Saturday, July 21, 2018

Fish, Four (Forlorn) Ways

Summer always reminds me of my grandpa standing quietly by the edge of his pond, holding a fishing pole and just waiting for a bite. I think his idea of a perfect summer afternoon may have been to fish until he caught enough bluegills for dinner, go home, clean them, and then play solitaire on the kitchen table until grandma had them ready for dinner.

Most cookbooks don't have recipes for bluegills, but that's okay because I'm not giving you recipes grandma would have made anyway. (She's of the strictly dredge-them-in-seasoned-cornmeal-and-shallow-fry-them school of thought. You don't need much or a recipe for that.)

No, today I'll start off with a floofy recipe from McCall's Fish 'n' Fowl Cookbook (1965) that grandma would have considered too much fussing around:

She would not have seen the point of topping fish with a puffy, eggy layer of sour cream and olives.

Since we always love to see an aspic, Going Wild in the Kitchen (Gertrude Parke, 1965) offers this jiggly, fishy wonder:

At least it's made with fish stock and unflavored gelatin rather than lemon Jell-O. (I'd recommend against wasting truffles on it, even if they are recommended as a variation.)

For those on restrictive diets, The General Foods Kitchens Cookbook (1959) offers this bland beauty:

I guess it's sort of a fluffed-up fish custard with Post Toasties on top so they could stay on-brand. Yum. Who wouldn't want to be associated with that?

Finally, from Weight Watchers International Cookbook (1977), the world's saddest "Poorboy."

And yes, it is just a broiled catfish fillet topped with slightly-seasoned tomato puree and pickle on a slice of white toast. I'm pretty sure actual Louisiana po'boys would laugh until all their condiments leaked out if they were told this is even a distant relative.

Probably best to consider these recipes simply catch and release.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Taking notes

I almost overlooked The Twentieth Century Club Cookbook (The Twentieth Century Club of Newark, OH, 1977) in the stack of old cookbooks at a garage sale because of those darn kids on the cover. I'm not just immune to the supposed cuteness of children; I'm actively repelled if I have to be honest. Whatever those kids' end game is (Soap in the lemonade? Bugs in the candies?), I'm not buying it.

Then I flipped through and saw this was a well-used book, and I can't resist books with user notes (especially if the previous owner is a bit skeptical too).

You can imagine the smile on my face when I spotted Bar-B-Cue Chuck with notation:

I'm not sure what the cook's objection was, but I have to admire the honesty of "(not great)!"

Even better, though, are the sort of passive-aggressive notes on Chicken Lush:

The "O.K." is immediately contradicted by the "but too rich!" notation. The cook doesn't seem to think this is all that "O.K." I also love the highlight on "cooked." Is there a story behind that? Does some of the lack of enthusiasm come from biting into partially-cooked chicken because they didn't read the recipe closely? And if they don't particularly like this, why did they try to stop themselves from making the same mistake the next time? Maybe just find a different chicken recipe instead?

If it's summer and you're sick of zucchini, Baked Zucchini offers a pain enhancer:

I wonder if "Not good" is better or worse than "(not great)!" I also love that "greased" is underlined here! Once again, the notes suggest a mistake on the first try-- one not to be repeated the next time the cook makes this dish she didn't even like in the first place. Who is this persistent with bad recipes?

Everything so far seems to have fared better than Spanish Casserole, though.

That is straight-up "Bad" (with a double underline and no qualifier)! I can't quite imagine what taco sauce, enchilada sauce, cream of mushroom soup, and cream of chicken soup mixed together, dumped over hamburger, and topped with a bag of Doritos would taste like, but this makes it even clearer that I don't want to find out.

Not all of the notes were negative, though. Crunchy Carrot Casserole got an initially good reaction.

It's hard to see, but this originally said "Very Good" before the notation got blotted out with a black marker. My guess is that mom really liked this, but somebody else strenuously objected.

I did find some genuinely beloved recipes, though, and I'll leave you with one.

