Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Beans! Beans! Beans!

Beans! Beans! Beans!

I wasn't quite sure how to draw your attention to our humble friend, the legume, so just imagine those words on a blinking neon sign (in the same style as the "Girls! Girls! Girls!" signs at "gentlemen's" clubs) and see if that helps.

Okay, probably not. Other people's lack of enthusiasm didn't stop Jacqueline Heriteau from writing The Complete Book of Beans (1978), so I shall follow her example and plow ahead anyway.

A lot of the book is as expected-- dozens of variations of bean salads (like the one above), chilis, and baked beans-- but my favorite recipes are the ones that seem kind of random.

Heriteau likes international cuisine, and some of the recipes appear to be what we would now call "fusion" before the term was trendy...

Is Seasoned Beans and Meatballs supposed to be Italian? The meatballs are flavored with garlic, savory, basil, marjoram, and parsley, so I would be tempted to say yes.

Is the recipe supposed to be (Americanized) Mexican? The sauce based on pinto beans, tomatoes, corn, and taco seasoning suggests this.

Is this supposed to be more like a regular meatloaf dinner? The carrots and potatoes are plain old American sides for a meat dish.

Even though this seems like an odd mashup, it might be kind of good.

Here's another recipe with an identity crisis:

The rice crust and soy sauce would automatically lead to "Chinese" (or "Oriental"!) labels in a lot of vintage cookbooks, but the pink or pinto beans and cumin suggest Mexican.  Throw in some carrot and good old Cheddar cheese and I don't know what to call this-- but it actually sounds pretty tasty to me.

Randomness does not always lend itself well to a recipe, though. I understand the need for variety in providing a selection of bean salads, but...

I don't think the world was exactly clamoring for a way to combine canned peaches, garbanzo beans, green pepper, celery, onion, and mustard.

And people who want a pimiento-cheese dip or spread...

...probably do not want to randomly throw lima beans into it just because they can.

But this is not the worst random addition of lima beans in the book. I've already given that secret away, but maybe it was long enough ago you've forgotten it or didn't see it in the first place. Click the link and try to get THAT creation out of your head! *Shudder*

Happy Cookbook Wednesday! Thanks to Marjie of Modern Day Ozzie and Harriet!

Saturday, April 25, 2015

It's Ten P.M. Do you know what a pizza is?

You better not be sick of Good Housekeeping's Cook Books (1958) because I'm not, and I've got twenty full booklets to discuss. I'm hoping to give each at least a mention, but there's a pretty good chance some of them will come up multiple times.

The "Ten P.M. Cook Book" is one of those books because aside from recipes for everyday parties, it also has recipes for various holidays. I'm not going to tell you how to celebrate Thanksgiving today, but you might want to know how to celebrate Thanksgiving at Ten P.M. when we get to November!

Today we will be looking at the ways this booklet plays with definitions.

Sometimes, I think the definition is a little too... well... strict. Guess what is facing the page with this at the top:

If you guessed "Strictly Stag" meant this...

...a pan full of beans and franks at varying degrees of ... uh ... interest? attention? ... then you understood they meant business when they said "Strictly Stag."

Sometimes the book uses the time as an excuse to rename a pretty familiar dish to make it sound more like party food. If you don't want English muffin pizzas to sound like an after-school snack, call them something else.

"Ten P.M. Pizzas" certainly sound more exciting and adult. Plus cutting each muffin half into four to six (teeny) wedges makes them into hors d'oeuvres! Have an Eye-talian (sorry, you have to  pronounce it that way in the '50s!) stereotype serve them with an expression that suggests he is fine with the concept of English muffin pizzas, and you've got a solid party.

Then sometimes, the definitions get a little too broad. I'm perfectly content to accept an English muffin pizza as a pizza, even if Luigi there is probably trying very hard not to roll his eyes as he serves the ignorant party-goers. At least these mini-pies have real pizza toppings: tomato (paste), salami, olives, mushrooms, cheese, even oregano and thyme. They're legit as far as I'm concerned.

There are other things even I will not accept as pizza.

(Sorry about the weird format, but the book's shape and size makes it difficult to copy sometimes!)

