Saturday, March 30, 2019

Funny Name: Am I missing something? Edition

I'm just mystified by this recipe title from Cook Book: Favorite Recipes from Our Best Cooks (the United Methodist Women of Worthington United Methodist Church, ca. 1979).

Chocolate Mint Steak is a brownie recipe. It's not steak in some kind of a mint and/or mole sauce. The brownies aren't shaped like steaks for an April Fools' Day trick or Fathers' Day treat. If steak is a typo, I can't figure out what it was supposed to be instead. Is steak some regional term for brownies? Google searches suggest not, but I could certainly be missing something. This one is kind of driving me nuts! I welcome any and all theories on the name, and give you a chance to make this "steak" for April Fools' Day.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Full-color automatic heat regulation!

It's time to get in the Wayback Machine!

Okay, maybe we're not going back as far as Peabody and Sherman, but this is still older than my usual books. It's Lorain Cooking (by Dorothy E. Shank for American Stove Company, 1930). As you may have guessed by Shank's employer, this book is mostly an advertisement for ovens with the Lorain heat regulator (that little red knob you see on the cover). The preface promises this miraculous regulator "eliminates burning of food which may happen when one has to regulate the oven by hand." That seems like a pretty tall order considering I still manage to burn things on the regular even though my oven probably has better heat control than 1930s ovens.

This booklet has a few actual color pictures, a rarity in books this old.

I love the effort to make this picture colorful with the multicolored flowers, pink ham, green beans, patterned china, etc. If you're going to include a color plate, go all out! I also love that this "baked ham makes a real meal either for company or just 'family folks'"! Yes, I guess if you can afford a fancy stove and a color cookbook, you can afford to treat your family as if you think they're important.

At times, the captions for the photos feel a bit like brainwashing.

Yes, "lemon pie is the acme of deliciousness" (even if it's not as colorful as a ham dinner). Just keep repeating "lemon pie is the acme of deliciousness" until it becomes true.

The recipes (as the pictures may suggest) are not always particularly distinctive, but they are mostly centered around using the oven efficiently. I'll admit to gasping a little at the idea of taking a tender spring vegetable like asparagus...

... and baking it for THREE HOURS. I know people used to like their vegetables more "done" than we like them now, but three-hour asparagus?

There's a reason for three-hour asparagus, though: Efficiency! The book points out that home cooks can throw it in with Casserole of Liver once the searing is done.

Or throw it in the oven to serve as an accompaniment to Spaghetti and Tomatoes.

And in case you assumed this is one of the early Italian-style spaghetti recipes with garlic and maybe a hint of oregano, nope! This one is spaghetti and tomatoes with curry powder (still under a nice layer of cheese). Anything can be baked at 275 for three hours. It just makes life easier.

The recipes do sound pretty hands-off and less labor-intensive than a lot of recipes from the time. The line drawing in the front makes me wonder if the homemaker is skeptical anyway.

Look at the lovely 1930s family sitting down to a beautiful table full of... a plant centerpiece! And empty plates and glasses! Mom leans ahead with a blank expression, while little Dorothy and Frank stare off into the middle distance. Everybody is wondering who will finally admit that they're all assembled for an invisible dinner. Maybe mom figures if she leaves the asparagus in the oven for another 15 minutes or so, it will dry out and combust, setting the oven and then the house on fire, and then she won't have to make overcooked asparagus ever again. They can go out to dinner, or maybe die of smoke inhalation and haunt the house built in place of this one, wanly staring off into the middle distance for all eternity.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

A British Weekend Breakfast!

It's Saturday morning, so I made you breakfast (with a little help from the Hamlyn All Colour Cook Book, 1978 printing)! This is a very British breakfast by way of Hawaii.

Or, as the book calls it, "Sausage Beanfast."

If you've always been searching for a way to use up a a bunch of spring onions with a can of baked beans, a pound of sausage, and a can of pineapple rings, this has got you covered! And if your goal is to fast in the morning, well... I have a feeling this still has you covered. Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Oh-- Huh? Oh.

You know how so many people (including yours truly) are terribly confused by Cincinnati chili, that meat-and-tomato sauce flavored with both chili powder and cinnamon, and dumped over spaghetti or hot dogs?

Well, Favorite Recipes of Ohio: Meats Edition Including Poultry and Seafood (1965) leaves me with a similar feeling of confusion (even though the book somehow doesn't even have a recipe for Cincinnati chili).

The straightforward camping setup of meat-and-veggie skewers from the cover may make it look as if Ohio is a very straightforward, no-nonsense state. A lot of the recipes left me scratching my head, though.

