Saturday, May 28, 2022

Loaf Party!

While I often serve up traditional cookout foods for Memorial Day, this year, I think you should have a real party. It's time to break out of the routine of making hot dogs and unspeakable salads (or making hot dogs into unspeakable salads) and take a day making a craft project everyone can eat. This, of course, means we're heading back into party sandwich loaf territory with selections from 500 Ways to Make Tasty Sandwiches (ed. Ruth Berolzheimer, 1949). 

In case you've forgotten, party sandwich loaves are the enormous sandwiches that usually cut loaves of bread into layers (rather than the usual slices), fill the layers with various fillings, and then "frost" the whole thing with cream cheese, mayonnaise, and/or whatever else will look vaguely frosting-like so the loaf will look vaguely cake-like. You know, something glorious and welcoming, like this:

I'm not sure I'd use the phrase "all comers" in the caption for a foodstuff so covered in shiny white goop....

The layers of filling can be as compatible or discordant as your feelings about whoever is tasked with consuming the thing. The main recipe for the Frosted Sandwich Loaf is downright sedate by sandwich loaf standards, layering just tomatoes, minced ham, and lettuce.

Never fear, though. There's also a list of alternate filling possibilities to cover various tastes...

...from the veggie-centered grated carrot/ cottage cheese and celery/ egg and pickle layers to the sweet-tooth's cream cheese and nut/ orange marmalade/ date and orange layers. And if you want the sandwich loaf to look extra-impressive, sprinkle the outside with sieved egg yolk. 

Of course the "beautiful goldenrod color" is lost in the black-and-white photo, so it looks more like a dirty sponge than a brightly-decorated cake.

The exciting thing about 500 Ways to Make Tasty Sandwiches is that it goes beyond the typical party sandwich loaf, though. If you want something smaller and more personal, like petit fours rather than a whole cake, you're in luck! The Frosted Party Special makes 16 individual sandwiches with layers of egg salad and ham salad tucked under the protective cream cheese coating.

And they can be made into scary little snack cakes...

(I'd be half-tempted to drizzle with a little chocolate syrup and call them zebra cakes!)

...or cut into rounds for the tiniest, weirdest layer cakes ever.

Happy Memorial Day, everyone! Turn it into a craft day with one big project or lots of little ones. At least if you're not a great crafter, the finished project won't spend the next couple years collecting dust before you finally decide to throw it out or give it to Goodwill.

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Sandwiches with whatever mid-century ingredients you might have on hand

The great thing about 500 Ways to Make Tasty Sandwiches (ed. Ruth Berolzheimer, 1949) is that it reminds me that in the 1940s, people would make sandwiches of just about anything they had on hand.

I mean, people now will argue endlessly about whether a hot dog on a bun can be considered a sandwich. People in 1949 were not only willing to declare that tomatoes and asparagus covered in cheese sauce on a slice of bread was a sandwich, but they would put it right on the cover of a book dedicated to sandwiches! They were not picky about what constituted a sandwich.

I was caught a bit off guard right from the beginning, where most of the first chapter ("Fancy Breads") was dedicated not to sandwich bread or brioche or sub buns, but to the types of sweet loaves people tend to eat with just a smear of butter as a snack or breakfast item. I mean, my first thought is not "Sandwich!" when I see a recipe like this:

Who makes chocolate fruit bread, much less a chocolate fruit bread sandwich?!

I'm not sure too many of the "fancy breads" did end up as sandwiches, though, as they rarely got called for in the sandwich recipes. The main exception was prune bread.

Yep-- Prunes were very popular in the mid-20th-century, so the prune bread did get called out by name.

And if you must know, "Flavorful prune bread makes tempting cottage cheese sandwiches." If you're wondering about cottage cheese sandwiches, the book has a page with 10 different suggestions, from some that might work as potato toppers (cottage cheese and bacon or cottage cheese and chives), to those for people with a sweet tooth (cottage cheese and jelly), to the supremely boring cottage cheese and celery, which sounds tailored to the family that is out of pretty much everything.

There's also a bit of an exotic touch.

It calls for both preserved ginger and ginger syrup!

And if those formulas aren't enough, the section ends with a few more suggestions:

Yep-- you could have cottage cheese and prunes on prune bread! I also love that the booklet considers the cottage cheese and jelly formula to be worthy of  a recipe (equal parts cottage cheese and grape jelly, if you're interested), but considers using preserves, jams, marmalades, or honey to be a separate endnote not worthy of specific measurements. And this is just from the cottage cheese page. There are also other recipes that incidentally include cottage cheese but don't draw attention to it. In short, cottage cheese sandwiches appear to have been really popular.

Prunes weren't limited to bread, either. For anyone who has always longed to mix prunes with canned meat, "catchup," and pickles, there are Ham and Prune Sandwiches.