French rolls are a fine start-- French bread pizza can be yummy. Ham, oregano, Parmesan and even Cheddar cheeses-- definitely okay. But canned tuna and "catchup"? Forget it! Defining this as a "pizza" is going too far, even if it's served at night with the lights turned low in an attempt to hide the shame.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The little book that led to "Poppy Crocker"

Today's book is pretty common, so it's not necessarily special to fans of old cookbooks, but this book is special to me. When I was a teenager, someone from my 4-H club knew I loved to cook and gave me a big stack of cookbooks. This one (Well, not this exact copy because I lost that one in a move, but I kept thinking about it and bought a replacement years later.) was older than what I was used to seeing and it fascinated me. I remember spending hours of summer vacation flipping through the pages, not quite sure what in those simple line drawings and "recipes" that were often merely sets of guidelines drew me to it. If I had to credit one book with planting the seed that would later grow into this blog, it would be this book:

I can blame the stacks of books threatening to take over my entire house on Betty Crocker and her 1954 Good and Easy Cook Book!

I think part of the appeal was the cooking ethos in this book. "Betty" seemed to get how I cooked. There were plenty of actual recipes, but there were also lots of suggestions that left room for home cooks to do what they wanted.

The vegetable section gives overall guidelines for cooking various veggies, then informal lists of "Ways to Serve."

Frankly, I would never want onions as a vegetable side. A little bit of well-cooked onion as a part of something else is fine, but I'm not the type who wants to see onions as the main feature of anything.

Something about this presentation makes me want to change my mind, though. I think it's the stuffed onion "recipe." It trusts cooks to figure out the details (no measurements or instructions for preparing the onions, bread crumbs, and/or ground meat and its seasonings, no baking time or temperature). Maybe it's the cute little line drawing with the crumb-topped onions in a pink glass casserole dish. I don't know, but I love this beyond all reason.

There was something about the early mix of packaged products and traditional ingredients, too, that drew me in. Here's a section on how to use what was then a cutting-edge new product:

It's the wonder of instant pudding given some homey touches. There weren't too many flavors, so adding bananas, pineapple, or coconut to the vanilla variety was advised for cream pie flavors; some malted milk powder in the chocolate would make chocolate malted milk pudding.

Good and Easy even has a few pages of color photos:

And those photos have the not-quite-polished look that I love. The top picture looks good in some ways-- a sunny burst of orange slices, a frosty glass of sherbet-- but it wouldn't make its way past food stylists now, with the white grapes blending into the lettuce, browning pear slices, and bananas that look more like pickle spears!

The veggie one looks more promising, although I don't think I'd put the dirty-looking mound of (marinated) cauliflower front and center.

The recipes for salads are as laid-back as the onion ones:

Slice up some fruits or veggies, arrange in lettuce cups, put a little bowl of something in the middle. Just in case it's not clear enough that the listed combinations are only recommendations, the Garden Patch Quilt recipe reminds readers that "Any selection of cooked or raw vegetables may be used."

I also love the practicality of the ideas for sides. The garden salad needs bread sticks, but no need to work too hard-- just toast some "cheese-topped wiener buns."

The page that really got my attention had no recipes at all, though.

I didn't know what to make of this chart of "lunchtime stand-bys of years ago."

Some sound fun, like dessert for lunch: milk, apple, and hot gingerbread; strawberries and cream over hot buttered toast. Many are clearly breakfast for lunch (corn meal mush or waffles with syrup, hot or cold cereals).

A few are bizarre (eggnog, grapes, and salty crackers?). Some are just sad. Only someone stricken with the flu could consider milk toast a sufficient (much less good!) lunch.

My teenage self stared at the page for a moment before it struck me that the "good old days" for readers of this book may very well have been the Great Depression. Suddenly, this odd little chart made a certain kind of sense. I can't explain the charge I felt in the moment of understanding that adults could feel nostalgic for times that may have been mostly bad. There was something so simultaneously happy, sad, mysterious, and unknowable about that moment that I couldn't get it out of my mind for hours. This book gave me one of my first inklings about how supremely weird it would be to be a grown-up. I didn't yet suspect that part of my grown-up journey would be writing about this book and dozens of others, but I did get the idea it wouldn't be as simple and straightforward as a teenage dreamer likes to imagine.

