Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Outdoor cooking for fancy friends and/or commoners

It's grilling season! While I've posted plenty of outdoor cooking recipes, I'll be the first to admit they're not exactly sophisticated. (My preferences are decidedly downscale.) Today, we're going in the opposite direction:

The Complete Book of Outdoor Cookery (1955) is a collaboration between the well-respected cooks and authors Helen Evans Brown and James Beard.

I often find the menus and attitudes more engaging than the recipes themselves:

That's an interesting assumption that readers have fancy friends, who are surely sick of common upscale dinners like Tournedos Béarnaise and must be treated to grilled eel or roasted kidneys at their own separate party. Readers with some prole friends might want to give those commoners Tournedos Béarnaise with new potatoes, green beans almondine, and a bottle Vosne Romanée as an act of charity, though.

A lot of these recipes remind me that I'm not looking through a Betty Crocker cookbook.

This one does start out with an electric skillet or chafing dish, so it might seem akin to some of the good old home-cooking books (if not actual outdoor cookbooks!), but then it ends with adding Cognac to set the steaks and sauce ablaze. That's not how Betty's recipes usually work! Serve this one with fresh asparagus, Cabernet Sauvignon, and fresh pineapple and berries mixed with eau de vie de framboise... Nope, not a Betty Recipe. She'd recommend canned asparagus and end with pineapple and raspberry sherbets.

The book isn't all upscale, though. There are a few recipes for rich people who want to pretend they're slumming.

Minute steak, sautéed onions, fried potatoes, beer, and apple pie with cheese-- it's less pretentious, though it sounds more like something to whip up indoors on a particularly blustery fall day than something to make for an outdoor party.

My favorite dinner might be this (maybe literally?) heart-stopping upscale/ downscale combo:

Salisbury Steak Béarnaise is basically a two-to-three-inch thick hamburger patty quickly seared on the outside, rare in the middle, topped with a buttery sauce, served with creamy fettuccini Alfredo, and accompanied by cherry tomatoes, pears, and Gorgonzola. I guess it's for people who don't mind cheaper ingredients as long as they are slathered in and surrounded by (often expensive) dairy.

You know, even as a prole, I can recognize the appeal of that.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

It's a grill!

Monday is the unofficial start of summer, so people are ready to grill! If you don't have a grill, but 1.) own your own land with plenty of space 2.) have money to invest in building supplies 3.) and a ton of free time (or a contractor whose time you can buy), and 4.) you want the grill done in time for the unofficial END of summer on Labor Day (if you're lucky!), well, The Complete Book of Outdoor Cookery (Helen Evans Brown and James A. Beard, 1955) has some grill plans for you.

Good luck with that project! I didn't risk any muriatic acid burns, but I did get tired just scanning all those pages.

Instructions on building grills were not too unusual in old cookbooks. If you want a cheap and relatively easy portable DIY grill, one of my very earliest posts has instructions from the 1954 Betty Crocker's Good and Easy Cookbook. Happy grilling!

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Stay Slender the Hard Way

Swimsuit season is coming! Not that I care-- I rarely get a chance to swim, and I when I do get to swim, my only preoccupation is making sure that my swimsuit stays UP. I'm super-flat and worried about accidentally flashing my boobs because swimsuit makers assume that we all have enough to keep the top of the suit taut. As long as I won't get charged with public indecency, though, I don't give a flying... fig... about how I look.

The '70s women who were more self-conscious than I, however, might resort to Lean Cuisine: Delicious Recipes for the Healthy Stay-Slender Life (Barbara Gibbons and the Editors of Consumer Guide, 1979).

I'll give you just a taste of the book with a full menu. I'll be extravagant and start with a salad, rather than just the main dish and side.

The title might have made you think I'd accidentally listed dessert first. Banana split! Oh, boy! This is one of the options in the "Sundae Salads" section of the salad chapter, so it is, in fact, a salad. The fact that cottage cheese stands in for the ice cream of a typical salad means even the most dedicated dieter might find it hard to consider this dessert, and it certainly seems more appropriately called a salad than the Jell-O, marshmallow, and whipped cream confections claiming that title in other cookbooks. 

Let's go a bit decadent for the main course, too. How about a big, cheesy pan of lasagna? 

