Saturday, June 27, 2015

Graham abuse

Summer means S'More season! Kids love the opportunity to set marshmallows ablaze and then menace everyone within a half-mile radius with their impromptu torches. The adults in the vicinity don't care because they're too busy surreptitiously scarfing down the chocolate. What gets left out of the party?

The graham crackers. With their stodgy image as the boring bread on a heavenly sandwich, they don't get nearly the same love and attention. What to do with these lonely, half-crushed S'Mores leftovers?

Good Housekeeping's "Quick 'N' Easy" cook-booklet (from the 1958 Good Housekeeping's Cook Books collection) suggests this frozen dessert... salad. (This is probably yet another case of thinking that calling a mound of jiggling sugar a "salad" will somehow make it healthier.)

If graham crackers could have a choice, I'm pretty sure they would they rather be paired with a flaming marshmallow and a cooling chocolate bar than serve as the frozen case for a fruit-cocktail-and-mayonnaise-based dessalad. Salert? (Okay, I have clearly not figured out a good portmanteau word to combine "salad" and "dessert.")

Doing time in a frozen "salad" looks like a day in the book section of the antique mall (or whatever activity you non-weirdos consider to be fun) compared to this next recipe (whose origins are a bit of a mystery. I got a little envelope full of recipe cards with "For you-- our valued customer...a package of DIL-ICIOUS IDEAS from the folks at DILS" written on it in a grab bag full of old recipes. There's no date, but my best sleuthing suggests these are from a store called (surprisingly enough) Dils Brothers & Company Department Store. It was in Parkersburg, WV, and closed in 1988, so this must be pre-1988, at least, if my sleuthing is correct):

I will admit, nothing that starts with 2 to 2-1/2 pounds of ham loaf mix is going to be a dish I will consider promising. Mixing it with graham cracker crumbs and bathing it in a slime composed of pineapple, vinegar, cloves, Karo syrup, and dry mustard upon its removal from the oven makes me want to run for the hills! 

If the graham crackers have any sense, they will play dead and be forgotten by the campfire so some nice little skunks and raccoons can gobble them up. Better that fate than being tossed into these recipes!

Have a great weekend, and respect the graham cracker!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Omelettes Take Manhattan!

Let's enjoy summer vacation by taking a nice little trip to France where Madame Romaine de Lyon will give us a class in The Art of Cooking Omelettes (1963). Since Madame Romaine actually ran a restaurant in Manhattan, though, perhaps it would be more accurate to say our field trip is to a culinary outpost of France in Manhattan....

This book has HUNDREDS of omelette suggestions, each with its own name.

They all start the same way, though: brown a tablespoon of butter over medium heat, cook fillings briefly, then pour the egg mix (3 eggs beaten with a tablespoon of water and salt and pepper to taste) on top. Then shake the pan and keep lifting the omelette edges to the uncooked eggs seep to the bottom, and fold and serve on a plate when it is is just done.

A lot of these actually sound delicious:

Eggs filled with asparagus, truffles, and cream sauce? Yes, please.

As the truffle suggests, this book does not shy away from expensive ingredients:

Why not stuff some eggs with foie gras and top them with Courvoisier?

But of course, the real draw for me was that Madame Romaine has a real soft spot for organ meats.

Have some extra chicken livers?

Make it Medici with peas, rice, onions, and croutons!

Need to use up some (veal) kidneys?

Make it Napoleon with ham, eggplant, croutons, garlic, and fines herbes. (I'd rather have a Napoleon Dynamite and fill it with tots instead of kidney.)

What if you have an abundance of sweetbreads?

Then the Champeret (with asparagus tips, mushrooms, cheese, and cream sauce) might be more your style. (Or just skip the sweetbreads altogether. This sounds pretty awesome without it!)

What if you've got calf's brains AND you want to get a Queen song stuck in your head?

No problem! Make a Scaramouche omelette with artichoke hearts, mushrooms, and sherry sauce!

I love this book-- delicious and a bit horrifying by turns, just like Hannibal....

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

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Have a jellied soup and canned eggplant weekend

Summer officially begins tomorrow! I personally follow the meteorological seasons, which means that my summer started weeks ago on June 1. I've been living it up in summer while you chumps were still stuck in spring! Tomorrow, though, you will catch up with me, so I picked a summer menu from the Family Circle Quick Menu Cookbook by Jean Hewitt (1978) for you to celebrate.

