Saturday, July 4, 2020

America in a Cookbook

Happy Independence Day! (Or happy Saturday, if you're not American and/or not particularly sentimental about a celebration for a country built on slave labor and slaughter/ forced migrations of indigenous people!) Today I'm dipping into another bicentennial cookbook: Bicentennial Heritage Recipes (Beta Sigma Phi International, 1976).

I should start by acknowledging that there are plenty of people happy to wax nostalgic over building a country on slave labor.

I'm sure whoever wrote this shit thought they were writing a moving tribute to the women who had to be separated from their own families to care for someone else's. Self-delusion has to be an inherent part of the American character, though, for a country loudly proclaimed to be built on equality and still struggling nearly two and a half centuries later with qualities like basic fairness.

Let's move on to the sweeter part-- the good intentions. (And dessert!) I'm not sure whether the cake featured on the cover actually matches any of the cake recipes in the book, but I did find a recipe for a different flag cake in case you want a vintage flag cake recipe rather than one you could find in seconds with a Google search.

Admittedly, the blueberry and strawberry decoration scheme is likely to be pretty much the same as anything else you'll find online, but this flag cake recipe is waaay more likely to contain bourbon than one you'd find through a "flag cake" search. (It also has raw egg yolks in the icing, so you'll just have to hope the alcohol wins its independence from the salmonella.)

Some of the recipes actually seem like they could be authentic to the early days of the nation. 

A recipe that contains nothing but beans and cornmeal, one that requires hours of work to end with the great reward of a ball of boiled beans and cornmeal, definitely seems like food created for frontier-types with limited options. The end note suggests the recipe is from the Cherokees, a group that may well have been better off if they hadn't helped the newcomers figure out survival strategies.

A lot of the recipes are clearly modernized, though. 

I love that the sourdough bread recipe calls for commercial yeast in the starter and in the bread dough too. The recipe wouldn't have been particularly helpful to either the Gold Rush miners OR to home bakers hit by yeast shortages in the past few months.

The book has quite a few German recipes, reminding me why I rarely get too nostalgic for my grandmas' cooking. At least they never made German Cabbage Pie.

I can definitely live without cabbage creamed with caraway seeds and baked over a shell of sweet roll dough.

The book works pretty well as a representation of America over the years-- of its different types of ingenuity from frontier outposts to industrial processing, of its immigrant makeup, of its senseless cruelty and of those who could still repay cruelty with kindness. A cookbook is always more than a cookbook-- and that's part of the reason I love them. (That, and the Jell-O recipes...)

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

July trends: Breakfast-for-lunch and gelatin salads!

Happy July! Let's dig into Martha Meade's Modern Meal Maker (1935) to see what '30s cooks were supposed to make during the hottest month of the year.

July is a great month for cooking outdoors-- especially in homes well before central air was a thing-- so when I saw Combination Grill as a July lunch, I assumed it meant a cookout.

Nope! Remember that the book is a way to sell Sperry grain products, so Combination Grill is an attempt to sell more Pancake Flour (really more of a Bisquick-style mix than a type of flour) by encouraging cooks to grill boiled ham, sliced cheese, bacon, and corned beef in various quadrants of a waffle. It's like the waffle version of a Skybar, with meat and cheese instead of various nougats..

The breakfast-for-lunch theme must have seemed particularly appealing to hot summer lunch times as this sandwich filling was suggested as a French toast filling another day.

I imagine modern diners used to seeing fruit, chocolate, and/or cheesecake filling for French toast would be a bit astonished to discover a blob of bologna salad!

Of course, the real stars of July are the hot-weather recipes for jellied salads. Some were quite practical, giving homemakers a chance to kill two kitchen tasks with one stone fruit.

Not only did Spiced Ham Loaf make a cold, slippery vinegar, ham, boiled egg, and olive-based dinner, but it also provided a way to preserve the first of the peaches.

