Saturday, October 28, 2017

Funny Name: Horrifying Heads Edition

The name of this recipe from Multi-Power Microwave Cooking from Sears (1975, but mine is from the ninth printing, 1978) conjures up images of extra-creepy friends for the already-creepy Campbell's Soup Kids my grandma used to collect:

The Tomato Noggins would be Campbell's Kids whose parents got... uh... a little too friendly with the tomato soup, so their offspring ended up with tomato heads.

Or it could just be tomato juice mixed with condensed beef broth and vodka. Still kind of scary if you ask me.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

A prickly collection

I'm not sure how I want to start today, but since I have a big old cactus guy, I'll just put him front and center.

Okay, technically he's front and aligned left, but don't tell anybody.

Catalina's Cactus Cuisine (Catalina Junior Woman's Club of Tucson, Arizona, 1968) has one of the funniest covers I've seen: a comically tall cactus in a chef's hat. The needles make it look as if he has super-hairy arms and neck (and the neck is almost long enough to make a giraffe tell him to quit showing off). His asymmetrical arms hold the fork and spoon as if he's trying to conduct two orchestras at once, and the little round mouth under his straight-across mustache suggests he's singing along. The tiny cartoon legs are clearly not enough to hold up the oversized cactus body, yet there he is, standing upright and singing along with his food-based orchestra anyway. (And is it just me, or do the cactus needles on his nether regions suggest humorous striped boxer shorts sticking out from under the apron?)

With a name like Cactus Cuisine, we might expect some authentic southwest recipes.

That might be expecting a little too much. Easy Tacos made with little more than a ground chuck/ onion/ tomato soup/ taco sauce filling could be straight out of a Minnesota cookbook, and I suspect most of those would at least add a little chili powder or a packet of taco seasoning. 

While there were fewer Southwestern recipes than I anticipated, there were more Polynesian ones. Maybe the people in Arizona just like to pretend they're near water? In any case, recipes with titles suggesting Hawaiian influence did not always follow the usual "we dumped in a can of pineapple" procedure:

They may blanket crab, avocado, and coconut with white sauce and American cheese...

They may dump a bacon/ curry/ steak sauce/ lemon/ baby food combo over chicken and sprinkle the whole mess with coconut, but they do not just dump in a can of crushed pineapple and call it a day. 

I was excited that my copy even came with a bonus recipe written in the "Write extra recipes here" space:

That's quite a recipe: Grape juice + ginger ale + vodka. I can see why the previous owner wrote it down!

Even though the book never lives up to its promise to give me some recipes for things cacti like to eat, it's a pretty fun find. I rate it one blooming cactus.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Funny Name: Hide the Candy Edition

Remember those limited-edition Oreos that caused an uproar in late summer 2016? You know, the ones with the bright-red filling? It sounds as if this recipe from Quick & Easy Dishes (Favorite Recipes of Home Economics Teachers, 1968) might be a similarly horrifying variation on the flavor:

Swedish Fish Souffle contains no actual candy Swedish fish, though. It's just a salmon or tuna souffle. (Your guess is as good as mine as to what makes this Swedish, but I know a Swedish chef who can make a pretty amazing souffle.)

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Recipes with a little something special, plus ancient frozen food

Seriously crunched for time and trying to turn your grading game up to 11? (Is that grading part just me?) It's time for clock watchers to get a little microwave action.

Today we have Multi-Power Microwave Cooking from Sears (1975, but mine is from the ninth printing, 1978). As you can see from the cover, this one is pretty heavy on the stews and casseroles. Even though it does have a few obligatory recipes for things like bread, cake, and "roast" turkey, these types of recipes are rather minimal for an old microwave cookbook. Maybe microwave manufacturers were finally realizing that recipes for colorless, rubbery food-pucks were not the best way to get people to use the microwave...

My favorite thing about the recipes in this book is that so many of them include special touches... That little something extra that makes me ask, "What?"

For example, I always thought dried beef was a food of last resort, something housewives kept on hand for weeks when the money was tight or they were snowed in and couldn't get real groceries.

Here, it's the special touch, used as a sauce for the chicken. I thought if you had chicken, you would leave the dried beef in the back of the cupboard, but I guess I was wrong. Either I or the cookbook seriously misunderstand something about dried beef, but I don't know which of us it is.

