It's almost Valentine's day, which means I am trying to resist the urge I get this time every year to find a recipe that will give me an excuse to link to the clip of the ritual heart excision in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.
Instead, I'm transporting us to The General Foods Kitchens Cookbook's (1959) idea of romance, the engagement dinner that often followed the Valentine's day celebration.
Engaged couples had their pick of two engagement luncheon menus. The first comes with a lovely scene of the excitement of the new engagement:
You've got to love the picture of dad handing his little girl off to her fiancé. The men are looking serious, shaking hands over the business deal, while she's smiling blankly into the middle distance trying to convince herself that it's perfectly normal to be treated like property and that everything is fine, just fine, and this is what she always dreamed of. Mom looks on, slack-jawed since her Miltown kicked in.
The other doesn't get an illustration, but you may notice a certain similarity in the menu:
Apparently, the rule for engagement parties is that you have to serve an aspic, preferably in a ring mold to make the engagement ring look way more impressive by contrast. The book helpfully encourages hosts for menu 1 to "Make two molds of the beautiful mousse, so that latecomers to the table will see it in all its glory." Who wouldn't want to spend days eating leftover jellied chicken just so everyone could judge your mold-making prowess? And what a jellied chicken it was:
You want to marry our daughter? You've got to eat lime gelatin full of vinegar, mayo, and cottage cheese topped with shrimp and avocado first! You've got to prove you really want her.
The menu makes for a mesmerizingly surreal tablescape, though.
The glowing green rings surrounded by frills of lettuce and topped with pink shrimp and pops of red tomato makes me think it could be a "hat" Bugs Bunny is fashioning for Elmer Fudd.... I hope Sue and Bob have a good sense of humor, and the good sense to eat before they show up to the luncheon in their honor.
Here's hoping you have a happy Valentine's day that doesn't lead to an engagement party like one of these! (And since I still can't resist, here's hoping your heart doesn't get ripped out either!)