Saturday, January 23, 2021

Funny Name: False Alarm Edition

 I'll bet this recipe title from A World of Good Eating (Heloise Frost, 1951) will throw a few dog lovers into panic/ disgust mode.

Alsatian in this case just means the recipe is supposedly from Alsace, according to the New England housewife writer. Alsatian Meat is a casserole of a leftover roast with veggies and noodles, not actual Alsatian meat. Serve with a side of garlic bread and maybe some Greenies Breath Buster Bites.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Getting Fruity in Scandinavia

How about a cookbook from another cuisine that this white bread midwestern ass is mostly unfamiliar with? Maybe something from part of the world cold enough that a midwestern mid-January won't seem as rough by comparison?

I don't really even have a good excuse to be unfamiliar, as Scandinavian cooking is home cooking to a lot of white bread midwesterners. Scandinavian Recipes is from the "Fellowship Circle" of Mount Olive Lutheran Church, Santa Monica, CA (1979), a group that seems to have hated fellowship and/or perhaps actually have been square, based on their love of scare quotes. (I didn't add them to "Fellowship Circle"!) (The introduction also thanks those who shared "their 'special recipes,'" which kind of made me imagine that all the recipes originally had marijuana in them or something. The "Fellowship Circle" really loved their misplaced quotation marks!)

Based on the book, it looks as if Scandinavians also really love fruit. There are so many recipes for chilled fruit soups that if I didn't know better, I would think Scandinavia was hot and needed cold soups to cool everyone down.

A few do offer the option of serving the fruit soup hot, though.

Hot soup gets thickened with f[l]our and cold soup gets lemon gelatin and grape juice or canned blueberries.

Hot side dishes get the fruity treatment too.

Sauerkraut and applesauce! They're both things that people seem to like with pork, so this probably sounds exciting to someone who... is not me.

Of course, for the recipes to be truly Scandinavian, some preserved fish needs to be in play.

For a plain day, use salted herring with potatoes, beets, apple, and onion.

If you want a fine salad, spring for the pickled herring and pickled beets to go with the apple and onion, and get rid of the potato filler.

Instead of the common mock chicken, the Scandinavians offer a mock duck, which is, of course, filled with yet more apples and prunes.

And this reminds me that I probably have at least some experience with Scandinavian cooking. The propensity to quietly slip sweet-and-sour accompaniments into foods that would look "normal" to an unsophisticated little girl in a small town tells me that our church must have had at least a few people of Scandinavian descent, and their potluck offerings were probably the ones that drove my parents to repeatedly remind me that "That's the worst thing I've ever tasted!" is not a socially-appropriate thing to say at a potluck.

So in short, yes, I have always been this charming, and even if I can't appreciate the recipes in the book, I still love the divider pages by Carol DeVrie, including this gnome riding a pig into the Meats chapter (and out of this post).

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Here a carb! There a carb! Everywhere a carb carb!

I love terrible gelatin molds and 10,000 uses for cream of mushroom soup (or both together)! The food isn't the only attraction, though, as cookbooks send us a picture of the culture. It's one thing to realize that we spend a much lower proportion of our incomes on food now than people did in the 1960s, or to know that obesity was much lower in the 1960s than it is now, but it's another thing to see what that means in terms of recipes.

That's all a very fancy way of saying that when I read through Favorite Recipes of Home Economics Teachers: Casseroles Including Breads (1965), I was surprised at how hard so many of the recipes doubled down on carbs. So many people are on low-carb diets now (and in the past, as we saw on Wednesday!) that it was a bit jarring to see recipes that bragged about extra carbs right in the recipe name:

That's right-- Double Noodle Casserole has carbs from BOTH the main mid-century noodle groups: narrow noodles (presumably egg noodles) AND chow mein noodles, and it wants cooks to know this.

Some are a bit more subtle.

Only noodles get the headline in Chicken Noodle Casserole, but the concoction also has a quarter-loaf of bread in the filling and topping.

And while the Chicken and Tiny Biscuits has the promised biscuits...

...they also rest on a layer of chicken-y rice. Double carbs again!

And back in the time before Karen was known for calling the manager...

...she called in the carbs, mixing an entire box of macaroni (ground, for some reason, in the first step?) with a cup and a half of soda crackers.

Of course, when initial meals were so carb-heavy (to help stretch the budget AND to make sure all 3.625 kids had something to eat so they wouldn't waste away to nothing!), there were plenty of leftover carbs for the casseroles too.

How about double potatoes (leftover mashed PLUS chip crumbs!) mixed with noodles?

Or maybe, if your family is heartily sick of carbs, just tell them dinner will be a Cheese Dream!

Don't mention that the dream has three times as many carbs as cheese: three cups each of rice, macaroni, AND bread crumbs.

Those 1960s home ec teachers knew budgets had to stretch and carbs were cheap. I can't really blame them. 

(Bonus secret: One of my favorite food memories from childhood is being left to my own devices for lunch one day and having macaroni and cheese with a blueberry muffin. Double carb heaven!)

