Saturday, April 26, 2014

Nursing Home Preview

Betty Crocker's New Dinner for Two Cook Book (1964) tries to make cooking for two seem fun and maybe romantic. The cover shows a table set with candles and flowers. Some sections (like the holiday cooking menus) live up to that promise.

Some parts are a little less... optimistic. The "So You're Back to Two" chapter, for example, has a menu that I will call the "Or You Could Just Tie a Couple of Nooses and Get It Over with Now" dinner.

There's nothing so terrible on the menu. It's just that, taken all together, it is so damn old. There's nothing to really hate here, but there is nothing to look forward to, either, except perhaps the sweet embrace of death now that the kids have left home and your reason for living is gone. Gone I tell you!


Well, now that you're "back to two" the opening of the chapter makes some promises this menu belies: "Unhurried, with more time to plan and prepare tempting dishes to suit your personal tastes, you may indulge in a few more luxuries of the table...." Let's see how this contrasts with actual recipes. First up, the perennial favorite of liver and onions:

If liver and onions are "luxuries," I would hate to find out what economy class looks like.

Maybe the starches will be better:

Okay, these sound like a good start, if a bit bland. At least they might be crisp and brown. Of course, they're soft, too. Easy to eat with dentures.

Next up, the aspic:

Do I even need a joke here? It's another recipe suffering from the delusion that putting vegetables in gelatin somehow makes something (The vegetables? The gelatin?) better. It only succeeds in making this look more and more like nursing home food.

The butter sticks might be what this menu needs:

Again, not terrible, but after Betty made all that noise about using the extra time "to plan and prepare tempting dishes," you'd think maybe the sticks would at least be homemade rather than out of a refrigerated can. Betty knows you'll be depressed and you won't want to bother with too much cooking. Maybe she pretended otherwise in the introduction to the chapter, but that was just for effect. She knows you'll be glad to have leftovers, and you'll probably just eat them cold. Giving instructions to wrap them in foil and reheat them for 20 minutes is her polite fiction because even she realizes just how sad this page is.

Dessert doesn't get a recipe because it is sherbet. If you're alive ten years from now, dessert will still be the same thing. It will just be a precisely-measured half-cup scoop in a paper or Styrofoam cup handed out by a dietary aide. You will get it with the rest of your dinner and it will melt while you eat your mashed potatoes. You will cry a little.

Or you could tie those nooses now. This chapter should have had a diagram at the end.


  1. OMG, I am laughing out loud with tears in my eyes! So much to look forward to in our later years...

  2. "you will get it with the rest of your dinner and it will melt while you eat your mashed potatoes. You will cry a little." Dying. Laughing. Dying.