Saturday, February 27, 2016

Quickie Confetti 'n' Meatballs

Sorry to run quickies two weekends in a row, but I unfortunately have to do things besides look through old cookbooks once in a while. I have a brand new influx of papers from my primary and job, and my secondary job that usually takes about 4 hours a week has kept me busy for 20+ hours this past week, so... yeah. This is gonna be another quickie. (At least I can transform those extra hours into more cookbooks later!)

Appropriately enough, I've chosen Better Homes and Gardens After Work Cook Book (1974, though mine is a third printing from 1975). To raise my overworked spirits, I picked the retro-est looking recipe I could:

Confetti Meatball Supper is a beauty: veggie-flecked rice ring filled with meatballs, a few artfully rolling away down the side. It's basking in its natural habitat: track lighting and a field of '70s houseplants. It's... it's indescribably beautiful.

And what is this baby made of? I'll bet you can guess (especially considering the caption gives away its canny secrets):

Canned cheese soup, "catsup," instant onion, and Worcestershire make a "gravy" for the canned meatballs.

The ring is instant rice with a can of mixed vegetables and some chopped canned pimiento. That's some very festive confetti. (Now I'm imagining throwing rice ring at the newlyweds after their wedding, and you can see why nobody ever invites me anywhere.)

I love that this is basically a dump-it-all-together, heat-it-up, and dump-it-back-out-onto-a-plate recipe, but it still goes to the trouble of quickly molding the rice into a little volcano and presenting it on a platter with a saucy caldera. Even though the recipe could be a real quickie, the cook puts in at least enough effort that everyone can pretend it's something special (until they taste it, anyway).

That's some real after-work love. Have more fun this weekend than I will!

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

A Wall of Walnuts

I couldn't find a year of publication for the "To Win New Cooking Fame: Just Add Walnuts" pamphlet, but the sources I can find suggest it's from the 1920s or '30s, and that looks about right to me. What do you think?

The pastel-ish color of the food drawings and the disembodied, somehow art-deco-ish looking hand dropping walnuts onto the subtitle confirm my suspicions. The walnuts split open to reveal their "brains" are, of course, timeless.

The booklet has plenty of actually tasty-sounding recipes, as the candies, layer cake, pancakes, bread, and rolls on the cover suggest, so you know I am heading straight for the salad chapter.

Why settle for another loaf of banana walnut bread when there is a shiny, pink Walnut and Salmon Salad to "admire"?

It's loaded up with vinegar, canned salmon, chopped cabbage, walnuts, and plenty of sugar and lemon juice to make up for the oversight of not simply starting with lemon-flavored gelatin.

If you're getting sick of gelatin salads (and if you are, then what the hell are you doing here?), there's always the excellent alternative of the stuffed pepper:

Yes, Pepper and Grapefruit Salad! It's perfect for when your green peppers feel naked if they're seen without their grapefruit, celery, and walnut accessories, all frosted with mayonnaise and topped with more walnuts. (I'd prefer for my green peppers to feel okay with being strippers. There's no shame in running around nude, especially when this is the alternative.)

And of course, when people were concerned about economy, there was a whole section for "Main Course Dishes":

A big, lettuce-engirded Walnut Vegetable Loaf doesn't look too bad. I am contractually obligated to love those white steam geysers springing from random spots on the loaf, along with the hint of painted flowers along the plate's rim. The reality, of course, is as bland as these loaves tend to be:

Bread crumbs, celery, carrots, walnuts, canned peas or string beans, bound with eggs and seasoned with a whole eighth of a teaspoon of pepper and a bit of Worcestershire is not likely to inspire anyone to come running when ma rings the dinner bell. I'm having trouble imagining even the dog being too enthusiastic when little Shirley tries to make her serving disappear under the table.

The Walnut Sausage has a little more promise. At least people expect some kind of flavor from sausage:

Even though this is full of bland bread crumbs and rice, it still may have a hint of flavor: two whole teaspoons of sage, plus paprika, salt, celery seed, and minced onion... I'm sure the "crisp bacon as garnish" doesn't hurt either, although it kind of puzzled me. I thought the recipe might be offered for Catholics on Friday or even early vegetarians, but the mention of bacon means it may just be meant as a stretcher for the more expensive breakfast meat. So much for my theories.

Happy Wednesday! And maybe if I'm feeling generous someday, I'll let you see the Walnut Doughnuts, Maple Walnut Wafers, or Devil's Food Walnut Cake. Today I'll just devilishly leave you with a steaming slice of Vegetable Walnut Loaf.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Food or road kill?

