Saturday, January 31, 2015

Scary dairy

Super Bowl Sunday is coming up! So to demonstrate that I could not care less about the upcoming festivities, I will completely ignore the Football Cheese Ball in 250 Healthful Dairy Dishes (Culinary Arts Institute, 1970).

I won't even mention that "Gridiron heroes of all ages will enjoy the he-man tang" of this dish because I'm too interested in the daintier recipe on the opposing page:

Okay, maybe it looks less dainty and more like a cinder block garnished with lemon and tomato, but this was once the darling of ladies' luncheons.

I've seen sandwich loaves in many books, although I don't think I've ever really featured them here. Sandwich loaves were whole loaves of bread sliced lengthwise, stuffed with various layers of disgusting salads, and then "iced" with cream cheese-based concoctions so they would look like cakes. They were so cute and clever that their appearance at a ladies' luncheon apparently moistened a bunch of granny panties back in the day.

This recipe is rather restrained because even though it does call for two types of bread, it only features two layers of heave-worthy filling.

The first filling starts out sounding okay. I haven't had pimiento cheese spread, but I imagine it's pretty good. Throwing some almonds into it would probably add a welcome crunch, and I can even see the carrots as being an acceptable addition... but once you add dates, that is too much! It will tip filling #1 into cloying territory.

Filling #2 rivals filling #1 in its indecision about what, precisely, it is meant to be. It's mostly bland-sounding (cottage cheese, cooked potatoes, and celery tops) tipping into sweet with canned crushed pineapple and weird with garlic powder, mustard, and Worcestershire sauce.

I think I'd prefer to lick off the "icing" of cream cheese with a bit of lemon and parsley, then quietly try to feed the rest of my slice to the dog. Or hide it under the nearest rug if the host didn't have a dog handy.

Since the sandwich loaf is so retro it makes me want to make a macrame holder for my paint-by-numbers masterpiece, I decided to pair it with a good old-fashioned gelatin mold.

Have you ever wanted to pair "the distinctive flavor of olives and the crunchiness of pecans"? If so, you're probably one of those bloggers who is way braver/dumber than I who actually MAKES the scary recipes rather than simply writing about them. I am happy to admire these mounds of lemon gelatin, evaporated milk, celery, green onions, and pecans with olive belly buttons (at least, I hope they're belly buttons and not anuses!) from afar.

Does staring at decades-old Molded Olive-Nut Salad make any more sense than staring at fully-grown men play a game for enormous sums of money? I'm sure it does not... but this is the way I'm spending this weekend. Enjoy yours, no matter how you spend it!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

'70s kitchens and casseroles

For the last Cookbook Wednesday, I wanted a book with a classy cover. Specifically, a seriously '70s classy cover. I'm not sure I could do much better than this:

Now this is a kitchen you can set your watch by!

The rust-colored flooring!

The wood accents!

The bright orange canisters, colander, and pans!

The intricately-designed gold ceiling!

The glowing yellow countertop!

I honestly bought this for the cover alone. I could blow it up and use it as wallpaper in my house. Of course it would look funny to apparently have a '70s kitchen in my living room, but it would certainly be a conversation piece if I ever had anyone else over.

I'm not even sure what to call this book. The cover claims it's Favorite Recipes from Our Best Cooks Cook Book, but the inside cover claims it's A Book of Favorite Recipes. Either way, it was compiled by the Cleveland chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation in 1976, and it has some really... classy... recipes. Here's one example:

The ingredients themselves sound pretty standard for a casserole of the time-- condensed mushroom soup, onion soup mix, rice, chicken, mushrooms. Nothing too great or terrible or surprising, just salty. It's the name that gets to me. "Chicken Undergrowth"? It sounds like it should be a recipe for a hippie chicken that never shaved its wingpits. If it were a hippie recipe, though, it would be full of nonfat dry milk powder, prunes, and wheat germ, so I guess this is a step up?

If the Chicken Undergrowth isn't elegant enough but you still have a can of mushroom soup burning a hole in your pantry, maybe you'd prefer this:

Add the soup to Stouffers mac and cheese, slightly thawed, along with sherry and tiny canned shrimp! So dainty and delicate for a rainy afternoon with the women's club. Plus it will give you an excuse to finish off the sherry, regardless of whether anyone actually touches the Elegant "Rainy Day" Casserole. (I'm a little sad that Mrs. Sally Maritt didn't understand scare quotes, as they clearly belong around "Elegant" rather than "Rainy Day.")