The theme, in case you missed it, is "Fix Ahead for Outdoor Enjoyment." Let's start with the soup:

I'm not sure what makes Jellied Tomato and Zucchini Soup a soup, per se, as onion and zucchini chunks trapped in a tomato juice and chicken broth gelatin would usually be considered a salad by vintage cookbook standards. The garnish of chopped parsley further cements its "salad" status in my mind. Maybe it's the fact that this is broken into small pieces and served in chilled glasses or bowls rather than presented as an enormous, glistening slab that makes it a soup? Maybe it's the mercifully unflavored gelatin, rather than dessert-y lemon or lime, that puts this at the soup level? Your guess is as good as mine.

The Moussaka Burgers are also a bit puzzling:

The burgers are mixed with "eggplant appetizer"? I wasn't quite sure what that meant, but apparently "eggplant appetizer" is '70s-speak for caponata. At least, I'm assuming that's what they meant and not the even-more-puzzling canned stuffed eggplant. So if you want canned eggplant, celery, tomatoes, onions, olives, and perhaps occasional pit fragments in your burger (The specter of impending dental bills can spice up a burger...), this is the one for you! You will have to measure out 9.5 ounces of caponata on your own, too, as it looks as if the 4.75 ounce cans this recommends are hard to find today.

The cole slaw is a pretty standard cole slaw, and the frozen papaya cream works with the caponata to make this an especially exotic menu for the '70s:

Have an exotic weekend! Just try to dodge any pits.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Don't panic, even if something with seven legs and a chef's hat is following you

Let's go to the country!

The Casual Country Cook Book (1970, Tophill Farm, Lee, MA) is by Lorna Lowes Sheldon.

I couldn't resist it for the cover alone. It's covered not just with anthropomorphic flowers and arthropods, but mostly unhappy anthropomorphic flowers and arthropods.

That flower on the right (a daisy, maybe?) looks especially distressed. If daisies could get diarrhea, that is the look they would get on their faces right as it hit.

At the bottom we have the arthropods. The one on the left is the only one that looks genuinely happy, probably because its chef's hat is a clue that it plans on eating the other... creature. I think the chef is supposed to be a spider based on the web behind it, but it's only got six legs (five of which appear to be on the right side of its body), so all bets are off.

The seven-legged creature the "spider" appears to be tracking is not happy he's about to become lunch, but it looks as if that little guy has a circular saw blade sticking out of his ass. Why he won't just saw the spider chef in half is beyond me.

The cover is not the only quirky picture. Right before the recipes begin, we see this:

Ol' Possum's Owlhouse Menu promises all kinds of owl-appropriate fare: frittered titmouse, squirrel soup with cricket croutons, chipmunk chunks, artichoke mouse, and the Christmas special of woodcock wassail.

The recipe cards (all the pages after this one are divided into two cards-- one top main dish and one bottom dessert, dip, or side) do not tell how to make a tickled trout or a pickled piglet, though. Apparently Ol' Possum keeps her recipes to herself.

The cards all feature brief handwritten instructions:

For a second, I was excited that we might get Walter White's Meatball Dish, but this is from Walter Wright. I was thinking of a different guy who liked to cook....

The handwriting confused me for a minute. Take 2 lbs chuck around three times? Is this some weird country way of saying the recipe took 6 pounds of meat? Then I realized whoever wrote this was using a sheet of paper as a guide to help keep the writing straight, so any parts of letters that would dip below the bottom line got cut off. It's "ground three times."

Once I figured out that mystery, a new one presented itself. Why would anyone want to cover balls of raw meat with a bottle of stuffed olives, a bottle of "catsup," and a bottle of water and bake it for 1-3 hours (depending on when the guests actually show up , because this is clearly a fancy recipe meant for guests)? I figured out the first mystery, but this one is much more of a stumper....

The casual tone of the recipes can be very charming, though:

I love the directions as they get toward the end. "Don't panic- when you must now pour 1 c. boiling water over all." Any directions that make me think of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy will make me smile. At the end, we learn why it's called "Best Blueberry Bravo." Even after the weird step of dousing the whole thing with boiling water, "BRAVO!! It's lovely."

