Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Holiday nostalgia, '70s style

Most of us feel a tinge of nostalgia this time of year. For me it's finding the badly wearing felt Winnie-the-Pooh ornament that I've put up since I was a toddler or smelling the almond extract and vanilla as I mix a batch of cookies. There are less cliche memories, too, such as trash-talking my cousins before the annual game of Spoons while grandma sat by the phone, sure she'd have to dial 911 when we managed to accidentally off cut someone's finger in the crush to grab a spoon. (We almost always drew blood, but Band-aids were sufficient first aid.)

It is easier to miss parts of the past than to recreate them, though. Today's proof comes from 1978's Everyday Microwave Cooking for Everyday Cooks, a cookbook meant for use with Toshiba microwaves.

Someone who missed the family's game hens for Christmas dinner but wanted to play with the new microwave might hope to serve this as a holiday treat:

I doubt these game hens would feed a taste for nostalgia, though. Even discounting the glaze (which I find repellent (apricots with soy sauce and mustard!?), though I am sure it would appeal to some people), this recipe seems way too optimistic about the powers of a microwave. The cooked chicken will likely have hard and/or rubbery overcooked spots and others that are cool enough to leave the diner wondering whether a bite or two is actually still raw and at this very moment imparting a festivity-ending dose of salmonella.

Even the cookbook authors have to quietly admit that the skin will be pale and flabby, noting that "Skin may be further[!] browned and crisped under broiler." Or for just a few extra minutes, the hens could be baked the whole time in the oven, rather than just thrown in for the last few minutes in an attempt to make the hens marginally more palatable.

The place where I find the mixture of nostalgia and microwave-modern most curious, though, is in the cakes section:

It all seems so old-fashioned, calling for actual suet, prolonged storage before cooking, repeated doses of alcohol. Then on the last day, stir in the eggs and microwave in a glass measuring cup. The contrast just makes me smile far more than the gummy, rubbery pudding ever would.

Happy holidays, and enjoy any fond memories that come to mind. They're probably far sweeter than the actual past was.

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