Wednesday, November 15, 2017

A dip into Kraft

Today I'm feeling Krafty.

The Kraft Cookbook: 75 Years of Good Food Ideas (1977, though the 75th anniversary was 1978) offers plenty of food ideas. Whether they're actually good ideas depends largely on your tolerance for Velveeta/ Cheez Whiz, Kraft salad dressings, and marshmallow creme.

Some recipes take perfectly delightful traditional recipes and "modernize" them. Do you love lasagna?


How about if the ricotta is kicked out and replaced with Velveeta? The notes insist that kids will love it, but I suspect the adults will revolt...

And speaking of horrifyingly mangled traditional recipes, how about some guacamole?


Of course the guacamole has to be turned into a gelatin mold flavored with that staple of Southwest cuisine, Italian dressing, because it was the '70s! That's not enough of an indignity, though. The mold also has be filled with Mexi Bean Salad, although I have no clue what makes kidney beans in sweet pickles and French dressing Mexican. The recipe is a lot of work to ruin a couple of defenseless avocados.

The book includes plenty of highly questionable dips, spreads, and dressings. Need something festive to start a fall dinner? Try Festive Fall Fondue:


Applesauce and cinnamon in Cheez Whiz! Teens will dig it. (A lot of old cookbooks claim to be authorities on what teens will love, but I somehow doubt their expertise...)

If you want a dressing for fruit salad, just mix random sweet stuff with mayonnaise! Here are my two favorite examples of the genre:


Mayonnaise with sherbet is a classic choice, but if you want a recipe that really embodies the ethos of this book, it would be hard to do much better than this dressing:



Mayo AND marshmallow creme! If they could just work in some Velveeta, it would be the holy trinity.

Both dressings are supposed to be great on gelatin molds. (I don't think the Guacamole Ring with Mexi Bean Salad was quite the gelatin mold they had in mind, though. At least, I sure hope not!)

Besides all the dips and dressings, the book focuses on (supposedly) kid-friendly cuisine an awful lot. I suspect that some Kraft home economist hated kids just as much as I do. Take this perfectly innocuous-looking after school snack:

We have nubby, golden-brown cookies and a pitcher of a creamy orange drink, with jacks and a ball set off to the side as if the kid was so excited for snack time that the toys were simply tossed aside. The snack looks so sweet and wholesome. So what's in those cookies?


Yes, Bran Apple Cookies are part of the long and ignoble line of recipes that allow desserts to pretend to be healthy as long as there is some fruit and bran flakes hidden away in all the sugar. But look closer. Yes, there's a cup of shredded American cheese in these cookies too! A slice of good Cheddar cheese on apple pie is a polarizing issue, but who is ready to defend American cheese in bran apple cookies?

If you think the beverage must be better... well...


Sunshine Refresher is mostly orange juice. But it's mixed with marshmallow creme to give it the throat-searing sweetness kids love and raw eggs for protein/ salmonella. Someone has got a sick sense of humor if this is the after-school snack. Pretty damn Krafty.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Funny Name: Cooking for Woodland Creatures Edition

Oh, no! You're a good '60s housewife and your kids unexpectedly ask their beaver playmates to come over for lunch! What do you do? Quick & Easy Dishes (Favorite Recipes of Home Economics Teachers, 1968) is prepared for just this scenario:



Wednesday, November 8, 2017

It's a Trap!

Hey, modern girls! Are you trying to develop those cooking skills while you're working in the office until you can land Mr. Right?

If you answered "No," then Jody Cameron Malis is still happy to ignore you in The Office Cookbook (1971).

I think this book was supposed to be at least kind of liberating, aimed at "working women" to help them save up money by making their own lunches in the office on a hot plate or electric skillet rather than ordering out.

While the book has plenty of (awful) standalone recipes, by far the most interesting part of the book is the beginning, with full menus that suggest a slightly different kind of story.

A lot of them suggest the reader is... well... less than devoted to her job.


And even on days when she's not hungover, she can't be particularly good at her job:


Here's a hint: If they already think your typing is lousy, filling the office with the smell of fish and eggs (and commercially canned zucchini? I didn't even realize that was a thing, but apparently it is) is not the way to get the boss-- or anybody else, for that matter-- to think you're a real asset to the company.

Before you get too overconfident about any aspect of yourself, though, remember that you suck at everything, even cooking.


