Wednesday, June 13, 2018

It's a weird day in Pittsburgh

The sun is out (and ready to make me look like a boiled lobster)! The sky is blue, and all the leaves are green. Seems like a good day to head down to the rivers.

Today we have the Three Rivers Cookbook (Child Health Association of Sewickley, PA, copyright 1973, but mine is from the 1977 ninth printing). I picked this up at a garage sale because it looked well-loved and I liked Susan Gaca's cover art. If I can't actually visit a river, at least I can stare at the cover and try to mentally will the barges to move. (There's a fun summer day!)

If the illustration looks suspiciously like Pittsburgh, that's because Sewickley is a suburb of Pittsburgh, at least according to Wikipedia.

The beginning of the book made me think that it might be written for people just like me:

Yep, it starts out with a slushy drink to take the edge off "when you've read too many recipes"!

But then I found out that Pittsburgh's ideas about food and drink are... well...

I'm just going to say I've never longed for a drink made with clam juice and ketchup. (Plus, when I tried to look this up online, most people seem to think that J.D.A. is Jack Daniel's mixed with Amaretto.)

The book does have quite a few (questionable) regional recipes, like this one that's supposed to mimic a soup from Old Original Bookbinder's restaurant in Philadelphia:

I doubt that Bookbinder's felt too threatened by this version of their signature soup, though. A can each of tomato soup, pea soup, and lobster with some sherry couldn't be much of a match for the fresh vegetable and turtle or red snapper-based original.

A lot of common recipes seem familiar at first, and then I just have to wonder whether there's something funny in the water of those three rivers.

Stuffed cabbage usually has a beef and rice filling and a tomato sauce topping. Occasionally, I'll see raisins or apples in there somewhere. (Not that I understand the appeal, but they're not uncommon.)

Gingersnaps, though? Ginger? Snaps? And cabbage? With hamburger and tomato sauce?

Here's another one that goes off the rails. To me, the appeal of fruit salad is that it's very light and refreshing. Why bother with dressing when the fruits' natural juices make it plenty tasty? Of course, some people like to add a little something so it's not too plain, and the idea of honey dressing makes a certain kind of sense.

I can't imagine tasting a fruit salad and thinking it needs to be doused liberally with mustard-and-onion-juice-flavored oil, though, even if it has some honey in it....

I wasn't sure how to end this one, so here's a fun fact: Mr. Rogers made Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood for WQED in Pittsburgh. I found this out because of the sinister portraits of Corney and Lady Elaine in the dessert sauces section.

If you are insufficiently creeped out, just imagine them dousing each other with the Rum and Lime sauce for Melon Balls and then... well... let's just say that particular episode would never air.

You're welcome for that mental image!


  1. Poppy, you found a real treasure!
    I have a theory that Lady Elaine Fairchild was an alcoholic, check out her schnozz HEE HEE.
    Anyway, I love the little disclaimers and helpful hints. I hope you have a perky salad today

    1. Yes, her nose definitely seems to suggest she likes her liquor! And I almost always have a perky salad-- just not THAT perky...

  2. I grew up in a suburb of Pittsburgh and I have that cookbook - actually, I have all three volumes (you must look for volumes 2 and 3 to add to your collection)! I love them, but I have to say I think the only recipe I ever made was Bill Cardille's Kolbasi and Sauerkraut (Chilly Billy was the host of the very popular Chiller Theater when I was young, and this recipe is perfect for New Year's Day). For nostalgia's sake I may have to make the recipe for Cheese and Pasta in a Pot, because I remember that long ago this fat-laden casserole of excessively cheesy goodness was featured in the Pittsburgh Press Sunday magazine (ah, the good old days when we blithely ignored caloric content!).

    As for the J.D.A. cocktail with ketchup, well of course those of us with ties to Pittburgh would drink that - after all, Pittsburgh and Heinz are practically synonymous! (I wish I could explain the name, but my family were practically teetotalers so I am unfamiliar with that particular recipe.) I am surprised the stuffed cabbage recipe does not include ketchup as an ingredient. As for the Easy Bookbinder's Soup, it seems to be a fancy variation of a canned soup combo I recognize from my younger days as something that was called Mongolian Soup (actually defined in Wikipedia as Purée Mongole). I have no idea what this combination has to do with Mongolia, or bookbinders for that matter.

    I get such a kick out of reading your blog - please keep up the good work!

    1. Thanks for the praise, and thanks for telling me about Chilly Billy! I love horror movie hosts, so now I have something new to try looking up on YouTube!

      I'm surprised the stuffed cabbage doesn't have ketchup too. I grew up near the factory that makes most of the ketchup, and a lot of regional recipes we had were loaded with the stuff.

      I will definitely keep an eye out for the other versions! One more thing to look for on my cookbook quests. :-)

  3. You know, of all the stuff I googled about Pittsburgh when I lived in the armpit of hell Maryland, I don't remember anything about food. I know that they had 2 Catan's stores, a zoo, and an art museum called the mattress factory. Maybe this is the reason why.

    1. It's also got Monroeville Mall, site of the filming for "Dawn of the Dead." We keep planning to make a pilgrimage there sometime, but it hasn't happened yet.

    2. Oh, Monroeville is my home town (I'm there right now for a family reunion)! I have fond memories of wandering around the mall as a teen, just like the movie zombies, but I was already out of state in college when the movie was filmed.

      My dad worked in Pittsburgh when Night of the Living Dead was filmed, and everyone in his office building had the chance to be a zombie extra in the movie, but he declined. I am not sure how I would feel about being able to point out a zombified parent in a horror movie classic, but my dad decided not to subject his offspring to this dilemma. Zombie movies are my least favorite horror genre so maybe this is a good thing.

    3. I love the old zombie movies, but the genre is getting a bit overplayed by this point. If I had a parent as an extra in a horror movie, though, no one would ever hear the end of it.