I have an enormous [electronic] stack of pop culture analyses to grade this weekend, so I pulled out the enormous Good Housekeeping's Cook Books collection (1958) and steered to the "Quick 'n' Easy" booklet for some quick inspiration.

This thing was staring back at me:

What the heck? At first I thought it might be splattered spaghetti sauce with olive green eyes glaring up at me, but it seemed a little too shiny and red to be tomato sauce. My mind tiptoed up to uncooked organ meats being prepared, but then I saw the apple in the background... and besides, the yellowish swirl around the edges would have to be pus or fat for that image to work, and not even a food stylist this scary is going to leave that in the picture.

So in the end, yes, this is the least scary of all options I considered: a gelatin salad in non-molded form:

The eyes are just seedless grapes, and the pus/ fat is Speedy Custard Sauce. The sauce could still be a little scary, though. The book lists several possibilities, but my favorite is to mix a can of baby food custard with a third of a cup whipped cream. Surprise! Top your dessert with baby food mousse.

Have a weekend that tastes better than it looks.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Some Florida sunshine for mid-February blahs

Winter had mostly been kind this year-- I was walking outside in light spring jackets earlier this month!-- but now it really feels like winter. Ugh! So I'm warming up today with the Debbie-Rand Cook Book (compiled by the Debbie-Rand* Memorial Service League for Boca Raton Community Hospital, 1973).

Just the colors should warm you up. The whole book is pink. For serious.

But it also has plenty of tropical-ish recipes to make you think of warm weather. This first one had me a bit perplexed:
What is a calamondin? I had no idea when I spotted this recipe. It's a hybrid between mandarin oranges and kumquats-- sour fruit, sweet edible peel-- used for marmalade, a lemonade-like drink, and apparently cakes with lemon Jell-O in them! Just look at that recipe and tell me you don't feel at least a little warmer.

There are plenty of chilly desserts to make you think of summer on the patio, too. A few are surprisingly modern-seeming:

Okay, you're probably more likely to see all sugar or sugar and agave syrup rather than corn syrup today, but avocado desserts are definitely popular right now. I'm not sure anyone has ever found a better way to describe avocado sherbet than Missy Engel, though, as her version "is pale, jade green..... smooth..... unctuous..... witty..... but never forward..... a delightful, unusual dessert, served with champagne." Makes me wish I could have avocado sherbet and champagne on the patio (okay, it's actually back porch so small I can't fully open my cheap folding chaise lounge on it) without shoveling the snow off first.

Other cold desserts are a bit more puzzling:

I'm not sure what makes a mix of (dairy-free!) bananas, orange juice, lemon juice, eggs, sugar, water, and pineapple into "double three cream," but at least now I know a google search for the term will bring up discussions of the difference between double- and triple-creme cheeses and ads for K-Y Touch 2-in-1. (Not sure how personal lubricant is related, but I'm not going to dig too deep on that one.)

The recipes are not all sweetness and light, though. Some look distinctively mid-western:

I thought only someone from Minnesota could imagine chicken breasts wrapped in bacon and baked on a bed of chipped beef under a blanket of cream of mushroom soup mixed with sour cream to be "elegant," but apparently Floridians are subject to this delusion as well.

And of course, Floridians are also well known for sometimes being a bit... ummm... shall we say, unbalanced, and it shows through even here:

Most yeast bread recipes are a little violent, asking bakers to punch down the dough between risings. Shredded Wheat Bread is the first I've seen that asks us to "knife down" the bread. I wonder if Lydie Wakefield had a few issues to work through and baking bread was cheaper than going into therapy....

Happy Wednesday, and think warm thoughts! If you're not in Florida, feel free to wish you were and/or be really glad you're not.

*And just in case you're wondering, the name "Debbie-Rand" is in memory of siblings (Debra Ann and James Randall Drummond) who died of poisoning in 1962 but may have been saved if there had been a closer hospital. The initial money for the new medical center was raised in their memory. Sorry-- I can't let your cold winter day get too cheery with thoughts of fresh citrus and avocado! You've gotta think of dead kids too. That's just how it works at Grannie Pantries: Bringing You Down Since 2013!

Saturday, February 13, 2016

I heart you forever (or at least for 50 years)!

I wanted to do something heart-themed for Valentine's day, but as I looked at heart-shaped recipes, my inner horror film fan got increasingly annoyed that the common Valentine "heart" shape is not really heart-shaped. Of course, old cookbooks have plenty of real hearts, so this Valentine's day I got you fifty years' worth of heart recipes.