Yeah, pickling peaches took 15 minutes of boiling, but it was still way faster than canning, so the kitchen would be at least marginally cooler.

And finally, here's the recipe that made me question the 1930s idea of paradise.

If paradise is hard boiled egg, tuna, cottage cheese, green pepper, and onion floating in lemon Jell-O, well, I suspect the lack of air conditioning must really have made anything cold seem positively superlative.

Here's hoping your air conditioning is in good working order! Happy July!

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Raspberry Reverie

Sunny days make me think of summer vacation afternoons spent outside with my sister, both of us armed with empty extra-large Cool Whip containers to fill with raspberries. There were red raspberry bushes growing next to a fence on the side of the property and wild black raspberries off in a corner way to the back. While I usually hated garden work-- like getting a sore back as I gradually became engulfed in tiny slugs when I picked green beans-- I didn't mind picking raspberries. Yeah, they had thorns, but getting jabbed by a raspberry wasn't half as bad as getting scratched by a cat, I didn't have to stoop much, and I could eat as many raspberries as I wanted while I picked, an option that did not have the same allure when I had to pick green beans.

That's the long way of saying I felt like posting some raspberry recipes today. Raspberries are so inherently delicious that few recipe writers seemed intent on truly screwing them up, so most of the recipes don't even sound half bad!

The least exciting might be the one from Favorite Recipes of Home Economics Teachers: Vegetables Including Fruits (Favorite Recipes Press, 1966).

I mean, who gets excited about tapioca? I think it's mostly something kids eat just because it's available and has sugar in it. I guess the raspberries are there to make the tapioca better, even if the tapioca might be making the raspberries worse.

I'm way more excited about recipes with that strong vintage vibe. You know how baked Alaska was the thing in the '50s and '60s? The American Home All-Purpose Cookbook  (ed. Virginia T. Habeeb, 1966) brought raspberry into the craze.

I just wish it offered a picture of the big, pink, floofy thing, preferably with aqua appliances in the background.

Luckily, Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book (8th edition, 7th printing, 1974) offers a lovely Raspberry Bombe that I can at least feast my eyes on.

"Raspberry Bombe is a frozen spectacular." I love looking at all those layers...

I can never get over all the work women used to put into those layered desserts, though! I would be the hostess who set out the various components of the recipe and declared it a sundae bar rather than bothering with all the chilling, softening, freezing, layering, refreezing, etc. (which would probably end with my being unable to unmold the damn thing if I had even bothered trying). Then the ladies' club would talk about me behind my back and I'd hope to get unceremoniously dropped from the hostess list.

If you want to go really old school, The Wise Encyclopedia of Cookery (1971) offers something I had never heard of.

Luckily, the ratafia entry is on the opposite page from this recipe! It's "A general name, no longer common in America, for a liqueur or cordial made by the infusion method." Apparently they were quite the thing in Victorian England, even if they're largely forgotten today.

The weirdest raspberry recipe I could find comes from The Culinary Arts Institute American Family Cookbook (ed. Melanie de Proft, 1979). This one sounds more like a dish for the Thanksgiving table than for a summer evening.

I guess Raspberry-Crowned Yams are for those whose tastes run a little more sophisticated than those of the marshmallow-topping crowd.

Bonus: Here's what we did with any raspberries that managed to get put in the Cool Whip containers instead of my mouth.

Raspberry Pie

1 to 1-1/4 cups sugar (depending on how sour the berries were)
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons corn syrup
1 cup cold water
half a package raspberry Jell-O
as many raspberries as we had picked (maybe a quart? I never measured)

Combine sugar, cornstarch, corn syrup, and water. Cook and stir until thick and clear. Add Jell-O and cool. Fold in berries. Put in baked pie shell and chill until set.