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Egging on the Low-Carb Diet

Still keeping up with your new year's resolution to ditch the carbs, or have you already given in to try out the new Chocolate Hazelnut Oreos because new Oreo flavors are so rare that you can't miss out? (At least, you can convince yourself that they're rare, right? That's a good excuse.)

You're not alone! People have been making (and breaking) similar resolutions for decades! Today we'll examine one of the earlier iterations of low-carb diets: Dr. Atkins' Diet Revolution: The High Calorie Way to Stay Thin Forever (recipes and meal plans by Fran Gare and Helen Monica, 1972, but mine is from the 12th printing, Feb. 1973). 

If you look closely, you might notice the added bonus of a price tag for "Dr. Adkins" from a seller who didn't pay much attention to the actual title!

The book has all the cultural sensitivity one would expect from a doctor proclaiming the virtues of slenderness who adorns his desk with jolly Buddha statues.

I will admit that my unfamiliarity with Baken-ets made me give this Matzoh Ball Soup recipe the benefit of the doubt. I thought maybe they had as much bacon as McCormick's Bac'n Pieces (which are vegan). But no, Baken-ets are fried pork skins and still very much a thing (probably helped in popularity by all the current low-carb dieters!), despite my cluelessness about them. So, yeah-- the "matzoh" balls in this soup are made out of pork instead of unleavened bread. You don't need to be as much of an expert on Judaism as I am (and that's a joke because I am not an expert by any stretch of the imagination) to know that's not kosher!

Non-kosher dieters were probably thrilled by the recipe just because the matzoh balls consisted of something other than eggs, though. The book relies so heavily on eggs as stand-ins for bread products that it might as well have been subtitled "A Dozen Ways to Pretend Eggs Are Something Other Than Eggs." Eggs are whipped, spread in a thin layer on a buttered baking sheet, baked, and cut into thin strips to serve as "noodles" for soup. They're whipped with cottage cheese, piled on a baking sheet, baked, and served as "rolls" to go with dinner or to cut in half, pile high with cold cuts, and eat as a sandwich. A similar mixture (just add some soya powder) baked in a bread pan instead of in individual portions makes a loaf of "bread."

And if you're really hard up for some French toast, well...

...just soak your eggs in MORE eggs with a little cinnamon and Sugar Twin, and call it French toast.

If you craved a nice pie for dessert, eggs could even make a pie crust.

It's not quite the same as an angel pie, but it's similar.

What low-carb goodies can low-carbers fill it with? My favorite combination seems like a distant cousin of the Seafoam Pie.

Aside from the different crust from Seafoam Pie, this one is enriched with a layer of cream cheese, uses a strawberry gel instead of lime-flavored gelatin, and is sweetened with "Slim-ette maple syrup" and No-Cal strawberry syrup. It still has the random melon balls, though.

If all these recipes are driving you to drink, well, this doesn't have alcohol, but it's low-carb.

Yep, I'm leaving you with the mental image of diet ginger ale with globs of peppermint-flavored whipped cream. You're welcome. At least it doesn't have a raw egg in it! (Of course, now I've planted that image in your imagination, so it kind of does. No need to thank me.)

Saturday, January 9, 2021

Let's Clear Out the Last of Those Holiday Leftovers

Not sure what to do with the leftover fruitcake that's still haunting your pantry? Wick and Lick (Ruth Chier Rosen, 1954) suggests the book's go-to idea for making anything that might seem a little boring into the meal's climax.
Set that puppy on fire! I'm not sure whether the fire will make people any more or less likely to eat fruitcake, but at least it can be exciting for a few minutes. (Plus, who knows? Maybe it will accidentally set your fake flower centerpiece on fire, and you regale friends and family with the story of the smoldering sunflowers for years to come.)

Here's wishing you some interesting leftovers!

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Old school casseroles

 I am always excited to find books from the "Favorite Recipes of Home Economics Teachers" series because 1. They have LOTS of recipes and 2. Home ec teachers had the weirdest ideas about made for a good recipe. I remember taking one home ec class in which we were required to make a salad out of cold fast-food French fries slathered in mayo. (Okay, I mentioned this before, but it was once and more than six years ago, so I feel justified in once again registering my bemusement.) What was the point of the thing? Fries are best hot and crispy! Salads are supposed to be nutritious (or at the very least, allow you to pretend that something delicious but clearly unhealthy-- like a mound of cream cheese sweetened with Jell-O and Cool Whip-- is really nutritious because it has a few flecks of canned pineapple or something)! What's the point of gross, cold fries in gloppy mayo as a "salad"? Only home ec teachers seem to know, and they never successfully conveyed that information to me.

So of course I was thrilled to spend an afternoon pawing through the collision of one of my favorite recipe genres-- casseroles!-- with one of my favorite types of cookbooks: Favorite Recipes of Home Economics Teachers: Casseroles Including Breads (1965).

