Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Mock turtles, clammy blankets, and an oven that can do anything!

I just added the theme song from Killer Klowns from Outer Space to my Halloween playlist. I set my alarm to wake me up to the Talking Heads' "Psycho Killer" (set to the line "Can't sleep 'cause my bed's on fire," just because I'm weird like that). I loaded up some coupons for my next grocery run and sent someone a picture of a snake that I took when I was on my daily walk. Sixty or seventy years from now, it will seem downright quaint that I think it's cool I could do all that on my phone. (Hell, it already seems kind of quaint as I write these words, but I wanted some way to illustrate that we are not now immune feeling awe for the things we can make electricity do for us. I'm just not tech savvy enough to know the next big thing that will actually reach the masses....)

And sixty or seventy years ago (no date on this one!), the brand-new owner of "Electric Cookery" from Montgomery Ward would have had no idea phones could someday be used to do all those things (although I rarely use mine to actually call people, which the original owner of this book would have known as the phone's only function). The original owner would have been excited (in a way that seems quaint now) that electricity could be used to cook!

Getting the new oven was an event:

All three generations of women had to be present, and even dad was there to smoke his pipe and admiringly inspect the new gadget.

The booklet promises all kinds of delights for the new electric stove owner. I was intrigued by this very mid-century-fancy looking dish:

Shrimp, peas, white sauce, some kind of ring (rice? noodles?), the obligatory olive and pimento garnish, but as far as I can tell, the book doesn't actually have a recipe for this one. Oh, well. I'm sure I can find recipes for white sauce and starch rings elsewhere.

The book does have plenty of other recipes, though. Here's one that used to be pretty common and is as popular as Blackjack gum and trying to stuff 78 people in a phone booth today:

I'm not quite sure why a soup of veal, catsup, lemon, and hard cooked eggs would ever have been popular, but apparently it would be exciting to make on an electric stove (with a deep-well side for making broth).

This next recipe is more popular as a retro dish, although I was initially puzzled to see it in the deep-well section of the booklet:

To me, Pigs in Blankets are hot dogs or sausages encased in a doughy blanket (crescent rolls or pancakes). I didn't know how the dough would cook in a deep-well cooker, but there is no dough here! Apparently to the recipe writer, Pigs in Blankets are stuffed cabbage leaves. This is just nonsense! What would you rather have as a blanket: a warm, fluffy pancake, or a thin, clammy cabbage leaf? I rest my case.

"Electric Cookery" is also full of promises that an electric oven can handle any amount of crowding. Not that I could ever see myself needing to bake eight loaves of bread at the same time (and I pity any cook back then who had to!), but I sincerely doubt that the oven could make this a reality:

Yes, they loaves are all crammed into the oven but perfectly risen and evenly browned. Maybe it would work-- if you had spare time to keep rotating the bread, necessitating a longer bake time because yo we're always opening up the oven to fuss with the bread configuration. But if you're the kind of person who needs to bake this much bread at once, my guess is also that you don't have a ton of free time for bread-rotating.

I'll leave you with a fall oven-dinner fantasy:

The stuffed pork chop dinner sounds just right for some fall evening-- chops, fries, roasted acorn squash, freshly-made warm spiced apple sauce. Just pop it all in the oven and 1-1/2 hours later, voila! A harvest feast is served! So easy!

Of course, before that, you have to make dressing from scratch and stuff it in the chops, slice the potatoes and roll them in melted butter, halve the squash without removing your fingers as well, and chop and season several cups of apples. The fantasy of popping dinner in the oven and going about your business has to start at just that moment, because the previous hour (maybe more!) will be spent prepping everything... and that's presuming you can actually manage to fit it into the oven and get it out again without spilling apple sauce onto the fries or accidentally flipping the squash onto the floor....

And will it all be evenly cooked? Properly browned? That's anyone's guess. It's nice to pretend the plan will work perfectly, though, just like I pretend my phone makes me more efficient when it mostly provides an extra way to watch old monster cereal commercials on YouTube.

Happy Wednesday! Enjoy your favorite electrically-powered devices!


  1. Argh! My comment got pooped up the 1sr time.

    2nd attempt: I'm disappointed that I didn't ass bacon to the acorn squash I have roasting in my oven currently

    1. I always want to buy an acorn squash in the fall. They look so autumnal that I just want to make one. I hate them, though. Something about the texture makes me gag, so I resist the urge to pick one up. I'm glad you can enjoy them (even though maybe not as much, now that you know you could have had it with bacon)!

  2. P.s. When is Frute Brute ever going to be re-re-released? Long over due in my opinion

    1. Looks like we'll just have to content ourselves with memories from 2013 for now: and are my favorites.