Wednesday, October 31, 2018

The onions that will make everybody cry, and other tales of terror

Are you a body builder? I can carry multiple bags of groceries at the same time. That's about as close as I can get to claiming the title. That's okay, though because even though today's cookbook is for body builders, it's not what you think.

Body Building Dishes for Children (ed. Ruth Berolzheimer, 1950) is for a different kind of bodybuilders whose group I don't belong to-- kids!

The booklet suggests kids were made of much different stuff (literally and figuratively) in 1950 than they are now. Here's a dinner suggestion from the book's "Menus for the Preschool Child" page:

I don't necessarily believe that kids really need to run on a steady diet chicken nuggets and mac 'n' cheese (as so many kids' menus seem to suggest), but I can only imagine full-on temper tantrums when a toddler confronts a plate of baked stuffed onions and a "sandwich of watercress and lemon butter."

Things get no better on Tuesday:

Liver and potato pie? Minced uncooked cabbage with lemon juice? Again, this seems more like a recipe for kicking and screaming than for a peaceful meal...

The fare for slightly older children presents its own kind of problems. In fact, the book seems at least semi-aware of the problem. The vegetables chapter, for instance, suggests it has found the perfect way to get little ones to eat their greens:

Yes, "The valuable but less popular vegetables will be welcomed lustily if baked in a ring mold." Never mind that I don't want to see kids welcoming anything "lustily" (gross!).... The only people who really seemed excited about ring molds were the women mid-century cookbooks were marketed towards. Even the editors don't seem to buy the argument that kids are way into ring-molds, as this is the only actual ring molded recipe in the vegetable chapter (aside from a briefly outlined variation of a chopped spinach recipe):

The ring mold section is not the only apparent misunderstanding of child psychology:

If you had told childhood me that you were serving a "schoolmate of Donald Duck," I would not have found it "really hilarious." I would have been sobbing for an hour, and I probably would have wanted to keep ALL the adults who had apparently participated in his murder as far away as possible.

Reassuring me that dinner was not, in fact, a duck, but a hacked-up little lamb would not have helped.

Fifties kids must have been made of much sterner stuff than eighties kids (or current kids), and/or Ruth Berolzheimer et al. must have had some really weird ideas about children that they did not bother to field test. Either way, this book makes me glad I have never tried to ply a toddler with stuffed onions or insist that a carrot ring be welcomed lustily by the elementary school set.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Funny Name: Yam Not! Edition

This recipe from Favorite Recipes of Ohio (1964) has me wondering wtf...

Yamzetti has no yams... and no spaghetti... so where is the name coming from? After I stared at it a while, I realized it's basically Johnny Marzetti, but what makes this version Yamzetti? I'm open to ideas! 

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Shakers (not the salt or pepper variety)

Today, we're looking at recipes from some real movers and shakers.

Well, that's only half right. It's The Shaker Cook Book: Not by Bread Alone (Caroline B. Piercy, 1953).

I'll admit that I wasn't moved to read too much about Shaker theology, but based on the recipes, they're pretty firmly of the no luxuries/ hard work/ waste not, want not persuasion.

No luxuries means there's a chapter on meatless cooking for the spiritualist sect that banned meat eating for a decade.

The nut and rice patties have that nondescript combination of nuts, starch, and eggs common to old meat-substitute meals.

Enterprising Shakers seemed to try to stretch the "no luxuries" rule by creating pretend luxuries. I doubt this substitute is likely to fool anyone:

No amount of cream sauce could make me mistake green onions for asparagus.

Enough hard work might make a "luxury" acceptable, though.

Will Tomato Figs fool people into thinking they're actually figs? I have my doubts, but anyone who is willing to spend a week boiling, weighting, sugar-sprinkling, and sunning eight pounds of tomatoes deserves some kind of reward. I hope I'd be surprised by these.

