Wednesday, September 28, 2016

October Tricks and Treats

October! The month I look forward to all year because I imagine I will fill it with horror movies, cemetery walks, and time playing with stuff on my Dinosaur Dracula-inspired Halloween mood table. (I will, in actuality, spend the majority of it grading papers because fall is the busy season for adjuncts. If I'm super-lucky, I may actually get to watch The Texas Chainsaw Massacre or House of 1000 Corpses rather than just leaving them on for atmosphere as I work on lesson plans, but October will most definitely NOT be the month I always dream it will be.)

Of course, the new month means a return visit to Beverly Pepper and Glamour Magazine's New After Five Cookbook (1963). What does this book envision for October?

If we're going for genuine scares, this Tuesday menu is the one that would make my hair stand on end:

Start with liver, then throw in a hefty dose of that Styrofoam/ dental floss hybrid known as celery dressed up with sour cream to make it look as if it should be edible. End with broiled battery acid, I mean grapefruit, and then poke yourself in the eye with a sharp stick while you're at it, just to prove that the day could indeed get worse. (I'll rate this one American Psycho for being thoroughly misanthropic.)

For those who just like surprises for Halloween, this Wednesday menu might fit the bill:

Surprise! I didn't pick it because it sounded completely terrible.. only partly. I chose it because the regional names that Pepper seems so fond of throwing around actually kind of fit the recipes for a change. Sure, Bayou Chicken and Rice does feature canned chicken, but it actually does ask for regionally-appropriate ingredients like the holy trinity of green peppers, celery, and onions, as well as okra and Tabasco. I was shocked-- shocked!-- to see that this had even a passing resemblance to bayou cooking. Of course, it's supposed to be served with hot muffins rather than biscuits, but the Southern Compote dessert ties into the hot weather theme with some tropical fruit. (I'll rate this one Hatchet for being set in a bayou.)

If you're just interested in October for the chance to trick or treat, then this menu might be appropriate:

Think you're getting a savory hamburger? Tropical Hamburgers are a trick or a treat, depending on how you feel about the old fruit-and-meat combination. If you've ever wanted to know what hamburger bulked out with a mashed banana would taste like, this recipe is your chance. Just be sure to serve it rare, because banana-y ground beef is apparently best if it's still bleeding. Serve with sauteed zucchini and you can pretend your side is some slimy green alien that you have to eat before it eats you. (Obviously, I have to rate this one Trick 'r Treat.)

If you like a little old-school scare mixed with a little weird, then this last menu might be for you:

The tomato juice starter is a classic for would-be vampires to drink to gross out their middle-school peers, and the weird comes in with Lamb Puppies on Carrots. What are lamb puppies? Luckily, it's not lamb mixed with Labrador. Neither is it hush puppies that somehow involve lamb, which is what I was kind of hoping for. Lamb Puppies apparently consist of a bread crumb/ veggie mix sandwiched between slices of leftover lamb (from a leg cooked earlier in the week). How these  meaty sandwiches are puppies and why they like to spend their time atop a bed of defrosted carrots is anybody's guess. (I'll rate this The Island of Dr. Moreau for its weird hybrid animal, even if it is not (to our knowledge) hybrid with a human as well.)

What have we learned for October?
  1. Spinach salad can be great, but advising readers to use "washed" spinach (Washed only in scare quotes? I'd prefer it to be washed in water...) to make such a salad suddenly makes it sound much less appealing. 
  2. Even though I always assume "tropical" in vintage recipes means "with canned pineapple," it sometimes means "with mashed banana."
  3. It would be fun to claim that the first Tuesday menu helped originate this phrase, but Looney Tunes are older than the cookbook (and they borrowed it from even older sources)....
  4. Adding "puppies" to the name of any meat will immediately make the dish sound scarier. Anybody up for pork puppies? Turkey puppies? Salmon puppies?
  5. I will use any pretext to cram a little more Halloween fun into October.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Funny Name: Insulted by the Cookbook Edition

I only have one thing to say to the Woman's Day Collector's Cook Book (1960):

Bok You Too!