Sit back and remember a nice summer day! Even if this summer is not going as planned, I hope your brain stashed an extra-large Cool Whip container full of summer memories somewhere. Nostalgia will add the mental equivalents of corn syrup and Jell-O if you need a little help sweetening them up.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Pennies from Sophie Leavitt

I'm sure some people now are new recruits to the penny pinching crowd, but of course it's nothing new. (Anyone who had to dig through half a dozen cottage cheese containers in grandma's fridge to figure out which one actually contained cottage cheese knows this!)

The All New Sophie Leavitt's Penny Pincher's Cookbook (1978) showed '70s cooks how to make their money count, and it largely consisted of eating things from cans.

This vegetable soup may hold the record for most canned goods in a single recipe. 

It's very specific about brands, too! Two cans of Progresso Minestrone, one can of Campbell's Vegetarian Vegetable, one can of Progresso Chick Peas, two cans of Progresso Macaroni and Bean Soup, four cans of College Inn, R & R, or Campbell's chicken broth, plus maybe a can or two of tomatoes if fresh aren't in season, and/or a can of Chinese noodles if this is to be served as chow mein. That's a minimum of 10 cans, but perhaps up to the low teens!

Canned goods can also facilitate a super-cheap staycation. 

I'm really not sure that meatballs cooked in a few cans of Campbell's Chicken Gumbo Soup really screams authentic New Orleans gumbo, but penny pinchers probably wouldn't have been able to afford a trip to New Orleans' best restaurants anyway, so there is no point of comparison to leave them disappointed.

For a  more exotic vacation with fewer canned goods, there's Polynesian Chicken.

Polynesian is usually code for "with pineapple, green peppers, and maybe some soy or teriyaki sauce," but here, it's code for "with Russian dressing, orange marmalade, and onion soup mix." Which is better? A real trip to Hawaii, of course, but that's not in the budget.

Finally, a dessert. Maybe we need some ice cream to help dispel some of the salt from all those packaged soups?

Sophie Leavitt doesn't seem to realize that the title Low Calorie, Fine Tasting, Smooth Chocolate Ice Cream will lead readers to wonder why the title is making such a big deal of its supposed deliciousness. How many of those adjectives are actually accurate? And if it's not clear why ice cream would need to involve nonfat dry milk and oil rather than a full-fat dairy product, the answer is both budget and health. This book has a very vague and hazy health-food allegiance. Obviously, someone who calls for multiple cans of condensed soup is not concerned about sodium, and a lot of recipes use sugar liberally, so Leavitt seems to think that's fine. Dairy fat is sometimes out (unless it's in the form of canned soup or Velveeta), nitrates added to processed meats are avoided, and artificial colors and flavors and  are out, so this icy dessert fits easily into the book's attempts to make recipes healthy-ish.

I'm kind of afraid that the dessert might leave you with a bad taste in your mouth, so I'll sign off with one other thing I love about the book. (You may have already noticed in the dessert recipe's note on "saturated fat"!) Leavitt apparently really loves inappropriate quotation marks. Here is her advice on straining chicken broth.

Paper towels can be a wonderful "work saver." (Now I imagine the paper towels slowing the broth so much that the hapless cook accidentally overflows the strainer and dumps broth all over the counter.)

And of course there is no "messy cheese cloth!" to wash afterwards (which makes me wonder if I've been reading this all wrong, and "chicken broth" and "strain" are euphemisms for acts I can't even begin to contemplate, ones that end in a mess so unimaginable that "messy cheese cloth" gets pressed into service as another euphemism).

As we end the post today, feel free to contemplate what the "saturated fat" in the "ice cream" recipe (Okay-- that last set of scare quotation marks is all mine!) is trying to suggest.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

The salads at the end of the rainbow

It's Pride Month! I had so much fun last year putting together a rainbow of Jell-O salads that I thought I'd try it again this year. I wanted to try to get them all from a single randomly-chosen community cookbook, so this year's rainbow is from Tri Kappas Kitchen Kapers (Alpha Rho Chapter of Kappa Kappa Kappa, 1976). I'll admit, I had to get a little creative for some of the colors, but that's part of the fun.

