Wednesday, March 28, 2018

I can believe it's not candy!

We may be in the middle of an obesity epidemic now, but parents in the '70s were just as likely to be panicking over whether to send little Michael to school with cookies on treat day as they are now over Mason. Worried families in the '70s had this book to consult:

The Taming of the C.A.N.D.Y.* Monster (*Continuously Advertised Nutritionally Deficient Yummies) (Vicki Lansky, 4th printing, Nov. 1978) has a seriously long title, but the kid on the cover looks remarkably healthy given the wealth of Sugar Munch, Crunchie Wunchies, Choco bars, bon bons, fries, and hot dogs he's chowing down on. (What's the fluffy pink thing behind the hot dog? Part of me thinks he's in danger of eating mom's house slipper with all the other junk, but maybe it's a misshapen donut?)

In any case, this book is full of types of recipes I was expecting: cookies full of raisins, oats, honey, dates, and maybe a little carob powder or peanut butter if mom is feeling wild. Some are clearly intended to be more healthy than desserty, like this supposed substitute for candy bars:

Yeah-- no kid is going to mistake stale bread dipped in thinned-out peanut butter and rolled in peanuts and wheat germ for a candy bar. 

Other recipes are less overtly healthy, but still weird enough that any kid would know mom was trying to play some kind of trick:

I'm not sure a recipe that starts off by melting butterscotch chips and mixing them with grape jelly is going to register as health food, but I can't exactly imagine kids begging for these Grape Granola Bars either, especially when the ones from the grocery store have chocolate chips. 

I found myself far more intrigued by the little suggestions made throughout the book about ways to get kids to eat healthily than by the recipes themselves.

The kids want pizza or sweet crackers? Why indulge them by giving them something crazy like an English muffin pizza or a graham cracker with a bit of peanut butter...

...if you can give them a mug of spaghetti sauce and microwave-melted mozzarella or a melt a hunk of cheese on the graham?

The kids want a nice frozen snack?

Offer "a small paper cupful of frozen peas or frozen cut corn right from the package." That's surely not bound to degenerate into a screaming fit when you reach right past the ice cream. 

The book seems hell-bent on letting all the kids in the neighborhood know you're the weird parent. This recipe for Egg Sailboats may seem like an innocuous enough take on deviled eggs, a way to get the kids to eat more protein:

They're recommended as something to take to school to share, though. I'm sure the teacher will appreciate the last-minute craft project of finishing the sail assembly and the kids will be thrilled to know that Michael is the one who brought the lukewarm plate of deviled eggs for snack time. He'd better watch his shoelaces pretty closely because everybody in the whole class is going to try tying them together the second he's not looking. 

The C.A.N.D.Y. Monster may be more likely to go wild than be tamed by this collection.


  1. The name of her other cookbook caught my attention. These recipes may be the reason why I don't remember the other cookbook ever being used (okay, I think that there was one recipe that got used from that book). Thank goodness our mother didn't try to feed us slop like this.

    1. Yeah, mom had the other cookbook. I think our English muffin recipe is from that one.

    2. That sounds right. So we know that she had one good recipe, of course she wasn't trying to make it "healthier", so that probably helped.

  2. Quick question: Did Vicki Lansky actually test these recipes on out on her unsuspecting children?

    1. That's a good question! Of course, they were related to her, so there's a chance they were just as weird as she was. Maybe they wouldn't rebel?