The special touch is not always so obvious as to be right in the title. This recipe looks perfectly fine at first:

Italian-Style Brazzoli seems to be a sped-up meat and tomato sauce. It's not exactly something nonna would approve of, but it seemed fine to me until I got to the raisins...

Then I wondered if they were a traditional part of Brazzoli, since I didn't really know what Brazzoli was. A quick Google search showed that the term mostly seems to apply to some kind of dyeing equipment for making fabrics. I did find two recipes with the name-- one copied from the cookbook nearly verbatim. The other is similar, but suggests using a slow cooker and seems to doubt the raisins just as much as I do, listing them as optional. I don't think I'm disparaging a traditional recipe here when I question raisins in spaghetti sauce....

Someone who worked on this cookbook really liked dried fruit in everything. It shows up again as a "special touch" in Sweet Beef:

How about prunes on your beef? Throw in some brown sugar, lemon, onion soup, sweet potatoes, and brown gravy mix while you're at it. I'm a little surprised we don't have a can of peaches, pineapple, and/or fruit cocktail too, and maybe some honey or molasses...

Whoever wrote this knew all my pet peeves. If it's not random and unnecessary fruit, then it's random and unnecessary condiments.

The Hot Chili Mexican Salad gets not just catsup in its microwave chili (enough to make me shiver all by itself!), but also mayonnaise. I'm not sure why the recipe couldn't have gone for, say, actual tomatoes if the goal was chili, but apparently they have to be reserved to go on at the end with the cheese and avocado. Hooray for good old-fashioned mayo-catsup chili.

I wasn't sure how I wanted to end this one, so here is a picture of old frozen foods from the end of the book.

I love looking at old packaging. I love it so much that I lose track of what's going on in a movie or TV show if the characters go to a supermarket. Manhunter is one of my favorite movies, and I am always too busy eyeing old boxes of Bran Muffin Crisp to ever fully pay attention to what Will Graham is saying in this scene.

Stray thoughts about old frozen food packaging:

Weight Watchers dinners looked scarily utilitarian back in the day. Seeing that little scale right on the front of the package and the all-business font warning that it contained sole, peas & pimento, chopped spinach, and a celery sauce makes it look like it must have been the equivalent of eating a block of hay for supper.

The Swanson dinner with its hash brown nuggets looks a lot more inviting, but the metal tray makes it a bad pick for a microwave cookbook.

It's nice that the Green Giant got a scarf when he was on packages frozen veggies. I'll bet he misses it now. Nobody cares if he freezes his sprouts off on a bag of riced cauliflower now. (And I'm baling out after that sprouts joke! Back to grading....)

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Funny Name: Trust No One Edition

I have a feeling this recipe from The Best of Home Economics Teachers Bicentennial Cookbook (Favorite Recipes of Home Economics Teachers, 1975) is trying to pull one over on me...

I am just not sure what the trick is supposed to be. What is the deception in "Corned Beef Deception Salad"? Is the title meant to openly admit that these gelatinous horrors aren't actually edible, or is there some other layer of deception I'm missing?

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Just eat an apple and keep the doctor out of your business

Today we have a book from The Kroger Food Foundation that tries to tell what to do When the Doctor Says "Diet" (1933):

Apparently, you get to eat two hard cooked eggs on a very sparse bed of parsley. Yippee. That guy's eyebrow arch of dismay could challenge Stephen Colbert's.

The book has plenty of concoctions of approximately the same "yum" value as the eggs and parsley. The section on liquid diets offers a variety of grimace-worthy options.

Some are pretty simple:

Toast soda crackers and then boil for fifteen minutes. Strain and serve.

If straining soggy crackers out of hot water doesn't sound quite exciting enough, there is a more labor-intensive version:

Soak barley or rice overnight, drain, cook for six total hours (two over direct heat, then four more in a double boiler), strain, and chill.

The alternative to strained-out carb-water is the protein option:

Egg white in clam broth! (I'm not sure whether calling the egg white albumen in the title makes this better or worse...)

And if liquids get too monotonous, there is always (ALWAYS) an aspic:

It's not all liquid diets, though. You know how gluten is the dietary bad guy in so many food stories today? It was not always so. Here's a bread recipe recommended for diabetics:

Gluten Bread gets rid of the other trappings of wheat and just keeps the gluten. (I'm seriously wondering what the texture of this would be like, as I eat a lot of seitan-- which is basically gluten with savory seasonings, made into chewy, meat-like chunks. I can't imagine trying to turn that into a passable slice of bread, but maybe the addition of yeast makes a difference?)