The Service Cookbook (Mrs. Ida Bailey Allen, 1933) represents the '30s with Braised Calves' Hearts with Carrots:

The recipe is not much of a surprise once you've read the title: calves' hearts, carrots, and in the closest thing we get to a shocking turn: onions! You'll notice the long cooking time, common to all of today's recipes, because hearts are tough. (Way tougher than human hearts, which break pretty easily judging from country music. They're also pretty easy to literally break, too, judging from movies like Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.)

For the '40s, we have The American Woman's Cook Book (Ed. Ruth Berolzheimer, 1942) with Sweet-Sour Hearts:

Now if we say we got someone sweet and sour hearts for Valentine's day, that usually means a specialty variation of those chalky conversation hearts, but in the '40s it meant actual veal hearts cooked in vinegar, sugar, and onion. (I'm not quite sure which of those options would be worse...)

Things get very organ-y in the '50s, with Picture Cook Book (Time Incorporated, 1958):

Veal Heart and Red Wine Stew also boasts veal kidneys and pork liver, along with the wine, celery, parsley, and mushrooms. The wine probably makes this the most Valentine-appropriate of the bunch, but I personally would not want to spend the holiday dicing organ meats.

The Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book (1965) is much more economical:

Chicken-Fried Heart looks more like it is braised than chicken-fried to me. This recipe does start with frying the meat that has been dredged in flour, but the step after that for chicken-fried steak is to eat it. Here, the heart is cooked in hot water for two hours after the frying, so I doubt it tastes particularly chicken fried by the time it's done. Maybe it tastes kind of like someone briefly thought about chicken-frying it and then realized that was a bad idea?

My last heart for you is from The Wise Encyclopedia of Cookery (1971):

Beef Heart with Rice Stuffing fills the heart with rice, onions, raisins(!), egg, and seasonings, then sews it up and simmers it in seasoned water with tomatoes. While I love recipes that double as craft projects, I'm not sure an afternoon sewing up a heart would be my idea of fun....

So there you have it-- fifty years of heart recipes, whether you wanted them or not! Happy Valentine's Day from the worst gift-giver ever. ;-)

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Cans, cans, cans, sour cream, and cans

What's for dinner? If you're like me, you may not normally know until about two minutes before you start fixing it. The women of 1963 tended to plan ahead a little better, judging by Grace White's What's for Dinner? Meal-Planning Cookbook.

The claim that it is a complete guide to meal-planning makes sense. Most of the recipes are listed as part of a set menu.

Convenient? By 1960s standards, it probably is. Many of the recipes call for convenience foods, and a lot of the menu plans stress how little work there is to do once all the prep is done. (Of course, sometimes the prep is pretty substantial, but that somehow doesn't seem to count.)

Creative? I'm not sure about that. The menus are all set, and the recipes don't usually list variations to fit a family's tastes or available ingredients. The only possible claim to creativity is the listing of a few "Nice to Add" recipes, untethered to any specific menu, padding the last page or two of each chapter. If you're feeling super-creative, you can throw a gem like this into the dinner rotation:

Yep-- cans of condensed consomme congealed in the fridge and layered with barely-spiced sour cream is sure to make any dinner an adventure. Garnish with a thin slice of radish if you feel particularly wild.

Most of the menus have a theme. Snowing out and you don't feel like picking up any groceries? Your theme can be "High Style 'On-Hands'":

Raid the pantry for onions, radishes, biscuit mix, and cans of applesauce, luncheon meat, sweet potatoes, and blueberry pie filling, and dinner will be on the table in no time! Or at least 30 minutes of baking time plus however much prep time you take... which is basically the same thing as no time in '60s cooking terms.

Just for fun, let's check out the main course, Dixie Dandy:

Dixie Dandy: It's the red-orangiest! A perfect flotilla of apricot/mustard-slathered, clove-studded canned meat cubes on a sea of applesauce amidst sweet potato waves.

I think it's making me a little seasick....

I wasn't sure how to finish this post off, so here's a little something that shows the cookbook's fixation on weird parfaits in a perfectly '60s way:

Canned fruit cocktail, miniature marshmallows, and sour cream! It's '60s "salad" admitting it's really dessert by dressing in an ice cream cone.

(Plus I can't resist any mention of tutti-frutti because of my love of Rob Zombie films... If you're interested in a very vulgar, NSFW clip that would definitely not get played in the '60s, click.)

