Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Cradle us with crescents and bury us in biscuits

We're taking it easy today!

The Nice 'n Easy Cook Book is undated, but it must be from the late 1960s since it advertises Time Saver Cook Book and Pillsbury's Bake Off Cookie Book, both of which are from 1967, and it has recipes calling for Sweet*10, which contained cyclamate, an ingredient that was banned in 1970.

If your family consists of the floating disembodied heads of a man and boy willing to gaze endlessly into the middle distance as the Pillsbury Doughboy tries to interest them in a Cherry Cookie Torte made of Pillsbury Refrigerated Butterscotch Nut Cookies topped with canned cherry pie filling, then this is the book for you!

According to Poppin' Fresh, the best way to take it nice 'n easy is to use lots and lots of Pillsbury refrigerated doughs. To escape from our frigid winter wonderland, I'm going to look ahead to the spring brunch menu:

The main course is Ham Crescents with Raisin Sauce-- meaning ham lunch meat rolled up in crescent rolls and topped with canned raisin pie filling. Yum!

If you're not a fan of ham 'n raisin pie filling, the alternative is Chicken Delicious on Flaky Biscuits:

That's canned cream of chicken soup fancied up with extra chicken, pimiento, and green pepper, slopped over Pillsbury biscuits.

Is there any better way of ending a crescent roll/ biscuit-centric meal than topping it off with more pastries?

Of course not!

Spring Log a la Mode uses a technique common in the booklet to mask the fact that so many dishes are gussied-up canned dough. It presses all the Quick Orange Danish Rolls together to form an (always-appetizing-sounding) log. Just cover the orange roll log with coconut, icing, and ice cream in a further attempt to hide the fact that dinner is almost entirely Pillsbury refrigerated breads.

Ta da!

The most egregious overreach for the dough just might be this little number:

What is this thing? It looks like rows of very orderly caterpillars migrating across a lake of melted cheese. It's no surprise that the caterpillars are Pillsbury biscuits, but what lies beneath that vast expanse of cheese?

It's lasagne (lasagna?)! With biscuits instead of noodles! I get leaving out noodles for diet versions. (I'm not saying it sounds lovely-- just that I get it.) But replacing the noodles with biscuits and still calling it straight-up lasagne just seems wrong somehow. Maybe I'd be okay with "Lasagna Pot Pie" or something like that, but I just feel like this is a Pillsbury bait-and-switch scam. Am I wrong to get this worked up over a minor (and probably tasty) variation of the iconic casserole? Of course! But hey, it's winter, and I'd rather be obsessing about a weird-looking lasagna and researching cyclamates than trudging through the snow in sub-zero windchills. Thanks for giving me an excuse to get my mind off my least favorite season!

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Funny Name: That's ... Serviceable

I think I have just found the most delicious-sounding recipe title ever in The Grange Cookbook Casseroles Including Breads (1969). Let's all have a heaping helping of ...

...Utility Dough! And maybe if we're lucky, we can have it with an Adequate Roast, Some Expedient Green Beans, and a glass of room temperature tap water.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

To Bake a Mock Bird

Now that it's freezing out, let's warm up with my favorite variety of community cookbook.

The Grange Cookbook Casseroles Including Breads (1969) is great because it's almost entirely devoted to that "throw-in-everything-plus-a-can-of-cream-soup" genre. Plus breads.

Well, okay, the macaroni chili on the cover doesn't harness the power of cream soup... and I think (HOPE!) the smear of dried something-or-other clinging the back cover of my copy is refried beans... but you get the idea.

As I paged through this book, it seemed that the Grange groups' favorite genre of casserole might be the "mock" variety. Yes, it has the ubiquitous mock chicken:

Though in this case, there's at least a smidge of real chicken from the can of chicken noodle soup.

The counterfeit poultry didn't stop there, though. The book offers a slightly more exotic mock fowl:

You can tell it's classier than mock chicken because it doesn't have potato chip crumbs on top.

The Grange cooks also love mock seafoods, and unlike the mock poultries, these are often vegetarian.

I guess mock  crab in the 1960s was canned corn rather that surimi! (Not sure how corn was supposed to fool anyone.)

And mock oyster consisted of eggplant and soda crackers baked in a mushroom soup custard.

If the usual fake Chinese food of community cookbooks isn't enough, this one even offers a fake fake Chinese dinner:

Yep-- Mock Chop Suey!

Beyond the mock meals, the recipe writers also had weird affinity for soup-soaked french fries:

Or any white-sauce-and-veggified fry-based concoction.

The book is such a cornucopia of weirdness that I wasn't sure where to stop, so I'm just going to cut this off at the genius recipe that combines two of my mom's favorite things in the whole world (in a way that I doubt she will appreciate).

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Funny Name: Outdated Font Edition

Based on the title of this recipe from New The Grange Desserts Cookbook (Favorite Recipes of the Grange Members, 1973), I half-expected the recipe to be written in a totally unreadable font.