Twenty-Four Hour Dessert got rave reviews: "Good + Easy to make." The notes on making it suggest it may not be quite as easy as the note suggests: the cream cheese needs a while to soften, and the Cool Whip needs to defrost "over-nite," but it makes sense to put extra directions on a recipe one actually likes and plans to make again.

I adore cookbook notes-- especially ones with underlines and exclamation points and extra instructions. I hope they make you as happy as they make me, and if they don't, just look at the cute kids on the cover. Maybe you'll appreciate them more than I do and we'll all balance out.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Are we still peeling the eggplant?

I'm not a fan of coconut (or eggplant, unless it's a good, smoky baba ganoush-- in which case, hide it from me if you want a chance of getting any!). I am a huge fan of comic art, though, so House and Garden's New Cook Book's (1967) recipe for Eggplant in Coconut Cream caught my eye.

You've got to love the visual of an eggplant-- potted like a houseplant, but made of nearly a dozen eggs. You've got to love the tiny smiling devil hanging out with the dried chili peppers. 

What do you think about that first image though? In case you're wondering whether your eyes are telling the truth, yes, "Peel" is illustrated by a woman taking off her clothes. Part of me kind of loves the freedom of the saucy '60s, and part of me is horrified that a woman is essentially being considered an object for consumption... but most of me is sighing that this fight seems so damn familiar fifty-some years later.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

An uncrustworthy book

You'll have to forgive the clearly wrinkly pages from today's offering. I got this one at a discount because it was extremely well-loved. It's so well-loved that it has a cheesecake order form taped onto the back to replace the missing back cover. Luckily, the front cover is still pretty much  intact.

I'd hate to miss out on House & Garden's New Cook Book's (1967) cover. It's got everything: a wall of cured meats, a flaming lobster, a mushroom still life, suggestions that both asparagus and meat in a rich pastry crust will slim the waist, poultry booties that are almost as long as the birds wearing them, whole raw fish that are supposed to look appetizing rather than like a reminder that death awaits us all...

The recipes tend to be upscale, European-inspired fare, though I often find them a bit puzzling. A few recipes seem a bit... well... circular to me.

So let me get this straight. Gougére en Croûte is pastry baked inside a pastry?

And the surprise of Oeufs Mollets en Soufflé Surprise is that it's eggs baked inside other eggs?

Not all the recipes are two slightly different versions of the same type of food cooked together, though. A fair number are of the "Wait, this isn't a dessert?" variety.

When you think of apple pie, for example, you're probably thinking of that golden brown, cinnamon-spiced confection that we tend to associate with mom and America.

House & Garden likes to take it in a different direction, though. I think the editors see apple pie as more of a pot pie base.

Add sage, onions, and pork chops to the apples for Pork and Apple Pie! And just in case this sounds too normal for you since so many people like pork with apples, well, the editors have another apple pot pie for you.

Apple and Marrow Pie! It's the only apple pie recipe I've ever seen that starts with cooking five pounds of marrow bones.

So you're not too put off by these pies, maybe I'll be nice and end with a good dessert recipe. How about strudel?

Did you notice that I only said maybe it would be a dessert recipe? Don't get too comfortable, because this is just the dough recipe. We still need a filling.

Were you ready for some cabbage filling? You get a hundred points if you guessed it, but I'll award fifty if you guessed that the filling would be either brioche dough or apples and leg of lamb.

Thanks for playing!

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Is it dessert?

As a scholar of the salad/ dessert divide, I was particularly excited to find another recipe that elaborated on how to tell the difference back in the days when something super-sweet could serve in either function. I already found the "Is there lettuce?" guideline (yes= salad; no= dessert). This salad/dessert recipe from Twickenham Receipts and Sketches (The Twickenham Historical Preservation District Association, Inc., Huntsville, AL, 1978) supplies another rule-- probably less useful in the field, since it has no visible marking-- but helpful in labeling the concoction if one is the cook.