The "waste not, want not" mentality comes in everywhere. A Shaker making a bunch of apple pies, for example, would have to get out a second recipe to ensure that the pies aren't too wasteful:

Apple Parings Jelly makes sure the trimmings don't go to waste. (Plus, it's extra work on apple pie day. Yay!)

Maybe the best example of all these principles at work (and perhaps their erosion by the wider acceptance of convenience foods) is in a recipe that doesn't immediately seem all that exceptional: a molded fruit salad.

The first instructions-- the ones I presume very good Shakers would follow-- call for using calf's foot jelly to make the mold. Of course, making the jelly is hard work AND it uses up ingredients that could easily be wasted. This recipe does make a small allowance for the comparatively luxurious and labor-saving option of using prepackaged lemon gelatin, but I'm pretty sure that's just for the Shakers everybody's grandmas disapproved of.

A real molded fruit salad was supposed to start with this:

Yes, for Shakers, the salad would start with days of boiling calf's feet, straining, chilling the liquid, scraping fat and sediment(!), and clarifying the resulting mixture, all before adding the actual fruit. (Home canned preferred, obviously!)

I can see why this cookbook has WAAAY fewer gelatin-based recipes than one might expect for the time period. I can also see how changes in food science were perhaps changing a very small corner of a very small culture. A few naughty Shakers were getting away with using pre-packaged lemon gelatin! I'm scandalized just imagining it.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Funny Name: How'd You Make That? Edition

At first, I was kind of worried that these onions from Happiness Is Homemade (Prairie Du Chien Jaycettes, 1978/79) had to be prepared the way Murderface sometimes plays his bass...

But Baked Onions by Dick is just a recipe from Dick Daniels.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Questionably modern sour cream

Are you fit to be clipped? I hope so, because today's booklet is the companion piece to the "Fittin' for Clippin'" cottage cheese recipes.

A Sampler of Modern Sour Cream Recipes (Home Economics Department of the American Dairy Association, undated, but Michigan State University Library's Alan and Shirley Broker Sliker Culinary Collection estimates it as 1955 and offers a full scan of the booklet here) has a cross-stitch themed cover with a house during an ambiguous season. (When I was a kid, the apples were on the trees long before we fired up the wood-burning stove for the season.)

The smooth and creamy tang of sour cream is a much easier sell for most than lumpy cottage cheese. There aren't a lot of terrible recipes in here, but I'll do my best to put together a questionable menu. Let's start with an appetizer.

Chili Cuke Dip doesn't sound too bad, but it should probably just be called Cuke Dip. I'm not so sure the eighth of a teaspoon of chili powder is going to give it a lot of zip, even if it is backed up by 2-3 drops of Tabasco.

Since we're going all-in on the sour cream, maybe we should lighten things up a bit with fish as the main course.

Well, with fish sticks. I don't know anyone who is really in love with frozen fish sticks. What's the only good thing about them? That's right: the crispy coating. So how are these fixed? They're plunked on top of a bed of steaming hot green beans, then slathered with mock hollandaise. In other words, they're now mush, losing the ONE redeeming feature they had.

Let's just move on to dessert. How about a modern take on the creme brulée?

This was Modern Creme Brulée for the mid-'50s, when home cooks would try anything if it started with packaged goods-- at least, if you believe what the old cookbooks suggest. Vanilla pudding made from a mix and topped with pears, thawed raspberries, and brown-sugar-bedecked sour cream caramelized under the broiler seems the antithesis of the ideals of scratch-cooking, farm fresh evangelizing, torch-equipped chefs making fancy desserts today.

You know what, though? I'd still try it. Even bad sour cream desserts are bound to be pretty good.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Not the Dutch apple pie you're imagining

Checking out Top Value Favorites (Top Value & TV Travel Employees for United Way Campaign, 1982), I saw the name Apple Pot Pie and wondered what made it pot pie. Apple pie isn't exactly an unusual dessert, so what would make it pot pie? Chunks of chicken and some peas and carrots?

