Saturday, August 31, 2019

Here comes September with odds, ends, and jibblies

Peg Bracken's The I Hate to Cook Almanack (1976) marks September with a "Harvest of Extra-Simple Fast Recipes" since September is the back-to-school month "when all seemeth possible & is, to the reluctant Cook and the harried Houseperson, given another Two Hours in the Daye." Of course, nobody gets an extra two hours a day (which I certainly need come September), so we get lists of fast veggies, desserts, and odds-and-ends for the days when the kids miss the bus and the car's tire goes flat.

These often start with cans-- cheese soup over cabbage, creamed corn transformed into corn chowder with some extra milk and butter, cranberry sauce mixed with crushed pineapple and sour cream before freezing. The canned yams (actually sweet potatoes) become a casserole through blending with egg and cinnamon before baking. They're all fast, easy, and simplified versions of the already-pretty simple recipes common to community cookbooks from the '70s.

The desserts sound SWEET.

Condensed milk with lemonade and whipped topping is bound to be tooth-shattering, but fresh fruit blended into vanilla ice cream or vanilla pudding mixed with sour cream and used as a fruit dip would probably be sweet in the more pleasant sense....

The odds-and-ends are, unsurprisingly, the most hit-or-miss:

Confession: I love any kind of pasta mixed with cottage cheese and poppy seeds, though I know a lot of people can't stand cottage cheese and blanch at the thought of eating it warmed by the pasta.... The magical two-ingredient ice cream muffins that were all the rage just a few years ago did not originate in 2014 or so. They're in the almanack (and weren't really even new when Bracken published them). And Tang mixed with applesauce as a ham or turkey topper? Just the thought of it gives me the jibblies!

The jibblies are appropriate, though, as we head into the month when my Halloween decorations finally start seeming like I purposefully put them out for the season (rather than the truth, which is that they're always out). Have an ominous month!

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Digesting the Kitchen Digest

Today we have a well-loved copy of The Kitchen Digest (Circle of Ruth Presbyterian Church, Nelsonville, Ohio, undated, but the addresses don't have zip codes and there's a Dairy Queen coupon to buy one sundae for 15 cents, get the second one for a nickel, so I'm going to guess it's from the 1950s or very early 1960s).

Nelsonville was (and is) not a bustling metropolis, so the cookbook section is a bit light. The first 60+ pages are filler-- pages for phone numbers, addresses, birthdays, memos, etiquette, calorie tables, and a first aid section that hints darkly at the rigors of living in a rural area. (One section gives instructions for trying to transport someone who may have a broken neck to the nearest medical facility.)

Plus, there are plenty of pages of interesting ads.

I have to love any ad for "Meats, Groceries, Vegetables, Explosives and Paints."

Tucked in among the ads, the booklet does have a few pages of actual recipes, mostly the types of plain and hearty cooking that kept rural families running... Escalloped Hamburg-- basically scalloped potatoes with a middle layer of hamburger.

Then there are the weird recipes made mostly of things off the pantry shelves mixed with desperation:

Apparently the specialty is stretching Velveeta with eggs, vinegar, sugar, and pimientoes.

Here's an interesting dessert to go with it:

Yeah-- graham cracker crumbs mixed with a bottle of maraschino cherries and chopped-up marshmallows, all apparently glued together by hours in the refrigerator.

My favorite part about this book is that I know which recipes the previous owner loved. She was apparently really into Jell-O based "salads."

That page is stained like crazy! Whoever loved this book before I did really liked her citrus Jell-O mixed with cream cheese and pineapple, apparently, and I can't blame her. It may be cheating to call these salads, but it's hard to resist the promise of getting an extra dessert and pretending it's health food.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Funny Name: Not so Whacky

Mrs. Beverly Bourque was outraged the first time she heard the phrase "wacky tobacky."

How dare the dope fiends name their vice after her innocent anchovy-and-juniper-filled Whacky Dacky Duck? (The term's first recorded use-- 1976 according to Merriam Webster-- is newer than the recipe from Blue Ribbon Poultry Cookbook (Favorite Recipes of Home Economics Teachers, 1973), so she certainly didn't borrow their filthy slang.)

She was so upset about the whole thing that she had to steady her nerves by finishing off what was left of the bottle of red wine she used for the marinade, and then maybe part of another one for good measure, and even then she spent the rest of the afternoon mumbling, "It'sh Whacky-Dacky Duck, you degeneratesh."

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

A ladies' luncheon that will ruin your blender

Ann Seranne's Good Food with a Blender (1974) is full of all the recipes I'd expect from an old blender cookbook: meat and veggie purées molded into various aspics and mousses, health drinks loaded with raw eggs and various yeast and vitamin supplements, vegetables "easily" grated by being blended in cups and cups of water before being drained and strained for use. Maybe I'll feature some of those someday, but as I was reading through, I noticed how many chilly, dainty foods the book featured, and it struck me that I haven't done a ladies' luncheon post in a long time.