Another tip: If your idea of cooking is heating up a can of beef chow mein and dumping it over instant rice, they will totally know you can't cook.

Maybe it's best just to forget about the work and concentrate on the men:


I am not sure how dumping a can of chicken into a can of Spanish rice is supposed to trap anyone, even if you're clever enough to sprinkle it with a bit of Parmesan and surround it with olives. Noting the serving size, I realize Jody Cameron Malis is not all that convinced this ploy will work either. Nobody's going to want to share, not even the dumbest office bachelor.

This is somehow simultaneously one of the funniest and saddest books in my collection. I love it so much it hurts.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Funny Name: I Ham What I ... Wait, What? Edition

I wonder if the marketing people at Lea & Perrins (The Lea & Perrins Exciting Ideas Cookbook, ca. 1970) chickened out about the name at the last minute because they were afraid Popeye would sue them, but they were too lazy to think of a really new name and just sort of half-assed it.


I'm just disappointed that they didn't put any spinach in it.


Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Hold on to your pie pans! You'll only need 517 of them...

It's November, so you know what that means! Time for bright, happy, shiny, sanitized versions of American history and the first Thanksgiving from 401 Party and Holiday Ideas from Alcoa (Conny Von Hagen, 1971). Did I mention shiny? This version is save-all-your-disposable-pie-pans-for-a-couple-years shiny.

See, I was serious. This project requires saving "aluminum pie pans galore!" And then cutting, rolling, taping, gluing, soldering, forging, milling, drilling, and quality control testing hundreds of pie pans to build a friendly pilgrim village and their native friends.


These enormous-headed people seem to be having their own stiff version of fun: the adults heartily shake hands; the kids all try to stare thoughtfully at the same space in the middle distance, imagining the names they might call each other if they could speak the same language; and the town hussy, all dressed up in red like she thinks the rest of the town doesn't notice, closes her eyes and imagines how much better her life could have been if she lived several hundred years in the future.

If you think that crafting this entire party isn't enough work for a month when you're actually supposed to cook a whole turkey with stuffing plus potatoes, sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, stuffed artichokes, cranberry salad, tossed salad, dinner rolls, fresh biscuits, a couple of cheese balls, pecan pie, pumpkin pie, and apple pie (all from scratch, of course), then you're in luck! Just look in the background.

Those settlers need some trees to represent the bountiful forests of their new home!


Just make them from all the extra leftover pie pans and pubic hair painted green.

And the pilgrims had to get here somehow, right?


They all came here in an armor chest plate with weird epaulets! I mean, on a ship! Made out of pie plates!

Even the book acknowledges this might be missing the mark a little:


"It's a ship all right, even if she does not look like the Mayflower. But what do you expect of two pie plates?"

What do we expect, indeed? I expected some entertainment, and I got it. Alcoa has held up their end of the bargain once again.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Funny Name: Horrifying Heads Edition

The name of this recipe from Multi-Power Microwave Cooking from Sears (1975, but mine is from the ninth printing, 1978) conjures up images of extra-creepy friends for the already-creepy Campbell's Soup Kids my grandma used to collect:


The Tomato Noggins would be Campbell's Kids whose parents got... uh... a little too friendly with the tomato soup, so their offspring ended up with tomato heads.

Or it could just be tomato juice mixed with condensed beef broth and vodka. Still kind of scary if you ask me.


Wednesday, October 25, 2017

A prickly collection

I'm not sure how I want to start today, but since I have a big old cactus guy, I'll just put him front and center.

Okay, technically he's front and aligned left, but don't tell anybody.

Catalina's Cactus Cuisine (Catalina Junior Woman's Club of Tucson, Arizona, 1968) has one of the funniest covers I've seen: a comically tall cactus in a chef's hat. The needles make it look as if he has super-hairy arms and neck (and the neck is almost long enough to make a giraffe tell him to quit showing off). His asymmetrical arms hold the fork and spoon as if he's trying to conduct two orchestras at once, and the little round mouth under his straight-across mustache suggests he's singing along. The tiny cartoon legs are clearly not enough to hold up the oversized cactus body, yet there he is, standing upright and singing along with his food-based orchestra anyway. (And is it just me, or do the cactus needles on his nether regions suggest humorous striped boxer shorts sticking out from under the apron?)

With a name like Cactus Cuisine, we might expect some authentic southwest recipes.


