Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Secrets, Secrets

I hate to have to be the one to tell you this, but the secret's out! I mean, it was only a matter of time once they found the picture of you with that bottle of Champagne and that pile of zucchini, eggplant, and cucumbers, until...

Ha! Just kidding. Nobody's seen those pictures but me. I meant only to refer to The Secret's Out-- a cookbook put together by the United Methodist Women in Reseda, California, in 1976. (And don't worry. Nobody will ever know what you were drunkenly doing with those defenseless vegetables, at least, not as long as your payments arrive on time. If they don't, well, I can't be responsible for what might slip out.)

Ahem. Anyway, California has a reputation for healthy, trendy cooking with fresh ingredients, but it seems not to have applied so much to '70s Reseda.

Well, maybe "trendy" could apply to this cookie recipe:

After all, Pringle's Cookies call for a cup of crushed "Pringle's new fangled potato chips" right after the snacks became nationally available. Even so, this can't exactly pretend to be following a health-related trend!

If doughnuts sound like a fatty indulgence that Californians should stereotypically reject (unless maybe the doughnuts are vegan, gluten-free, and filled with an artisanal jam made of organic berries), this recipe doubles down on its carefree attitude toward decadent eating:

Doughnuts aren't real doughnuts unless they're made with whipped cream, mashed potatoes, eight egg yolks, and a whole pound of sugar.

Perhaps what I like best about this recipe is that it is so much more focused on telling a story than on explaining how to make the actual doughnuts. More lines are devoted to the story of Anna Eliza Bennett and her daughter Florence than to the actual recipe itself. You better have a pretty good idea how to cook doughnuts, because there is no instruction past "Twist or cut out with doughnut cutter."

The United Methodist Women were busy adapting somewhat popular recipes, but they didn't seem to be doing it by adding local avocados and almonds, or the newest trendy greens. When these ladies wanted to make a new version of Chicken Parmesan, this is what they made:

Yep! In Parmesan Franks, they swapped out the chicken breast for hot dogs! Not exactly a move I would have anticipated, but I like the mental picture of breading and frying hot dogs, then layering them with pizza sauce and cheese.

We may argue that this group anticipated the bacon craze of the 2000s...

...but Bacon and Egg Casserole looks much more like a mid-century, mid-western staple. Packed with not only bacon, but also potato chips, canned cheese soup, canned mushroom soup, grated cheddar, and dried onion soup mix, this promises to be an oily salt lick of the highest order.

Some recipes did hint that forward-thinking churchwomen knew the times would be changing, though:

The name "Jell-O (Sort of) Salad" suggests that Barbara Paul knew the days were numbered for mixing Jell-O and Cool Whip with some canned fruit and cottage cheese and referring to it as a salad. She still couldn't resist the impulse, of course, but she knew there was something off about it.

I guess the United Methodist Women's secret was that even though they lived in California, they were West Virginians and Minnesotans at heart.

And YOUR secret will remain your secret as long as those payments keep on coming. *Evil grin*


  1. This cookbook paid for itself! It has everything: "salad", oddly placed veggies, and new fangaled chips

    1. I looked it up, and "Pringle's Newfangled Potato Chips" was the original marketing name. I thought maybe the recipe writer was trying to be funny, but being newfangled was apparently a selling point.

  2. I'm actually really intrigued by the idea of putting potato chips in cookies. I think I'm going to have to try that. (Not likely Pringles, though. Ick.)

    1. Potato chip cookie recipes are actually semi-common in the old community cookbooks. I tried a version (not with Pringles) a few years ago, and they actually weren't bad. The extra salt from the chips gave them a bit of a pop.