Happy Cookbook Wednesday! Thanks to Marjie of Modern Day Ozzie and Harriet for hosting!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Corny pies, hellish herring, and frosty melons

Time for another dip into the behemoth that is Good Housekeeping's Cook Books! Prepare for a trip because today we're looking at "Good Housekeeping's Around the World Cook Book."

I mentioned before that this looks impressive because it lists 21 countries, but most places are represented by just a few recipes. The bulk of the book is about cooking in France, Italy, and Hungary.

Cuba, for example, is represented by a single recipe:

I know precisely nothing about Cuban cooking. (Well, I've heard of Cuban sandwiches, but that doesn't count for much!) I had doubts, for some reason, that a pie crust filled with rice, bacon, canned chicken, and cream-style corn was a great representation of the cuisine, though, so I tried looking it up.

My suspicions seem to be on target, since searches kept thinking maybe I was looking for a recipe for majarete, a pudding made by cooking corn in milk, sugar, and cinnamon. It sounds pretty good, really, a corny version of rice pudding... but it's certainly not the pie here!

The closest versions I found were this Chicken and Corn Pie (which has a corn crust and chicken, tomato, raisin, olive, prune, and hard-cooked egg filling! Yikes!) or a Trinidadian Corn Pie that features onions, peppers, and cheese rather than rice and chicken.

So based on my research, this doesn't seem like the logical choice to represent Cuba if one is limited to a single recipe. I guess a rice-and-bean dish, ropa vieja, or even a Cuban sandwich would have been a bit much to ask of a 1958 Good Housekeeping publication....

Something told me that the representation of Sweden was a bit more authentic. Since I hate anything pickled, anything sweet-and-sour, any main dish that mixes meat and fruit, and any type of beets (sweetened dirt that dyes everything pink!)-- this recipe is my idea of what the devil would serve in hell if I believed in such nonsense....

And a quick search showed that my hunch was right! Plenty of web sites share similar recipes for sillsallad. Apparently there are plenty of people to whom this sounds like a perfectly fine dish!

France was represented by more than two dozen recipes (and I'd even heard of most of them!), so I was not as worried about whether any individual recipe was representative of French cuisine as a whole. I was really amused by one that came as... well... a surprise. Here's the delightful picture:

Isn't there something comical about a melon bursting open to spill fruit all over the platter? It's like the money shot in a snuff film for fruit... which doesn't exactly whet my appetite, but does make me think perhaps I should filter my thoughts just a little more carefully when I know other people might read them. (What fun would that be?!)

And what is this dessert that I have just so elegantly described?

Why, it's Melon en Surprise, of course! While I don't care how authentic this recipe is, I know the idea lived on well into the '70s, as Yinzerella at Dinner is Served 1972 made a Frosty Melon that was similarly cored, stuffed, and frosted with cream cheese. Her version kept the filling in place with Jell-O, though, so the money shot was not nearly as splatterrific.

Have a lovely weekend! I might work on my new screenplay for the Marseille Melon Massacre.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Brain Oysters and Frozen Whale!

Since we looked at the wonders of cooking electrically last week, this week we will consider another kitchen marvel made possible by electricity:

Hazel Meyer's The Complete Book of Home Freezing (copyright 1953, but I have the 1964 revised edition) gives proud home freezer owners ideas about what to do with their appliances, with a budget-minded (probably farming) audience clearly in mind.

There are a LOT of recipes for variety meats. Want oysters? Well, farmers are unlikely to have access (or enough funds) for fresh seafood, but here's a suggestion:

Enjoy some lovely brain oysters. (If you're curious about the pre-cooking on page 172, the book suggests washing and simmering the brains for 20 minutes in water with a tablespoon of vinegar and a teaspoon of salt per quart. Just be sure to "avoid any [brains] which contain blood clots.") (Shiver!)

Need a romantic yet down-on-the farm dinner? How about this:

Buttermilk Hearts! (That title sounds like the name of a very unpopular Valentine's day candy...) Alternatively, if you want to sweet-talk your dinner companion, try this:

Tongue with Cherries! It's one of those meat/dessert combos that I love so much...

