When I spotted Favorite American Recipes: A Collection of Classics from Around the Country, I wondered why it seemed somehow familiar. I'd never seen the pamphlet before. Then I noticed it was by the Food and Nutrition Service of the USDA (1974) and realized this must have been a companion piece to all the oddball food the USDA gave away to needy families like ours:
The unadorned, straightforward black and white design on the cover tied it back to all those cans of potatoes and peanut butter. I think I subconsciously made the connection before the rest of my mind could catch up!
This cookbook has plenty of ways to use the free commodities. If the latest batch of surplus had cheese and peanut butter, this recipe could be the answer:
Cheese Bull's-Eye Cookies! Why have plain old peanut butter cookies when you can have them filled with shredded cheese? Nothing encapsulates the weird "here's some food-- now do something with it" ethos of the program quite like this recipe.
Not that others won't try. While "impossible" pies aren't too uncommon, they're usually made with baking mix. The USDA didn't give away baking mix so far as I knew, so they threw the "Impossible Pie" label (so nondescript! We don't even know what kind of impossible pie!) onto this concoction:
This is apparently impossible coconut pie. It would use up 2/3 of a cup of dry egg mix. Yep-- the USDA gave away powdered eggs, so why not suggest them as an impossible pie base? I remember grandma giving me a packet of those to experiment with. Something about powdered eggs gave me the heebie jeebies, so I put them way in the back of the cupboard and never thought of them again until just now. I hope they eventually got used or thrown away....
Note that this also calls for fluid milk, which might seem odd. The program gave away a lot of powdered milk, though, so this was probably code for "reconstitute the powdered milk we gave you before you use it in this recipe."
We were never the recipients of beans as far as I can remember, but it looks as if those were given away sometimes too. I'm no stranger to desserts with beans (I know black beans in brownies is a pretty popular combination right now), but this recipe title seems a little scary anyway:
At least with "brownies" in the name, you know black bean brownies are a chocolatey dessert. The more open meaning of "bars" makes these a bit mysterious (in a bad way). Are these like lemon bars, with crust on the bottom and a split pea layer on top? Thankfully, no. They are just nut, spice, and dried fruit bars (And you could use government raisins in these! That was another surplus item.) that happen to contain split peas, but the damage is already done by the name.
And split pea bars sound downright appetizing compared to this name:
Bean pudding cake sounds like it should come with a layer of bean pudding on the bottom. I'm not sure exactly what that would be like, but I'm pretty sure I'd prefer the pudding cake I grew up with-- hot fudge pudding cake! A steamy layer of hot fudge under a dense chocolate cake? Yes! A steamy layer of hot beans under a a spice cake? Sorry, USDA, but I don't think so, but thank you for helping hungry families in your own weird way!
This is part of Cookbook Wednesday, now hosted by Modern Day Ozzie and Harriet.