This is a whimsical little book, so I will leave you with one more whimsical picture (this one cut in half because it was in the recipe card section):

Apparently, if your lemonade stand is commandeered by an enormous butterfly, it's best to get out of the way!

Happy Cookbook Wednesday!

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Old-fashioned microwave cooking

It's really starting to heat up. The (dusty!) dinosaurs that live on top of my desk are starting to come out of hibernation, so I'll probably have to stop being cheap and turn on the air conditioning to cool them back into submission. All that roaring gets distracting when I'm trying to write.

Maybe I'll also keep the house cool by switching to some nice microwave recipes. To that end, we'll look at Toshiba's 1978 Everyday Microwave Cooking for Everyday Cooks.

Now remember, in 1978 it's a waste of money to buy a microwave just to reheat things. This is an expensive piece of equipment. You've got to be able to cook in it, too. How about a nice main course?

Lovely beige, flabby chicken skin with beige, flabby mushrooms in some kind of a orangey-beige slime! The spring flower print on the serving platter tries to distract from the beige-on-beige action, but it's not exactly a fair fight. Some food stylist noticed and dumped a bit of reddish powder (probably paprika-- the garnish is not named in the recipe) on top, but it's just as ineffective as the pink and yellow flowers at making this pile o' slime seem attractive.

Yes, chicken with mushrooms and wine will remind you that you can have a lovely, golden-skinned chicken with seared mushrooms OR you can have a cool house, but microwave cooking ain't gonna give you both.

Now, how about a side to go with the chicken?

And this is...? Some weird variety of mold-veined cheese? Natural sponges accidentally left on a serving platter? A selection of exceptionally dirty artgum erasers?

Nope! It's old fashion pumpkin bread. Deliciously gummy and chewy, just like no one used to make. Ever. Because they didn't have the "advantage" of cooking in microwaves.

But you know, maybe I should try making a batch anyway. If I fed it to the dinosaurs, it might gum up their mouths enough that they would quiet down, and I could continue being a cheapskate and leave the air conditioning off. Win-win! Well, except for my poor dinosaur friends. I'll just tell them that they should be grateful. Old fashion pumpkin bread is better than a meteor! (That would be an excellent advertising slogan.)

Have a good old-fashioned weekend!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Recipes for fun-controlled, low taste meals

After a weekend of creme de cacao and whipped cream, it's time to atone. Another of the pamphlets my grandma sent a few weeks ago is the perfect antidote:

"Recipes for Fat-Controlled, Low Cholesterol Meals" (1972) is from the American Heart Association.

The cover is mind blowing if you pay attention, what with the monstrous chicken perched atop the petite cow who happens to be standing on an enormous fish that does not seem to mind its cow-and-chicken hat one bit. Maybe it's mesmerized by the enormous cruet of oil. I'm hoping those are kidney beans under the fish.

Meanwhile, the turkey stares down some massive broccoli and cabbage while the pot of mustard sidles away from the ketchup and considers committing some infidelities with the apples, pineapple, and just maybe the angel food cake. Yum.

I'll bet you won't be surprised to learn that the cover is more interesting than a lot of the recipes.

Oven "fried" chicken is nothing particularly shocking, but this version manages to be even more boring than usual:

Were you thinking of adding something for flavor? The last line of the ingredients promises, "Seasoning is not necessary, as crumbs are tasty."

When you're eating, just repeat that line quietly to yourself, as often as necessary, while secretly hoping that at least your tears will give it a little flavor. "Seasoning is not necessary, as crumbs are tasty. Seasoning is not necessary, as crumbs are tasty. Seasoning is not necessary, as crumbs are tasty."

Part of me suspects that I'd be better off with the super-bland than with the recipes they TRY to add some flavor, though:

Okay, maybe scallops painted up with a honey-mustard-curry slurry sounds perfectly reasonable to some of you, but my hatred of sweet-and-savory combined with my fear of condiments makes this sound like another candidate for dinner in hell.

Apparently my grandmother actually used this booklet. Here is the one "comment" (if I may call it that) she wrote:

Apparently grandma was not impressed with seasoned broccoli. It looks innocuous enough (if you don't mind dry mustard)-- just broccoli steamed with a bit of oil and a few simple seasonings-- but grandma didn't want to make the mistake of cooking this again!

