Wednesday, January 6, 2016

The BIG pictures

Today is a treat because I can post about a book I've been putting off for quite a while:

Life's Picture Cook Book (1958, but mine is from the second printing, 1959) is a monster! A 9x13 baking dish is small by comparison. I never posted about this because I wanted nice scans of the pages and my scanner was way too small for the job.

I got a new all-in-on printer for Christmas, one with a SERIOUS scanning bed, so I knew it was finally time to bust this baby out!

I love, love, love this book for the late '50s/ early '60s illustrations. Just the pages in the front cover give a sense of the book's feel:

If you don't love black-and-one-color silhouettes, then I don't know why you're even looking at this blog.

Where else will you see a teal lobster, a harvest gold dutch oven, a bottle of Chianti against an avocado backdrop, brown pheasants and ducks behind a black gun silhouette, and a robin's egg blue pineapple? (That's a rhetorical question, but if you do have an actual answer that is something besides "The inside cover of your book," let me know!)

There are TONS of full-color photographs inside. Some of them seem a bit surreal:

If I title this The Persistence of Fried Rice with Ascending Dragons, I can almost convince myself that Salvador Dali had a brief stint as a food photographer....

Some of the pictures make me think more of horror movies than of dinner.

The duck hanging upside-down behind the various platters of duck-based dishes is described as "decorative," but I'm sure I'm not the only one shuddering when I look at this. I imagine even hunters would prefer not to see those roughed-up feathers and coldly curled webbed feet threatening to topple into their dinner...

Duck viewers, of course, may even mistake this for the dinner scene from Louisiana Twelve-Gauge Massacre, expecting Featherface to show up at any minute....

And just in case you think the theme of "trophy food dangling limply over its prepared compatriots" theme is limited to animals, let me set you straight:

Yep! It's heads on pikes! Right over bowls full of their dismembered buddies! Okay, they're heads of lettuce, along with bunches of other greens and green onions, but I can't get past the idea of heads on pikes.

(You get a sense of how enormous this book is, too. I couldn't even fit two full pages side-by-side in my massive new scanner...)

Since the editors want this to be seen as a relatively sophisticated collection, there is of course the requisite selection of flaming foods:

If you want fire, we have everything from a flaming fruitcake (top row, second from left-- and suggesting a great idea to re-purpose that fruitcake you didn't want: use it instead of a log on the fire!) to flaming punch and sundaes (far right, top), to flaming duck (far right, front). My favorite is almost dead center: a cabbage covered in meatballs with flame shooting out of the center. What kind of occasion calls for flaming cabbage covered in meat balls? A St. Patrick's Day celebration in Sweden? An occasion on which Cabbage Patch dolls are sacrificed to appease a volcano god? Your guess is as good as mine, but if you do think of such an occasion, here is the recipe:

Here's hoping your Wednesday doesn't go down in flames or get impaled on a pike!


  1. Wow! I'm a bit speechless. I don't want to make fun of this book for fear of Featherface coming after me!

    1. That is definitely someone you don't want to run into!

  2. Congratulations on your new "toy" Poppy! I've been meaning to get a new scanner but I just haven't gotten around to it yet, lol...

    I can honestly say I have never seen this "unusual" book before. I'm so surprised to see that it was put out by Life. What were they thinking or, could it just be a sign of a different time.

    Whatever the case, the Meatballs on Flaming Cabbage just takes the cake!!!

    Thanks for sharing, Poppy...

    P.S. Keep these cookbooks coming, I'm trying to decide on whether to bring Cookbook Wednesdays back but I want to check with Marjie first:)

    1. I'm on board if you want to keep up the Cookbook Wednesdays!

      I've only seen this book once. I wonder if its unpopularity might be due to its size-- it really is difficult to fit the book anywhere! The pictures alone should make it more popular than it is...

  3. I thought Canned Hear was the name of a band. You could / can actually buy that? Genius, wonder if I can get some on eBay for my flaming cabbage!

    1. You must not be a caterer, camper, or doomsday prepper! They are the main audiences for canned heat... Well, them and a lot of '70s fondue enthusiasts. (Fondusiasts?)