Saturday, August 23, 2014

Going crazy with Knudsen

I should be used to seeing pictures of aspics by now. I really should! For some reason, everyone in the '50s apparently thought it was a great idea to glue all manner of savory items together with gelatin and make them in a mold for a more impressive presentation, so I have seen dozens of pictures. Yet this "Corned Beef Salad Loaf" picture (from the 1959 pamphlet "Knudsen Recipes") gave me a shiver:

Then I realized that on some level I was remembering an unhappy event from my childhood when I ate a red popsicle and barfed shortly thereafter. The chunky, reddish mass in the picture nudged the corner of my brain holding onto that event (because obviously being sick is a memory I will want to treasure forever). So if someone had molded my barf into a loaf and decorated it with hard-cooked eggs, pimento slices, and parsley for their own nefarious purposes, it would have kind of looked like this.

Now the actual recipe will sound delicious by comparison (which is pretty much the only way most aspic recipes will ever sound delicious):

Congealed corned beef, celery, horseradish, and cottage cheese: better than vomit! (I should work in advertising.)

Another recipe on the same page just left me feeling puzzled. It looks fine:

Looks like a pretty standard chef salad-type mixture: meat, tomatoes, and hard-cooked eggs on a bed of lettuce. Why is it in a skillet, though?

Because it is "Hot Salad Meal in Skillet." (Now that's a title! "Hot Salad Meal"? It makes me think of the "bone meal" or "fish meal" I see as an ingredient in pet food. Terribly appetizing. I imagine going to the grocery store, requesting a bag of salad meal, and getting a bag full of powdered bits of lettuce that were too slimy, wilted, discolored, misshapen, etc. to put in the bags of salad mix. Then I could take the dark green powder home to dump in a skillet and heat, for some reason that I can't imagine. But I digress....)

How does one make "Hot Salad Meal in Skillet"? Okay, not the way I've just imagined:

I get the first part; it's just a simple tossed salad (with cottage cheese because Knudsen). The part that has me baffled is the sauce. Basically, once the salad is ready, you're supposed to throw the whole thing into hot, lightly seasoned water with lemon? I've never thought a tossed salad would be improved by a brief dip in boiling water, but maybe there's something I'm missing here? Is it supposed to thin the sour cream added at the very end? Maybe diners are expected to prefer wilted lettuce? This recipe seems perfectly reasonable until the sudden turn at the end. At least the corned beef salad loaf has the decency to sound weird all the way through.

Programming note: I've been posting on Wednesdays and Saturdays for the last few months. My teaching schedule is changing again, so I'll be switching from Wednesdays to Tuesdays.

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