For a note on Funny Name Saturdays, click here.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Minutes of Fun!

Psst! Got a minute?

People in the 1970s couldn't spend a few extra minutes looking up their favorite Rick and Morty clips on YouTube, so Pillsbury's Creative Cooking in Minutes (ed. Diane Hennessy King, 1971) suggested they spend those minutes cooking up creative meals.

My favorite thing about the meals may be that they look just sooo '70s.

Rust and orange as far as the eye can see! I think my mom upholstered our couch in a print resembling that picture at one point.

Can it get more early-'70s than brown food in an avocado electric skillet? Now if it just came with a salad with green goddess dressing and maybe a dessert fondue, we'd be all set...

A lot of the recipes themselves tend to be on the throw-a-few-convenience-foods-together side. Need a snack?

Mexi-Shake Snacks are nothing more than a can of shoestring potatoes shaken with a little taco dip mix. The recipe notes you can also make Sawdust-Shake Snacks by shaking the shoestring potatoes with a little of that powdery Parmesan cheese dust instead. (Okay, they don't technically admit it's sawdust-y, but they should.)

Need a quick, easy, and cheap dinner for when the Mexi-Shakes run out?

Crunchy Luncheon Loaf has got you covered! Just blend cottage cheese and most of a can of French fried onions into a few servings of mashed potatoes from a mix, then use it to stuff and surround a can of luncheon meat. Top off with the rest of the onions and maybe some pineapple slices if you feel extra crazy.

I know the ingredients are all real items that at least some people enjoy, but a corner of my mind is fully convinced that this is a recipe for play food, like if a cookbook had a recipe for how to make a "pie" out of Play-Doh. A lot of '70s cookbooks complain about rising food prices, though, so I imagine plenty of families were glad to throw this together and, as grandma would say, call it good.

And now to end this menu with a suitably scary dessert:

Light and Lazy Mint Whip answers the question "What happens when you mix a bunch of dinner mints with some whipped topping and leftover cake or lady fingers?" The answer is, apparently, dessert. I can't quite imagine what this would be like. I assume the recipe is referring to the pastel-ly mint pillows. Would the mints have time to dissolve? Would they still add a weird little powdery crunch? I'm pretty sure the whole mess gives diners an idea of what dessert would taste like if it had been accidentally dropped in grandma's purse...

As I finish this book, I realize the recipes are exactly what I imagined cooking to be like when I was four years old: mix a bunch of random packages together, maybe heat or freeze the resulting mashup, then serve it to other people to see how they react.... Now I can guess why mom preferred reupholstery to cooking.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Introducing Funny Name Saturdays

Note to reader(s): I teach part-time at multiple schools, and this fall semester I have a lot more schools and classes than usual. I thought of cutting the blog back to once a week since I just won't have much time to work on it, but I didn't really want to do that. Then I realized I have lots of recipes with funny names, but I don't always post them because I don't have much to say beyond "Hey! That's a funny name!" (Well, maybe not as funny as Turd Ferguson. Now that's a funny name.) So rather than cutting back, I'm instating "Funny Name Saturdays." They'll be short because I don't have a lot to say about the recipes, but they'll save me from having to cut back to one post a week. Some Saturdays might still get full posts if I have the time-- we'll see-- but you can at least count on a funny name to make you smile every weekend.

Our first funny name post is not a particularly unusual appetizer recipe, but I love the name Pillsbury's Creative Cooking in Minutes (ed. Diane Hennessy King, 1971) gave it:

Wiener Daffle! (Okay, brown gravy mix with apple or currant jelly and catsup sounds repulsive to me, but I know plenty of people would think this is a reasonable combination...)

There's even a picture for this one:

Pure orange-y '70s goodness!