Not in the mood for prunes or cottage cheese? Fine. The book has plenty of other odd sandwich fixations.

It really loves a sloppy open-face sandwich that must be eaten with a fork. The idea of a cheese poached egg on toast is so popular...

...that it gets pictured not only as the monstrous eye of a scaly alien (scalien?), but also...

...a pulsating sea slug swimming on the pebbly ocean floor.

The fixation on asparagus extends well beyond the cover too (as you may have noticed with the scalien eye, above). If you need a craft project that will also make the asparagus cute, there are Asparagus Crowns.

Break out the donut cutters so you can layer biscuits into little "bonnets" decorated with ornamental asparagus.

I've got to appreciate the mid-century dedication to making everything as gay as possible. I just wish this were in color so I could admire all the different colored hats.

The sauce-covered asparagus sandwich on the cover isn't even the only one! My favorite might be the Creamed Egg and Asparagus Sandwiches.

The recipe itself sounds weird but not necessarily terrible-- little towers of toast, ham, white sauce with hard-cooked eggs, asparagus, and then a second layer with just toast, sauce, and asparagus. My favorite part is really the caption for the picture that goes with it.

Yes, serving straightened cat turds on chunky-style caulk, ahem, I mean "A creamed egg and asparagus sandwich for the the children's lunch will solve many problems," such as having the children want to come home for lunch. They will be happy to pack a lunch and/or eat at friends' houses instead!

Everyone else can go back to bickering about whether a hot dog is a sandwich. I'll just spend the afternoon wondering whether cottage cheese, prunes, and asparagus on chocolate fruit bread under a healthy coat of eggy white sauce is this book's Platonic ideal of a sandwich.

Saturday, May 21, 2022

Watch out for that rando recipe

Of course I understand that older cookbooks often had weird recipes for a very practical reason: throwing together whatever was on hand could conserve food and save money. When the average family income is $3300 and the minimum wage is $0.75 an hour, the food has to last! Still, though, sometimes I think cookbook writers took the "Let's just throw it all together and see what happens" approach a bit too far, like the Mirro Test Kitchen's ideas for the Mirro Cook Book (1950).

Maybe you can't remember quite what you have on hand, but you think the broiler might be feeling a bit neglected lately?

Try broiling a layer of creamed corn and bread crumbs, then topping it with a ham slice, pineapple slices, and tomatoes, then broiling some more! It's sure to seem... like a semi-random collection of broiled fruits and vegetables with ham and bread crumbs.

Maybe there's some ground meat to use up, but the family is kind of sick of the usual spaghetti and meatballs. You could try Meat Balls Supreme!

What makes these supreme? Well, they're stuffed with a prune that has been stuffed with pickles or olives! You've always wanted to bite through a cream of mushroom soup-slathered meatball to encounter a pickle-stuffed prune, right? It's a definite change of pace.

Maybe the meal just needs a salad to fill it out and your fridge is loaded down with leftover cooked beets, boiled potatoes, apples, dill pickles, hard-cooked eggs, olives, and cooked veal? Well, don't let the fact that this stuff all seems pretty random and nobody really begs for dill pickle-flavored apples! Just scan the pantry shelves for an onion, capers, and some pickled herring to give that mélange a burst of extra flavor, and you're in business!

Note: This salad is best if made several hours in advance so you can work up the nerve to serve it.

What to do if you accidentally picked up too many bananas? Well, banana bread is always a possibility, but it can get tiresome. There are plenty of other things to do with bananas.

How about some Banana Tuna Fish Salad? It's a great way to use up the extra bananas, and there's always some canned tuna and pineapple in the pantry, plus a few stalks of celery in a '50s fridge. Everything is already there! What are you waiting for? Engraved invitations?

I guess what I'm trying to say is that I get the occasionally semi-random feel of ingredient lists, but it can be hard to tell whether a recipe is a light-hearted comedy or straight-up horror. Mirro Cook Book is the Shaun of the Dead of cookbooks.

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Goodrich encourages readers to be very open-minded....

The third in what may be a new series of community fund-raising cookbooks that maybe could have used a bit more effort is Goodrich's Favorite Recipes (Lotus Class of the Methodist Church, Goodrich, Michigan, 1950). This one is a little more ambitious than Our Favorite Recipes from Trotwood, Ohio, in that it has all of 35 pages of recipes (rather than Trotwood's 25). 

At least the good people of Goodrich are interesting because they're a bit eccentric. I mean, I'm used to running into Heavenly Hash recipes, but they tend to be sweet-- usually either marshmallowy fruit salads or marshmallow-and-chocolate treats. Not so in Goodrich.

Their Heavenly Hash is a mix of pickled cucumbers and peppers.

When they want a Citrus Mint Salad, Goodrichians don't just cop out and toss a few mint leaves into their orange and grapefruit segments.

