Saturday, September 26, 2020

Funny Name: Hide the Chopsticks Edition

When I saw this recipe title from Recipes You'll Flip Over (Cedar Rapids Association of Gymnasts, 1983), I immediately imagined biting into what looked like a chocolate cake and discovering it was soy sauce-flavored... and that the white chocolate chips were actually water chestnuts.

Luckily, Chop Suey Cake is apparently just named that because so many chop suey recipes called for pineapple, and I guess Pineapple Cake sounded too boring?

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Flipping for the "good" recipes

I always think of gymnasts as being very serious. I mean, they can flip and twist and jump on beams so narrow that I fall over just imagining trying to stand on one, and then they add extra flips and spins when they intentionally jump off the beams. That's got to take some serious discipline.

Recipes You'll Flip Over (Cedar Rapids Association of Gymnasts, 1983, but good enough that we'll overlook the post-'70s date) shows that gymnasts must have a sense of humor after all. The fundraising cookbook offers such delicacies as this:

I'm hoping that the Thunder Crag Mascot was an actual dog, as serving dry dog food and canned stew out of a frisbee to some poor schlub in a hot fuzzy costume just seems mean. (A Google search suggests that Thunder Crag is now mostly known as some kind of Pokémon thing, so no help there.)

If you would prefer to lunch like the coach, well, Coach Russ has an easy enough plan.

I hope the gymnasts don't ask for his dietary advice. I don't want to imagine the results of doing a series of backflips after a couple cheeseburgers and a large fry.

Maybe it would be better to ask Coach Tracy's advice for a good breakfast instead.

The fact that Tracy puts the "Good" in her Good Breakfast in scare quotes is probably all you really need to know. It's going to taste good, as would any breakfast including a couple scoops of ice cream, but it's probably not the healthiest gymnast fuel.

The book has some actual recipes in it, too, and they sometimes reveal pretty singular sensibilities. I might imagine that a gymnast's favorite snacks include things like hard boiled eggs, or celery, or hard boiled eggs impaled on a stalk of celery, or maybe, since so many gymnasts are only kids anyway and not necessarily as serious about it as I imagine, a big pile of Ritz crackers stuck together with Easy Cheese. (Okay, that was my childhood idea of a fancy snack.) But no, here's Beth's Favorite Snack.

I really can't imagine too many people saying their favorite snack is a cottage-cheese-based pastry with a powdered sugar glaze, but here we are. Gymnasts are weird.

These gymnasts are pretty into pastries, too. I'll leave you with their suggested use for cream puff dough. I'll admit, when my family made cream puffs when I was a kid, we were not very imaginative. They were filled with a rich vanilla pudding, and, if we felt extra-fancy, topped with a bit of grated chocolate. Gymnasts, on the other hand, had different plans for that cream puff dough.

Make it into a bowl! And fill it with lettuce and tuna salad!

Okay, I will never understand gymnasts or gymnastics, but thanks to my sister for giving me the opportunity to gawk at their cookbook.

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Stuff a Peck of Peppers!

My fall posts are generally written waaay ahead of time because I'm so busy in the fall that I'd just have to abandon this thing if I didn't work ahead. This week, I had a little bit of extra time. (Thanks to online classes, I don't waste nearly as much time going places!) I was considering using a pre-written post for Saturday, but I kind of felt like using my time to look at an old cookbook... Didn't have a ton of time, though, so I decided I'd do an end-of-summer-produce post IF I could be lazy about it and not have to do a ton of scanning. Well, I picked stuffed peppers as my theme, picked up The Illustrated Encyclopedia of American Cooking (editors of Favorite Recipes Press, 1972), and holy shit! I hit the jackpot.

The picture seems to show four different styles of stuffed peppers, but according to the recipe section, this is just the basic model:

I'm pretty sure only the bottom right is actually the basic Stuffed Bell Pepper one, though-- one late-summer staple of bell peppers stuffed with another treat that is just ending its season: fresh sweet corn! Add in the omnipresent ground beef and onion, and you've got the end of summer in a handy green cup.