After all of these canned/ frozen/ super-processed casseroles, I'm ready for something more straightforward, earthy, honest. There should be something like that in this cookbook. After all, Ohio has a pretty sizable Amish population. Maybe the writers got some inspiration from their plain and simple neighbors.

Or...not? I have no idea what to think of this. I associate handcrafted cheeses and home baked breads with Amish cooking, but did they really spend the '70s eating casseroles made with four cans of soup and half a pound of Velveeta, just like everybody else except the health nuts? Did they just give non-Amish neighbors the recipe to see if they could pass it off as a genuine Amish delicacy? Did Dorothy Klemm make this recipe up and say it was Amish because people seemed to be so interested in Amish food, even if she had no idea of what Amish meant? There are so many possibilities, but they all make me laugh!

I hope you've enjoyed our Cookbook Wednesdays, courtesy of Months of Edible Celebrations.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Do you really want that "malted milk"?

When I spotted 340 Recipes for the New Waring Blendor (1947), I snapped it up because it was full of great illustrations of personified blenders.

How could I resist a blender in a chef's hat that can make an old lady dance and a little girl...snap her fingers? Pretend to shoot a gun into the sky in celebration? I'm not sure about that gesture, but it's definitely supposed to be as happy as the little dog kicking up his heels in delight.

Of course, when I bought it, I didn't consider the very real possibility that it would make me think of my very first employment. If I'd realized that, I might have been a little more reluctant to grab this book. (Okay, probably not. I didn't love the job, but I DO love weird old recipes enough to overcome any reluctance to think about the job. Just humor me and pretend that you believe that something could discourage me from picking up an old cookbook.)

So what was that first, not-so-fondly-remembered job? Here's a hint:

I was a nursing home cook.

And yes, that often meant blending the holy hell out of pretty much anything you can imagine a crappy cafeteria serving. Salisbury steak. Chicken patties. Grayish "green" beans. All manner of canned fruit.

We even had to put Jell-O in the blender to liquefy it, then dump it into a bowl and add a special powder to thicken it up so the consistency was more like pudding. 

My favorite dessert to serve (aside from pudding, of course, which was ready to go!) was cake because we only had to put it in a little bowl and dump some milk over it before we sent it out to people on a pureed diet.

So what delights for convalescents did Waring recommend whipping up with the new "blendor"? For the most part, they sound way worse than anything I made with our bland, overcooked cafeteria-style food.

For those who needed plenty of vitamins, here was the special recipe:

Grapefruit juice (ugh!) with Brewer's yeast powder (Not sure about the flavor here-- My grandma said she liked eating it, but she was in the minority-- at least in her family-- on that count), haliver oil (Not sure what that is? It's a mix of cod liver oil and halibut oil! Sure to be a delight on its own or mixed with grapefruit and yeast!), and viosterol (apparently an old name for a preparation of vitamin D). Yeah, it looks as if these are the types of recipes that will encourage malingerers to get well SOON.

What else might they be forced to endure? Liver was popular:

Oddly enough considering the patient might have compromised immunity, raw meat was popular:

And for those who really liked being trendy:

Raw liver! Sure to be welcome mixed with pineapple juice.

What if the patient refused liver, though? What then?

Yes, chocolate-liver malted milk! Even the writers must have realized how scary that sounded because they felt compelled to add an explanation:

Sure the chocolate flavor covers the taste! Who could possibly detect, much less object to, a half cup of milk that contains equal parts raw liver and chocolate syrup?

My guess is that it's a lot more people than Waring wanted to recognize. But at least it makes me feel better about my stint of blenderizing fish sticks and canned peas. I could have been throwing together some raw liver and chocolate syrup!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

On top of Massillon spaghetti

This week I took money I got for Christmas to a huge antique shop/flea market... and spent more than I had... but the upside is that I got a bunch of the type of little local cookbooks that tend to have the weirdly fun regional recipes that make me feel all fuzzy. (Maybe the fuzz is a feeling of warmth from an imagined friendlier, more regionally varied past. Maybe it's just confusion... or nausea.... Probably best not to try too hard to figure it out.) Today we're going to a small Ohio city whose main claim to fame is that it is near a lot of other Ohio cities. (Canton and Akron and Cleveland! Oh my!) Today we'll learn what was popular in 1955 Massillon from the Massillon Cook Book  Sixtieth Anniversary Edition.