Plus, most of my old ladies' luncheon posts are for winter, so I put together a special warm-weather luncheon with all the dishes so cool and delicate that the ladies might have to retreat to the fainting couch.

First, a dainty little appetizer:

I'm not sure what cream cheese mixed with pineapple juice, peanut butter, curry powder, and green onions should be served on-- probably tiny, crisp crackers shaped like flowers and delicately scented like baby powder or some bullshit.

Pair that with some finger sandwiches. For the bolder women, the ones who would introduce themselves by their own first names instead of "Mrs. Kenneth Misner," maybe something filled with a salty, eggy mash with as much of a whisper of heat as the old recipes offered:

Yes, it calls for a full quarter teaspoon of Tabasco!

And for the ones who thought that when the ladies get together to eat, everything should be dessert-adjacent:

The finger sandwiches have a prune, cheesecake-ish filling. Yum?

Something that doubles as a salad and main dish is expected.

So it's tomatoes stuffed with cold chicken and eggs, served on crisp lettuce.

And finally, the dessert salad, meant to correct the menu's deficiencies in gelatin, mini-marshmallows, and most importantly, pink:

This is the first recipe I've seen that calls for putting miniature marshmallows in a blender with hot fruit cocktail juice.

I hope this would be an appropriate ladies' luncheon menu. If not, it's just a chance to burn your blender out for no good reason.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

In which your humble writer makes some bananas very sad

You're in for a treat today! Yes, it's a bonus post for the SIXTH annual Pieathalon. Just like last year, I was lucky enough to get a pie recipe from Dr. Bobb of Dr. Bobb's Kitschen!

This time, my recipe comes from the Hempfield School District Cookbook.

Judging from the Expression of Appreciation, I'm guessing this book should be from about 1984.

Dr. Bobb was nice enough to send a recipe that sounded like it could be pretty good: Clara Kosmela--Rohrerstown's Banana Split Pie!

Here are the typed-out directions if you can't read the recipe very well:

Banana Split Pie

2 cups vanilla wafers or graham cracker crumbs
1 stick butter, melted

Mix and press into a 13X9 inch pan.

1 box powdered sugar
1 stick butter or margarine
2 beaten eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
5-6 bananas
1 - 16oz can crushed pineapple, drained
Cool Whip, red cherries, walnuts or pecans

Mix sugar, margarine, eggs, and vanilla for 15 minutes at high speed.  Spread this over crumbs. Slice bananas and put on creamy mixture. Spread drained pineapple next. Put a layer of Cool Whip and sprinkle with nuts. Arrange cherries on top. Refrigerate overnight.  Will serve 12.

Here's a lineup of the ingredients. You may notice the blue marks on the eggs. That's because I got pasteurized eggs since the eggs in this recipe are not cooked at all. (My Pieathalon email did note that some similar recipes use cream cheese instead of eggs for those who don't want to risk eating raw eggs.)

Fun fact: I only read the ingredients list and bought what I needed without paying attention to the rest of the recipe. Then I started wondering how it was all going to fit into a 9" pie plate. I didn't realize until I started that this is not a traditional pie, but a 9 x 13" dessert! I'm glad I had a 9 x 13" pan already, or I would have had to go out shopping again!

And yes, I know, there are no cherries or nuts. I don't like cherries and the people I shared this with don't like nuts, so the pie had to go ungarnished.

I've always felt nervous about making the other recipes because they're usually kind of complicated, especially with whipped egg whites and/ or gelatin, and I'm always afraid I'll screw them up. Luckily, this one was pretty straightforward. First, a crumb crust, and then some time beating together the powdered sugar, eggs, vanilla, and butter.

Dump the well-mixed filling onto the crumb crust, then top with bananas and drained crushed pineapple.

I think four bananas would have been plenty, as I had more than I really needed with five. I used a full 20-oz. can of pineapple instead of the 16-oz. the recipe called for, and it was so hard to distribute evenly that I think I could have actually used a bit more.

Then it got topped with Cool Whip-- again, a bit unevenly. I thought it was fully thawed, but the center was still a little frozen, so it was hard to spread just right. Oh, well.

After the chilling time, I called in my special guest taster!

Even though the real Weird Al wouldn't try this since he's vegan, the Funko Pop version of his '80s self was ready to accept the challenge. He'll try anything weird once, even if it is essentially frosting with eggs in it on a graham cracker crust with some fruit and Cool Whip topping.

I cut in and discovered that my crumb crust, as usual, had completely adhered to the pan and this was not easy to get out! And the tiny accordion was no help for cutting or serving, though mini-Weird Al helpfully used the bellows in his accordion to make it sound like the pie was struggling for breath as I cut into it.