The easiest color to find (and usually the yummiest-sounding recipe) is red. This year, we've got double red in Jellied Raspberry and Cranberry Salad.

It's as advertised: raspberries and cranberry relish, plus ginger ale.

Orange is not usually too difficult to find, but apparently Kappa Kappa Kappas have an aversion to orange Jell-O.

That's why I looked at canned tomato soup mixed with cream cheese, mayo, and shrimp (plus the requisite gelatin) and said, "Eh. Close enough." (It's close enough to orange for my purposes and apparently close enough to edible for theirs.)

Aft the shrimp, why not keep the oceanic theme going for yellow?

We've got yellow from the lemon Jell-O and the hard-boiled egg yolks. I'm sure it all tastes great with tuna, olives, and celery.

Green was the biggest dilemma for me, as the Kappa Kappa Kappas really like lime Jell-O. This salad narrowly beat out the one with that paired pineapple, cottage cheese, and horseradish with its lime dessert.

Since there was no berry blue Jell-O in 1976, we'll have to go with the blue layer of the patriotic Red, White, and Blueberry Salad.

Okay, black raspberry Jell-O plus blueberries was surely closer to purple, but humor me because I like using beets as my purple layer.

Yes, this is  super-similar to last year's Beet/Horseradish Molded Salad, but this helps demonstrate that a significant number of people in the '70s must have thought lemon Jell-O really cried out for beets, horseradish, and celery.

I can't say that I would join those people, but I hope we can all join together and agree that the queer community deserves respect, dignity, and equality. (And nobody deserves to have a tomato soup, shrimp, and mayo gelatin salad thrust upon them without prior consent.)

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Trying Tri Kappas

Are you ready for some capers? (Okay, I've used the clip before, but I can't resist.)

Okay, now that we've established you may not want capers, how about some kapers?

These kapers are courtesy of Tri Kappas Kitchen Kapers (Alpha Rho Chapter of Kappa Kappa Kappa, Inc., 1976). I love that a few of the mushroom caps on the covers (front and back!) are covered with flower-patterned card stock to give them such a '70s homemade vibe. I wasn't able to find another image of the cover, so I'm not sure whether a previous owner added this touch herself, or if the publisher dressed up the mushrooms, but either way, it's awesome.

This detail also suggests that the Kappa Kappa Kappas had their own ways of doing things, and that's borne out by the book itself. For example, when I think of pizza burgers, I generally think of a regular beef burger with pizza sauce and a big, melty slice of mozzarella on top, plus maybe green peppers, pepperoni, olives, onions, mushrooms, or whatever other pizza toppings the cook desires. That's not the Kappa Kappa Kappa way.

Pizza burgers are apparently Spam, hamburger, and Colby cheese ground together, mixed with spaghetti sauce, slathered onto buns, and baked.

I tend to think of quiche Lorraine as pastry filled with a rich custard, bacon, and maybe some Swiss cheese. The Kappa Kappa Kappas don't like futzing around with pie crust or running off to the grocery for cream or specific meats or cheeses, so they use what they have.

That's apparently cans of dinner rolls, sausage, Monterey Jack, and plain old milk with the eggs.

When I think midwest brunch casserole, I think of the layers of white bread, custard, cheese, and sometimes breakfast meat layered into a casserole dish, left in the fridge overnight, and popped into the church oven just before sunrise service starts so Easter brunch will be ready when it's over. That's not the Kappa Kappa Kappa way.

If it's brunch, you need cereal. That means top and bottom layers of Rice Krispies enclosing cheese, sausage, onion, rice, and best of all, a cream of celery custard! (And now I'm having flashbacks of my six-year-old self barfing Rice Krispies everywhere, even though those were not part of a casserole.)

My favorite recipe just might be these little nuggets, which are a thing unto themselves. I'm not sure I've found anything quite like them in my other cookbooks.

