I wanted something spring-y this weekend, but we're still early enough in spring to mostly be staring at the ground and trying to will delicious things to sprout than actually enjoying any fresh delicacies. (If your mental powers allow you to sprout productive strawberry and/or raspberry plants at will from the early April ground, consider this your formal invitation to visit Chez Poppy ASAP.)
Then I remembered that there is one treat that will be popping up any day now, so I'm officially proclaiming today 'Sparagus Saturday.
I have to admit, some of the recipes I found for asparagus were not particularly exciting. The often-colorful Coastal Carolina Cooking (Women's Auxiliary to the Ocean-View Memorial Hospital in Myrtle Beach, 4th printing, 1963) offers a sad little sandwich:
A stalk of asparagus rolled up in a buttered/ be-mayo-ed slice of bread and stored in a damp towel does not sound like the type of dish that will bring too many people running-- not even the women who are used to being served dyed-pink canned pears at ladies' luncheons.
The often-scary Stuart Simmers Cook Book (The Pine Needles Mothers' Association of the Pine School, ca. early 1970s) may be even sadder:
At least I can imagine Asparagus Sandwich assumes fresh asparagus, but Easy Asparagus Casserole is just canned asparagus baked in damp bread with a little cheese on top, I guess to help distract diners from noticing how dismal this little affair really is.
To really go can-crazy, turn to the American Home All-Purpose Cookbook (Ed. Virginia T. Habeeb, 1966):
Asparagus and Cheese Soup requires two cans of condensed cream of asparagus soup and one cream of celery, plus tomato juice. The whole lot is mixed with Roquefort cheese and served cold with a crumbled bacon topper. It sounds like a salty, gloppy mess... but I imagine some people would at least be tempted to steal the bacon.
The Lutheran Ladies (The Lutheran Ladies Cookbook, 1970) decided to turn their asparagus into a more interesting centerpiece than the usual noodle or rice ring:
Perhaps the most striking thing about the mold is that it is not only a vegetable ring itself, but the instructions call for it to be filled with more vegetables-- peas and water chestnuts, to be exact. Ring recipes were usually for a carb-based ring holding back a sea of (often creamed) meat. This veggie-on-veggie action, especially in a church cookbook where rice is often considered a vegetable, shocks me maybe a bit more than it should. Apparently some Lutherans are not too opposed to eating their veggies.
The real standout of the retro asparagus dishes, though, is this gem from Favorite Recipes of Home Economics Teachers: Vegetables (Including Fruits) (1966):
Plus the dish full of nondescript gravy sitting back and watching from a safe distance.
So how can one make a an Asparagus Macaroni Loaf of one's own?
Thankfully, the asparagus is frozen rather than canned, and arranged with a little pimento cross on the bottom of the loaf pan before being topped with macaroni and cheese.
Stellar Sauce, apparently believing the primary purpose of a sauce is to lubricate, not to complement (or even really change) the flavor of the main dish, mixes some of the leftover nonfat dry milk powder with cream of celery soup and some more Gruyere.
Those home ec teachers really know how to cut loose.
Okay, maybe not. But at least now I know that cucumbers and lemons do!
Happy 'Sparagus Saturday! Get out there and will something tastier than canned cream soup or nonfat dry milk to grow in your yard.