Nope! They throw a couple dozen after dinner mints into lemon Jell-O before adding the orange and grapefruit segments. The jiggly glob gets served on a lettuce leaf (a true salad!) and drowned in a sour-cream-and-vinegar sauce. (This might be my only recipe that calls for both after dinner mints and cayenne pepper.)

The Goodrichites are more utilitarian when it comes to main dishes, though. 

Yes, good old Main Dish! Roast pork covered in a can of mushroom soup (Golden or cream of? Dealer's choice, apparently.) sounds fine in terms of midwestern cuisine, but I'm really questioning the decision to mix the soup with canned spaghetti.

My favorite part of this sad little book, though, is the last chapter with recipes. (Yes, I know you can see there's a "Weight Control" chapter after this one, but it's mostly very sad menus based primarily around grapefruit consumption. There are no recipes.) This is the last recipe chapter, in its entirety (aside from the title page):

Yes, the chapter "Beverages and Miscellaneous" has precisely ONE recipe. It can't even live up to the promise of the two types of recipes in the chapter title. I guess this means if home cooks want the section to live up to its name, they have to write their own beverage recipes under the recipe for Nippy Cheese Sandwich Filling, or they will have to try drinking the heated spread so it can be both beverage and miscellaneous. I don't know.... The Goodrichanians might be eccentric enough to try it! That thought alone is enough to make me glad I picked up this sad little book.

Saturday, May 14, 2022

Funny Name: Watch Out for the Fins Edition

Leave it to the Shriners Parade of Recipes: Main Dish Edition Including Meats and Casseroles (1966) to be the first cookbook to make me mentally picture a crank-window handle, a cigarette lighter, and an angular set of fins peeking out of a glob of cream-of-something soup topped with potato chips.

I have no idea what makes this Antique Auto Casserole! This looks like a stripped-down version of a recipe that usually seems to be titled Tagliarini in the community cookbooks I get. If anybody has any idea of how this relates to antique autos (or even better, just wants to make up a wild story about the connection), feel free to comment.

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Learn about the exciting vegetables of Fort Wayne!

Gourmet's Delight is another very short community fundraiser cookbook, this one a 1964 attempt by the Fort Wayne Woman's Club to raise money. (Don't ask me which Fort Wayne woman thought she was a club all by herself. The book didn't specify.)

I imagine that's her picture on the cover, though. 

I learned from this small collection that 1960s Fort Wayne had some interesting vegetable dishes. For instance, I love twice-baked potatoes-- earthy potato skins enclosing a fluffy payload of cheesy, starchy goodness. I'd be kind of taken aback by the twice-baked potatoes in Fort Wayne, though.

They're filled with oysters marinated in French dressing! Okay, I'm sure that sounds good to some of you, but even you, I assume, would want to know to expect oysters instead of cheese....

Rather than going with the traditional 1960s Eye-talian treatment of eggplant, the Fort Wayners opted to go Mexican.

Mexican, in this rendition, means simmered in some chili powder-laced water, then topped with sour cream. I have to admit that the Fort Waynians did seem to have a more expansive idea of Mexican food than people who wrote my other community cookbooks from the midwest. Rather than offering up tamale pie and taco salad, they had Egg Plant a la Mexican Way and this little beauty, which was in a specially labeled Mexican section:

Lamb basted in a sweet syrup and braised under a layer of kumquats and bananas is definitely not a typical Taco Tuesday!

I should get back on track with the vegetable selections, though. Don't worry if they don't appeal to you so far. I have a feeling this last one will sound pretty good.

Who knew that Pecan Spice Cookies count as a or salad? Fort Wayniacs are so far ahead on their calling a dessert a salad game that they just straight-up declare cookies to be a salad (or vegetable, maybe?). Hey! The recipe includes nuts. That counts for something, right?

Okay, fine. I'm pretty sure that the person in charge of the chapter headings just messed up and changed the heading to "Cookies" a page too late. I still like to imagine cookies count as a salad in Fort Wayne. The city needs something to make it interesting right?

Saturday, May 7, 2022

Where are the noods?

This recipe for Sauerkraut and Noodles from Cook Book: Favorite Recipes from Our Best Cooks (Mabie Grade School Parents, Mabie, West Virginia, 1975) seems like it might be missing something.

Granted, it does have ingredients not mentioned in the title, like apple and potatoes... but where are the noodles? Are the grated potatoes supposed to stand in for the noodles, like zucchini cut into strips becomes zoodles, or was the star ingredient accidentally left out even more thoroughly than Gretchen Guire, whose name had to be written in by hand? I'm so confused.... All I know is that this dish has to be served with a fork. (And I thought that final sentence might have been the one to bring in the noodles, but nope. It's just a reminder to use a fork!?)