While noodle-less pasta isn't necessarily terrible (The kinds with zucchini in place of noodles aren't so bad.), this has a little layer of scrambled eggs in place of noodles. It's just a mound of eggy cottage cheese with more egg on top, and the plainest, most boring tomato sauce imaginable. (Not even jarred marinara!) On top of having no flavor, this will have no texture-- just a big old pile of allegedly-lasagna-flavored mush. Yum! (You might note that my menu is pretty heavy on the cottage cheese, too, but that's to be expected with '70s diet recipes.)

Since the salad has no actual vegetables and the lasagna only has a little tomato sauce, maybe we should go for a veggie side. 

Yeah-- maybe some broccoli without cottage cheese...

...some broccoli with the saddest mock butter sauce on the planet. I'm not sure how much boiled broccoli is improved by the addition of a watery cornstarch-and-butter-flavored-salt "sauce," but I'm sure that the low-sodium incarnation seasoned only with liquid butter flavoring is even worse.

Let's not despair, though. We can top it all off with a nice dessert.

Fruit juice lightly thickened with a bit of tapioca is a great way to remind yourself that if you're going to blow your carb budget on a dessert, this is a very sad way to do it. I guess it might be worse if you served it out of your sneakers after a workout instead of a nice chilled dessert cup, but even then, it could be only marginally more depressing. 

I know the Lean Cuisine dinners in the freezer case have a bad reputation, but I'd 1000 times rather grab myself one of those than spend my day eating lasagna pudding and tapioca fruit juice.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Noodle Therapy

I thought it might be time to dust off my favorite behemoth collection, Good Housekeeping's Cook Books (1958). Browsing the Egg and Cheese Spaghetti and Rice Dishes booklet, I noticed a certain trend emerging. The drawings accompanying the recipes suggested that Mom had a really tough time with the simplest of egg-related tasks. Ask her to make a variation of deviled eggs, and, well...

She somehow decided she had to make them out of dinosaur eggs, apparently, breaking into an enormous scowl as she tried to break into that enormous shell, enlisting the help of the happily oblivious kids to bring her stacks of supplies twice their heights.

If she wanted to turn those deviled eggs into weird little individual casseroles, that was an even bigger challenge.

She'd have to whip out the welding mask and forge her mini-casseroles from the very fires of hell (along with some shrimp, mushrooms, milk, and cheese).

But mom had no trouble with noodle dishes, no matter what the challenge. Is the chicken not quite ready to be combined with spaghetti?

No problem! Mom will just charm it right into the pot! (That is, as long as it's a noodly dinner and not chicken soufflé...)

Has a gunman broken into the kitchen while she's trying to cook?

No big deal! As long as she's making spaghetti to go with the spareribs, mom doesn't mind if he shoots up the kitchen. (Okay, I realize it's a starter pistol and the picture is implying she's just being timed, not threatened, but go with my premise! Or at least admit that she should be more concerned about a starter pistol going off in the kitchen.)

Anyway, I guess the moral of the story is that '50s women who couldn't afford Miltown just had to make a whole lot of spaghetti. The carbs must have calmed them down. Maybe that's why spaghetti was so beloved by Wednesday's Jaycee wives.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Studies in Spaghetti

Favorite Recipes of Jaycee Wives Meats Edition Including Seafood and Poultry (1966) is a big, and in my copy's case, well-loved book. Its nearly 400 pages are battered, bent, stained, and circled. You can see that the spine is coming apart. As I dug through its thousands of recipes, I wasn't sure whether to start with the oddly béchamel-free Beef Béchamel on the first page of the first chapter, or to present a fresh glut of meat-and-gelatin fun-house mirrors from salad chapter.

After I got through the book, though, I noticed how many spaghetti recipes I'd marked as being interesting. So here they are: the weirdest spaghetti recipes from the Jaycee wives. 

Unsurprisingly, there are plenty of relatively normal sauces, like this one:

Ground beef with tomatoes, green peppers, mushrooms, and some Italian seasoning is pretty standard. I wondered about the title, though. Italian "Lower Class" Spaghetti Sauce? What makes it "lower class"? It even has olives, which weren't exactly cheap compared to the other ingredients. Then it hit me! The olives made this similar to pasta puttanesca (even if it's missing the anchovy and capers). Maybe Mrs. Larry Lewis couldn't stand knowing that someone out there would realize puttanesca translates to "in the style of a whore," so she had to sanitize it for publication! I laughed a little as I figured out the psychology of this one....

