste halfway decent:

The rosy, grape-capped confection is the best sort of gelatin mold: the dessert masquerading as a salad.

Yep, it's an excuse to eat whipped cream and mounds of sugar and feel righteous about it because THERE'S FRUIT. Of course it's healthy.

The very Christmassy red and green confection is supposed to be a wreath:

Okay, I'm not going to pretend that lime Jell-O with celery in it or mayonnaise flavored with lemonade concentrate would be my top choice for a dessert (or even a salad), but we all know this is at least toward the center of the gelatin mold continuum (ranging from "Don't tell anybody, but I might want seconds" to "You expect me to choke that down?")

That other end of the continuum is filled with things like Christmas Vegetable Salad Mold:

Apparently holiday crudités are more festive if they're all congealed together in vinegar-flavored tomato juice?

for the ritzy families who want to show off that they have the money to ruin not just carrots or celery, but shrimp:

And for those sadistic souls who want to make sure everyone has to confront the random-veggie-filled mold, rather than being able to comfortably ignore the one on the buffet bar, there's always the option to make an individual mold for each member of the party:

Won't everyone be delighted to have a lemon-pimiento-cucumber-celery mold plopped in front of them?

For cooks who get a case of the post-holiday-blues trying to figure out what to do with the leftovers, there's a mold for that too:

Turn the leftover chicken or turkey into Chicken-Macaroni Molds, and let the holiday spirit live on.

Here's hoping you get something better than a shiny, jiggly chicken salad in your stocking!

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Christmas-Time in Harvest Gold and Orange

Christmas-Time is here, and it's not just the Peanuts version. There's also this:

It's the Better Homes and Gardens Christmas-Time Cook Book (1974)!

It is indeed packed with more than 400 recipes for everything from Thanksgiving through Chinese New Year. There was so much stuff, I wasn't sure what I should pick to represent this book... but it definitely wouldn't be the staid turkey with gravy and a side of pimento-studded peas on the cover.

I contemplated showing off Christmas in New England, on the Plains, in Hawaii, in Williamsburg or Sacramento or New Orleans. I looked at Italian-, German-, Polish-, Scandinavian-, and Greek-American celebrations.

Then I saw it: "A Contemporary Christmas." That was exactly where I wanted to go: Christmas in 1974. What was on the menu?

A lot of sweet stuff: ham with orange and cranberries, candied squash, and pineapple salads in addition to the spice cake dessert. What did this feast look like?

I kind of expected the picture to have more macrame owls, but the avocado, harvest gold, and bright orange print on the wall gets the job of saying "It's the '70s!" done. So let's check out the recipes.

Let's start with the clear centerpiece: the ham.

You almost get the recipe just from the title: Oranges? Check. Ham? Check. Cranberries? Check. Brandy? Check. The only real surprise might be that the orange juice gets mixed into a nutmeg-and-corn-syrup glaze. The big trick is to make the orange shells pretty and stable enough to station one with a payload of drunken cranberries at each corner of the ham.

To go with a sugar-glazed ham, you need some sugar-glazed squash:

Clearly the '70s were not afraid of sugar! We're up to over three cups of sugar and syrup for the main and side dishes... but at least they're bright and colorful with orange and red, unlike the all-brown spread typical of Thanksgiving.

If you need a little relief from the sweet, there is a broccoli bake hiding out under the potted plant:

It's the Christmas cousin of green bean casserole, swapping out broccoli for green beans and bread crumbs for fried onions.

No '70s party would be complete without a salad that's secretly a dessert.

Cream cheese beaten with sugar and topped with candied cherries? It's a salad as long as there's some pineapple and yogurt in it!

It's a pretty good '70s spread, but if you still need a little more '70s, an alternative menu in the contemporary section just might scratch that itch:

Yep! If you just want a little fondue party for the holidays, there is a fondue menu. Start with creamy cheese:

Yeah, it's mostly American cheese smoothed out with a little white wine and cream cheese, but hey! It's still a cheese fondue.

Then be adventurous and try something '70s cooks might describe as "ethnic":

Chili-Bean Dip pairs the refried beans with condensed cheese soup and some canned chili peppers. The fondue pot won't know what hit it!

Chase the savory dips with some sweet ones:

Does the fact that this has apricots in it make it the "salad" fondue?

To cap it all off, we have the beverage-inspired fondue:

Vanilla pudding mix with eggnog! Break out the angel cake and banana slices and party like it's 1974!

Happy vintage holidays to anyone who made it all the way to eggnog fondue! You're truly dedicated. Have a macrame owl!

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Some canned and dyed-green appetizers

I'm finally done grading, so instead of posting a canned (Ha!) funny name post I wrote months ago, I had time to pick out a couple not-so-delectable tidbits from ancient December Woman's Day magazines.

