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.


  1. My dander just got raised! Cream of mushroom soup on lasagne?! Excuse, I need to expel my food out of my tummy

    BTW, are you shopping on etsy for more AMAZING halloween socks? Do it, you know you want to :D

    1. Yeah-- cream of mushroom soup has NO BUSINESS in lasagna!

      I just pick up socks whenever I see them in a store. I never thought of Etsy. You may have just started me down a dangerous road! ;-)