The bottom left looks like it's the child-friendly Macaroni-Stuffed Peppers. 

Perhaps they're made even more child-friendly by hiding the tomato bits under a plainer layer of macaroni and cheese, despite the instructions' insistence that everything be mixed?

I'm frankly not too sure what the top two are. The one on the right is too nondescript for me to know what it has-- just some ground beef-looking bits with orangish and tannish stuff-- and the one on the left looks like it's full of ham and pickles, but there are no recipes for peppers stuffed with ham and pickles. Maybe it's deviled ham and celery?

Who knows? At least the deviled ham makes this one sound Halloween-appropriate. 

We're not even halfway through the book's offerings, though! If I want to continue with the German theme from Wednesday, there are German-Style Peppers.

I kind of expected them to have gingersnaps and/or sauerkraut inside, but I have no idea what makes these German. The soggy hard rolls?

If the corn in the original Stuffed Bell Peppers doesn't seem sufficiently seasoned, the Corn-Stuffed Bell Peppers add some chili powder and tomato to the corn. (Plus, they're vegetarian if you don't want meaty peppers!)

Continuing the theme of veggie-stuffed veggies, if corn is going out of season, carrots will still be available:

Most appetizing line of the recipe: "Mixture will be like paste." Yum.

Or you could go with potatoes plus cheese and salted peanuts if carrots and corn seem to sweet:

My childhood self would probably have been most impressed with the cheese/ rice/ bacon option:

Especially if the cook forgot about dumping a can of mushy gray-green beans around the peppers.

And that child-self would have been least impressed with the Barbecue-Stuffed Peppers, given my feelings about condiments

I know someone out there is capable of enjoying peppers loaded with onion, Worcestershire, vinegar, dry mustard, catsup, and brown sugar, but that someone isn't me!

Those who want to be midwest-fancy can go for Shrimp-Stuffed Peppers.

They even get a dash of hot sauce!

Those who don't want to put on airs can go for the generic-sounding Savory Green Peppers. 

If it's too hot to bake (but not too hot to boil a big pot full of peppers while making a tomato-meat sauce in another pan), then No-Bake Stuffed Peppers fit the bill.

And finally, for lucky number 13 on this list, the recipe with the math problem.

All the other recipes with ground beef mixed with other fillings call for a pound of meat plus other fixings to fill four large peppers. For some reason, Curry-Stuffed Green Peppers are supposed to fill four larger peppers with only a quarter pound of ground beef. Yes, there's a half-cup each of rice and peas, plus a small onion, but the No-Bakers have space for a full pound of ground beef, plus a can of tomato sauce, a cup of rice, and 2/3 of a cup of cheese divided among four peppers. Is the two teaspoons of curry powder really supposed to be so potent that the diners won't notice that their peppers are mostly empty?

I'm going to leave you with that little mystery, and go off to celebrate the fact that I could be semi-lazy and still write a new post in mid-September for a change! Woo!

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Threats of Zwiebelkuchen from the Dorf

The flirty spoon-girl on the cover of the German Village Cook Book (The German Village Society, June 1968) is here to try to sell readers on the idea that German food is delicious and fun. Americans lately seem to be disagreeing with this notion, and despite/ because of? my (distant) German background I would tend to agree.

That's partly because I think my sour receptors seem to have waaay different settings from most people's (Most vinegar-based condiments taste barfy to me, for example.), and German food tends to go heavy on the sour. Even the smell of sauerkraut makes me suppress a gag reflex, and the book informed me that cabbage isn't the only vegetable Germans will krautify.

There's turnip kraut, too! Apparently this version is supposed to used as a topping for salty crackers rather than as a the primary ingredient in a hot tub for sausages, as is traditional for the cabbage-based version.

Of course, too much flavor can be just as much of a problem as not enough. I found a recipe very similar to something my mom used to make-- one of the recipes that led me to take over the family cooking during my teenage years as an act of self-defense.