Frozen Date Delight suggests that the pineapple/ cream cheese/ pecan/ date/ whipped cream confection only counts as dessert if it's fortified with a couple tablespoons of sugar. Leave them out, and this sweet and creamy mixture is clearly a salad.

The rule was further bolstered by a recipe from Two Hundred Tasty Treats (Christian Women's Fellowship, Southside Christian Church, Muncie, IN, ca. 1960). Here, the divide is not quite the same (vegetable or dessert?), but the conclusion is similar.

The mixture of sweet potatoes, bananas, milk, sugar, egg yolks, and raisins "is considered a vegetable instead of a dessert, but may be served as a dessert if you like. Add more sugar if using for dessert." It doesn't specify the amount of added sugar to make this a dessert, but based on the preceding recipe, I'll say two tablespoons. That will leave us with a nice, neat rule. If it's pretty sweet, it's not actually dessert unless you add an extra two tablespoons of sugar. Easy!

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Colonial (and "colonial") recipes from NJ

This is posted a bit later than usual because I started out the holiday in the happiest possible way-- 16-hour power outage. Now I'm trying to figure out whether my attempts to keep the contents of my fridge were sufficient to keep it safe, or whether I should toss stuff like the massive head of lettuce I had just bought and cleaned early yesterday. Whee! Hope your day is going better than mine so far! Now on to the regularly-scheduled program...

When I was a kid, it seemed like everybody had some dusty bicentennial knickknack tucked away somewhere-- commemorative plates, coins, kitchen towels. Of course, my favorite bicentennial item is of the cookbook variety.

The New Jersey Heritage Cookbook (1976) shows that the Public Service Electrical and Gas Company in New Jersey thought the celebration would not be complete without some historical Garden State recipes. 

The booklet claims that "All our recipes date back to the Colonial era or beyond." It's often pretty easy to believe that the recipes are modernizations of older fare. 

The booklet starts with a sunny version of colonial settlers being taught to make a summertime favorite by the local indigenous people.

It even starts with sea water and layers of seaweed. Of course, the original preparation was more laborious than boiling it all on the stove once it was assembled.

And there is no mention that the few surviving descendants of those friendly natives are now mostly in Oklahoma, their involuntary home. 

If you're wondering about the illustration's suggestion that the Lenni Lenape also made mounds of salad garnished with hard-cooked eggs to go with their lobster, clam, and corn feasts, the booklet clarifies that "The Dutch, noted for their own hospitality, probably contributed to the feast by bringing Spekkie Slaa."

Apparently, the Dutch have always had a flair for 1970s-style salad presentation. 

They also must have had iron constitutions, as they ate a mixture of meats, beef liver, and buckwheat flour cooked together, cooled, sliced, fried, and slathered in syrup for breakfast. 

This recipe is illustrated by a guy who eats it just because he feels better knowing his breakfast smells worse than he does. 

I'm not entirely convinced that these are all heritage recipes, though. 

I'm pretty sure no one served condensed-mushroom-soup-covered frozen asparagus topped with deviled eggs to the founding fathers. 

I would also not trust that guy around the chickens. Neither would the hillbilly from The Devil's Rejects. (Warning: That clip is very NSFW.)

Happy Independence Day! Thanks for coming to the only blog that will celebrate freedom with filthy chicken clips featuring Michael Berryman!

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Gourmet takes on deviled eggs, sandwich loaves, and molded desserts

It's almost July! That means accidentally opening the front door to find the pretentious neighbors inviting themselves in so they can prattle on about the exciting trip to American Samoa they have planned. That's right. It's time for the July 1977 issue of Gourmet.

I'm beginning to suspect someone must have been trading IQ points for money if the preferred destination in the middle of the summer is a tropical island when readers were urged to visit Moscow in February. I'm clearly missing out on something in Gourmet's choices for destinations.

This month, the magazine features quite a few riffs on middle-class party food, so we'll start off with an easy appetizer: deviled eggs.