Happy Wiener Daffle Weekend!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Sandwiches that give you that sinking filling... I mean, feeling.

In elementary school, I could be perfectly happy to take the same lunch every day: peanut butter and butter (I didn't like the main course to be too sweet, so I had a little salty butter instead of the stereotypical jelly with my p.b.), carrot sticks, raisins, and a homemade cookie. I didn't even like raisins, so they were literally the same raisins every day. My mom would dutifully pack them so I'd have fruit in my lunch and I'd bring them back home every afternoon like they were some kind of a sticky charm to be carried around for luck.

Most people like a bit more variety in their lunches, though, a fact The Lunch Box Cookbook (Melanie de Proft, 1955) capitalized on.

For some reason, it feels to me as if everything on the cover is set out to make it look as if they're getting ready for a picnic-- a carefree day of chicken, olive cups, deviled eggs, and cupcakes on the beach. Who has the time to lay it all out like party prep when it's more likely to be a rush to get everybody ready for days of construction work or repeating "One plus one is two. Two plus two is four..."  while trying not to get swatted with a ruler?

No, the book insists lunch prep is a joyous occasion. Just check out the dancing lunch boxes:

They are waaay too happy at the prospect of being schlepped back and forth between work or school and home every day. I would not be smiling at the thought of getting banged around on the school bus or stuffed into a stinky locker.

The lunch box on the middle left must have been easy to pack, though, since it's apparently for someone who eats nothing but a full loaf of bread every day.

The recipes are mostly pretty standard: navy bean soup, cornbread squares, brownies or molasses crinkles for the treat compartment. The real drama is in the sandwich fillings. As far as this book is concerned, a sandwich can be filled with any mix of random foodstuffs and a dressing to lubricate them. (Most ingredients for fillings are listed sans instructions. The note admonishing readers to "Assemble all ingredients and blend filling mixtures lightly but thoroughly" at the beginning of the chapter is as specific as it gets.)

Ever wished for some soggy bread stuffed with cottage cheese and pickle relish?

Voila! I know there are plenty of bacon aficionados out there, but I'm not sure any are devoted enough to argue that some crisp bacon crumbles would be enough to save this mess.

I was (and remain) a peanut butter fiend, but I suspect Hearty Peanut Butter Filling would have put me right off my beloved spread:

Deviled ham with green pepper, dressing, and onion is not my thing, but I understand some people think it's fine. I'm not sure anybody thinks peanut butter and deviled ham salad is the next hottest couple after peanut butter and chocolate, though.

It looks as if this recipe tries to tap into pop culture to draw in the kiddies, but I'm not buying it:

What makes this Superman's delight? The spinach makes me think this should have been Popeye's Delight, but someone in the editing department half-remembered that some cartoon character somewhere liked spinach and just assumed it must be Superman since that was the only name that came to mind. (I could be wrong on this, since I'm not a huge Superman fan. Correct me if there is some tip-off that this is actually Superman-themed and not the '50s cookbook equivalent of Marge Simpson declaring "I'm a Star Wars!" as she holds a vaguely Vader-esque paper plate mask to her face.)

Next we have a picture of bread being assaulted with one of the more-dubious fillings. Can you guess what this goop is based on a black-and-white photo that hides half of it behind the butter knife and the woman's hands anyway?

No? I imagine the spread was actually pinkish instead of gray, and know that the little crock of pickles on the side is not a clue. It's just an innocent bystander.

Give up?

It's Salami-Kidney Bean Filling! The perfect solution for when you have extra kidney beans and figure you might as well mash them up with salami, chili sauce, onion, and mustard.

I've saved what might be the worst for last. This one may not be the worst tasting (although I wouldn't be willing to bet on that, either)....

...but Prune-Raisin Filling might be the one that set the record for sending kids home in humiliation. Give a first grader a sandwich full of prunes and an afternoon with Miss Hooper's extreme skepticism about whether kids really need to go to the bathroom or just want an excuse to screw around in the hallway for five minutes, and that first grader is in for a very bad afternoon indeed.