The December 1976 B in B (for "Broiled in Butter") mushroom ad got my attention with its image of an avocado being overtaken by a horde of angry mushrooms:

But what really got me was the part of the ad I like to refer to as "mushroom explosion":

The orange was apparently overtaken by a mayonnaise-based monster, met some canned whole mushrooms, and lost its freaking mind!

Anyone would lose it for these mushrooms, at least according to the ad:

These aren't just any canned mushrooms. They're "the hors d'oevre mushroom," which makes them perfect for draping over unsuspecting avocados or toothpicking to orange shells filled with cream cheese, mayo, canned mushroom broth, onion, and Worcestershire. They're a sophisticated party starter, not a sign that maybe guests dropped by for a snack when the family was down to fruit parings and whatever cans were left in the back of the pantry....

The canned mushroom greeting is positively sumptuous compared to what I have termed the saddest Christmas recipe ever, courtesy of a special pull-out "Collector's Cookbook" section in the December 1974 Woman's Day:

Mock Pistachios are for the family who wants to seem like they can put out real pistachios for the guests, but only has the budget for dyed-green almonds. For those who can't afford a full cup of almonds, the recipe can be halved. Halved! Have yourself a gloomy little Christmas contemplating that scenario.

You're welcome for the total downer. Just to make it up to you (and maybe convince Santa that I'm not so bad after all), here's a cheerful picture of mom's imaginary friends helping her get the house ready for the big holiday (from the same 1974 booklet):

Let's just hope they're careful with those candles and that the big cauldron isn't full of Lima-Clam soup. They look trustworthy, right? And they'll leave all the dyed-green almonds and mushroom-orange explosions for the guests.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Low-cal recipes that will make mom slowly lose her mind

Are you ready for some temptation? You know, something delicious yet healthy-ish enough to counterbalance those piles of Christmas cookies you've been putting away?

Tempting Low-Calorie Recipes (Melanie de Proft, 1956) promises temptation right in the title, but the plate full of green gelatin on the cover suggests this is exactly the low-cal cookbook you think it is.

Some recipes do look surprisingly edible, though. This platter full of bacon-topped meat and whipped potatoes doesn't look to diet-foody:

There's a reason for that.

Dieters are permitted "just one onion, one tomato half, and no potatoes with [their] serving of meat." Mom may look happy now, but her smile will fade when she realizes she's not allowed to eat everything she made. She can't even have a whole tomato, and it's just a non-starchy vegetable!

Cook for everyone, but you don't get what everyone else gets is a pretty common tactic in this book.

The book concedes that dieters might eat the stuffing in Special Stuffed Fish, listing the calories for a whole serving. However, the writers will clearly be disappointed in the weight-watchers' lack of commitment if they go crazy and eat the few tablespoons of bread crumbs stuffed into the fish. After all, "The calorie-watchers need not eat the stuffing," and leaving it out will save 86 calories. (Maybe they're calories best saved, though. Why waste them on bread crumbs steeped in fish juice and minced sweet pickle?)

Of course, there are plenty of recipes that don't require holding back. One recipe offers a whole luncheon platter, for example. Six dieting friends would need to share it, but they'd have full access to the bountiful platter. Let's take a look:

Wait. Is the platter just a bunch of hard-cooked eggs and cottage cheese paired with a godawful aspic?

Yep! Eat up! Everybody gets their own jiggly mold of tomato juice with celery leaves and onion floating in it, PLUS half a hard-cooked egg and a half-cup of cottage cheese. Oh boy.

If you think the creativity slips a few notches for the fully diet-friendly recipes, you are quite right. Take a look at this appetizer:

The Chilled Melon Appetizer is a chilled melon half topped with... a few melon balls. They're not even melon balls of a contrasting type of melon-- just cantaloupe on cantaloupe. If you're super-lucky, maybe the balls are brushed with a nearly imperceptible trace of Cointreau.

Even if the recipes are a bust, I love C. C. Cooper's illustrations in this book. The opening pages offer a tableau that I could not quite figure out:

Why is mom mending Junior's shorts while he's still wearing them? That can't be easy! Is she not concerned that she will accidentally stab him or sew his underwear to his shorts? And why are brother and sister standing there watching this whole thing with an air of quiet alarm? Why is brother leaning over as if he wants a better view? It looks as if mom has become deranged from eating too much aspic and cottage cheese while everyone else gets mashed potatoes, and she's taking it out on the family. Rip your shorts? Well, mom might just sew them directly to your butt, while your siblings watch, lips tightly pursed to avoid letting slip a protest that might turn her wrath in their direction.

But don't worry; mom's not a monster. She'll let you all go with some cookies moments later.

Yes, pretend this is all perfectly normal, and run away with the cookies before mom realizes that she's stuck with prune whip for her own dessert again....