That might be expecting a little too much. Easy Tacos made with little more than a ground chuck/ onion/ tomato soup/ taco sauce filling could be straight out of a Minnesota cookbook, and I suspect most of those would at least add a little chili powder or a packet of taco seasoning. 

While there were fewer Southwestern recipes than I anticipated, there were more Polynesian ones. Maybe the people in Arizona just like to pretend they're near water? In any case, recipes with titles suggesting Hawaiian influence did not always follow the usual "we dumped in a can of pineapple" procedure:


They may blanket crab, avocado, and coconut with white sauce and American cheese...


They may dump a bacon/ curry/ steak sauce/ lemon/ baby food combo over chicken and sprinkle the whole mess with coconut, but they do not just dump in a can of crushed pineapple and call it a day. 

I was excited that my copy even came with a bonus recipe written in the "Write extra recipes here" space:


That's quite a recipe: Grape juice + ginger ale + vodka. I can see why the previous owner wrote it down!

Even though the book never lives up to its promise to give me some recipes for things cacti like to eat, it's a pretty fun find. I rate it one blooming cactus.


Saturday, October 21, 2017

Funny Name: Hide the Candy Edition

Remember those limited-edition Oreos that caused an uproar in late summer 2016? You know, the ones with the bright-red filling? It sounds as if this recipe from Quick & Easy Dishes (Favorite Recipes of Home Economics Teachers, 1968) might be a similarly horrifying variation on the flavor:


Swedish Fish Souffle contains no actual candy Swedish fish, though. It's just a salmon or tuna souffle. (Your guess is as good as mine as to what makes this Swedish, but I know a Swedish chef who can make a pretty amazing souffle.)


Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Recipes with a little something special, plus ancient frozen food

Seriously crunched for time and trying to turn your grading game up to 11? (Is that grading part just me?) It's time for clock watchers to get a little microwave action.

Today we have Multi-Power Microwave Cooking from Sears (1975, but mine is from the ninth printing, 1978). As you can see from the cover, this one is pretty heavy on the stews and casseroles. Even though it does have a few obligatory recipes for things like bread, cake, and "roast" turkey, these types of recipes are rather minimal for an old microwave cookbook. Maybe microwave manufacturers were finally realizing that recipes for colorless, rubbery food-pucks were not the best way to get people to use the microwave...

My favorite thing about the recipes in this book is that so many of them include special touches... That little something extra that makes me ask, "What?"

For example, I always thought dried beef was a food of last resort, something housewives kept on hand for weeks when the money was tight or they were snowed in and couldn't get real groceries.


Here, it's the special touch, used as a sauce for the chicken. I thought if you had chicken, you would leave the dried beef in the back of the cupboard, but I guess I was wrong. Either I or the cookbook seriously misunderstand something about dried beef, but I don't know which of us it is.

The special touch is not always so obvious as to be right in the title. This recipe looks perfectly fine at first:

Italian-Style Brazzoli seems to be a sped-up meat and tomato sauce. It's not exactly something nonna would approve of, but it seemed fine to me until I got to the raisins...

Then I wondered if they were a traditional part of Brazzoli, since I didn't really know what Brazzoli was. A quick Google search showed that the term mostly seems to apply to some kind of dyeing equipment for making fabrics. I did find two recipes with the name-- one copied from the cookbook nearly verbatim. The other is similar, but suggests using a slow cooker and seems to doubt the raisins just as much as I do, listing them as optional. I don't think I'm disparaging a traditional recipe here when I question raisins in spaghetti sauce....

Someone who worked on this cookbook really liked dried fruit in everything. It shows up again as a "special touch" in Sweet Beef:

How about prunes on your beef? Throw in some brown sugar, lemon, onion soup, sweet potatoes, and brown gravy mix while you're at it. I'm a little surprised we don't have a can of peaches, pineapple, and/or fruit cocktail too, and maybe some honey or molasses...

Whoever wrote this knew all my pet peeves. If it's not random and unnecessary fruit, then it's random and unnecessary condiments.

The Hot Chili Mexican Salad gets not just catsup in its microwave chili (enough to make me shiver all by itself!), but also mayonnaise. I'm not sure why the recipe couldn't have gone for, say, actual tomatoes if the goal was chili, but apparently they have to be reserved to go on at the end with the cheese and avocado. Hooray for good old-fashioned mayo-catsup chili.