I know she didn't make it exactly this way. I doubt anything was measured-- she just used what we had on hand and boiled the ham, green beans, and potatoes in plain water (I don't think she even bothered with the pepper or staggered cooking times) until everything was uniformly bland, mushy, and gray. Let's hear it for mom's good old home cooking!

The recipes aren't all horror, though. I was impressed to find eggs prepared in a way I hadn't seen before.

Okay, I've definitely seen baked eggs before, but usually they're just eggs broken into a ramekin or muffin cup, topped with some seasonings and maybe a little cheese, and then baked. I'd never seen hard boiled eggs chopped up to be baked under a layer of eggs beaten with seasoning then topped with breadcrumbs and cheese. Eggs baked under other eggs is just odd enough to make me kind of love it.

And then, I hit the cake section and immediately reverted to horror when I saw a new kind of vegetable-based cake. To be clear, I'm not necessarily anti-veggie in dessert. Carrot cake is lovely. Asparagus cake and artichoke cake sound weird, but I might try them if somebody else went to the trouble of making them. Canned tomato products were such a common dessert ingredient that somebody must like that combination.

You might be expecting sauerkraut cake here, as that's pretty common too (and krauty!), but nope. Are you ready for Zwiebelkuchen?

Well, threatening to start someone's day with an onion-topped coffeecake is one way to get the house cleared in record time. Those Germans are hard-liners!

This book reaffirmed my sense that I'm not missing out by being largely ignorant of my family's long-ago German roots, but it does kind of make me wish my spoons would give me a saucy wink now and then.

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Killagain's Island

It's still hot. You're still bored. And you're still supposed to stay away from people. The New Art of Buying, Preserving and Preparing Foods (The General Electric Kitchen Institute, 1935) offers up this fun recipe if you want to stay cool and pretend you're secretly a serial killer.

Wait. What does the chilled meringue and custard dessert have to do with serial killing?

Go on. Tell me you don't look at that and see a plate full of disembodied boobs.

You're welcome! Have an unsettling weekend.

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

A little bit raw

When I picked up The Delicious World of Raw Foods (Mary Louise Lau, 1977), I expected it to be an earnest-ish treatise on raw cooking, bursting with alfalfa sprouts and sunflower seeds (only earnest-ish because of the subtitle: A Culinary Guide for Preparing Appetizers, Soups, Salads, Vegetables, Main Dishes, and Desserts with Little or No Cooking; a really earnest health food book wouldn't allow the "little" to sneak in!). The introductory chapter seemed to reinforce that impression, insisting that raw foods are "excellent for your digestion," "a great way to stay slim," and that "All raw foods are 'beauty' foods" that "promote healthy, glowing skin and sparkling eyes." All that and they're supposed to save energy during an energy crisis!

The recipes themselves only occasionally reinforce those ideas, though. Yes, there are a few earnest health-food-shop-style recipes.

This is almost exactly what I pictured-- "big handful"s of alfalfa sprouts, sesame and sunflower seeds, avocado, cider vinegar. Of course, the croutons are cooked, so they are a little out of place, but hopefully the insistence that they be made out of 100% whole-grain bread makes up for it. The fact that the title specifies that this recipe is "à la Health-Food Restaurant" should clue us in that the default assumption for most recipes is not health food restaurant, though.

A lot of recipes seem to suggest that this is more of a cookbook for upper middle class people who want to feel like they're actually being virtuous without having to actually buy into a lot of the '70s earth mother health food ideals.

Serious raw foods cookbooks tend not to call for rye bread and hard cooked eggs. Vintage health food cookbooks tended not to call for generous amounts of butter slathered on sandwiches. It seems like the raw food title is just a health halo to make diners feel a little self-righteous about scarfing down caviar and and hand-scraped raw beef.

Even things like fruit salad that would be pretty easy to make using '70s health food standards tend to be more upscale than raw health food ideals.