Why one should add walnuts to meatloaf mix for stuffed potato meatballs is a bit of a mystery, but that's an interesting addition. Then once the nutty meatballs are fried, they're encased in mashed potatoes, rolled in cheese, brushed with butter, rolled in bread crumbs, wrapped in an authentic Parisian crêpe and a Chicago-style deep dish pizza, rolled in a blueberry pancake, deep fried.... oh, wait. I think I got off track. It's just baked after the bread crumbs, but that's still a lot of layering. Those are some seriously stuffed potato meatballs.

The Kappa Kappa Kappas were apparently so busy rethinking recipes for their Kappa Kitchen Kapers that they never got around to rethinking that maybe they should cut back on giving everything KKK initials. They were just on their own wavelength....

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Chillin' with Some Sandwiches

There's not much better than enjoying a warm mid-June weekend with a nice cold sandwich, right? Let's see what American Family Cookbook (Staff of the Culinary Arts Institute, 1979) would suggest.

First, a selection of the semi-random things mixed together and spread on bread variety. All of these are supposed to be enough filling for four sandwiches.

In case you've ever wanted to have a baked bean salad sandwich instead of just plain old baked beans, this one is for you. (It's a good thing I posted this one for summer vacation... and a year when school was out anyway... because it would really suck to spend the rest of the day at school after eating  a bean-and-raw-onion sandwich sandwich for lunch. Well, unless you had no shame and wanted to clear out all the nearby seats.)

If you'd rather go for a more traditional ham salad, here's a recipe that's kind of ham salad adjacent.

I could imagine Calvin of Calvin and Hobbes fame telling Susie Derkins that deviled ham mixed with raisins and pecans is raw ground beef infested with bugs. (And then she wouldn't want to eat lunch, even though plenty of girls are not that squeamish. Grandpa used the bug trick to get me to eat raisin bran when I was little.)

If you want something that seems a little more modern, here is a '70s equivalent to avocado toast.

I've seen menus with BLATs (bacon, lettuce, avocado, and tomato). This is more like a BAP (bacon, avocado, and parsley). Nix the mayo and use veggie bacon and I am there.

The book also has a peanut butter recipe for citrus lovers-- 1/2 cup peanut butter, 1/4 cup orange juice, a teaspoon of grated orange peel, and 1/3 cup of shredded coconut-- but it was too close to the fold for me to get a good scan. (I don't know how that sounds to you, but it sounds like a good way to ruin peanut butter to me. I've never wished for peanut butter to be runny and full of pencil shavings.)

And finally, a more complicated recipe, and one that easily fits my funny name collection.

Of course everyone loves Tuna Hobos because they're so cute trying to hold onto their bindles when they don't have any hands. That's why you don't want to go with a regular old Tuna Hobo, but a Paul Bunyan-Sized Tuna Hobo, which is essentially a party-sized sub with tuna salad under the lunch meat. (I always thought tuna was just to eat when you were out of lunch meat, but the staff of the Culinary Arts Institute thinks they make a fine couple.)

In any case...

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

The Regotta Regatta

I was expecting things to be a little bit high-end in the Fayerweather Auxiliary Cookbook (Women's Auxiliary of the Fayerweather Yacht Club, Inc., 1977-78). If you have a yacht, you have to be at least a little upscale, right?

So of course, the salad can't really be a dessert dressed up in a box of Jell-O.

It's a dessert dressed up in half a can of frozen daiquiri mix. (And I am seriously wondering about whoever thought mixing daiquiri mix with mayonnaise was a stroke of genius! Maybe all the hours of lying in the sun on the yacht deck boiled their brain?)

Of course, their beef stew isn't a simple mix of beef with onions, potatoes, and peas in a rich broth.

It's beef with onions, stuffed olives, and tomato soup. (Yeah! Show off that you've got olive money instead of potato money!)

And their toast can't be plain old toasted bread.

It's got to be grinder rolls soaked in wine and sautéed in butter.

