Saturday, July 28, 2018

At least I didn't put the lima in the coconut

It's hot enough to melt a Nazi's face off, so today I'm going for an all-salad menu selected from the Betty Crocker's Salads (1977) section of the Betty Crocker's 4 in 1 Cookbook Collection (1980).

We'll need a main course, so how about a cold version of meatloaf? 

No, I'm not talking cold meatloaf sandwiches. This is a salad menu! It's everyone's favorite '70s salad variation (gelatin!) mixed with everyone's favorite smelly meat-based goop their dad used to eat out of a tube (braunschweiger!). What could possibly go wrong? (Answer: Someone actually tries to consume it.)

We'll need a starchy side, so macaroni salad should fit the bill. 

I hope you like crushed pineapple and maraschino cherries with your macaroni, cheese, celery, and mayo because that's what you're getting. 

Now we need a vegetable-based salad, maybe livened up with some citrus. 

No, that's not Lemon-Lime Salad. It's Lemon-Lima. As in lima beans. With lemonade concentrate. And horseradish. Because... reasons? Maybe just throw on some pomegranate seeds for luck and hope nobody will ask questions. 

And for dessert, I hope you like pineapple. Yeah, I picked another pineapple-based recipe, but this one is way different from the macaroni salad. 

It has pickled beets, coconut flakes, and miniature marshmallows. As one does. If one is... well... chasing the miniature marshmallow dragon?

Have a happy mid-summer weekend! If yours involves lemonade, please use it responsibly. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Rice recipes 'n' racism

Rice Recipes Old and New Presented by Comet Rice (undated, but but Michigan State University Library's Alan and Shirley Broker Sliker Culinary Collection estimates it as 1950and offers a full scan of the booklet here) presents a diverse array of rice dishes with all the cultural sensitivity and culinary accuracy one would expect of mid-century Texas (Comet's home). That is, of course, very little, which should come as no surprise from a booklet showing hoop-skirted southern belles watching a riverboat while the white-gloved black butler lights candles for dinner.

The cover's racism is pretty laid-back compared to the illustrations for some of the recipes, though:

The illustrator couldn't decide between mammy or butlers drawn in the most cartoonishly stereotypical ways possible, so readers are treated to both mammy and a whole chorus line of butlers.

My personal preference is for the more inexplicable pictures.

Why is a woman in an apron and graduation cap pointing at a steaming turkey while lecturing a room full of women with identical hairstyles? Why is all of this next to the recipe for Spanish Pork Chops with Rice? Your guess is as good as mine. I'm going to say that the turkey studied physics and was getting ready to graduate, so the "teacher" stole its cap, killed it, cleaned it, cooked it, and then exhibited as an example to the other women of the perils of getting too much non-housekeeping-related education. They're just pretending to pay attention until she turns her back and they can sneak out of the room.

You might look at the recipe and ask what makes the pork chops Spanish, anyway. My guess is that it's the tomato juice. A rule of old cookbooks seems to be rice + tomato juice = Spanish. It's an immutable law, regardless of how well it actually represents Spanish cooking. This recipe seems downright authentic compared to some of the others.

Do you like Chinese food?

Here, Chinese Eggs means not century eggs or tea eggs or even egg drop soup. Nope. It's deviled eggs baked in a cheese sauce, even though one of the defining characteristics of Chinese food, so far as this non-expert is concerned, is that it is not covered in melted cheese.

Do you like risotto?

Well, if you answered yes, Comet Rice certainly hopes you don't know what the term risotto means, because here it's a fancy-sounding name for rice sprinkled with a little Parmesan and liberally doused with a cinnamon-and-ginger-spiced mushroom, chicken liver, and tomato sauce.

Even in the face of all these fancy recipes, sometimes I'm still amused by the simplest. This recipe for Rice with Poached Eggs seems like straightforward comfort food, and it manages not to misrepresent or insult anyone.

The picture, though...

I think I'd title this "Don't eat the yellow snow."

See, Comet? You can be amusing without being a jerk.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Fish, Four (Forlorn) Ways

Summer always reminds me of my grandpa standing quietly by the edge of his pond, holding a fishing pole and just waiting for a bite. I think his idea of a perfect summer afternoon may have been to fish until he caught enough bluegills for dinner, go home, clean them, and then play solitaire on the kitchen table until grandma had them ready for dinner.

Most cookbooks don't have recipes for bluegills, but that's okay because I'm not giving you recipes grandma would have made anyway. (She's of the strictly dredge-them-in-seasoned-cornmeal-and-shallow-fry-them school of thought. You don't need much or a recipe for that.)

No, today I'll start off with a floofy recipe from McCall's Fish 'n' Fowl Cookbook (1965) that grandma would have considered too much fussing around:

She would not have seen the point of topping fish with a puffy, eggy layer of sour cream and olives.

Since we always love to see an aspic, Going Wild in the Kitchen (Gertrude Parke, 1965) offers this jiggly, fishy wonder:

At least it's made with fish stock and unflavored gelatin rather than lemon Jell-O. (I'd recommend against wasting truffles on it, even if they are recommended as a variation.)