Another recipe reminded me of my grandma who saw lots more ingredients as interchangeable than most people do. (I'll always remember my husband trying to hide his surprise at finding grated up carrots and zucchini on his cheese pizza because grandma just used a jar of garden-style marinara as the sauce.) Guess which two tomato-based dishes Mrs. Terry Lower sees as being pretty much the same thing. (It shouldn't be hard!)

Yep, spaghetti sauce and chili con carne are pretty much the same thing. Just add a can of kidney beans if you want it to be chili. (And yes, of course both are based on a can of tomato soup. Why would you ask?)

While I'm not entirely sure that dumping a can of kidney beans into spaghetti sauce turns it into chili, I'm completely clueless about what makes Mexican Spaghetti, well, Mexican.

Spaghetti mixed with ground ham, green pepper, stewed tomatoes, and canned peas, then topped off with American cheese and bacon sounds like... well... I wouldn't guess Mexican, but I might guess the casserole dish with the most left in it when the church potluck is over.

Speaking of things you don't want to encounter in a potluck, how about anything based on mushy canned spaghetti?

Mushy canned spaghetti with kidney beans, chili powder, and nutmeg.... Even weirder.

To finish this off, let's go to a hopeful image, like the wide open sky:

Sorry... Not that open sky. I meant this one:

Yes, if you take your plate of spaghetti topped with canned onion, pickle, and hot-dog-laced tomato sauce outside to eat under the open skies, there is always a chance that some hungry Canada geese will drop by and do the only thing they're useful for: eating it so you don't have to. Of course, then they'll shit it all back onto your lawn, but ... uh ... circle of life? Or something? 

Saturday, May 12, 2018

A mouthful of lion teeth

I love walks this time of year, when I can enjoy the less-manicured lawns speckled with bright yellow freckles. Those flecks inspired me to post about something I haven't featured often. (Just this once!) That's right: It's dandelion day!

If you don't like freckles (and you haven't poisoned yours), there's a range of old-timey options (aside from the dandelion fritters above). A lot of them are kind of similar to hot spinach salad recipes, taming the bitterness with unctuous and salty bacon, like this other specialty from the National Grange Bicentennial Year Cookbook (1975):

I'm skeptical because I've seen a lot of stroganoff recipes that are overly emphatic about not boiling the sour cream. (If you boil the sour cream, it will curdle and your firstborn son, disgusted by your lack of cooking skills, will grow up to become a drifter who only calls when he needs bail money!) Maybe in this recipe the flour stabilizes the dressing so the boiling doesn't matter, but the other cookbooks make me feel like this method is so risky it might be the '70s housewife equivalent of skydiving. 

Favorite Recipes of America: Vegetables Including Fruits (1968) offers a much simpler and more sedate hot dandelion dish:

Or there's Scalloped Dandelions, in case you'd prefer dandelion greens in a bacon-dripping-and-vinegar sauce with hard-boiled eggs to, say, layers of cheesy potatoes in a more traditional scallop...

If you prefer dandelions in a sweeter form, Cook Book: Favorite Recipes from Our Best Cooks (Ladies Prayer Band, Bonds Chapel Church, ca. 1976) offers this toast topper from the flowers rather than the greens:

Of course, I couldn't write this post without the reason dandelions were a prized commodity 40-some years before this next cookbook was written. Poorer Prohibition-era families might have gone for this simple recipe from Going Wild in the Kitchen (Gertrude Parke, 1965):

Families with extra money for some oranges and raisins might have gone for this more elaborate recipe:

Either way, they would have a bit of liquid sunshine to enjoy all year... It might come in especially handy on nights when they were getting called for bail money again

Life could have been so different if mom hadn't boiled the damn sour cream, but at least dandelion wine might make it all bearable.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

You better have a high tolerance for sausage-based innuendo

Yeah, the old "Meat Dept. $1.00" sticker is pretty cool (and coincidentally, the same price I paid, even though this was from an antique mall rather than a meat department). The lavishly be-sesamed bun is eye-catching. If I'm going to be honest, though, I really picked up Jimmy Dean's Best Sausage Recipes (1973) because I was cracked up by how excited Jimmy Dean seemed to be about exhibiting his foot-long sausage right on the cover. This is definitely a guy who can tell you all kinds of things to do with his sausage.

