Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Microwave your tongue and throw a fish party

Time for more microwave recipes from a time when people really wanted microwaves to do actual cooking, and not just reheat General Tso's Chicken from last night. The General Electric Microwave Guide and Cookbook (1977) is ready for anything:

Okay-- I think people still microwave bacon, I have been known to microwave ears of corn (still in the husk) during summer, but roast beef? Pie crust? If anybody is going to go to the trouble of actually making those from scratch anymore, we're not going to ruin our efforts in the microwave.

The thing that surprised me most in this cookbook is that some models apparently had a slow-cooker-like setting. What a great idea-- leave the microwave on all day while you're at work so you can come home to...
To a nice savory beef tongue! Yes, leave the microwave on for TEN to TWELVE HOURS so you will end up with a nice, vinegary beef tongue that you only have to skin before serving. Never mind that the slow cooker could probably do this way more efficiently if you really wanted to come home to a supper that could lick you back, or that the slow cooker would turn back on again if the electricity happened to flicker. No, it's worth the small chance that you will come home to a partially cooked tongue that is no longer safe to eat just for a chance to leave the microwave running for a full half-day.

This cookbook also once again highlights the difference between '70s ideas of convenience foods and current ones. Want some beans? Don't waste your money on canned beans when you can cook your great northern beans quickly and right in the microwave!


It only takes about two hours. (Or you could just boil them on the stove top for-- about an hour and a half, plus soaking time. So HUGE time savings with the microwave.) I'm also pretty sure that "Ranch Style" meant something different then, too. Now if you told your family you would serve ranch-style beans, I'm pretty sure there would be a revolt when they realized it just meant beans with sugar and mustard, not a salad-dressing packet.

The microwave was also considered perfectly fine for fancy appetizers. Want something a little French?

Try Escargots Microwave (or, if you really want to commit, Escargots Micro-ondes)! Serving microwaved canned snails will ensure the neighbors will continue to talk about your party for years to come.

Perhaps the scariest-looking recipe is for fish:


Is it just me, or does this look like some kind of a trout S & M party went terribly awry? Other trout are looking on in horror and arguing about whether they should get the police involved.... 

The plans for a trout party involve about as much lemon and butter as one might expect.


And they end with that creepy vintage fish recipe piece de resistance, the "pimiento-stuffed olive in the eye cavity":


"I will see you in your nightmares." 

Pleasant dreams, everyone.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Burgers that make you go "Huh?"

It's the weekend, so I got you some "beautiful" burgers! They're from the Hamburger Cookbook (1977) in Betty Crocker's 4 in 1 Cookbook Collection (1980).

Love a burger with a big, slimy, squash-looking thing plunked down on top of it? You're in luck!


Or is the slimy "squash" cucumber rings with raw egg yolks? Zucchini with orange juice concentrate?

It's actually not as bad as it looks. These are Taco Patties:

The scary-looking topping is just avocados (cut in rings!) with a cheese-and-taco sauce treatment.

I'm not sure I've ever been so frightened by a picture and reassured by the actual recipe before. I might get whiplash from this one.

If your secret burger fantasy is for a sandwich that looks as if it could double as food for your pet lizard colony, then I have just the thing for you:


Mealworm burger! Just dress it up for the human diners with a sesame seed bun. (They will be grateful for anything to cover up this atrocity.)

Okay, I'm admittedly not as excited about the thought of a Chow Mein on a Bun as I am about the Taco Patties, but this again doesn't sound nearly as bad as it looks. If you can abide by some ginger, bean sprouts, and water chestnuts in your sandwich, then this is probably fine.

My favorite part of this recipe might just be the variation. Would you rather just have Chow Mein? Then serve Chow Mein on a Bun... Now I hope the explanation is not too complicated for you to follow, but I'll try my best... Serve it without the bun! That's one hell of a variation.

I just hope someday I can be as creative as Betty Crocker.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Throw it all together and call it happiness

At this point in the winter, I'm always looking for a little happiness. Anything to make the short, cold days even shorter (but not colder!) is welcome. Homemade Happiness (Phoenix Eighteenth Ward Relief Society, 1975) promises I can make happiness right in my own kitchen, but the extremely warped glasses on the cover make me question that claim. Broken specs are not the way to warm my heart.

Weird and/or scary recipes are, though, and the book features those in abundance.

Here's a recipe in one of my favorite genres: dubiously Asian.

I'm a little surprised it's not called Hawaiian rice, what with the canned luncheon meat and pineapple, but I guess the peas, dill, cherry tomatoes, and sour cream(!) made whoever named this recipe think a more generic (and borderline racist) title would be appropriate. It seems like it could be a halfway decent start toward glorified rice OR veggie-rice pilaf, but somebody got bored partway through, said "Eff it," and just dumped them both together and pretended it was meant to be like that.

If you want something cheesier, may I offer Taco Pie?