Ah, well. How about dessert? I found one that combines two types of desserts that I've been writing about lately. Can you guess which ones?

If you guessed prunes and meringues-- DING DING DING! You won Cookbook Wednesday.

Thanks again to Modern Day Ozzie and Harriet for hosting.

Monday, June 8, 2015

In which your humble writer amuses a liquor store clerk and a criminally insane guest

I was so excited to sign up for the Pieathalon again this year! I couldn't wait to see what wonder recipe I would get. Then I was terrified when this appeared in my mailbox:

There is no objective reason to be terrified of Brandy Alexander Pie. It's mostly whipped cream, sugar, and booze-- sure to be tasty. It's from a blogger I read and adore-- Erica Retrochef at Retro Recipe Attempts. Plus, it's from one of the types of regional cookbooks I love to peruse: The Sampler: A Collection of Recipes by the Woman's Club of White Plains (1976).

I was terrified because I'd have to go to a liquor store. I'm super shy. I like mixed drinks at a friend's house, but at home I stick to cheap wine because I can pick it out at the grocery store based on the picture on the label. (I go for something with a cute animal or a sexy person, depending on my mood.) Now I would have to go to a liquor store and actually ask another human being for what I wanted. That's no obstacle for most people, but I am ... uh ... special.

So I went in and got the cognac with no trouble. The creme de cacao was a different story, though. I mumbled and initially ended up with a bottle of Curacao! That would have made for a shockingly blue pie! Then when I finally got the clerk to understand I meant creme de cacao, he asked which kind. I didn't know there was more than one! "One's clear, and one looks like chocolate," he said. I figured chocolate is always the right answer, so that's what I left with. I hope I was right.

Here are the painstakingly assembled ingredients:

Once I had the ingredients together, I got to work. First, I had to mix an envelope of gelatin, 1/2 c. cold water, 1/3 c. sugar, three egg yolks, and 1/8 of a teaspoon salt in a saucepan and thicken over low heat:

The egg yolks made this look lemony, so I kept absentmindedly sniffing it, expecting a burst of lemon. It mostly smelled like ... eggs. With gelatin. Not really what my nose was hoping for!

Then I had to stir in 1/2 c. creme de cacao and 1/4-1/2 c. cognac. I wasn't sure what "to my taste" would be once all the other ingredients were added, so I went with 1/3 of a cup of cognac. Then I whipped a cup of cream while the mixture chilled. Once the gelatin barely started mounding when dropped from a spoon, I whipped the egg whites with 1/3 c. sugar in my awesome '70s-orange mixer.

The gelatin mixture set up FAST, though. In just the few minutes it took for me to whip the egg whites, it went from barely beginning to set to pretty well set at the edges and only loose in the center! I folded in the egg whites and 1 c. of the whipped cream as well as I could, but there were little lumps of jiggly booze throughout the filling as I poured it into the graham cracker crust.

Once it had chilled for several hours, I called in a friend to help with the cutting.

"My, Poppy, this is an... interesting... concoction. What are those brownish lumps?"

"They're little lumps of jiggly booze, of course."

"And you would think of serving this to guests? Perhaps you are more sadistic than my initial assessment seemed to suggest."

"Uh... Thank you, I guess, Doctor Lecter. Would you be so kind as to cut the pie?"

When he got to work, I realized my chocolate was too melty to make the suggested garnish of chocolate curls. I pulled out the leftover whipped cream and some cocoa powder instead.

Once he sliced the pie and I had garnished it to the best of my ability, I offered him the first slice.

He stared at it for a moment, as one mesmerized by a car wreck.

"Won't you try at least a bite?" I implored.

"I've brought a friend who might enjoy it more than I would. This is sure to be better than what they serve at the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane."

"But I forgot about the mask. Poor Will.... It looks as if he won't be able to partake after all."

Since it looked like my guests wouldn't help out, I tasted this myself. I've never had pie that burned before. I definitely knew it when I hit a gelatin lump! Still, this is pretty tasty. It is sugar, whipped cream, and booze, after all. The cocoa powder sprinkle adds a nicely bitter counterpoint. If you want relaxation and a dessert all in one, this is worth a try if you can brave the liquor store.

