When I picked up Tested, Tried, and True (Junior League of Flint, Michigan, Incorporated, second printing, April 1976), I wasn't sure what to expect. Michigan tends to be a working-class state, but the Junior League can be just a little bit hoity-toity. So was this going to feature humble dinners of modest families or shmancy fare for families where mom can spend a chunk of the family budget on club fees and annual dues?
Caviar is about as fancy as we can get! Of course, it's served up on a mold of gelatin and cottage cheese to make it stretch, so it's a pretty good high-low blend.
I also love the way this recipe depends on readers reading it all the way through to fully understand the directions before starting. When I was just starting to cook, I often read each step right before I performed it. My experience with this recipe would have been to see the first step of "Blend all ingredients well in a blender until smooth" and to do just that. Then when I got to the second step-- softening the gelatin in the sherry-- I would have realized that neither the gelatin nor the sherry were meant to be included in "all ingredients." By the time I got to the "top with caviar" step, I would have been in despair that all the caviar had already been pulverized with everything else.... Too late to impress anyone with a fancy caviar-topped appetizer! Good thing no one would have entrusted me with sherry or caviar when I was learning to cook.
If you want something more high-end for the main dish (to make up for having to dilute the caviar with other ingredients in the appetizer), try stuffing one expensive protein with another expensive protein for the main course.
Okay, we've got to balance this really high-end dish out with some much more down-to-earth sides.
How about Bisquick mixed with a can of beer? (Have to admit, this is exactly what I was expecting from Michigan, although I imagine at least a few Junior League members being miffed by Gwynn Falk's lower-class contribution, and maybe even a brief debate about whether they should let this recipe into the collection at all.)
And how about a salad?
It's not just any coleslaw-- It's a Coleslaw Soufflé! All the extra time it takes to make it a "soufflé" shows that you've got some free time to spend trying to make the slaw fluffy, but all the extra work is mitigated by the fact that the fluffiness is achieved via lemon Jell-O. It all balances out to being neither too high- nor too low-end.
Now for my favorite part: Dessert! Let's get a little fancy and have a torte. But not too fancy... We don't want people to start talking behind our backs like they do to Margo.
Yep-- The fancy torte is balanced out with a Milk Dud sauce! I can't think of a better representation of this book to end the post.