While the no-sugar health-food-for-kids books tended to rely heavily on concentrated juices, raw foodists would have observed that concentrating orange juice usually means cooking it, so this would be a no-go. (Plus a lot of health food books avoided alcohol, but Lau is more interested in having a little fun than being too pure.)

She liked having a little fun with titles sometimes, too. 

Anyone for Devastating Horseradish Cream Dip with Cannibal Steak? Any excuse for raw steak and sour cream made Lau happy.

The book isn't even all that married to its tendency to go for higher-end ingredients, though. Just as it couldn't be confined to actual raw foods, it also couldn't resist a little bit of the tasty foods that snobs tend to see as trashy.

Mix classic health foods like watercress and cashews with half a can of fried onions, the popular cream-soup-casserole topper! (And of course a canned food with "fried" right in the name should count as raw if you didn't cook it!)

And speaking of lower-end ingredients and "raw" foods cooked by someone else first...

This is the only cook book I have (that I know of) making the claim that dried chipped beef mixed into sour cream is not only raw, but also a weight loss and beauty food!

So the book isn't really a raw foods book, or even entirely a book of higher-end recipes that can let the well-off pretend they get the same health halo as hippie-style '70s foods. At least it's consistent in keeping the chef cool, right?

Oh, for fu....

Really? This raw foods cookbook has a recipe that calls for putting food in the oven until it's "piping hot"?

I give up. There seems to be no guiding principle to this book other than a vague sense that putting the words "raw foods" on the cover will maybe sell more copies. I have to admit that Lau has good instincts not to trust "healthy" raw foods to take her too far, though, as those tend to be some of the saddest recipes in the book.

Who wants a plate of icy cold raw potatoes when they ask for fries?

Even if the "fries" are dressed up and served in a napkin-covered basket and served with ketchup, raw crinkle-cut potatoes are going to get a hard no from just about anybody. This is one case where straying far, far away from the premise was probably the only way to save the cookbook....

Saturday, September 5, 2020

Elegant grilling for a fancy Labor Day

Labor Day is coming. Even if the observations are more subdued than usual this year, people will still be grilling. Plus, we can feel like we're interacting with the neighbors if we can smell their charred hot dogs.

For a change of pace, I'm going to try to class the place up this year.

This is Elegant Fare from the Weber Kettle (Jane Wood, 1977).

While there is next to nothing on hot dog cookery, the elegant fare is not always that elevated.

Why go the boring route of cooking meatloaf in the oven when you can grill it? Plus, this meatloaf is a little extra classy since it has olives in it, so putting it in an "elegant" cook book makes sense.

The book doesn't have déclassé marshmallow-topped sweet potatoes, either, but it does offer these sweet potatoes in preparation for fall.

This recipe seems perfectly made for the grill, what with the pre-baking, scooping, mashing, slicing, and baking. I'd certainly want to try to do all the prep outside, or at least parade in and out of the house with trays full of fruit-stuffed sweet potatoes.

Of course, some of the recipes are pretty elegant, especially for the '70s. There's a paella with actual saffron:

Preparing all the various types of seafood and veggies gets to be even more fun when somebody has to tend the coals and make sure the top-heavy grill doesn't blow over during cooking. (Plus there will be the fun of someone complaining they can sense the lingering presence of lighter fluid in the rice.)

As seemingly sophisticated as those '70s diners may have been, I get the sense they were unfamiliar with pita.

Why else refer to the saffron-and-cinnamon seasoned lamb on pita as "Turkish Tacos"? There is nothing (aside perhaps from a dash of cumin) remotely taco-ish about them, so my guess is that the pita earns them the label.

My favorite grilled delicacy, however, might be this one, which has a power move of replacing an avocado pit with a hard-cooked egg and then wrapping and grilling this strange delicacy in chicken breast.

I always thought Chicken Monterey was what my grandma got me at a restaurant for my 16th birthday: chicken blanketed in bacon and Monterey jack cheese. From now on, the only thing that will come to mind will be the avocado with the ghostly white pit!

Here's hoping your holiday weekend will leave you with memories that are not too haunting...