Saturday, January 2, 2016

Lessons from January menus, 1962

In 2014, I resolved to post a bit from Betty Crocker's Cooking Calendar at the beginning of each month. I kind of missed having a book to return to each month in 2015, so I decided to pick a new one for 2016. That means this year I am treating you to this beauty:

Glamour Magazine's New After Five Cookbook (Beverly Pepper, revised 1963) gives four weeks of menus for each month. Each week starts with a list of ingredients for the week's worth of quick dinners (mostly for two; for four on Sundays), then menus and recipes, spanning from Sunday to Friday. This format is supposed to appeal to "the working girl who comes home after five o'clock, to face the problem of preparing a meal for her husband or companion." (I like that this leaves a space for other sorts of arrangements with the "companion" option. Even though the "working girl" is still responsible for dinner, at least she's not necessarily married to whoever else she may be cooking for.) (She still can't be completely on her own, though....)

Anyway, at the beginning of each month, we'll look at a few menus for that month. This time I'm starting with Monday:

Starting a dinner with soup is a great idea in January-- but do we really want to mix cans of condensed black bean soup and asparagus soup with milk and a bit of liquid from cooked lima beans, then split the mess between two people? (And I like beans at least as much as anyone else, but a side of lima beans with a can of black bean soup? That's a recipe for an-- ahem-- aromatic evening.)

Serve that big mass of beans with strips of beef liver and a salad composed of onion, oranges, and black olives for a memorable evening. (Yeah, you can try to forget, but I have a feeling this menu will stick with you for a while.)

On Tuesday:

I'm not sure what makes "Nebraska Pork Pie" either Nebraskan or a pie, but it's definitely pork, with bacon slices on the bottom, pork chops in the middle, and "slivers of fat cut from pork chops" on the top. The potatoes here are canned, sliced potatoes, cooked under the chops, so it's definitely not a shepherd's pie. The topping is a sprinkle of bread crumbs with a touch of cheese, so that's not much of a crust. Maybe the bacon strips count as a bottom crust to transform this into a pie? Maybe Nebraskans have no idea what a pie is, so Beverly Pepper could call anything a pie as long as she claimed it was from Nebraska?

Serve with defrosted string beans and sliced artichoke hearts in French dressing. For dessert: bananas baked in half a can of crushed pineapple!

Are things looking up by Wednesday?

It depends on what your definition of "looking up" is. The soup may be marginally better than Monday's, mixing pea soup with bouillon and liquid from canned corn. I'm pretty sure the Ham Vegetable Loaf sounds pretty repellent to most of you, mixing ground ham with cottage cheese, shredded carrots, onion, egg, and seasonings, but I have to admit that it sounds WAY better than the traditional brown sugar/ vinegar/ mustard-fest to me. Seems kind of weird to serve it on English muffins, but that's a small concession for not having to deal with that disgusting glaze.... Plus, salad is mercifully mixed greens!

Finally, our Thursday menu for January:

This time, cooks get to dump canned cream of pea soup with a touch of butter, cheese, and whipped cream over toast and sauteed sweetbreads. The salad is once again orange and onion, this time with Italian dressing.

I'm not sure what to make of the peach betty. It sounds like it would be pretty soupy unless this is calling for a can of peach pie filling, which doesn't seem to be the case.... I think I'd skip the extra steps and just have the peaches with whipped cream rather than baking them in bread slices first, but I guess that shows I would be a lousy '60s cook and companion.

Lessons from January's menus:

1. When in doubt, add canned leguminous soup.
2. Salads normally consist of a random collection of canned and/or frozen veggies, onions, and/or oranges, preferably marinated in dressing.
3. Organ meats are our friends. Bonus points if they can be combined with canned soup.
4. If you feel sophisticated, dessert is cheese with fresh fruit or crackers.
5. If you feel cozy, dessert is something baked with canned fruit.

Happy January! Go open a few cans!


  1. Happy new year! Cheers to organ meat & canned soup 😎

    1. Hip, hip, hoor-- ah, forget about it. ;-)