Tuesday, July 4, 2017

A sweet bicentennial feast, straight from the pantry

I'm posting a day early so we can celebrate Independence Day with The Best of Home Economics Teachers Bicentennial Cookbook (Favorite Recipes of Home Economics Teachers, 1975-- I guess they needed to start selling before the bicentennial actually hit!).

Don't you feel patriotic already, with all the stars and stripes? (Of course, a lot of the stripes are blue, and the stars are red and blue, so it's not exactly the flag, but a ribbon-and-applique version of patriotism, appropriate for home ec teachers.) (I'm serious! Look close. The white stripes are grosgrain ribbon.)

Today, I'm going to highlight just a few of the more "charming" trends I've noticed in old American recipes over the years.

Americans like their main dishes sweet:

It's not enough to have the classic (too-sweet-for-me-but-I'll-look-the-other-way-while-you-eat-it) apple and pork chop dinner. It's not enough to add sweet fall spices, or to dump a can of sweet potatoes in with it. No, you have to throw in a whole can of peaches too! Sweet on sweet on sweet.

At least a dinner of pork chops in syrup has a nice sheen to it.

If getting sweetness from fruit and sweet potatoes seems a little too subtle, there is always this approach:

I'll be honest, the stuffing of rice cooked in cream of mushroom soup sounds better to me than it reasonably should.

The recipes loses me at the point when it insists on brushing the chickens with orange juice mixed with corn syrup. Candied chicken is not my idea of a good time-- but it does seem quintessentially American to me.

Another fun American tradition: dumping every can from the pantry together, topping it with chow mein noodles, and calling it Chinese:

I somehow doubt the canned peas, mushroom soup, tuna, and oranges represent Chinese cooking much better than any other random assortment from the pantry shelves could. (How many times can I say that canned mushroom soup in a casserole does not equal Chinese?)

The added oranges make this unnecessarily sweet, too! Way to prove my previous point, home ec teachers.

And one more thing: Americans of the past did not always choose the most... er... sensitive names for recipe titles.

I'm sure the peppers and corn would have been familiar to native Americans, but I'm not so convinced about the olives or the "crushed Chip-O's." (Your guess is as good as mine on that last item. The name Chip-O's is too generic to get good results on a Google search. I'm going to make it interesting by saying that Chip-O's were potato chips flavored with cinnamon, onion, Cheddar cheese, and ginger.)

So happy Independence day (or happy Tuesday, if you're not from around here)! Make yourself a nice fruit cocktail, cream of mushroom soup, and chow mein noodle casserole. Give it a name I won't repeat.

That's right. Celebrate like a real American.


  1. When I first saw the name "Chip-O's", I thought generic "chips ahoy" cookies. While the potato chip guess is probably right, I can't entirely rule out the idea of chocolate chip cookies in this recipe.

    1. That could make sense. Then this could be sweet too!

  2. I found this on youtube, mystery solved! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5WPkFAIboDg

    1. Sweet! They must have been related to Pringles.