Rich people's deviled eggs don't feature mayonnaise from a tub and maybe pickle relish if someone is feeling creative. No, they're full of olives, anchovies, olive oil, and capers. (Invasion of the Body Snatchers leaves me quite content to let the rich hog all the capers...)

I tend to think of sandwich loaves-- those loaves cut lengthwise and stacked with various fillings into layers, sometimes frosted to resemble a cake-- as a mainstay of ladies' card club gatherings and maybe children's parties. Gourmet offers its own take on them, though the picture reveals that rich people are too fancy for cream cheese "icing."

And the layers are based on flavored butters that actually sound pretty good and fresh, crisp veggies rather than canned pineapple with cottage cheese and potatoes or pimiento cheese with dates.

(Sorry for the wonky formatting, but I couldn't scan the full page and had to combine a photo with a scan.)

Then finally for dessert, a mold. In a midwestern cookbook, that would mean breaking out the Jell-O. Gourmet doesn't roll that way, of course.

The Cherry Rice Mold starts with kirsch-marinated glacéed fruit and a rice-pudding-like base with real vanilla bean. It's all brought together with egg yolks (rather than red gelatin), filled with cherry compote, glazed with currant jelly and more kirsch, then finished with whipped cream.

I can't help reading through this list of recipes and feeling like I've been sucked into a ladies' luncheon in an alternate universe from the one Betty Crocker inhabited....

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

A shiny and memorable bridal shower plan

It's wedding season! I'm going to straight-up admit that I don't have a recipe to add to your collection of recipes to give the bride at her shower. That's because I have recently acquired the precursor of 401 Party and Holiday Ideas from Alcoa (Conny von Hagen, 1971). Feast your eyes on the monstrosity that is Alcoa's Book of Decorations (Conny von Hagen, 1959).

This version has 100% more birds that will haunt your nightmares on the cover. (The bird will also unsettle you with the sneaking suspicion that it is somehow racist.)

If you've been wondering about the mad genius behind all this foil nonsense, this book provides an introduction.

This is Conny with her best friend, the big-eyed, shiny-eared creepy dog. She apparently spent her time "travel[ing] the country showing children and grown-ups how to make gay, lovely things of foil" and promising party decorations "detailed and spectacular in effect." I may shudder at her creations, but she found a way out of staying home all day chasing after kids and trying to replicate her mother-in-law's meatloaf. 

While this version has plenty of new foil creations, it has zero recipes, so my contribution to the bridal shower will have to be the Mop Bride, who for some reason did not make the cut in the 1971 edition. 

What woman wouldn't want to be represented with a literal mop-top haircut, foil boobs peaking through her see-through dress as she modestly stands in a wastebasket? It's a great centerpiece to help show off her gifts-- like that new wastebasket and mop (some disassembly required) preparing her for wedded bliss.

Should you want to horrify a new bride (or anyone, really!), the instructions are pretty easy. 

Just show up prepared to find yourself in the wastebasket by the time the party's over.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Teen Go-Around

Okay, today's post is not a recipe at all. It's just an article from a page of the September 18, 1976, edition of The Ohio Farmer that I found in an old cookbook. The person who kept it probably just wanted the apple recipes, but I was far more intrigued/ appalled by the article that was incidentally saved. Are you ready for "Teen Go-Around"?

The article explains what teenage boys (from a sample of unspecified number, ages 14-20, found at the Ohio State Fair) want in a girl. They "dislike messy appearance, overweight, and flirting," and expect "friendliness and a fun-loving personality" along with "good looks." Notably, "Only one boy preferred the brainy type."

Of course it has the nasty little question of how a guy might feel "If a girl gave in to his advances." I was a little surprised that the biggest groups said they would not have changed feelings or would consider the relationship more serious. I figured the number who would lose respect would be much higher (especially considering how shallow their answers were about dislikes), but maybe the Madonna/ whore thinking of the fifties was beginning to fade even in rural Ohio by this point? The fact that the reporter seems to think we should be impressed that "only one respondent indicated he would lose his temper" with a girl who kept him at bay suggests there was still a loooong way to go toward seeing women as, you know, autonomous human beings with our own thoughts, desires, and rights, though.