For those on restrictive diets, The General Foods Kitchens Cookbook (1959) offers this bland beauty:

I guess it's sort of a fluffed-up fish custard with Post Toasties on top so they could stay on-brand. Yum. Who wouldn't want to be associated with that?

Finally, from Weight Watchers International Cookbook (1977), the world's saddest "Poorboy."

And yes, it is just a broiled catfish fillet topped with slightly-seasoned tomato puree and pickle on a slice of white toast. I'm pretty sure actual Louisiana po'boys would laugh until all their condiments leaked out if they were told this is even a distant relative.

Probably best to consider these recipes simply catch and release.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Taking notes

I almost overlooked The Twentieth Century Club Cookbook (The Twentieth Century Club of Newark, OH, 1977) in the stack of old cookbooks at a garage sale because of those darn kids on the cover. I'm not just immune to the supposed cuteness of children; I'm actively repelled if I have to be honest. Whatever those kids' end game is (Soap in the lemonade? Bugs in the candies?), I'm not buying it.

Then I flipped through and saw this was a well-used book, and I can't resist books with user notes (especially if the previous owner is a bit skeptical too).

You can imagine the smile on my face when I spotted Bar-B-Cue Chuck with notation:

I'm not sure what the cook's objection was, but I have to admire the honesty of "(not great)!"

Even better, though, are the sort of passive-aggressive notes on Chicken Lush:

The "O.K." is immediately contradicted by the "but too rich!" notation. The cook doesn't seem to think this is all that "O.K." I also love the highlight on "cooked." Is there a story behind that? Does some of the lack of enthusiasm come from biting into partially-cooked chicken because they didn't read the recipe closely? And if they don't particularly like this, why did they try to stop themselves from making the same mistake the next time? Maybe just find a different chicken recipe instead?

If it's summer and you're sick of zucchini, Baked Zucchini offers a pain enhancer:

I wonder if "Not good" is better or worse than "(not great)!" I also love that "greased" is underlined here! Once again, the notes suggest a mistake on the first try-- one not to be repeated the next time the cook makes this dish she didn't even like in the first place. Who is this persistent with bad recipes?

Everything so far seems to have fared better than Spanish Casserole, though.

That is straight-up "Bad" (with a double underline and no qualifier)! I can't quite imagine what taco sauce, enchilada sauce, cream of mushroom soup, and cream of chicken soup mixed together, dumped over hamburger, and topped with a bag of Doritos would taste like, but this makes it even clearer that I don't want to find out.

Not all of the notes were negative, though. Crunchy Carrot Casserole got an initially good reaction.

It's hard to see, but this originally said "Very Good" before the notation got blotted out with a black marker. My guess is that mom really liked this, but somebody else strenuously objected.

I did find some genuinely beloved recipes, though, and I'll leave you with one.

Twenty-Four Hour Dessert got rave reviews: "Good + Easy to make." The notes on making it suggest it may not be quite as easy as the note suggests: the cream cheese needs a while to soften, and the Cool Whip needs to defrost "over-nite," but it makes sense to put extra directions on a recipe one actually likes and plans to make again.

I adore cookbook notes-- especially ones with underlines and exclamation points and extra instructions. I hope they make you as happy as they make me, and if they don't, just look at the cute kids on the cover. Maybe you'll appreciate them more than I do and we'll all balance out.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Are we still peeling the eggplant?

I'm not a fan of coconut (or eggplant, unless it's a good, smoky baba ganoush-- in which case, hide it from me if you want a chance of getting any!). I am a huge fan of comic art, though, so House and Garden's New Cook Book's (1967) recipe for Eggplant in Coconut Cream caught my eye.

You've got to love the visual of an eggplant-- potted like a houseplant, but made of nearly a dozen eggs. You've got to love the tiny smiling devil hanging out with the dried chili peppers. 

What do you think about that first image though? In case you're wondering whether your eyes are telling the truth, yes, "Peel" is illustrated by a woman taking off her clothes. Part of me kind of loves the freedom of the saucy '60s, and part of me is horrified that a woman is essentially being considered an object for consumption... but most of me is sighing that this fight seems so damn familiar fifty-some years later.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

An uncrustworthy book

You'll have to forgive the clearly wrinkly pages from today's offering. I got this one at a discount because it was extremely well-loved. It's so well-loved that it has a cheesecake order form taped onto the back to replace the missing back cover. Luckily, the front cover is still pretty much  intact.

I'd hate to miss out on House & Garden's New Cook Book's (1967) cover. It's got everything: a wall of cured meats, a flaming lobster, a mushroom still life, suggestions that both asparagus and meat in a rich pastry crust will slim the waist, poultry booties that are almost as long as the birds wearing them, whole raw fish that are supposed to look appetizing rather than like a reminder that death awaits us all...

The recipes tend to be upscale, European-inspired fare, though I often find them a bit puzzling. A few recipes seem a bit... well... circular to me.

So let me get this straight. Gougére en Croûte is pastry baked inside a pastry?