I can't figure out what that picture is supposed to be! It looks like a guy taking a picture of a talking lamp on an end table. I guess maybe it's supposed to be a cheeseburger on a pedestal? Or maybe he's got some kind of a weird hat fetish and he's taking old-timey pictures for private use later? (Don't ask me about the paper clip on the page, either. It came that way. I assume this means the original owner intended to try this recipe. I just left it on because it adds character and mystique.)

As for the recipe itself, this is the first recipe I've ever seen that suggests using bacon, clams, or tuna fish interchangeably. (They're all pretty much the same, right?) I'm also not sure how the word "taco" comes into play at all, as this seems to be more of a frittata for using up leftover veggies. I know the definition of a taco can be flexible, but I don't know anyone who thinks of canned tuna topped with sliced potato, celery, and eggs (with no tortilla or seasonings!) as a taco, even if a few stray olives or avocado slices might be scattered on top.

This book mostly has conventional chapters-- ones for main dishes, soups, cakes, and so on, but there is also a chapter exclusively for apples, with recipes like this:


I'm not sure what Applacado is, exactly. I guess it's a fruit salad with avocado chunks, but I love the name (if not the thought of apples, grapefruit, and avocado mixed with mayonnaise and raw-egg-encrusted grapes).

Other apple dishes offer that perennial favorite couple, tuna and apples:


I'm not thinking of tossing apple, canned oranges, canned tuna, mayonnaise, walnuts, soy sauce, and lemon juice together in a bowl when I read "Apple Tuna Toss." I think you know what kind of tossing I envision....

The book ends with one of those folksy pretend recipes that are pretty popular in collections like this. Need a new recipe for preserves?


They're lucky I wasn't in charge of writing that one, or my recipe would be pretty short: Formaldehyde. I guess that's why I don't get put in charge of projects like this!

And now I'm wondering if I could just crawl into a vat of formaldehyde and let somebody wake me up when winter is over....

Saturday, February 11, 2017

A Valentine "treat" with a heart of cold

To get you ready for Valentine's day, home economics teachers from 1974 are ready to fill your hearts with ... something cold!

From the New Holiday Cookbook (the Favorite Recipes of Home Economics Teachers series) is something that looks sweet and desserty for your Valentine sweetie:


Little gelatin hearts, filled with a marshmallow and fruit salad, I imagine, with maybe a whipped-cream-and-fruit-juice based dressing? Not exactly:

Two-in-One Valentine Salad does offer two salads, but they are aspic (gag!) and that classic aphrodisiac, chicken salad. If your sweetheart loves celery TWO ways-- both jelled up in some tomato, lemon, and onion juices AND mixed with cold chicken and mayo, then this may be a stop on the route to Romance City.

Otherwise, it's more like a bus stop, with people checking their watches every two minutes and just wishing they could get it over with already.

If you really need a sweet heart fix, especially a weird, greenish zombie heart fix, the home ec teachers also covered that.

Happy Valentine's weekend! I might spend mine in Valentine Bluffs. Yeah, just like this recipe, I do not have great taste.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

The scenic route to a man's heart, maybe?

I would think the quickest way to a man's heart would be through the chest, but I'm not quite as sentimental as women are presumed to be.

The good women of 1926 were expected to to want to win men's figurative hearts, and 161 New Ways to a Man's Heart (Carroll Rheinstrom) suggests these recipes can help women produce "a peaceful and contented mood" that will help women "retain" their husbands' love.

Of course, we all know that the grape jelly pictured on the cover is a great aphrodisiac, but what other foods will make husbands so loving and forgiving?

If you guessed something fancy, like caviar, you'd be half-right.


Caviar and Gelatine Sandwiches are at least not false advertising, letting you know right up front that to get to the caviar, you're going to have to eat some consomme-flavored gelatin. (Not mentioned in the title is the fact that appetitsils-- a name for a type of sardines so obscure that a Google search comes up almost empty-- are embedded in the gelatin as well.) The promised caviar is hidden away inside the gelatin cavity and buried under chopped egg yolks and parsley. I'm not sure how delighted husbands of the 1920s might have been by this creation, but I imagine they might have been puzzled into silence when staring down this weird little sandwich, and isn't that good enough?

What if your sweetheart wants something sweet?


Sweetbread Patties won't really fit the bill, except for having the word "sweet" in the title. But if your sweetie loves thymus chunks and egg sauce in patty shells, well, this is a party!

If you're the type who loves to spend hours on a fussy recipe to show how much you care, this might be a good option:


Make a thick cream sauce. Cook, skin and bone a pound and a half of fish, then rub it "through a strainer with a wooden potato masher." (Sounds like fun!) Mash the strained fish with beaten egg whites with a wooden spoon for 12(!) minutes, slowly mix in "the cold cream sauce by the tablespoonful," then chill for an hour. If you think that's the end, you're mistaken-- now it's time to whip cream, "oil a mould and bake fish like custard." Serve it with a seafood sauce you made in the meantime, all for the sweet reward of having your husband remark, not quite so sweetly as one might hope, "You really thought I wanted fish custard? Are you out of your mind?" (Okay, I can think of one guy who thought he might like fish and custard, but not prepared this way.... and his tastes are a bit unusual.)