But no, Ding Bats are just date, nut, toasted rice cereal, and coconut confections. Maybe they're named after Nellie M. Hill. She might have been a real dingbat.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

The self-contradictory guide to natural health

Woo hoo! Today I have a book from one of my favorite genres!

The Beginner's Natural Food Guide and Cookbook (Judy Goeltz, first printing 1975, but mine is from 1981) is one of those crazy-ass 1970s health food books with pages and pages of pseudo-scientific rules that make cooking and eating in the way the author deems healthful sound almost impossible.

In fact, I would argue that the book itself admits as much, as so many of the recipes in the latter half of the book-- the part devoted to recipes-- apparently violate the rules she sets out in the earlier half of the book.

One of the easily spotted contradictions is in this recipe for Sam's Pancakes:

You don't have to have read a lot of health food books to be a bit surprised by the recipe calling for white flour (even if it is unbleached) alongside the soy flour and wheat germ. Page 46 declares "the story of white flour and white bread is bad enough that [Goeltz] flatly refuse[s] to eat it" and 76 insists that readers throw out both bleached and unbleached white flour. In short, it seems pretty odd that this recipe offers white flour not just as an optional substitution for readers still getting used to "health food," but as a regular ingredient.

(Enjoy the lopsided recipes, by the way! This book has some weird issues with the way the spine is glued, so you're going to have to tilt your head for a lot of them.)

Even though the Panamanian French Toast looks pretty spartan by French toast standards, well, it should still be on the author's unacceptable list.

What's the problem with this one? Well, the guide section suggests that for milk, only fresh raw milk should be used. The option to use reconstituted powdered milk contradicts Goeltz's assertion that it is "an unbalanced food" and that removing water from milk completely ruins its nutritive value.

I was also pretty amused to see that Goeltz couldn't entirely resist the siren song of that ubiquitous casserole ingredient, canned cream of mushroom soup.

Even the author can't overlook the apparent issue here, nothing that "mushroom soup contains some undesirables" and suggesting a substitution of mushrooms sautéed in butter mixed with milk thickened with arrowroot and seasoned with Worcestershire sauce. Concerns about health aren't enough for her to simply list the substitution and drop the canned option, though.

I'll admit, I couldn't get all the way through the guide at the beginning of the book, so it's possible that Goeltz somehow reconciles all these instructions to use ingredients she condemns. However, it seems more likely that she has so many rules about what is acceptable and what's not that she just forgot/ ignored them sometimes to have enough recipes to fill out the book.

One rule she definitely followed, though, was adding what she termed "honegar" (a mixture of equal parts raw honey and cider vinegar) to all kinds of things, as it was somehow supposed to aid digestion.

Here's just one recipe that uses her favorite concoction:

As if a tuna and sprout sandwich isn't discouraging enough, make sure it's seasoned with honegar.

(Interesting side note: The guide suggests that a tablespoon of honegar stirred into a cup of water is the only appropriate drink with a meal, as milk is not easily digested and "water will dilute the digestive stomach acid." However, the full menus never recommend honegar water as a beverage, usually suggesting fruit juice, tea, Pero (a coffee substitute), or MILK instead.)

I want to leave you on an indulgent note, so here is a recipe that invites two diners to split a cake containing half cup of butter topped with as much honey as they would like for breakfast.

That's healthy '70s style! (Well, it is as long as you ignore the option to use reconstituted milk. Ha!)

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Funny Name: Any Way You Slice It Edition

I don't personally know any contributors to Twickenham Receipts and Sketches (The Twickenham Historical Preservation District Association, Inc., Huntsville, AL, 1978), but I have a feeling Mrs. Howard (Betty) O'Meara was pretty laid-back.

How do you prepare the pie before baking? Just follow the title and "Mix Any Old Way." Bonus points if you noticed this one doesn't even require a crust. Pretty chill, Mrs. O.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Alabama: From Axes to Wheatgerm

Ready for a trip down south?

I was not entirely sure how ready I was for Twickenham Receipts and Sketches (The Twickenham Historical Preservation District Association, Inc., Huntsville, AL, 1978). I like the old-fashioned use of receipt for recipe, but sketches? I imagined a whole book filled with fantasies of mammy doing the cooking and a jet-black butler ferrying her creations out to the waiting white family.

The picture on the cover is representative of the actual sketches in the book, though. They're almost all drawings of old houses.

The collection has a few historical recipes, and while they're based on a nostalgia for the past, it's not exactly the type of nostalgia I was expecting.

The recipe for Beaten Biscuits is nostalgic for a time when cooks had to spend the first half hour after they woke up beating biscuit dough with an axe(!) on a biscuit block.