When I got to the sweet chapter, I thought maybe their desserts actually had to be yacht-themed. Maybe "regotta" is an alternate spelling of "regatta"?

Nope. Since the yellow cake is supposed to be topped with a couple pounds of "regotta cheese," I finally figured out that it's an alternate spelling of ricotta. (I'm pretty quick that way.) So, yeah, the well-off eat cake-mix cakes too! They just try to transform them into cheesecakes!

The rich are almost like the rest of us! Just as crazy, but a slightly fancier form of crazy.

Saturday, June 6, 2020

Cookbooks as documents of a racist history

I'm fascinated by old cookbooks for a number of reasons. Of course, my main obsession is just how terrible so many of the recipes sound to me, but I am also fascinated by what old cookbooks can show us about their time, their place, and the culture from which they came. This seemed like a good time to remind everyone how cookbooks document the United States' long history of racism.

I dug out the book that impressed itself in my mind as the most openly racist in my collection, Coastal Carolina Cooking (the Women's Auxiliary to the Ocean View Memorial Hospital, Myrtle Beach, 1958, though mine is a 1963 printing). Even though I've already highlighted the book's open racism, there were still more images to post.

Of course, the book offers "plantation" recipes.

If you're not clear about why this is an issue, there's a good article on Vice, or if you prefer a podcast, The Sporkful offers an episode.

You'll note that the recipes also offer caricatures of Black servants because of course they would

There's also nostalgia for the confederate past....

And we'll top it all off with a the stereotypical mammy cooking for a little white boy.

Though things have clearly changed since these cookbooks were written, they still haven't changed enough. (Even the tiny battles, like asking white people not to thoughtlessly use plantation in recipe titles, are still being fought. No wonder the big, important battles are still raging.) Cookbooks are a small and seemingly inconsequential reminder of our long history of racism, but they help document the ways white society has telegraphed that Black lives and Black experiences do not matter. The far too small social changes we've seen since this book's publication came about because of strife and protest. It's unfortunate that this kind of effort is still needed, but it's clearly still necessary.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Hot Salsa and Cold Veal for June

It's June, so Modern Meal Maker (Martha Meade for Sperry Flour Co., 1935) is once again here to tell us what to make for the month. Since the weather could be warming into the uncomfortable zone, the book offers up an old-school summer favorite. If you've read Grannie Pantries for any more than a week, you can probably guess what kind of summer favorite it is.

Yep-- Aspic! Well, "Jellied Veal Loaf," but it's clearly an aspic, even if the title doesn't say so. The fact that this is made with unflavored gelatin even makes this sound slightly less revolting than the usual mid-20th-century attempts to make people eat chopped up egg, pickle, celery, and meat floating in an oozy block.

Slightly more unusual is the recipe for salsa.

This might be truer to the more general meaning of salsa as sauce than what I'm used to. Instead of a tomato-based dip, this cooks down dry chilis with some seasoning and oil, and instead of being billed as a snack accompaniment or a taco topper, it's supposed to be served on spaghetti! (The book specifies that the kiddos will probably prefer plain buttered noodles when this is served for dinner.)

Of course, a major theme in this book is eat more Sperry Wheat Hearts, so we can't go without a wheat heart recipe or two. If the family is up for hot food and wants to continue the Mexican-ish theme, there's Wheat Hearts Hotcha:

If it's too hot for corn, peppers, pimientos, olives, and ground round bound up in a thick wheat cereal glue, then maybe a cold wheat heart dessert will work better.

I've never had this, but I can almost imagine grandma pulling a log of congealed cereal full of grated pineapple and marshmallow bits out of the fridge for a summer dessert and/or breakfast. (The differences between breakfast and dessert were sometimes pretty minimal....)

Why not start off the summer months by congealing a block of something edible? (I'll admit that I occasionally puree cottage cheese in lemon Jell-O and top it with berries for a summer "pretend cheesecake" breakfast. Don't tell anybody.)