When I finally pried a piece loose, it looked pretty bad, but he was ready to jump in:

"How is it?" I asked.

"It's almost as good as a Twinkie Wiener Sandwich!" he replied. I couldn't tell whether it was with genuine enthusiasm or sarcasm, so I tried a piece too.

I regularly get a bit annoyed with food reviewers who complain that a dessert is too sweet. (It's dessert! The whole point is to be sweet!) So I really hate to say it, but this is too damn sweet! When I could get a bite that was mostly fruit, it was okay. (Probably a loser in the equation to determine whether it's worth the calories, but at least acceptable.) Bites with more of the eggy-frosting gunk were so sweet that they made my mouth feel quivery. Plus, the whole thing is a little soupy, even though I drained the pineapple very well. Once again, this is not a winner (even though I had high hopes going in). It was a lot of fun to make, though!

Thanks again to Yinzerella at Dinner Is Served 1972 for organizing the Pieathalon! Be sure to visit the other Pieathletes!

My previous pies:

Year One: Four-Step Black Bottom Pie
Year Two: Brandy Alexander Pie
Year Three: Lemon Meringue Pie
Year Four: Nutty Caramel Pies
Year Five: Strawberry Ginger Pie

Monday, August 19, 2019

An unusual guest teases the sixth annual Pieathalon!

This morning, a special guest bounded into my office. "Wow! This is quite the collection of old cook books! And people think I'm obsessed with food...."

"Well, people who haven't been paying attention since the '90s think that. I just chose you because I thought you'd be a fun celebrity guest taster for my entry into the sixth annual Pieathalon."

"A chance to be a Pieathlete? That sounds great. So what are we doing today?"

"Well, you're picking out a recipe to represent yourself-- to tease your identity so people will come back on Tuesday to find out who you are and what (usually awful!) pie I made you try."

"Trying to pick just one recipe to represent me is a bit like trying to take a drink from a firehose, but I'll do my best."

He thought for a minute. "I know I'm not going to find a recipe for Ding Dongs or Captain Crunch anywhere." After a moment of searching, his eyes lit up when he saw Ice Cream (Mable and Gar Hoffman, 1981). After a quick scan of the index, he handed me the book opened to this recipe:

and this luscious picture:

Well, it looks luscious to me. My guest does not, in fact, love rocky road, but he'll be back on Tuesday to taste test a 1980s pie recipe. I walked him out and waved goodbye as he rode away on his Segway. See you tomorrow!

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Funny Name: Homophone Follies Edition

Something tells me that Mrs. Morris Fink was a little too optimistic (and perhaps, deaf to sarcasm).

She thought "Crumby Orange Chicken" was Mr. Fink's straightforward description of her chicken covered in corn flake crumbs and baked in orange juice.

She never realized that when he came home, made a face, and asked "Are we having that crummy orange chicken again?" he was editorializing.

The people who chose the recipes for Blue Ribbon Poultry Cookbook (Favorite Recipes of Home Economics Teachers, 1973) must not have caught on either because they reprinted it so we can all have crummy orange chicken.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Minding your peas and soups in Iowa

If you think of Iowa as a very plain, boring, straightforward state, then the title of today's book is going to reinforce that belief. Yes, it's The Cook's Book from the Junior League of Cedar Rapids (1965). I kind of expected the book to consist of dozens of recipes for pork chops baked/ fried/ barbecued/ encased in lemon Jell-O with corn. However, the "Beginnings" chapter mostly just showed me that 1960s Iowans really loved canned soup.

You might mix three different varieties of canned soup with a little milk, sherry, and crabmeat to serve as a soup OR, if you feel really creative, just mix a couple cans of soup with some shrimp and sherry and serve it over Melba toast instead!

It's exciting because it's now an hors d'oeuvre or entree rather than soup.

If you're more of an aspic type, this recipe makes an almost veggie-free egg salad (just a hint of ketchup!) that, when congealed in a ring mold, can corral a mound of chicken or shrimp salad.

There weren't all that many corn recipes, but I did wonder if Peas Quaker would somehow incorporate oats. My imagination ran all the way from the downright disgusting (brown sugar, cinnamon, apples, and peas!) to the potentially delectable (oats cooked like risotto with plenty of butter, cheese, and barely-cooked spring peas). In reality... well....

It's just peas with chicken livers, water chestnuts, sour cream, onion, and the ever-popular sherry. At least the Junior League had the good sense not to call it Peas Oriental just because the recipe includes a few water chestnuts.

The most unholy combination to my mind is a topping for pigs-- ham, to be precise.

I used to love the smoky, melty goodness of ham and cheese. I know a lot of people are fans of pineapple on ham. Is there a big demand for crushed pineapple mixed with cheese and a bunch of sugar, then baked under a layer of herb croutons? Mixing everyone's favorite toppings together is not necessarily a recipe for the best topping of all time! I've never asked for a hot fudge pineapple marshmallow cherry butterscotch raspberry crème de menthe strawberry peanut butter sundae.