My favorite element of this book is the line drawings, though. The chapter on the history of freezing has this fanciful speculation about the origins of the practice:

Who could resist Astor Brand Frozen Whale, especially in the family size packages?

The book also has stern warnings to make sure readers will use their home freezers the right way:

Wrap It Right ... or You'll Regret It! The pig being wrapped here will personally see to it that you will be more careful with the wrapping next time... if there is a next time.

While a few animals seem happy to be eaten ...

(Don't feel bad, black sheep! The obedient white ones will not be so happy once they get to know their new home.)

...many of them seem to know what's up, and they do NOT appreciate being treated like, well, meat!

Yes, the piggies made it to heaven, but the one in the middle didn't want to arrive quite so soon!

And this deer is not interested in helping the hunter figure out whether he will fit in the freezer.

Finally, since I love Texas Chainsaw Massacre so much, this deer seems a good deal more impatient (and less terrified) than Pam did when she was in a similar position....

Happy Cookbook Wednesday, everyone! Now stay out of your freezers. (Or at least wrap yourself correctly before you climb in. If you don't, you'll regret it.)

Thanks to Marjie of Modern Day Ozzie and Harriet for hosting!

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Send your cookies packing

Since commenters asked about the "Book of Cookies" cook-booklet in the 1958 Good Housekeeping's Cook Books collection, I looked through it to see if there were any seriously disgusting cookies.

Sorry, but I didn't see anything surprisingly awful. There were cookies with fillings I'd find less than delectable (Prunes! Mincemeat!), but they were still well within the realms of normal cookie-hood.

The head note for this one gave me pause:

Yes, the cottage-cheese touch is new!  While the thought of cottage cheese cookies is not exactly appetizing, they're probably not that bad. I didn't think twice about recipes with sour cream, and well-integrated cottage cheese is probably not much different in cookies than sour cream would be.

Another recipe made me think of childhood (and not in a good way). My family was at a potluck and I picked up what I thought was a perfectly normal cutout cookie. When I bit in, though, my overly-dramatic childhood self suspected someone was trying to poison us all with the pungent, gritty dirt and weird burn of the vile thing. I suspect the recipe was pretty similar to this one:

Now I know that whoever brought them was probably proud of their Norwegian heritage, but to me caraway seeds will always taste like dirt, and my childhood self was not ready for the brandy.

Overall, though, the recipes were not too surprising. I did like a section on packaging cookies up to give as gifts, though.

This first one was meant to be practical, I think, but I see a flaw in the plan:

It's going to be kind of tough to hold on to the recipe for the brownies if it's written on the wrapping paper! The way the recipe is folded would make it difficult to copy the recipe even before ripping the gift open....

The ideas for wrapping children's cookies have a little more charm:

The dollhouse definitely has the ... uh ... rustic, handmade look. Nothing like this would make it past a photographer and food stylist today, but I like that it actually looks hand-made, rather than like something that a group of experts labored to make look handmade. The creepily blank-faced Ginger Cookie Dolly seems to have a problem with her roof, but happily, the loose shingles give the recipient access to all the cookies piled inside.

If having a home is a little too hoity-toity for one's cookies, this presentation might be better:

Peanut-butter cookies served "Hobo Style" might even encourage the kid recipient to take off and give the grown-ups a moment of peace! This presentation is both cute and practical....

Happy weekend! Go make some cookies! (If you want to make peanut butter cookies with faces, though, I'd suggest adding the raisin faces BEFORE wrapping the cookies in foil and a bandana.)

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Invite Edison into your kitchen

Cooking is hard work. Even now, when many times "cooking" really just means taking something out of a bag or box and throwing it in the microwave or oven for a while, it's more than a lot of people want to do after a long day at work. Well, a cookbooklet from 1950 has the secret to carefree cooking:

Are you shocked to learn that the Home Service Committee of Edison Electric Institute is behind this one?

The real secret to electric cooking (according to this, anyway) is that it can cook everything at the same time in the same place.