Then I realized that this is a Pennsylvania Dutch style boiled pot pie that I complained about as a bait-and-switch earlier. If you ever want a whole menu of soggy boiled dishes that will disappoint diners waiting for crisp, golden-brown crusts, this recipe will complete the suite I started with the earlier post. Yay?

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Swappin' in cottage cheese

I know Greek yogurt is the currently fashionable high-protein dairy snack, but I secretly prefer the salty, tangy goodness of its old-fashioned counterpart to its chokingly-sour contemporary. That means I'm more predisposed to be charitable with the offerings of this little booklet than a lot of you might be. (Who knows, though? Cottage cheese is making a comeback!)

Swappin' Good Recipes Featuring Cottage Cheese (Home Economics Department of the American Dairy Association, undated, but Michigan State University Library's Alan and Shirley Broker Sliker Culinary Collection estimates it as 1955 and offers a full scan of the booklet here) features charming, blocky, needlework-style flowers, a cow, a tree, and a girl on the cover. The cow looks like it's getting ready to deliver a fresh, steaming cowpat, but the girl is smiling because she's not downwind. Although the cover promises the recipes are "Fittin' for clippin'," I'm not always so sure about it.

This booklet has the expected last-of-the-pantry main dishes, including this one featuring canned tuna and mushrooms mixed with cottage cheese and the ubiquitous, greasy chow mein noodles (mixed with rice this time, for variety).

My real favorite section is the salad chapter, though. Here is another proof of my conviction that the only word that should ever precede "mousse" is "chocolate."

Even better is the fact that a lot of the salad recipes have pictures. We have a representative of the "ring of one kind of food filled with another kind of food" genre.

Even as a cottage cheese fan, I can't say I've ever had much of a craving for cottage cheese mixed with cucumber and green pepper, then dumped over tomato juice aspic. (Given the red and green theme, I'm a bit surprised this isn't being marketed as a Christmas salad. I guess there's not enough sugar.)

Then there's the always-popular mound of shiny pinkish slime model:

The shrimp is already paired with cocktail sauce, plus cottage cheese and sour cream, all in a creamy, slithery gel. Talk about convenience!

Some salads (like the Cottage Cheese Asparagus Mousse?) must not have been very photogenic, as the salad photo page had to fill space by including some pictures of salads without any recipe at all.

Apparently even the American Dairy Association couldn't convince itself that anyone actually wanted a recipe to combine canned pear halves and green pepper rings with a big mound of cottage cheese, so nobody wrote one. The picture looked better than the alternative possibilities, though, so someone slapped this salad together. Enjoy! (That mousse must look ghastly!)

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Funny Name: Lingering Aromas Edition

Even though it's got "potpourri" in the name, I don't think leaving this concoction from Favorite Recipes of Jaycee Wives Meats Edition Including Seafood and Poultry (1966) out in the family room would be a good way to temper its funk:

Seafood Potpourri is not a highly-requested Yankee candle scent, either.... Go figure.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Gourmet for fuzzballs

I guess the picture for the October 1977 cover of Gourmet could maybe qualify as Halloweeny if you squint and try to imagine Château Margaux in Bordeaux as a spooky old mansion, but it mostly looks like a building on a college campus to me. I imagine someone inside giving lessons on Chinese Civilization rather than ghosts dancing a stately waltz or trying to force somebody into a guillotine.

Oh, well. I guess I'll force this issue to be Halloween-appropriate by posting a recipe my little black cat would approve of.

You might not think pastry strips would seem particularly appealing to a cat, but mine is a carbophile. He will steal bread crusts if we're not looking.

He'd be even more excited about the filling, though.

Anchovies! (The cut-off part of the directions says to bake for 25 minutes, cool on a rack for 15 minutes, then cut into 10 strips and serve them warm.)

I could almost see David Letterman dumping a plateful of these into a trick-or-treater's bag and the kid would shoot him a "You've gotta be kidding" look.

Whether you'd be excited to find Anchovy Pastry Strips in your Halloween treats depends on how you feel about anchovies. My cat would think he'd hit the jackpot!