I guess that given their fondness for canned soups, I should just be grateful that the recipe for "Pineapple" doesn't call for a can of cream of mushroom! Thanks to my sister for sending me this insight into mid-century mid-west.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

A clambake from the meat company

We're getting away to the beach this weekend! I'm not even going to force something nasty on you this time. It's a Goode Olde New England Clam Bake!

I remember reading a book when I was a kid that told all about a clambake. Not sure what it was, though it seems like maybe a Bobbsey Twins book? I just remember that it sounded so exotic (and unsanitary-- I was a pretty big germophobe!) to cook everything together in layers in the sand.

This version from Wilson's Meat Cookery (George Rector, 1941) has some workarounds for people who don't necessarily have access to an appropriate seashore (or for people like my childhood self who would just worry about shark shit in the seaweed).

If you can't put thick layers of wet seaweed between the clams, chickens, sweet potatoes, corn, and small lobsters or fish, then use wet spinach or lettuce! It's more expensive, but probably cleaner.

For convenience, tie the fish individually in cheesecloth so they can be pulled out in individual portions. And since the half-chicken, sweet potato, ear of corn, and whole fish the recipe allows for each diner may not be enough, throw in a white potato and half-dozen clams per person as well.

Then once it's all cooked, serve everything in the opposite order from what you used to bury it-- clams first and chicken halves with corn and sweet potato last, followed by chilled watermelon and hot coffee.

I hope the clambake lasts all day, or you might burst from eating all of this at once... Have a happy summer weekend, and don't pop! 

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

(Occasionally) Meat Cookery

I expected Wilson's Meat Cookery (George Rector, 1941) to be a somewhat scary book. The cover may look a bit plain, what with all the fruits and vegetables piled around a sliced ham, but the interior of the book advertised a bunch of Wilson's "delicacies."

These included "Mor" (which looked very similar to Spam).

Got to love the cheese stripes on top and canned peach halves along the sides! That's some classy Mor!

And you know I would be intrigued by a cookbook that seemed to promise sailboat-shaped knockoff-Spam appetizers and pickle-and-canned-meat striped sandwiches.

Plus, the book advertises an entire array of other canned meats:

Yes, Wilson's had everything from deviled tongue to canned tamales and chicken à la king to pickled honeycomb tripe.

Naturally, I assumed this book would be filled with recipes for all of Wilson's meats, especially the processed ones.

The author, George Rector, was a restaurateur known for feeding celebrities in his restaurants in New York and Chicago, though, and he did not seem too keen on squandering his good name on recipes for Mor and canned chili.

And based on the cover page, he also seemed intent on assuming a non-corporeal form and creepily watching over families who used his recipes, monitoring them for any signs that they might misuse ingredients.

In short, Wilson & Co. was so happy to get Rector that they didn't seem to care if his recipes only occasionally incorporated ingredients that the company actually sold.

The book has plenty of recipes that don't use meat at all, such as Vegetable Panache:

I imagine the recipe is just fine if you like peas, limas, and string beans, but there would be something quite disconcerting about scooping through a layer of whipped cream to get a spoonful of veggies. After all, creamed vegetables is a common recipe in old cookbooks and unsweetened whipped cream has little in common with, say, Cool Whip, but still... When I'm scooping through a layer of whipped cream, I expect to find dessert under it!

Another recipe that would confound my expectations is this dish of Spaghetti Alfredo:

When I see Alfredo, I expect traditional Alfredo sauce, a white sauce loaded up with cheese and butter. I thought the traditional fettuccine would be swapped out for spaghetti, but no-- this is a tomato and beef sauce named Alfredo after "Alfredo of Rome."

I didn't see too many recipes that seemed to be objectively terrible, though I did, as is often the case, object to a few of the salads:

Cucumber, pineapple, and olives bound with mayonnaise?

The best part of the book is probably the little asides. Rector refers to cauliflower as cabbage "with a college education" and calls garlic "vegetable vanilla," apparently because he believes it is as versatile in savory foods as vanilla is in sweets. (There's no real explanation, so I'm just speculating on that one!) Some asides even get their own standalone paragraphs with illustrations, such as this story that helps explain why so many recipes in old cookbooks are sooooo bland:

I have to love the heartbroken fish crying in its rocking chair at the thought of being cooked in a bouillabaisse seasoned with a mustard plaster from the pharmacy!

I'll leave with a note that shows despite our vast differences, Rector and I do have a little something in common. He likes to talk about terrible food too, as long as it is something made by someone else:

So get out there-- enjoy your day-- and maybe have a waffle or two since they're almost always enjoyable and can make any day better-- as long as they're not topped with whipped cream and caviar!