Cooks with a range that included a deep well cooker could just throw everything in the hole and forget about it for a while:

Need salmon loaf and veggies for 4-6 people? Pack the salmon loaf mixture into a greased mold, arrange green beans and potatoes in the bottom of the well, throw the loaf in the rack on top, and you're pretty much done. It was kind of like having a slow-cooker built right into the stove top. (I have an infatuation with those old stoves since Grandma had one in her basement. She only used it on special occasions when she needed extra oven space, but I loved poking around and checking out the deep well corner. It seemed so exotic, somehow.)

The recipes that really give me pause are the oven-based menus, though. I have serious doubts about being able to fit everything into one oven without spilling or seriously undercooking it because the oven is too crammed full of food to heat efficiently. On top of that, some of the meals seem, well, kind of random. Look at OVEN MEAL No. 1:

The browned potato loaf sounds pretty good-- kind of a version of scalloped potatoes made glamorous by an overnight stay in the electric refrigerator.

Succotash is a pretty standard reheated frozen blend.

These perfectly acceptable veggies seem a little odd served with frankfurters baked in a catsup and mustard sauce.

Want a bun for that frank? You're out of luck unless you consider banana-bran bread a suitable substitute. (Bananas! Bran! Catsup! Mustard! Frankfurters!)

The baked fudge dessert is surely the best part, as long as it is actually cooked through and not topped with spilled succotash and "spicy" frankfurter sauce.... Is that a risk you're willing to take? (I'll admit it-- I'll take pretty big risks for chocolate!)

Happy Cookbook Wednesday! Thanks to Modern Day Ozzie and Harriet for hosting!

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Retro Fun with Hard-Cooked Eggs!

It's that time of year when all those extra hard cooked eggs might be making you see red!

So let's see what cooks did with a bounty of hard cooked eggs in the past. 

If you cooked in 1936, you might consult My Better Homes and Gardens Cook Book to make something exotic, like

Eggs a la Des Moines! It's just ham, tomato, and hard-cooked egg on lettuce with Thousand Island. I picked the recipe because I had never heard of anything labeled "a la Des Moines," as if that should be some sort of selling point. Iowan recipes are not exactly well-known for their innovation and superior flavor. (What makes something "a la Des Moines," anyway? Since they have so many pigs in the state, I'm going to assume it means "served on a slice of ham.") I notice that this particular cookbook lists its publisher as being Des Moines-based, so I will assume that has something to do with the recipe title.

Cooks in 1958 might go with the Egg and Cheese Spaghetti and Rice Dishes  cook-booklet in the Good Housekeeping's Cook Books collection.

If they wanted their eggs to look as if they were erupting, they might go with this:

The hen seems completely unmoved as she gazes over the eggs spurting yolky filling into an orangey lake. "Hell, as long as they're outta me, I don't care what they do," she's thinking.

So what ARE they doing?

They're squirting a deviled ham mixture into a lake of cheese sauce as they nestle among some broccoli.

(I had to cut off the end of the recipe, but here it is if you want it: Pour sauce over all. Bake 40 min., or until bubbly. Makes 4 or 5 servings.)

It's kind of a complicated dish, but I don't think it quite requires a welding mask.

Finally, let's look at what cooks from 1967 might try. House & Garden's New Cook Book has some recommendations. For something that is genuinely a little more exotic than Eggs a la Des Moines:

Try Curried Eggs! This seems like it will actually have some flavor, calling for onions, garlic, ginger, and a whole tablespoon of curry powder (with permission to "use more if you wish"!).

Of course, with my aversions to cooked fruit AND fruit thrown into savory dishes, the raisins and apples in this make it sound like a nightmare to me... but at least it's not all processed cheese and canned meat.

Cooks who might prefer something the Swedish Chef would make could try this: 

Of course, it will only work with eggs that aren't too much like ping pong balls. And if the thought of eggs full of diced herring and mustard sauce is appealing.

Happy Extra Eggs Weekend, everyone! 

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Serious Cook-bookage

For my 200th post(!) and another round of Cookbook Wednesday, I have some serious cook-bookage for you. The pictures may seem odd because I usually scan them on my scanner, but this monster is too big to scan. I had to take pictures with my camera instead.

Meet Good Housekeeping's Cook Books (1958).