I wasn't sure how I wanted to end this one, so here is a picture of old frozen foods from the end of the book.

I love looking at old packaging. I love it so much that I lose track of what's going on in a movie or TV show if the characters go to a supermarket. Manhunter is one of my favorite movies, and I am always too busy eyeing old boxes of Bran Muffin Crisp to ever fully pay attention to what Will Graham is saying in this scene.

Stray thoughts about old frozen food packaging:

Weight Watchers dinners looked scarily utilitarian back in the day. Seeing that little scale right on the front of the package and the all-business font warning that it contained sole, peas & pimento, chopped spinach, and a celery sauce makes it look like it must have been the equivalent of eating a block of hay for supper.

The Swanson dinner with its hash brown nuggets looks a lot more inviting, but the metal tray makes it a bad pick for a microwave cookbook.

It's nice that the Green Giant got a scarf when he was on packages frozen veggies. I'll bet he misses it now. Nobody cares if he freezes his sprouts off on a bag of riced cauliflower now. (And I'm baling out after that sprouts joke! Back to grading....)

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Funny Name: Trust No One Edition

I have a feeling this recipe from The Best of Home Economics Teachers Bicentennial Cookbook (Favorite Recipes of Home Economics Teachers, 1975) is trying to pull one over on me...


I am just not sure what the trick is supposed to be. What is the deception in "Corned Beef Deception Salad"? Is the title meant to openly admit that these gelatinous horrors aren't actually edible, or is there some other layer of deception I'm missing?


Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Just eat an apple and keep the doctor out of your business

Today we have a book from The Kroger Food Foundation that tries to tell what to do When the Doctor Says "Diet" (1933):

Apparently, you get to eat two hard cooked eggs on a very sparse bed of parsley. Yippee. That guy's eyebrow arch of dismay could challenge Stephen Colbert's.

The book has plenty of concoctions of approximately the same "yum" value as the eggs and parsley. The section on liquid diets offers a variety of grimace-worthy options.

Some are pretty simple:

Toast soda crackers and then boil for fifteen minutes. Strain and serve.

If straining soggy crackers out of hot water doesn't sound quite exciting enough, there is a more labor-intensive version:


Soak barley or rice overnight, drain, cook for six total hours (two over direct heat, then four more in a double boiler), strain, and chill.

The alternative to strained-out carb-water is the protein option:


Egg white in clam broth! (I'm not sure whether calling the egg white albumen in the title makes this better or worse...)

And if liquids get too monotonous, there is always (ALWAYS) an aspic:


It's not all liquid diets, though. You know how gluten is the dietary bad guy in so many food stories today? It was not always so. Here's a bread recipe recommended for diabetics:


Gluten Bread gets rid of the other trappings of wheat and just keeps the gluten. (I'm seriously wondering what the texture of this would be like, as I eat a lot of seitan-- which is basically gluten with savory seasonings, made into chewy, meat-like chunks. I can't imagine trying to turn that into a passable slice of bread, but maybe the addition of yeast makes a difference?)

There aren't a lot of recipes in the booklet, though. Much of it is lists of menus for various types of diets (high carb, low carb, extra roughage, low roughage, high iron and copper...). Just to give you an idea of how different America was in 1933, here's a diet recommendation we don't often see anymore:


This is the high calorie diet. Even though parts of it are pretty clearly high calorie (scrambled eggs with cream and bacon at breakfast, a milk shake and cookie snack), I'm surprised how much of this overlaps with weight-loss diet foods. Apparently vegetable aspics and grapefruits were inescapable facts of life back then. Even saying that you were trying to gain weight wasn't enough of an excuse to skip them. (At least you could apparently count macaroni as a "vegetable of high caloric value," so that was something...)

My favorite item on the list might be the prune and pineapple salad with mayonnaise. You could try to force that on me all day long, and I wouldn't gain an ounce.

In any case, I don't know whether I'm gladder that I don't have to follow a doctor-recommended diet in 1933 or that I don't have to cook someone else a doctor-recommended diet in 1933. I'm also glad we don't need a damn aspic at every meal.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Funny Name: Erase the Browser History Edition

The name of this recipe from Quick & Easy Dishes (Favorite Recipes of Home Economics Teachers, 1968) sounds like it could be the title for some kind of fetish porn:


I can think of several scenarios where "Beat 'n' Eat" might be an appropriate label, but I will leave you to your own imaginations, you pervs.