To accompany one of these abominations, the vegetable chapter offers this... unusual... side dish:


Chestnuts and Prunes! Another dish that promises hours' worth of work in exchange for puzzled glances from the family, this one requires peeling and scraping two pounds of chestnuts and cooking them for an hour before adding prunes, chopped suet, sugar, and spices before another four hours of cooking. It's like having a demented Christmas dessert as a side!

Yes, 161 New Ways to a Man's Heart makes me wonder if men's hearts were made of something different back in the 1920s.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

A guac on the wild side

The Super Bowl must be coming. I can tell because avocados are on sale everywhere. (Yeah, I get my news about current events from the grocery store circulars. It seems like the safest place to look lately.)

That means today we're looking at variations of that party favorite, guacamole! The West Coast Cook Book (Helen Evans Brown, 1952) suggests a pretty straightforward version with a lot of potential add-ins:


The bare avocado, salt, chili powder, onion, and lemon juice formula has plenty of room for tomatoes, green chilis, ripe olives, or crisp bacon. It also manages to give readers who may not be familiar with the dish a guide to pronunciation while still huffily upbraiding those who would spell it "waca molay." (Full disclosure: I would have a field day with a book that spelled it that way too!)

Guacamole wasn't just for the posh west coast, though. Even Alaska had a version (Alaska's Cooking, Anchorage Woman's Club, fifth printing, 1965):


This seems more like the weird cousin of egg salad since it has almost as much riced hard boiled egg as avocado. It's also presented as more of a salad than a dip, served on lettuce and garnished with tomato and bacon. (The writers disagree with Brown on the phonetic spelling as well, preferring "wa-ca-molly.")

For the yuck factor, I'll turn to the Morningstar Farms Cholesterol Free Foods cookbook (1978). Since it's from a fake meat company, you know it has to be loaded up with fake meat:


Okay, they don't technically call it guacamole, but you know the Avocado-Luncheon Slices Dip is really a form of guacamole. It's made with nearly the same ingredients as the West Coast Cook Book's, plus yogurt and-- get ready-- chopped up Morningstar Farms Luncheon Slices. They were ham-like soy slices so delicious that they were ultimately discontinued:


I'm not sure guac full of fake ham is anybody's favorite, and I like veggie-based "meat"!

If you're still hungry for more old guacamole recipes, I had one that was advertised as a Christmas gift for dieters and another that served as distraction from the openly racist caricatures in a South Carolina regional cookbook. Enjoy!

I'm going to spend the Super Bowl rooting for myself to get the grading finished, even though my cheering always distracts me. I hope your party is more fun than mine!

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Love is foiled again!

It's February, and that means a shiny new batch of suggestions from 401 Party and Holiday Ideas from Alcoa (Conny von Hagen, 1971). Perhaps intuiting that foil is NOT the sparkly item that people covet most on Valentine's day, the recommendations for this celebration are pretty minimal, suggesting simply a dinner for two "with food he likes best; red roses for you, and your home filled with shiny hearts."

It's easy to see the foods he likes best are apparently roast squabs and heart-shaped cake, but what is that big, bleeding-brain-resembling blob on the lettuce-lined salad plates?



If you guessed that he's supposed to adore aspic, you're right!


The perfect lead-in for a roast squab stuffed with wild rice is ham suspended in vinegar, Worcestershire, mayonnaise, mustard, and horseradish-laced lemon Jell-O! Garnish with tomato-slices for that just-killed look.

You'll notice the little foil hearts popping up everywhere, but the cake has a foil-rific secret too:

It's on a foil-covered pedestal, but cooks are also expected to bake the cake in a pan they hand-created from (you guessed it!) more foil:


I love that the directions refer readers to page 25 for the instructions on creating a pedestal. They are, and I quote, "tape a dinner plate to an inverted bowl and cover both with foil." I can see why they wouldn't want to go to the trouble of writing that out twice! Aside from the fact that the pedestal in the picture doesn't appear to follow those instructions at all (I'm not sure what the plate is taped to, but it sure isn't a bowl unless von Hagen has a very different definition of "bowl"! I think she just covered a regular cake pedestal with foil.), that also doesn't sound like a practical idea to start with. Would I really want to stack dishes together and top them with a big frosted cake, trusting that a little tape and foil is enough to ensure the whole thing won't fall on the floor within two minutes?

Nothing says "I love you" like trying to serve a pile of gory-looking jellified ham while scraping a mound of icing and crumbled cake embedded with foil hearts off the floor. Yeah, go ahead and start without me.