Have a great Weird Parfait Wednesday!

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Corn and dogs for a crowd

It's Super Bowl weekend! I think! I am not exactly a sports fan but the buildup has reached the point that even I have noticed it, so this thing must be pretty soon. I have no interest in the actual game but want an excuse to party, so every year I make some Morningstar Farms "wings" and watch a movie that could be considered thematically appropriate if you squint at it hard enough. One year it was Australian horror movie Razorback about a wild boar on a rampage in the outback. People call footballs pigskins, right? So a pig movie fits.

Since this is a big party weekend, I thought I'd dip back into Good Housekeeping's Cook Books (1958) "Company Meals and Buffets" booklet to see what it recommended to feed to a crowd. The answer appears to be hot dogs and corn-- lots of hot dogs and corn. (Sorry the recipes are photos rather than scans-- the book is too big to lay flat on a scanner and I don't want to cut it up!)

If you want to defy the early February date and pretend you're having a beach party, Weiner-Corn-and-Potato Bake is the way to go. It requires baking massive amounts of corn, white and sweet potatoes, and hot dogs together and drenching the whole thing with butter and parsley. This actually sounds pretty good-- a bit of summer in the middle of winter.

If you want to acknowledge that it's still winter and warm everyone up with a steaming hot bowl of comfort food, there's Corn-Doggie Chowder: creamed corn, bacon, potatoes, and again, a whole mess of hot dogs.

Or, if you want to go the totally bizarre route (as always, my favorite), there's the Club-Supper Quickie: enough franks, onions, canned spaghetti, canned corn, and Parmesan cheese to feed a whole army of fans with empty bellies and no taste buds!

Have a happy Super Bowl weekend-- just avoid getting buried under pounds and pounds of weiners!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

February After Five

It's the beginning of the month, so that means it's time for a few February suggestions from Glamour Magazine's New After Five Cookbook (1963)!

So what could our working girl and her husband or companion expect to try this month?

On some Tuesday night, they could have Cheese & Eggs Italian, a fancy way of saying eggs cooked in casserole dishes under a thin layer of ketchup. The Italian-ness of topping eggs with ketchup and Cheddar cheese is an open question, but apparently using olive oil (rather than butter) to grease the dishes is all that's  necessary for this to claim the title.

The dubiously-Italian dinner gets topped off with a mashup of an American classic dessert and a playground/ nursing home staple: apple tapioca! Why turn that can of sliced apples into a pie (or for speed, a crisp or cobbler) when it can be heated up under a package of instant tapioca?

On a Wednesday, the two might eat up a melange of leftovers:

The Beef Bouillon Melange is actually a mix of three soups: a leftover mix of canned tomato and black bean soups from the previous day's dinner and bouillon to thin it out today.

The Oriental Omelet really goes for broke with leftovers, incorporating leftover flounder from Monday (because who doesn't want two-day-old fish mixed into eggs?), leftover rice and peas from Tuesday, AND leftover spinach from Sunday. This unholy mix is "Oriental" because it has rice and a whole teaspoon of soy sauce!

A better Wednesday night might bring this:

The chicken livers are all fancy because they are "en brochette" (on skewers) with bacon, and the canned mushrooms are fancy because they're sauteed in a pan with a little butter and sherry! Plus the French dressing has some Gorgonzola cheese crumbled in it and the canned cherries are set on fire! That is one classy Wednesday night!

Friday could be seafood night:

Cod Lyonnaise w. Vegetables is another name that tries to make dinner sound more exciting than it really is: frozen fish heated with canned veggies. The Maryland Salad (mayo with chopped olives and parsley over greens) and pineapple sponge (canned pineapple on sponge cake shells) seem easy enough, but the thing that really gets me is the Southern Biscuits. Apparently to make refrigerated biscuits "southern," one just has to "tuck a pinch of grated lemon or orange peel into each." So simple! And southern cooks make it sound as if biscuits are such a big deal!

Lessons from February's menus:

1. February meals start with canned soups or broths. (I'm starting to wonder if the book's author had stock in Campbell's!)
2. Canned vegetables are terrific if you just saute them in a little butter.
3. You can add an adjective like "Italian" or "Lyonnaise" to pretty much any menu item to make it seem fancier. It doesn't really matter whether the description is accurate.
4. Hot tapioca makes a unique dessert topper.
5. Say that you're serving something "en brochette" if you want to draw attention away from what kind of food it actually is....