Why bake an apricot upside-down meat loaf in a ring mold? And while we're on the subject of meat loaf...

How do diced dill pickles turn meat loaf into Meat Loaf Hawaiian? (I thought the addition of canned pineapple was the leading cause of being labelled Hawaiian in old recipes!) I guess it would be more accurate to call this "Meat Loaf Michigan" for that state's pickling prowess, but maybe the Ohioans were reluctant to name that state up north and chose Hawaii at random instead?

And while I've seen recipes using applesauce to extend a meatloaf, they generally don't try to draw attention to that fact.

These Apple Burgers with Toppings brag about it right in the title, but add nothing in the way of seasonings to accentuate the apple flavor. And why are buttered and salted walnuts referred to as "toppings" in the title? Does each individual nut count as a topping?

Who thinks "chipped beef and scrambled eggs" when asked what they want on their sub sandwiches? Apparently, Ohioans.

And what was, apparently, the Ohio in the 1960s equivalent of chicken and waffles?

Cheese and Lobster Waffle Surprise! Because, you know, lobsters are so common in Ohio.

But I guess I don't have to completely understand Ohio cooking. No matter what I think, this guy knows it's A-OK!

That, or he's got a serious growth in his cheek and he's trying to pretend it's not there by looking so damn chipper. Ohioans are inscrutable sometimes.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

When Irish Foods Are Congealed

Happy almost St. Patrick's Day! Even though the traditional color is green, I'm posting some pink recipes from the Debbie-Rand Cook Book (compiled by the Debbie-Rand Memorial Service League for Boca Raton Community Hospital, 1973).

You can count on Floridians for weird and wild stuff. Granted the 1960s and '70s ideas of what was appropriate in a gelatin salad, though, these mid-March treats are pretty tame for something from Florida.

If you want to go the traditional corned beef route, but want it cold and jiggly (because who wants hot food as late winter slowly thaws into early spring?), then Corned Beef Salad is for you:

Maybe serve it on a bed of shredded cabbage so you can have corned beef and cabbage.

If the (presumably chopped!) green pepper doesn't make Corned Beef Salad sufficiently green St. Paddy's day fare, there's always an emerald option:

If you were hoping for a yummy, dessert-style lime-based salad, well... the shredded cucumber and grated onion suggest that this is not your lucky day after all. If you're a fan of dessert-sweet lime with cucumber, onion, mayo, and cottage cheese, though, you're clearly a psychopath. Get out there and enjoy the chance to damage property and discharge bodily fluids at will in public rather than spending the day with an Emerald Salad Ring.

Actually, you know what? On second thought, maybe your energies are better spent on weird salad molds. However you celebrate, happy St. Patrick's Day!

Wednesday, March 13, 2019


Today's post is a bit of a celebration, as this little blog got a shout out on last night's episode of my favorite YouTube show, VCR Party Live! (It's about minute 46-- right after a bit about Joe's ear wax, so you've been warned.) I sent them my favorite cookbook inscription of all time.

And now back to our regularly scheduled programming:

It's Sunsweet Recipes (California Prune & Apricot Growers Assn., 1950)! See what I did there? Regularly? Prunes?

Okay, I probably deserved that contemptuous stare.

Even if the cover seems to suggest the booklet will mostly suggest beverage choices to go with a big, exciting platter of plain old dried fruit, a good chunk of the contents suggest that if you like any kind of fruit in a dessert, you will like prunes in it even more.

Do you like pineapple?

Even better than pineapple upside down cake is prune!

Do you love the contrast of tart lemon pudding against sweet, feather-light meringue?

Then you'll flip for prune meringue pie! No more tartness from lemons-- just gummy sweet prunes beneath that meringue cloud. Yum! The lady in the '50s futuristic top bets her pointy shoulders that you'll love it. 

And if you like apple dumplings, well, you're in for a real treat. 

If you're hoping that these are actual apple dumplings and the prunes are only represented in the "eyes" on the bowl of lemon sauce, then clearly you don't know how this works. 

Yep-- prune dumplings. 

Now you might guess that the only way to escape the all-prune dessert regimen is to have a birthday-- ask for a nice scoop of ice cream and a slice of birthday cake. 

Guess what!

Prune caramel ice cream!

And you know 1950 was waaay before Funfetti was the go-to flavor for birthday cakes, right?

You can have a Sunsweet birthday! 

We'll stick the candles right through the extra prunes! Won't that be fun?

Then we'll shove all the guests out the doors as soon as the cake and ice cream are eaten. It's the fifties, and the house only has one bathroom. 