There aren't a lot of recipes in the booklet, though. Much of it is lists of menus for various types of diets (high carb, low carb, extra roughage, low roughage, high iron and copper...). Just to give you an idea of how different America was in 1933, here's a diet recommendation we don't often see anymore:

This is the high calorie diet. Even though parts of it are pretty clearly high calorie (scrambled eggs with cream and bacon at breakfast, a milk shake and cookie snack), I'm surprised how much of this overlaps with weight-loss diet foods. Apparently vegetable aspics and grapefruits were inescapable facts of life back then. Even saying that you were trying to gain weight wasn't enough of an excuse to skip them. (At least you could apparently count macaroni as a "vegetable of high caloric value," so that was something...)

My favorite item on the list might be the prune and pineapple salad with mayonnaise. You could try to force that on me all day long, and I wouldn't gain an ounce.

In any case, I don't know whether I'm gladder that I don't have to follow a doctor-recommended diet in 1933 or that I don't have to cook someone else a doctor-recommended diet in 1933. I'm also glad we don't need a damn aspic at every meal.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Funny Name: Erase the Browser History Edition

The name of this recipe from Quick & Easy Dishes (Favorite Recipes of Home Economics Teachers, 1968) sounds like it could be the title for some kind of fetish porn:

I can think of several scenarios where "Beat 'n' Eat" might be an appropriate label, but I will leave you to your own imaginations, you pervs.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Foil Freaks on the Doorstep

Okay, I have to be honest. Halloween is 90% of the reason I bough 401 Party and Holiday Ideas from Alcoa (Conny von Hagen, 1971) in the first place.

It's true that I can't resist dark steps illuminated by otherworldly-looking foil jack-o-lanterns:

Foil lollipop ghosts provide some good comic relief.

Who else would eye a mound of boring old apples with such excitement?

I find long-necked cats that look like stress balls with pop-out eyes to be hilarious, especially when they have giant popcorn-ball butts.

None of them was the reason I picked this up. Prepare yourself for the picture that will haunt your dreams... for the nightmare children who will stalk you from the corners of your subconscious mind...

Maybe I'll just give you the instructions on how to make their masks first, so you can back out while there's still time:

Doesn't sound too bad, right? Fifteen foil sheets around a big balloon, deflate, cut openings, and decorate. The kids can be shiny goblins or whatever.

Are you sure you want to see this? I mean, are you really sure?

The masks are something you can't un-see.

And that is what makes them perfect.

I don't know where to begin, so I'll start with the most puzzling/ least horrifying one in the back. The kid is just wearing an enormous ball with a circle cut out for the face. Is it a big old-timey diving helmet? Is it a baseball with some serious structural integrity issues? I think it's supposed to be an astronaut helmet, as it looks kind of like the Space Party helmet, and it has some kind of an antenna-like thing sticking out of the top. In any case, the kid is blissfully unaware of how creepy this picture is.

The witch looks goofy with her big lipsticked smile under a comically long nose.She seems self-conscious about being less menacing than the ostensibly-friendlier characters in the foreground, clasping a jack-o-lantern to verify her Halloween bona fides.

Next to the witch is the bear. I think it's supposed to be a panda, but it must have bleached its arms and ears, maybe as part of the beauty treatment that also glued a paper flower collage on top of its head. Maybe panda shouldn't creep me out as much as it does, but that big head with the hollow eyes... It looks like something that would suddenly be staring at teenagers making out in a horror movie, glimpsed only briefly before the camera refocuses on a butcher knife (or maybe butterfly sword, if they want to carry through with the Chinese theme)...

That clown in the front, though! This evil magic is the reason I picked the Alcoa book up. Just look at the kid wearing a boring winter jacket and striped gloves, daring anyone to observe that it's not even remotely a clown outfit. And clown is going to get away with it, too. I mean, look at that head:

Look at it! Haphazard green hair! Enormous hollow eyes! (Is there even a kid under there?) Ruff that's clearly made from dead grandma's housedress! Painted-on smile around a mouth that's big enough to swallow your soul!

The woman cheerfully offering up her tray of candy apples and cheap taffy must have taken a couple days' worth of Valium to prepare.

This picture is why you're reading about foil handicrafts all year. Now you know what to thank/ blame.