I'm pretty sure the late "Miss Kate" Halsey was not the one making beaten biscuits, based on her lament of the "Soda and modern institutions" that have made the biscuits such a rarity. No matter how great beaten biscuits may have been, I'm pretty sure the cooks much preferred doing something else with that half-hour in the morning.

Most of the recipes were modern, though. I found a casserole recipe that seemed to want to kitchen-sink every major '70s casserole ingredient, regardless of whether it belonged.

Ground chuck? Check. American cheese? Check! Onion? Check! Canned Chinese noodles? Egg noodles? Check! Cashews? Check! Stuffed olives? Check! Cream of mushroom soup? Check! All it's missing is a can of pineapple or fruit cocktail....

I also loved this dessert recipe that gets half-heartedly (or maybe only quarter-heartedly!) into the '70s health food craze.

Know how to make Reeses Peanut Butter Squares healthy? All it takes for that stick-and-a-half of butter and box of powdered sugar mixed with graham cracker crumbs and peanut butter to be wholesome is a "sprinkle [of] wheatgerm on top"! (Not sure if it's permitted on top of the layer of extra butter with chocolate chips, but let's just assume that it is.)

If nothing else, I learned that making healthy desserts is way easier than most people suspect. Plus, if your efforts to eat healthier somehow lead to weight gain, you can always work off those extra calories with some biscuit dough and an axe.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Funny Name: Striking Insights Edition

You know what you should serve someone who loves chili?

Of course, I would hope any chili could be a chili lovers' chili. A basic rule of etiquette is not to intentionally make things that you know your guests will dislike.... Didn't really think that had to be said. Thanks to Butter 'n Love Recipes (Heritage Temple Ladies Auxiliary, Columbus, Ohio, 1979) for stating the obvious.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Hate the cooking, not the almanack

After a year of stuffy Gourmet 1977 recipes, I've chosen a decidedly more downscale book for the 2019 calendar.

The I Hate to Cook Almanack: A Book of Days (1976) is one of Peg Bracken's follow-up books to her popular (and sardonic) I Hate to Cook Book.

This is an almanac with recipes on some days, and quotes, helpful advice, etc. on others. January 6 features a list of kitchen no-nos, including my favorite: "Don't think the oven is as good a place as any to store the breakfast biscuits that didn't get eaten (telling yourself that of course you'll remember to take them out before you heat the oven again, because you won't)." Not that I have ever burnt up anything I've stored in the oven, mind you.

January 11 features a list of popular cooking terms, including Hunter-Style (which I come across a LOT in old cookbooks). Now I finally know what it means: "Descriptive term for the dish you must hunt around for things to stretch it with. For example, Creamed Chicken Hunter-Style means padded with a cupful of sautéed chopped celery, several sliced hardboiled eggs, and nine sliced stuffed olives."

Many of the recipes are attributed to others as well-- often people Bracken has made up, she admits, "in order to be sure someone would say what I didn't feel quite comfortable saying myself." For January, here are a couple of recipes attributed to Dr. Emmett Neitzelgrinder, inventor of "STIFFO, a special butter that won't melt in your mouth." (It's for the "cholesterol-minded.") He's also the author of Get Away from Me with Those Soybean Cupcakes.

While Dr. Neitzelgrinder is NOT a fan of soybean cupcakes, he's apparently okay with fish turnovers:

(Sorry the scan is a bit blurry. Apparently Bracken hated sufficiently wide margins a bit more than she hated cooking.)

The fish turnovers feature hard-cooked eggs... Am I justified in imagining that the rice substitutes for the celery as a filler and the canned mushrooms for the olives? I so want to call this recipe Fish Turnovers- Hunter Style! Notice also that Dr. Neitzelgrinder is nice enough to do most of the cooking, just leaving his wife to make a quick sauce of melted butter, lemon, and parsley, as "it's the least she can do, and that was her intention."

If all the specific ingredients with specific measurements seems a bit too overwhelming (and if you're disappointed with the lack of puns in the previous recipe title), the good doctor also offers up this set of sandwich guidelines:

Good old Neitzel Grinders! (Even though the alternative names for the sandwiches are listed, of course he would have to go with grinder....) They can be filled with anything from anchovies to liverwurst, then frozen until needed for that poker party. I just love old recipes that lay out the barest of guidelines and trust readers to run with them. I can't imagine keeping a cache of subs in the freezer, though! Mine is so stuffed with half-empty bags of Brussels sprouts, veggie burgers, partial loaves of homemade bread, and other odd-shaped (sometimes unidentifiable) packages that the goal is to open and close the door as quickly as possible before I start an avalanche. Having a bunch of these sandwiches rolling around with torpedo my whole system. (See what I did there? Don't you wish you didn't?)

Of course, since this is for January, maybe the plan should be to just dump the sandwiches in a snowbank for safe-keeping. (Especially if they're liverwurst-and-anchovy!)

I hope you're looking forward to seeing what advice Peg Bracken has for harried housepersons for the rest of the year! I certainly am...