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Funny Name: Pennsylvania Dutch by Way of Hawaii Edition?

When I saw this name in Fun with Food: Breakfast, Brunch and Lunch Edition (1965), I was worried that it would be congealed cornmeal with random pig bits and pineapple.

Apparently Mrs. Frances Kahler just like the rhyme of "Pineapple Scrapple," though. The scariest part of the recipes is mixing mayonnaise with Maraschino cherries, a sport that used to be a lot more popular than it is now.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Gayelord Hauser tortures some vegetables

One of my favorite genres is the '70s health food craze, and today we've got one of its daddies. Or maybe just an older sibling, depending on how quickly health food crazes multiply, and whether you date this by the original publication date (1946) or the edition I have (1963).

It's The Gayelord Hauser Cook Book, by the man who, according to the back cover, "has literally dissolved mountains of fat from the overweight ... with new delights of flavor." He's also the man who, according to Wikipedia, had copies of another book (Look Younger, Live Longer) confiscated by the FDA, and the one who made powdered skim milk, blackstrap molasses, yogurt, wheat germ, and brewers yeast so popular as health foods.

I'm usually most interested in early ideas about vegetarian foods, so I naturally gravitated toward things with titles like "Vegeburgers":

Only to see that "vegeburgers" are not the same thing as veggie burgers. They're apparently just meatloaf patties.

But among "The Hollywood Liquid Diet" (fruit and vegetable juices, plus "Hauser broth") and the unexplained claim that "Bacon is the only part of the pig permitted in health cookery," I found the vegetarian-focused section, offering up such delicacies as its own version of Salisbury steak...

...supplementing the expected onions, mushroom, and tomato with grated beet, chopped walnut, and shredded wheat biscuits. Maybe the version the lunch lady indifferently splopped onto your middle-school tray looks a little better now?

There's a forgettable-looking curry sauce recipe...

... made more memorable by the fact that the avocado version does not, as current recipes, use the alligator pear as part of the sauce.

Nope. Avocado curry is chunks of steaming not-too-ripe avocados in that sauce.

My favorite, though, is the pudding.

Ever pined for Lima-Bean Pudding, loaded with... milk... and, uh, lima beans... and dried corn? And just the right amount of seasoning to make it almost taste like someone thought about adding some seasoning? Yeah. That's the stuff. I can see how Hauser's patients melted away the pounds running from this dense little dinner.

I'm not so sure how a guy who churned out these recipes could end up rumored to be a romantic interest of Greta Garbo, though, so maybe they're better than I imagine.

Saturday, March 2, 2019

A Grim March through the Ground Beef

Peg Bracken's I Hate to Cook Almanack (1976) declares that March "doth find us in that turbulent Body of Water called Financial Straits & eating our Boot Tops in a high Winde as the Rain descendeth," so this month is full of inexpensive meals. My favorites might be her trio of ground beef dishes for 6-8 person dinners.

Two of the three have "happiness" right in the titles, perhaps in the hope that telling people the meal will make them happy will have a placebo effect.

The seven happinesses of 7-Happiness Beef and Rice are actually enumerated, though my favorite is probably the realistic assessment that "Very young people and very old people like it, and the others don't mind it so much." Yes, "don't mind it so much" is the most you can hope for with this mix of rice, beef (whatever amount the family might have), onions, olives, tomato juice, and if you're lucky, cheese. That sounds about right.

Next, coming in at almost 43% less happy, is 4-Happiness Spaghetti.

It's most suitable for people like "little kids, football players, and guests who had a third martini" and its super-power is sitting indefinitely in a 200-degree oven "without being noticeably affected." Well, I guess the canned spaghetti ain't getting any mushier, and the canned peas are not going to turn any more army green (or smell any less like a footlocker).

Bracken goes all-out with her international offering, blaming two nations at once with Italian Chop Suey/ Chinese Macaroni:

I hate to say it, but this looks more genuinely Chinese-adjacent than a lot of the "Chinese" casserole recipes I see, simply by virtue of its not being covered in cream-of-something soup and/or a blanket of cheese. I'm not really saying ground beef with veggies, tomato paste, and soy sauce over shell macaroni is particularly Chinese, but, well, it's not particularly NOT Chinese either, compared to its competition.

And if the rigors of March coupled with all this ground beef get readers frustrated, Bracken suggests Aggression Cookies for spring, unlike the community cookbook that insisted they are a good pre-Christmas project.

In any case, I'm going outside to yell at March to get a move on already! I've already had my fill of high wind and precipitation. "Happy" March, everyone....