And the surprise of Oeufs Mollets en Soufflé Surprise is that it's eggs baked inside other eggs?

Not all the recipes are two slightly different versions of the same type of food cooked together, though. A fair number are of the "Wait, this isn't a dessert?" variety.

When you think of apple pie, for example, you're probably thinking of that golden brown, cinnamon-spiced confection that we tend to associate with mom and America.

House & Garden likes to take it in a different direction, though. I think the editors see apple pie as more of a pot pie base.

Add sage, onions, and pork chops to the apples for Pork and Apple Pie! And just in case this sounds too normal for you since so many people like pork with apples, well, the editors have another apple pot pie for you.

Apple and Marrow Pie! It's the only apple pie recipe I've ever seen that starts with cooking five pounds of marrow bones.

So you're not too put off by these pies, maybe I'll be nice and end with a good dessert recipe. How about strudel?

Did you notice that I only said maybe it would be a dessert recipe? Don't get too comfortable, because this is just the dough recipe. We still need a filling.

Were you ready for some cabbage filling? You get a hundred points if you guessed it, but I'll award fifty if you guessed that the filling would be either brioche dough or apples and leg of lamb.

Thanks for playing!

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Is it dessert?

As a scholar of the salad/ dessert divide, I was particularly excited to find another recipe that elaborated on how to tell the difference back in the days when something super-sweet could serve in either function. I already found the "Is there lettuce?" guideline (yes= salad; no= dessert). This salad/dessert recipe from Twickenham Receipts and Sketches (The Twickenham Historical Preservation District Association, Inc., Huntsville, AL, 1978) supplies another rule-- probably less useful in the field, since it has no visible marking-- but helpful in labeling the concoction if one is the cook.

Frozen Date Delight suggests that the pineapple/ cream cheese/ pecan/ date/ whipped cream confection only counts as dessert if it's fortified with a couple tablespoons of sugar. Leave them out, and this sweet and creamy mixture is clearly a salad.

The rule was further bolstered by a recipe from Two Hundred Tasty Treats (Christian Women's Fellowship, Southside Christian Church, Muncie, IN, ca. 1960). Here, the divide is not quite the same (vegetable or dessert?), but the conclusion is similar.

The mixture of sweet potatoes, bananas, milk, sugar, egg yolks, and raisins "is considered a vegetable instead of a dessert, but may be served as a dessert if you like. Add more sugar if using for dessert." It doesn't specify the amount of added sugar to make this a dessert, but based on the preceding recipe, I'll say two tablespoons. That will leave us with a nice, neat rule. If it's pretty sweet, it's not actually dessert unless you add an extra two tablespoons of sugar. Easy!

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Colonial (and "colonial") recipes from NJ

This is posted a bit later than usual because I started out the holiday in the happiest possible way-- 16-hour power outage. Now I'm trying to figure out whether my attempts to keep the contents of my fridge were sufficient to keep it safe, or whether I should toss stuff like the massive head of lettuce I had just bought and cleaned early yesterday. Whee! Hope your day is going better than mine so far! Now on to the regularly-scheduled program...

When I was a kid, it seemed like everybody had some dusty bicentennial knickknack tucked away somewhere-- commemorative plates, coins, kitchen towels. Of course, my favorite bicentennial item is of the cookbook variety.

The New Jersey Heritage Cookbook (1976) shows that the Public Service Electrical and Gas Company in New Jersey thought the celebration would not be complete without some historical Garden State recipes. 

The booklet claims that "All our recipes date back to the Colonial era or beyond." It's often pretty easy to believe that the recipes are modernizations of older fare. 

The booklet starts with a sunny version of colonial settlers being taught to make a summertime favorite by the local indigenous people.

It even starts with sea water and layers of seaweed. Of course, the original preparation was more laborious than boiling it all on the stove once it was assembled.

And there is no mention that the few surviving descendants of those friendly natives are now mostly in Oklahoma, their involuntary home. 

If you're wondering about the illustration's suggestion that the Lenni Lenape also made mounds of salad garnished with hard-cooked eggs to go with their lobster, clam, and corn feasts, the booklet clarifies that "The Dutch, noted for their own hospitality, probably contributed to the feast by bringing Spekkie Slaa."

Apparently, the Dutch have always had a flair for 1970s-style salad presentation. 

They also must have had iron constitutions, as they ate a mixture of meats, beef liver, and buckwheat flour cooked together, cooled, sliced, fried, and slathered in syrup for breakfast. 

This recipe is illustrated by a guy who eats it just because he feels better knowing his breakfast smells worse than he does. 

I'm not entirely convinced that these are all heritage recipes, though. 

I'm pretty sure no one served condensed-mushroom-soup-covered frozen asparagus topped with deviled eggs to the founding fathers. 

I would also not trust that guy around the chickens. Neither would the hillbilly from The Devil's Rejects. (Warning: That clip is very NSFW.)

Happy Independence Day! Thanks for coming to the only blog that will celebrate freedom with filthy chicken clips featuring Michael Berryman!