Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Campbell's condensed tragicomedy

Although the brand name cookbooks often have the scariest recipes just because they are trying to cram the same product into every meal, there is also something heartbreakingly earnest about some of them. The 1968 edition of Easy Ways to Delicious Meals: 465 Quick-to-Fix Recipes Using Campbell's Convenience Foods is so clearly written for families that want to do better but are limited in time and money. The book makes me feel the same as I do when Charlie Brown brings back the scraggly tree on the Christmas special. I can't help but love it because it tries so hard.

Some of my favorite pages from vintage cookbooks are just ideas for "doctoring up" (as my Grandma used to say) convenience foods. If you feel bad that you didn't have time to spend the whole day making individual pot pies from scratch, try this:

Yes, an entire page for "Meat Pie Flourishes." No recipe-- just things to sprinkle or spread on the pot pie so it won't seem so impersonal. Of course this page is just a glorified ad, but I can't help imagining someone reading this page, hoping to make pot pie night special with olive picks or garlic salt or currant jelly. It's a condensed comedy and/or tragedy if you read it the right way.

Of course, there are more traditional recipes too. For the cooks who want a crown roast but lack time/ skill/ money/ a family that would appreciate a crown roast, there is this option:

The Frankfurter Crown Casserole! Of course, hot dog "crown roasts" are nothing new, but I love this one anyway. This picture clearly took some effort: the bits of bean and bacon on top so the soup-based filling will look appealing rather than gloppy, the way the hot dogs, casserole dish, and flowers in the background all manage to match...

In case you ever find yourself in desperate need of a Frankfurter Crown Casserole:

It's a pretty standard soup-based casserole. I like the hot dogs standing around at the edges in this picture. They look like they're all facing an arena. I can't decide whether the hot dogs are celebrating the action by throwing confetti or pissed off and throwing trash at whoever is losing, but at least whatever they're watching is exciting.

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