One teenage boy said he wanted "a girl who looks good and who will respect me as much as I respect her," which kind of sums up a lot about this article. Looks are still the number one most important thing. There's some talk of respect, which suggests some progress. The fact that mentioning respect makes the response noteworthy, however, gives away the game.

And of course, there is no corresponding article about what what teenage girls want in boyfriends (or people of other orientations want in partners). Nobody cares.

I can't decide whether this article makes me glad my memories start after the '70s or angry that for all the changes, there are still so many attitudes that wouldn't be out of place now.

Okay, and if you'll feel cheated if you don't get a recipe, here's one for Apple Bread.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Recipes from the straight and narrow

I've heard the south side of Chicago is the baddest part of town. I don't think the same could be said of the Southside Christian Church in Muncie, Indiana.

Two Hundred Tasty Treats (Christian Women's Fellowship of Southside Christian church, undated, but addresses have no zip codes and phone numbers are two letters and five numbers, so I'd guess sometime in the '50s or early '60s) suggests this is a pretty straitlaced place.

Want a nice punch recipe to make your party more memorable (or maybe less memorable, depending on how many cups the guests drink)?

Tough. The above recipe is the entirety of the "Beverages and Sandwiches" chapter. Unless your guests want a big cup of sandwich spread, you'll have to get your sin-juice recipe elsewhere.

Want some fancy hors d'oeuvres for the party?

Well, there's no point in putting on airs. This is the whole chapter, so you can either make popcorn balls or the ubiquitous Lipton onion dip.

And if you want some luxurious seafood recipes, well...

That's the full seafood chapter. If canned tuna sounds luxurious, you've hit the jackpot. Otherwise, you're clearly not tithing enough and you've got too much money left over to spend on frivolities.

The women's fellowship really loved to bake, though, so the cakes and frostings section is filled. Even here, though, they're pretty uptight. I've seen the Bible Cake recipe dozens of times-- to the point where I almost believe it was a requirement for all those old church cookbooks.

They almost always have the actual ingredients listed after the Bible verses, though. That's not the case here. If you don't have your verses memorized, the Christian Women's Fellowship expects you to haul out the Bible to figure out the recipe.

Looks like the south side of Muncie is the austerest part of town.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Summer offerings for the upcoming solstice

It's a weekend in mid-June! It doesn't get much better than this.... (Well, honestly, I might prefer a cool and spooky late October weekend if it didn't mean spending every single waking moment grading papers and planning classes because fall is the only time I can reliably get a lot of work, but I digress.)

Ahem. In any case, let's celebrate early summer with some traditional trappings: hot dogs and root beer floats! Our hot dogs come courtesy of Ruth Berolzheimer's 500 Tasty Snacks (1950).

Bonus if you're feeling too hot: these franks are cold. Plus, they look like they're part of a sea creature with a series of interior-facing eyes and endless rows of flippers.

Don't risk charred edges or grease flare-ups roasting frankfurters in a camp fire! Keep them nice and chill in some bouillon-flavored gelatin with hard-cooked eggs and celery. I'm sure the kids will be thrilled.

I know I suggested a root beer float for dessert, but Berolzheimer's 300 Ways to Serve Eggs (also 1950) offers something even better!

How about a Root Beer Egg Shake? No actual root beer (or ice cream), just root beer extract, raw egg, milk, and orange juice! Okay, it sounds more like an instant breakfast gone horribly awry than a dessert.

Why are you looking at me that way? Did I not deliver on the hot dogs and root beer?

Those recipes don't really count, huh? Fine. Here's something (also from the egg book) that should make you happy.

Why would I think a pretty standard zabaglione recipe would make you happy? Well, it's guaranteed to give you a "happy ending"...

...from someone who was clearly naive to the implications of "happy ending," especially when it's in quotation marks.

I'm just not sure how zabaglione would manage to pull that off....