The recipes did not disappoint in their haste to throw together entire ranges of disparate ingredients for no particular reason. Sometimes, I think the home ec teachers may simply have been staving off boredom by throwing in a little something extra. Sick of Tuna-Noodle Casserole?

You might think I'm going to suggest that using salmon instead of tuna in this typical recipe is the innovation, but nope! Look more carefully at the topping. 

That's right! Peanut butter breadcrumbs! Who doesn't love a good PB&S?

The home ec teachers who had a little more money to burn could make their tuna casseroles weird in an entirely different way.

Just throw a layer of avocadoes under the peas and the tuna-chicken soup mixture! Using corn chips on the top instead of the usual noodles will continue the theme to give it a vaguely Mexican vibe despite the lack of spices, maybe? Who knows? It's not Tuna Noodle Casserole, so quit whining, Frank!

There are also recipe titles that seem designed to get the family's hopes up, only to dash them when it's actually dinner time. Tired of canned fish? Well, how about a British pub classic instead?

Hear that it's Fish and Chips night, then sit down at the table to discover that there are no flaky batter-dipped fillets emerging golden brown from the fryer, taking their place next to some crispy fresh-cut fries. Nope. This Fish and Chips consists of potato chips on top of a mixture of canned tuna, cream of mushroom soup, hard-cooked eggs, and still more potato chips, for those who prefer them mushy rather than crispy. Yay!

Or if the family was entirely sick of canned fish in casseroles, the cook could always go to the "Including Breads" part of the book for this classic:

I am no authority on southern cornbread, but I am pretty sure it doesn't usually have salmon in it.

The book is not all canned fish recipes, of course. There are plenty of let's-just-throw-it-all-together-and-see-what-happens recipes. Can't decide whether to serve beans seasoned with bacon, pizza, or a mini-Thanksgiving? Why not have all three?

Can't decide whether you want spaghetti with a meaty tomato sauce or hot dogs cooked in sauerkraut for dinner? Just make your usual sauce with chili powder instead of Italian seasonings and then...

...add sauerkraut and frankfurter chunks for the last few minutes! Then maybe serve it on spaghetti? Or in hot dog buns? Who the hell knows? Just use whatever you've got left in the kitchen that didn't already go into the Sauerkraut and Beef Special.

Need a way to use up beef, apples, golden raisins, Parmesan cheese, and a bag of frozen peas and carrots?

Throw it all together with a little curry powder so you can claim it's curry! Then dump a cornbread mix with chunks of Cheddar on top of the whole thing so you can claim it's Mexican if the kids object to curry! What could possibly go wrong?

And once the family is sick of all the random junk thrown together, try to make it up to them with a pie. Grandma always said Grandpa would happily eat "cow flop" if she put it in a pie shell, so this should look gourmet by comparison:

Ham, onions and eggs in a pie shell sounds like a middling quiche. (No dairy fat? Only middling, then.) Ham, onions, eggs, and a whole head of lettuce, though? WTF?

I am pretty sure I'm never quite going to figure out the thought processes of home ec teachers, but it's sure a lot of fun wondering just what they were thinking. Now, go to your kitchen and figure out the best way to casserolify the first seven ingredients you see. Looks like I'm making Rotini Oatmeal Cocoa Powder Carrot Clementine Green Pepper Silken Tofu Surprise!

Saturday, January 2, 2021

From Lobsters to Whole Wheat and Beyond: A Year of American Cooking with the Chamberlains

Welcome to 2021! Now that I'm done with the year of Martha Meade and her Modern Meal Maker, it's time for a new seasonal cookbook. How about The Chamberlain Calendar of American Cooking (Narcisse and Narcissa Chamberlain, 1957)? After a year of curtailed travel, maybe we're ready for a culinary tour of America. This book is both an engagement calendar for 1958 and a selection of recipes-- one for each week. The recipes are paired with a photo of the area they're supposed to represent, so no food pictures (except on the cover)-- just snapshots of life in mid-century America.

It's January, so I would love to be somewhere warmer. How about San Francisco?

What did the San Franciscans eat? Not Rice-A-Roni quite yet-- it was invented in 1958

Instead, they were serving lobster stuffed with pork-- perhaps reflecting the history of Chinese Americans in California as part of the gold rush and Transcontinental Railroad work. Note that this is not a midwestern rendition that supposes a can of crispy chow mein noodles and/or a teaspoon of soy sauce is enough to make a cheese-topped casserole "Chinese."

The midwest isn't ignored though, here represented by one of my favorite foods for a cold winter's day: fresh-from-the-oven homemade bread.

Few things exemplify the midwest better than a snow-covered church in the middle of nowhere. (And one of the many things that makes me feel better about living NOW is noticing that some public places apparently still had outhouses in the '50s.)

Another thing I like about now: I can just use the dough setting on my bread machine to do most of the work of making homemade bread! Another win for modern times, even if they are not always feeling magical right now. Let's hope the Chamberlains will keep us feeling good about living in the early 2020s!