Massillon must have had at least a few people who managed to avoid the flavorless fifties trend. I can tell because this recipe hints at disapproval of those who want seasoning:

If you need a sauce that "is not so highly seasoned [as the one made by the crazy lady down the street who is always foisting her incendiary sauces on unsuspecting potluck-goers]", then Mary Ann Lee Smith has your back. (She doesn't even approve of spicy names! It would be hard to think of a more generic string of girls' names than Mary Ann Lee Smith.)

At least she wasn't totally opposed to flavor-- I was a bit surprised that she'd still include onion, garlic, pepper, and Worcestershire sauce. Even a touch of sage! Based on the description, I kind of expected this to be little more than tomatoes cooked with some meat. Her "not so highly seasoned" sauce might not be too bad after all.

This sauce also is lighter on traditional seasonings, but it has a secret ingredient I did not anticipate:

Green mangoes! I'm shocked to see a spaghetti sauce recipe from '50s Ohio call for mangoes. I could maybe picture one with canned pineapple, but green mangoes? Okay, I wouldn't really want to try either one of those, but still... it's something to know that home cooks were experimenting with something besides Jell-O and cream of mushroom soup.

This last one I picked mostly because I love the name:

Hot diggity! We're having hot ziggities for dinner! Grinding hot dogs with egg and mustard and using that mixture to stuff a "tomato catsup" flavored dough sounds like a lot more work than rolling some hot dogs in crescent roll dough to make pigs in a blanket, but the name kind of sells it. It has a ring of [probably unwarranted] '50s enthusiasm and optimism (And how!) that warms my cynical little heart every time. Thank you, Katie McArdle.

Thanks for being part of Cookbook Wednesday, through Louise's Months of Edible Celebrations.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Chicken for Honey

It doesn't really matter what book today's post came from, because this is another handwritten entry. You can find it in my copy of Let's Start to Cook: Never-Fail Recipes for Beginners by Nell B. Nichols (1966), but it won't be in yours.

It's at the top of the "Chicken for Dinner" chapter, appropriately enough. If you can't read the handwriting:


I start chicken at 350, then lower temp. Rub the bird w/olive oil; add paprika. Pour an inch of water in your pan w/onions & garlic for gravy fixings (take most of grease out tho). Baste about twice.

When bird turns brown, cover w/foil to keep moisture in.

I love this note partly because it starts to tell a story, and I don't know much about what it might be. Who is writing this to whom? Why? This is the only note in the whole book, so I don't have many clues. Is it for a clueless guy whose wife or girlfriend will be away on business? For a kid who is finally moving out of the house? "Honey" suggests affection, but it's pretty nonspecific.

I love the non-specificity of the directions, too. If this is truly for a beginner, I'm not sure how helpful these would be. Start it at 350 for how long? Lower the temperature to what? I assume the olive oil and aromatics actually come before putting the chicken in the oven, but the order isn't clear. How long between bastings? A real beginner could interpret this to be anything from five minutes to five hours between them. And what happens after the foil goes on? Is the cook tenting the chicken to rest on the counter before cutting, or does it still need some more oven time after it gets its foil hat? (If so, how to tell when it's done cooking?)

And what about the gravy? The grease should be skimmed out, but do the onion and garlic go in or get strained out? Thicken with flour? Cornstarch? Blood from superficial knife wounds incurred when cutting up the chicken?

These questions are probably left unanswered because the recipient already knows. She or he watched the writer make roast chicken dozens of times and has a mental idea of the timetable, the composition of the gravy, etc. That is what I really love about the note. Even though I can't figure out the precise story, what is said and what is left unsaid hints at the close relationship between whoever wrote the recipe and whoever got the cookbook. Even though I don't know the whole story, I can feel its warmth.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

New Year's Resolutions, '50s Style

This is the time of year for resolutions (and giving up on them), so let's see what dieters heading into the fresh new year of 1959 might have tried. Today's entry is Ida Jean Kain and Mildred B. Gibson's Stay Slim for Life (1958). (The austerity of the cover should be considered a hint about the austerities within.)

The book has a few days of suggested menus to help dieters get started. Each menu section has a theme, so I'll start with the grimmest: Budget Fare. If you had to diet on a dime, what might a typical day look like?

