Saturday, June 29, 2019

Start July with some Firecrackers!

July is coming! I'm going to post my I Hate to Cook Almanack (Peg Bracken, 1976) entry a bit early since it has a lavish (for her) menu for Calvin Coolidge's birthday, and I want it to be up in time for you to celebrate. (His birthday happened to be on Independence Day, so you could celebrate that more obscure holiday instead if you're so inclined.)

Yes, this menu starts out with Firecrackers, and they are an appetizer rather than the things you may use after dinner to blow your fingers off.

They're cheesy Rice Krispies treats, sparked up with some red pepper and Tabasco.

Betty's Good Baked Fried Chicken is, handily, actually just baked (I guess the Ritz crackers and mayo are supposed to make it taste fried?), and can easily be timed to the parade:

I'm not sure whether the Tri-County All-Girl Brass Band is slow at marching or whether it's just a long way from Twenty-Second and Main all the way to the Town Square.

Crumpacker's Cucumber Coleslaw is apparently a way to use up any extra raw veggies, as it can accommodate radishes, turnips, zucchini, and/or carrots, plus there's enough leftover sour cream dressing for potato salad.

Bracken is just as practical on holidays as any other time!

The story for the Soccatumi Cake sounds a bit suspect...

I'm not sure any kind of princess made cakes from box mixes and Buttery-Flavored Wesson Oil, but our domestic princess Bracken highly recommends the cake with ice cream since there's no frosting.

There's even a recipe for the punch!

It's just instant tea mixed with Hawaiian Punch and water, but you can tell this is a serious occasion when there's a FULL menu! Bracken went all-out for Coolidge, and now you can go all-out too. Happy almost-July!

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Cool Off the Blender Way

It's getting hot outside, which means only one thing: time to lug a cardigan with me everywhere because the air conditioning is cranked up to sub-polar levels at approximately 2/3 of the places I go. (The other third is sweating us all out because they realize that they can pass off saving money on a.c. as being environmentally friendly.) (And no, since you asked, there is no way to please me, thankyouverymuch.)

If you happen to be among those of us who tend to keep your home at an environmentally-friendly sweaty summer temperature, I've put together a chilly summer menu from The Blender Way to Better Cooking (edited by Betty Sullivan, 1965). Blender cookbooks are pretty reliable sources of summer recipes, with all their chilled beverages and icy desserts.

Speaking of chilled beverages, let's start this menu with an icy cold glass of Apricado Cooler.

And yes, Apricado's portmanteau name is precisely what you guess that it is: apricot nectar with avocado (plus lemon juice, crushed ice, and dry milk for good measure). I've seen enough avocado desserts that they're no surprise anymore, but I can't say as I've ever considered drinking a nice tall glass of avocado with dry milk solids.... (At least this one skips the raw egg that so many blender beverages call for.)

Soup and sandwich is an excellent winter lunch, but how about a summer version? First up, an icy cold soup:

I'm not sure too many people yearn for icy black beans, either, but at least it's easy to send a can of black bean soup through the blender with a little broth, sherry, and milk. Even if the cold, sludgy bowl isn't sufficiently perked up with garnishes to seem appetizing, at least it only took a couple minutes to make.

Now since we've had good fats from the avocado and plenty of fiber from the black beans, it's time to get a little indulgent with the sandwich. How about a spread that would have made health-conscious cooks in the '80s break into a cold sweat (which would keep them cool, so it fits our theme!)?

Bacon 'n Egg Spread is not just bacon and eggs, but bacon, egg yolks, and cream cheese with mayo! As I said, '80s terror!

So maybe we'll dial it back again with a light frozen dessert.

Frozen Strawberry Whip looks kind of like a Pepto Bismol mousse...

But that Pepto mousse would probably have more flavor, as this is basically a bowl of super-fluffed-up frozen strawberries. So it probably tastes like, well, diluted frozen strawberries. Hooray.

But it would still not taste like Pepto Bismol. So ... win?

Or just stick to enjoying a cold lunch the good, old-fashioned way, by eating a frozen macaroni and cheese dinner like it's an oversize Popsicle. You won't even have to clean the blender.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

A Tropical Start to Summer (by Way of English Sauce)

Want a fun tropical vibe for the first weekend of astronomical summer? Well, this Lea & Perrins ad (1966) has just the thing:

Fill a few pineapple shells with meatballs, green peppers, pineapple, and a Worcestershire-based sauce! A pineapple full-o-meatballs-and-sauce is sure to make for a memorable (and probably messy) party.

I've already celebrated by scanning a picture of said pineapple, and luckily it takes very little to amuse me, so I think I'll skip making it. (And if you're smart, you'll say that simply gazing upon its majesty is plenty of celebration for you as well.) Happy summer!

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Fresh Fruit and Veg from a "Celebrity Kitchen"

It's farmers' market season! If your farmers' market is anything like mine, that means you get an opportunity to buy fresh, young sugar snap peas that are already visibly beginning to rot for only four times the price the supermarket charges. So let's celebrate the season with a dip into The Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Cookbook (Celebrity Kitchen, Inc. in cooperation with United Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Association, 1973).

As far as I can tell, no actual celebrities were involved with Celebrity Kitchen, Inc. Maybe the editors mistook fruits and vegetables for celebrities based on their willingness to pile on top of each other in a veritable vegetable orgy for the cover? (I can only imagine what those grapes are up to behind that thick slab of watermelon!)