Of course there's something very '70s for breakfast should you still be at the ranch in the morning:

It's a sausage ring! Filled with scrambled eggs! Everything (except maybe the eggs) is in the ubiquitous '70s brown-tone.

Start your day with 40 minutes of baking and two rounds of draining drippings out of a piping-hot ring mold without dislodging the sausage. Plus make a skillet full of scrambled eggs, chop, slice, and sauté veggies for the Spanish sauce, and assemble the whole thing on a heated platter. That should be a fun morning.

If you want the old classics, Jimmy Dean offers them too. In need of some stuffed peppers that look like shrunken heads with extra brain sauce?

I like the way they're slightly out of focus, as if even the camera couldn't get itself to look too closely.

These go all-in on the sausage. No rice or breadcrumbs for binder! Just sausage, egg, a little celery, and a little Romano, with a barbecue-sauce type topper. Those peppers are sausage stuffed.

We all know that a book designed to sell a single product can't rely entirely on the old dependable recipes. Jimmy Dean wants his sausage in everything.

Here's Sausage Fudge! It's a peanut-butter-and-marshmallow-based fudge rather than a chocolate variety. I'm not sure whether that makes it better or worse...

The best blending of the expected and unexpected might be in the appetizer section. Tiny little meatballs served on picks are pretty standard '70s party fare, so it's not exactly a shock to find recipes for little balls of sausage and cream cheese mixed with chili powder or parsley. Some of the mixtures, though, are a bit more exotic.

Sausage mixed with bananas and rolled in graham cracker crumbs, anyone? Or how about this:

My thought process as I read this recipe: "Avocado and sausage might be goo... Holy crap! Did I just read instructions to whip an avocado in a blender with sausage, dry lime gelatin, and potato chip crumbs?" Comical double take. (Pretend it's a spit take if you want.) "Yep!"

To make it even better, all the little surprising and delightful sausage balls are to be served in very '70s fashion:

Stick 'em all on picks and stab 'em into a hollowed-out cabbage filled with dip, like so:

Mmmm. Ballsy.

I can't help imagining the cabbage as some kind of massive deep-sea tube worm just covered in weird little debris-covered parasites. (Not sure just how much shredded cheese debris is on the ocean floor, but indulge me on this one!)

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed ogling Jimmy's sausage!

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Derby Day Dishes

Are you ready to watch tiny, tiny people try to hold onto horses running in a great big circle, desperately hoping that nobody slips and breaks some bones?

As you may have guessed, I'm not exactly the biggest Kentucky Derby fan in the world, but I realized my copy of The Courier-Journal & Times Cookbook (Lillian Marshall, 1971) has a whole Kentucky Derby menu, as The Courier-Journal is Louisville's newspaper.

So what do --Louisvillians? Louisvillites? -- recommend for a Derby Day party?

It's quite a spread:

That's a spring leg of lamb front and center, surrounded by an ice cream sundae for 25, salami slices rolled around cream cheese, a fruit thing that might pass for a forehead enhancement on a particularly flamboyant Star Trek alien, and a cauliflower that got too close to Regan MacNeil.

Of course, the only thing most of you are thinking about is in the bottom right-- the mint juleps. Just in case you need the recipe:

Fun Fact: When I was a kid, I had a Mint Tulip Strawberry Shortcake doll. I always wondered what the heck a mint tulip was supposed to be... I mean, I knew what blueberry muffins and butter cookies were, but mint tulips? And now, 30-some years later, I'm smacking my forehead and realizing the toy line couldn't openly admit to naming a kids' toy after an alcoholic beverage.

If you're curious about what got hosed all over the cauliflower, it's not actually a gift from Pazuzu:

It's watercress blended with onion, vinegar, mustard, mayo, and sour cream because why enjoy a simple sour cream sauce when you can make it look like pond scum instead?

If you want a supremely time-consuming way to waste good alcohol, the fruit platter was made for you:

Yay! Spend a whole morning arranging fruit and lacquering it up with lemon-gelatin-wine glaze while all your friends are day drinking.

The menu will, in any case, get everyone sufficiently ready to celebrate. If the mint juleps and wine-soaked fruit aren't enough, the sundae is packing a little something special too:

It wouldn't be Kentucky Sauce without a good shot of bourbon.

If you're a fan, enjoy the race and the bourbon! Bourbon just tastes like nail polish remover to me, so you can have your fun in peace without me pestering you.