I can think of one situation in which I'd endorse these recipes, though. Any kid who was regularly a victim of lunch-stealing would do well to pack some of these fillings for a week. A few days of peanut butter with deviled ham or prune-raisin madness, and no bully is going to try to finagle that kid's lunches again. 

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Seeing Red

I may actually bake a cake (or some cupcakes) for someone's birthday this week-- the one time a year I make cake. Some years it's a classic Betty Crocker Brownie Cake (sans nuts), and some years it's red velvet.

Red velvet seems like a pretty standard flavor now, especially since it had a bit of a moment a year or two ago. (You know it's ubiquitous when there's an Oreo version.) A couple of my community cookbooks suggest that even though the flavor has been around for a while, the red velvet name didn't used to be so standard.

The title for the cake from (the very lengthily named) How We the Woman's Society of Christian Service Cook at South Park Methodist Church (1961) suggests one of those urban-legend-type stories about a small-town woman who naively asks a big-city restaurant for a recipe and then gets charged an obscene amount of money:

You can still find plenty of Three Hundred Dollar Cake recipes online, but all the ones I found were for chocolate cakes-- not red velvet. Maybe South Park Methodist Church really valued red food coloring? Unfortunately, they didn't seem to value the best part of red velvet cake (or maybe the only good part?)-- the cream cheese icing!

When I saw the title of this recipe in Very Tastefully Yours (Clark County Extension Homemakers' Clubs, 1977), I thought it might contain apples, nuts, and, if unsuspecting diners were truly unlucky, celery:

Waldorf Cake is not at all like Waldorf salad, though. It's just another name for red velvet, apparently, albeit another one with plain old vanilla icing.

What seemed even odder is that both collections listed another cake featuring a different red ingredient right after their versions of red velvet cakes:

Yep-- They both list tomato soup cakes as the next recipe. The first makes me see that the absence of cream cheese icing in the Three Hundred Dollar Cake might not be quite so bad. I'm not really clamoring for raw egg yolk in my cupcake topper!

The You'll be Surprised Cake comes as much less of a surprise after Tomato Soup Cake, but to be fair, I don't think Ann Cozad realized a blogger 55 years in the future would be comparing her recipe with one in a cookbook written 16 years in the future.

Maybe I should threaten to make a tomato-soup-based cake this year instead of something cocoa-y. That would be a real birthday surprise! (One that would make the birthday boy want to feed his cake to the cats.)

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Going Down to South Park!

I'm going down to South Park. Gonna have myself a time.

Okay, maybe not that South Park:

No, I'm going to the South Park in Dayton, Ohio. How We the Woman's Society of Christian Service Cook at South Park Methodist Church, Volume II (1961) shows that 1.) South Park Methodists like really long titles and 2.) even if only one woman actually wants a society, she will get it. She can even put out her own cookbook. That's just how accommodating those Methodists are.

I love the connection between the title and the illustration as well. How do we cook? We hire a very triangular chef to do our cooking for us. I'm pretty sure that's not the intended message, but that's what it looks like...

So what do the people of South Park Methodist Church like to eat? They seem to like weird deviled eggs.

For an appetizer or salad, there's Jellied Deviled Eggs. Just make regular deviled eggs, then submerge them in celery-and-olive-filled lemon Jell-O! Yum!

If appetizer or salad course seems a little too predictable a path for deviled eggs, though, a casserole might be more your style:

Why eat a plain old casserole of peas and ham in a cheese sauce when there can be piping hot deviled eggs buried in the bottom of it?

For all their weird attachment to deviled eggs, the people of Dayton do not seem to care much for a dish nearly anyone would consider a classic...