You could start the day with tomato juice, an egg (soft OR hard cooked! Decisions!), and a thin slice of toast. Lunch? Bouillon, open-face cheese sandwich, veggies, apple, and buttermilk. (With more buttermilk as a "Late-Afternoon Pickup." Oh boy!) Dinner would be a more complicated affair, as you can see since the italics indicate actual recipes. So besides the sauerkraut with caraway seeds, baked potato half, and black coffee, the lucky dieter got kabobs (barbecued frankfurter!) and a salad. So what are the kabobs?

Hot dog, onion, tomato, and mushroom on a stick, with a barbecue sauce that's mostly renamed chili sauce.

Well, maybe the salad will be more exciting. Grapefruit and green pepper do not seem like natural allies to me, so maybe the authors figured out some kind of interesting dressing or additional ingredients to tie the flavors together.

Or maybe they thought that dumping grapefruit and green pepper on the same bed of shredded lettuce is sufficient to convince dieters this is a tasty salad.

Well, maybe there will be more promise in the "Gourmet Meals" section.

Breakfast suggests that grapefruit is gourmet if it's served in the morning and budget if it's served in the evening. Apparently Wheatena is more upscale than toast and an egg.... Okay, I'm not sure I'm buying that "gourmet" is much different from "budget." 

What about lunch?

Wait-- It's also a cheese sandwich! I'd even say the Swiss for the "budget" version is more upscale than the American in "gourmet," but this does have Canadian-style bacon. Tomatoes with chicory are a little more interest than carrot and celery sticks too, I guess.

"Late-Afternoon Pickup" is orange juice. Apparently having an actual snack is out of the question either way.

For dinner: more kabobs, but at least these are steak rather than hot dog! Plus half a baked potato (again), salad, and-- Oooh! Dessert!

So what do our deluxe kabobs look like?

Steak with onion, mushroom, and pepper. So using steak instead of hot dogs, swapping pepper for tomato, and the absence of chili barbecue sauce makes these "gourmet" rather than "budget." Huh. Only one of those changes seems very significant...

Well, what about dessert?

Gelatin! With canned pineapple and nonfat dry milk! Gourmet indeed... but at least it's dessert.

I guess eating steak instead of hot dogs makes the gourmet menu marginally better than budget, but the differences are pretty minimal. Dieting in the '50s would be pretty miserable no matter what.

Reading this book has made me resolve to go polish off the Reese's peanut butter trees I got for Christmas. Gotta make room for the Reese's Valentine hearts!

This is part of Cookbook Wednesday, courtesy of Louise at Months of Edible Celebrations.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Dessert Fake-Outs

I know, I know. Foods can be versatile. I love salted peanuts on top of a savory dish (almost) as much as I love sweet peanut butter cups for dessert. Fried rice can be as yummy as rice pudding. But there are some words that make me expect dessert, and finding out that they mean something else will kill the recipe for me, even if it may not be that bad.

Lousene Rousseau  Brunner's Magic with Leftovers (1955) makes me crazy with dashed expectations.

When you see _______ Shortcake, how do you fill in the blank? I think "Strawberry," and I'll bet you do, too. But Ms. Brunner has other ideas:

This is not really a crazy recipe-- basically a meat-and-vegetable sauce over biscuits-- but calling it a shortcake makes me expect dessert, so this sounds disgusting!

Let's try another one. _______-Almond Mousse. If you're thinking "Chocolate," I like the way you think. But Magic with Leftovers has other ideas:

To be fair, though, this could be named just about anything and I still wouldn't be excited about it. There is a reason cold, congealed meat dishes went out of style. The only proper use of mousse is dessert.

Okay, let's try one more. Pineapple Upside-Down ________. Okay, you probably didn't say "Cake" because you know how this game works. But what could possibly fill in that space?

Here's a hint: You'd need this recipe to make it.

Yes, you'd need to start with Ham Loaf to make Pineapple Upside-Down Ham Loaf!

Okay, there is NO saving this recipe for me since I hate ham loaf AND the sweet-and-savory ham-pineapple combo that other people adore. But maybe if you like ham with pineapple this sounds okay?

These last two recipes make me think "Meat Shortcake" might not be so bad....

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Gala Feast* (*depending on one's definitions of "gala" and "feast")

Happy Cookbook Wednesday! This week my cookbook will transport us back to the late '70s, when microwaves were still like skintight metallic dresses on an old sci-fi show: a vision of the "future" that's more a reflection of the actual present than most people would recognize.