The title is plural because this is not a single book, but a collection of 20 cook booklets! I'm not going to go into any recipes today because I just want to give you an overview of this beast.

Fittingly enough, it begins with the Appetizer Book.

Like the olives and crackers impaled on toothpicks and sticking out of a candle? Wait until I show you how they serve shrimp.

Next is the Book of Cookies.

I like the bird on the wooden paddle that seems to be shitting out an enormous heart.

Good Housekeeping believes in sweets! Next to the cookies we have the Cake Book. (And dessert is yet to come.)

This also has "decorating ideas for many occasions." Judging from the front and back covers, it looks as if the decorating ideas mostly consist of "throw on some chocolate curls or nuts," but there are more interesting techniques inside.

If you're in a hurry, the Quick 'n' Easy book has ideas.

With chapters titled "Can-Opener Cookery" and "Make-It-From-a-Mix," this is sure to have some interesting recipes to share.

The Casserole Book looks really enticing...

...if you've ever wanted beans baked with whole orange slices on top.

A little health to balance out all the desserts comes next:

And yes, Salads has a whole chapter on molded salads. There will be Jell-O.

The booklet on pies is not just any pie book. It's the Party Pie Book.

It's got everything-- including instructions on making a crusty wheel of umbrellas to put on top of a spring-themed pie!

Need to use up some cheap meat? There's a whole Hamburger & Hot Dog booklet!

Apparently the cover image that manages to look both a bit slimy and a bit raw is Mushroom-Stuffed Meat Loaf. We might have to check that out.

Have better meat? Then go to the Meat Cook Book.

That cover photo helps emphasize that the photographers and food stylists were not really trying with the meat loaf.

Okay, maybe it's time for more Vegetables.

Will these "tempt the most reluctant appetites"? Maybe some of them will, but you know the recipes I'll pick will probably NOT be taste-tempting.

I know we've had cookies, cakes, and pies, but what if you just want Delectable Desserts?

That looks suspiciously like another cake to me, but maybe the fact that it's bleeding makes it special?

We haven't had any cook booklets with a random assortment of foodstuffs as the titles yet.

Maybe Egg and Cheese Spaghetti and Rice Dishes will fit the bill. I thought it might be a collection of less meat-centric main dishes for a time when mainstream people didn't even consider saying the word "vegetarian," and this does have some meatless recipes. It is also a way to sneak in extra desserts! There are whole chapters on egg, cheese, and rice desserts.

 There's a booklet for some of my favorite food groups: Breads & Sandwiches.

I love the open-face sandwich with three hot dog halves. I'd call it Tomatoes on a Raft.

Entertaining? Try Company Meals and Buffets.

Guests are sure to love bloody meat logs with baked potatoes and grilled canned peaches.

At least the bloody meat logs don't still have their faces

like the fish on the Fish and Shellfish cover.

Had enough animal flesh? Of course not! You still need Poultry and Game.

I know the photographer wanted to emphasize freshness, but I think this particular chicken is in no danger of escaping. The chicken wire in the background is not really necessary.

You know, it's been a few chapters since we had a dessert booklet.

Ice Creams and Cool Drinks will freshen the collection up. Who wants a bloody milkshake? (Is the collection a little heavy on drippy red cover pictures, or am I just morbid for thinking that everything looks wounded?)

It's never too late for treats...

Well, unless it's after Ten P.M. If it's midnight, you're on your own. While I might have thought this collection would be more about cocktails, it looks as if canned peach halves served with a bowl full of rapidly-melting ice cream scoops is Good Housekeeping's  idea of a good time after dark.

For those with international tastes, Around the World provides some guidance.

This booklet represents 21 countries! Almost all the recipes are from France, Hungary, and Italy, though. Cuba's sole representative recipe, for example, is the iconic "Cuban Corn Pie."

Finally, for the celebrity watchers, there's the Who's Who booklet.

I looked through and realized I recognize almost no celebrities from 1958 (especially when so many of them are opera stars). At least it's got a quiche recipe from Alfred Hitchcock!

This is just a taste. I do hope to have many happy posts from this MASSIVE collection.

Happy Cookbook Wednesday!