This is the Beverages and Sandwiches chapter in its entirety. Notice anything missing? The good people of South Park Methodist do not seem to believe in sandwiches. The parable of loaves and fishes never said they put the two components together, dammit, so the Methodist ladies are not going to just assume it's okay in the eyes of God to layer bread and meat together into some unholy union. (Orange juice, lemonade, pineapple juice, and tangerine juice having a five-way with maraschino cherries is totally on the up-and-up, though, as is deviling the eggs, obviously.)

Well, I'm off to make an unholy union by sandwiching some peanut butter between some chocolates. Pray for my soul if you want, but it will be way more fun if you make your own unholy sandwich.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

September: A month of canned soup and Halloween socks

September! The month when I can finally bust out my massive collection of Halloween socks without feeling too silly. Once I'm done with a long day of classes, I can go home and decide between wearing the ones that feature toads wearing witches' hats... or the ones with Rocky Horror-style lips curled around vampire fangs... or maybe the ones with a skeleton shitting spiders (Don't ask me how that works!)... So many choices!

In the culinary realm, apples and pumpkins begin insinuating their way into everything... Well, everything except maybe Glamour Magazine's New After Five Cookbook (Beverly Pepper, 1963). As we've seen, the menus are only occasionally season-appropriate.

Okay, maybe it's a bit of a relief not to have pumpkin-everything just yet. The early fall menus try to find some kind of balance between the slowly dissipating heat and the gathering chill:

Soup and salad can do the job. When I saw Galapagos Salad, I was kind of hoping it would be one of those craft-project recipes and the salad would look like a turtle or something when it was done, but no such luck. I guess the tuna is supposed to make this mix of shredded lettuce, thawed peas, celery, radishes, and Swiss cheese marinated in French dressing seem like a trip to the Galapagos islands. And while I love soup, salad, and fresh bread together, seafood and blueberry muffins do not seem like the best pairing ever. But hey-- Blueberries may be nearing the end of the season, but they're not yet out! And the honeydew should be ripe.

Tuesday pulls a similar trick, pairing a questionably-regional dish with some food that may actually be in season:

Here, Sweetbreads with Rice Provencal seems to assume that "Provencal" is a term meaning "with a can of pea soup dumped over it." The menu then tries to atone by calling for fresh tomatoes and cucumbers in the salad as well as pairing the remaining seasonal blackberries with the freshly-arriving apples.

Another Monday tries to take away the sting of the beginning of the workweek with a comforting favorite: lasagna and bread sticks.

I love a good cheese lasagna, but the "Cheese Lasagne" here sounds pretty scary. I can't make too much of the cottage cheese in place of ricotta, as it's a trick I've been known to use myself, but mixing it with canned mushroom soup and curry powder? Layering the whole mess with Swiss cheese? Isn't there some standard of identity law to bar this from being grouped in with the heavenly pizza-like layers that the gods call lasagna?

The salad of canned beets with cucumber, French dressing, and anchovy paste does nothing to redeem this mishmash.

If the check marks are to be believed, it looks as if a cook actually made this Tuesday menu:

I'm not sure why, exactly. I can't really get behind raisins in the Mediterranean Pilaff, even if I know they are a common enough ingredient. The real kicker, though, is that the onion, garlic, tomatoes, pimientos, and lamb are joined by a fried sliced banana! I'd be sad to waste a quarter teaspoon of saffron on this.

What have we learned for September?
  1. Eggplant sounds fancier if you call it aubergine.
  2. The picture suggests you should hold onto old kitchen shears forever-- even if they've apparently been beaten out of shape by a guy with a sledgehammer.
  3. By September, canned soup (assuming that the consomme is canned too) has worked its way back into every single menu, up from a summer low of only one in four menus.
  4. If you want to get really crazy with your salad dressing, add some anchovy to the French dressing. (Using anything other than French dressing to marinate the random collections of canned and frozen ingredients herein considered salads is, of course, to be avoided.)
  5. Beverly Pepper has the good sense NOT to suggest making a salad that looks like a turtle, but I still act like I've got some right to make fun of her cookbook.