A big thank you to the always-entertaining Yinzerella of Dinner Is Served 1972 for organizing the Pieathalon! Be sure to visit the other Pieathletes:

Yinzerella of Dinner Is Served 1972   PIEATHALON: Melton Mowbray Pie
Saucy Cherie at Cookbook Cherie
Erica Retrochef from Retro Recipe Attempts
RetroRuth from Mid-Century Menu   Cheese Pie, 1930  (She endured the recipe I sent in! She deserves a prize.)

Saturday, June 6, 2015

In which my collection is judged to be in rather poor taste

My next post will be for the Pieathalon! Just as I did last year, this year I have invited a special guest to help me. This guest was notably less enthusiastic about the prospect. I'm not sure why he agreed, but I suspect his interest in food and morbid curiosity drew him to my little project despite his better judgment. When I promised he could choose the recipes for the last post before the Pieathalon, his eyes briefly brightened.

Then he saw my collection. "I didn't expect you to have Modernist Cuisine, but really.... I would hope at the very least for an English translation of Larousse Gastronomique. This collection is appalling! The recipes aren't fit to feed even a child."

"The point of my blog is not usually to make the food," I countered. "I'm just interested in food history. Well, that and making fun of really terrible recipes."

"Your collection seems ideally suited for that," he sniffed. Thoughtful pause. "So tell me, what is your interest in making fun of recipes? Were you teased as a child? Who are you really trying to hurt, Poppy, by making fun of these books that you clearly love?"

"You don't have to look if you don't want to," I countered, not wanting to play his game. "You'll either help me or you won't."

In the end, he wouldn't. I couldn't entice him to so much as touch my books, so I promised to pick the recipes for him. My visitor just asked me to emphasize that he didn't choose the recipes himself. "I wouldn't want to be associated with that kind of butchery," he explained.

Perhaps he won't be too disappointed. I dug out one of my classier books (House & Garden's New Cook Book, 1967) and searched for something suitable. These are for you, my friend. At least they have fresh herbs in them, so they are about as sophisticated as recipes get on this blog.

We will see you on Monday! Be ready for some pie.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Budget pies that will save your life!

It's less than a week to the Pieathalon, so I wanted to show some more pies. I thought about featuring a dessert book, but I actually don't have all that many. I'm more interested in terrifying/ disgusting recipes, and their presence in desserts is statistically lower than in, say, casseroles. (That's a long-winded way of saying I don't have all that many dedicated dessert cookbooks, and the ones I do have are short on weird pies.)

Instead of a dedicated dessert cookbook, we'll look at the dessert section of a cookbook with advice from one of our most questionable recipe sources: '70s home ec teachers.

This "Life-Saver" Cookbook (1976) is from teachers who thought of "life-saver" as a more positive way to say "cheap."

Surely there are some interesting cheap pies! One of my first thoughts when I think of budget recipes is crackers. Are there cracker pies?

Yep! Graham cracker crumbs are not just for the crust anymore. Fold 'em into meringue with a few pecans, spread in a pie pan, and bake, then call it a pie (even though it's really just a giant graham cracker meringue in a pie pan). I'd really like to see this in a graham cracker crust, but I guess a double graham cracker pie just isn't in the budget.

If you can afford to be a little Ritz-ier, you can try this one:

I'll bet you thought it was going to be one of those mock apple pies made with Ritz crackers! Nope. "Miracle Pie" is also just a giant, cracker-strewn meringue in a pie plate. I'm not sure what the miracle is. Maybe it is that people considered these things pies at all?

What other ingredient might I expect in vintage pies for pennies? If you're thinking "cottage cheese," then you have been paying attention.

Yes, cottage cheese was in everything, including lemon pudding mix for a pie, apparently. Why it was better to throw a carton of cottage cheese and some extra sugar into instant lemon pudding than it would have been to just make two packages of pudding, I don't know.

I was hoping to find a cracker and cottage cheese pie for the ultimate budget dessert, but this is as close as I got:

More instant lemon pudding! More cottage cheese! I'm calling Grape Nuts honorary crackers in this case... and I know it's not a pie, but neither  are the first two "pies." We could throw it in a pie plate and pretend! Home ec teachers wouldn't be able to tell the difference.

Happy Cookbook Wednesday! Thanks to Marjie of Modern Day Ozzie and Harriet for hosting, as always.