Litton's Meal-In-One Microwave Cooking (1978) postulates that people of "the future" won't have as much time to cook (true), so they will cook traditional full meals using only the microwave (not generally true), rather than, say, getting dinner from a drive-thru window, grabbing a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store on the way home, or stockpiling frozen entrees to heat as needed.

In fact, they hope people of the future will cook all kinds of full meals in the microwave-- not just quick after-school dinners. The editors are committed to this idea.

Families who want a holiday dinner to look like this will only need the ingredients, an Oven Meal Variable Power Microwave oven (Ask for it by name!), and a little less than an hour.

The full instructions are handily grouped together:

The asterisk after "Gala Feast" made me look for a footnote warning that this was not really gala or a feast, but I discovered it just means that some of the food will need to be added partway through the full cooking time.

Is this indeed a gala feast? I'm sure that standing rib roast and parsley-butter new potatoes sound pretty good, but keep in mind they're microwaved. No searing or brown, crackly bits on the roast. The potatoes are microwave steamed (which in my experience usually leads to them shriveling and being a bit gummy), not roasted and perhaps caramelized in the roast's juices. At least the parsley butter will give them a little help.

This is a pretty standard flavored butter recipe. I included it because I love the head note in blue: "Fats attract microwaves." Now I know that here "microwave" refers to the frequency, but I like to imagine that it means the ovens. By that logic, I could leave a stick of butter on the counter and a bevy of microwave ovens might show up to admire it. (Is "bevy" the correct term for a group of microwaves? Or are they more like crows-- a murder of microwaves?)

And what's for dessert? "Fruit Melange" sounds sophisticated.

Maybe the orange-flavored liqueur is enough to make it sophisticated-- if you can accept that canned fruit mixed with marmalade, prunes, and coconut is made sophisticated by the addition of liqueur.

From the distant future-- the year 2015!-- I can say the meal-in-one microwave cooking style did not catch on the way this book imagined, but at least their imaginings bring me some amusement.

This post is part of Louise's Cookbook Wednesday.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Soup's Off!

I should feel lucky. It's January and my area is being threatened with freezing rain rather than several inches of snow. Whoopee. It's better than last year's worries about frostbite and frozen pipes, so I guess there's that.

On this blustery winter weekend, my thoughts return to soup. Let's see what The Complete Family Cook Book (edited by Jane Byrne and Michelle Duggan, 1969) has to say about the subject.

First up is that old favorite, chicken noodle soup:

I love this because it starts with a can of chicken noodle soup! So you could make that can stretch by adding all these other ingredients (more canned soup, canned cream-style corn, milk, cream, and seasonings), or you could just open a couple extra cans of chicken noodle soup. Either way, you will miss out on one of the best reasons to make homemade chicken noodle soup: noodles that aren't waterlogged into oblivion.

The editors firmly believe that starting with canned soup is the way to make "homemade" soup, though. The title of this next recipe doesn't even hint that it's based on canned cream of chicken soup:

The canned soup is just a background player for lima beans and clams--making this soup another strong contender for the anti-Reese's cup award (two bad tastes that are worse together).

To be fair, though, not all of the recipes start with canned soup. How about this one?

Puree two cans of kidney beans and add a quart of tomato juice. Lovely, I'm sure. (I keep imagining this one tastes like salty wallpaper paste with onions. I can't get past two cans of pureed kidney beans.)

I guess it would be fair to say I find something fishy about these soup recipes.

Uhh... You do know that "fishy" is not usually a compliment, right?

(I do love the avocado green illustration, though!)

As I neared the end of the chapter, I thought I spied a dessert soup. Many people aren't familiar with these, maybe because so many of the dessert soups would be served as smoothies today. They were usually served chilled as a refreshing course in the summer, made with dairy and pureed fruit garnished with some whipped cream and maybe a sprig of mint and/or some candied flowers. So when I saw this title, I thought it would transport my mind to warmer weather:


This is definitely NOT a refreshing summer soup, though! It's melon balls boiled with pork and water chestnuts. Let that sink in for a minute: melon balls boiled with pork and water chestnuts. Yeah.

At least that's not something you can buy in a can. (Campbell's Melon Ball and Pork Soup. It's Mmm Mmm Gross!)