These fruits and veggies are up for almost anything. I generally think of fruit salad as consisting of mostly, well, fruit, with maybe a drizzle of yogurt or honey to make things interesting. The Fresh Pear Salad has much wilder ideas, though.

Why just stick to the classic pears, cream cheese, and walnuts when you can invite a can of deviled ham to the proceedings? (I can imagine my childhood self biting into the cream cheese-ham combo with the expectation that it was a berry-flavored cheese, and immediately suspecting that something had gone very, very wrong and I was going to die soon.)

The book has its own knockoff of the very, uh, "popular" Seafoam Cantaloupe Pie, too.

I'm not sure whether it's improved or harmed by using lemon-flavored gelatin in place of the unflavored gelatin and lime juice, or whether three types of cubed melon is preferable to cantaloupe balls, but at least this is just a straight-up gelatin pie rather than a chiffon, so there are no raw egg whites to help augment the salmonella accidentally picked up from the melon rinds.

Of course, there are plenty of classic gelatin molds if you'd rather forego the crust. Here's a way to stretch some expensive exotic avocados:

Combine them with parsley, lime, salt, mayo, cottage cheese, and walnuts in some gelatin, like it will be some kind of a thick, savory dip.... Then serve the mold with citrus and a honey-lemon-ginger sour cream dressing because it's really a fruit salad.

And finally, because I love recipes that consider it a matter of pride to put tremendous amounts of effort into diet recipes in the hopes that the effort will somehow transform the ingredients into something more exciting than they really are, a low-calorie recipe for stuffed tomatoes:

I imagine the tomato flowers filled with be-celeried cottage cheese and carefully-arranged cucumber and hard-cooked egg slices look like they take a while to assemble, so maybe that's excuse enough to say they're too pretty to eat?

Okay, I'm going to go enjoy some actual fresh veggies for lunch-- lettuce, bell peppers, carrots, and sugar snap peas from the grocery (and you can make fun of me for liking to dump a mound of cottage cheese on top of my salad because I hate real salad dressings). Happy fruit and veg season!

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Cakes and pies for romance!

It's wedding month!

I have to admit a certain fondness for wedding cakes like this one from Creative Cooking Made Easy: The Golden Fluffo Cookbook (Procter & Gamble, 1956). They are so simple and homespun, and the directions make it seem like anyone-- maybe a friend of the couple-- can whip the cake up the day before.

It will be done in plenty of time for the reception of 25, there to witness the "Once-in-a-Lifetime" commitment.

It's almost sweet and quiet enough that I forget the cute '50s couples with their little homespun cakes couldn't be interracial... or gay... and that it would still be nearly 20 years until the general public would even begin to think about taking domestic violence seriously should the marriage not be as sweet as the wedding.

 But you're here for the cookbooks, and I found a whole new version of romance in this book. Forget about the wedding cake. How about a honeymoon pie?

I am not sure what makes these "Honeymoon Pies," except that "The decorative edgings and toppings ... are designed for romance!" So I guess putting a few leaves around the edge of a pie crust or topping the creation with a bell from a Christmas cookie cutter will drive people wild with desire? I'm not sure I quite get the connection, and that is why these honeymoon pies (four of which can be filled with the same amount of filling as for any single 9-inch pie, according to page 84) make me laugh (but not flutter my eyelashes and then stare dreamily off into the middle distance as the pies run toward me in slow motion and soft focus. There is a limit to the romance of a honeymoon pie).

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Should I trust a cookbook if it has "groaning" right in the title?

You might expect at least hint of feminist consciousness from the 1970s, but Our Groaning Board (1973) is by the wives of the medical officers and trustees of the American Medical Association, and in the preface the wives describe how they got the idea to raise funds with a cookbook as they "were waiting for [their] husbands to finish one of their meetings." Obviously, they have to accompany their husbands everywhere and amuse themselves while the menfolk take care of the serious business. In addition to hoping this project will help provide financial aid for medical school students, the women hope the recipes "will become your family heirlooms to hand down to your daughter, and she unto hers." Because, you know, women cook while men do the important business.

I kind of wondered if the recipes from the wives of AMA medical officers and trustees would be different from what I generally see in these community cookbooks-- maybe a little more sophisticated or health conscious?

I guess some of them don't rely on mixes as much, like this macaroni and cheese:

This is one of those recipes where the title is also pretty much the recipe. Mrs. Dwight Wilbur believes that macaroni and cheese should be just that-- and nothing else! I'm not sure how well it will work to just bake a package of cooked macaroni with a pound of cheese, but part of me suspects that the good old box mixes might end up being better than sauceless baked macaroni. Lucky bites get a bit of melted cheese while others consist of bare, oven-hardened pasta.

There are plenty of cooks who love mixes and packaged foods, though:

Yeah-- quick minestrone involved a package of dried minestrone soup mix combined with V-8, two different canned Campbell's soups, and a whisper of spaghetti sauce seasoning.

As for healthy, well, the group certainly seems to have a healthy appetite:

The Chicken Tetrazzini with two large stewing chickens, five pounds of ham, and unspecified amounts of spaghetti, cream sauce, olives, cheese, and buttered bread crumbs to bring it all together serves eight. Eight! That's at least a pound of meat per person before figuring in the add-ins.

My favorite recipe in the book might just be for the semi-sophisticated spin on the old favorite Frosted Sandwich Loaf:

This has the usual layers of varied fillings: egg salad, cheese, ham salad, and olive-nut. The frosting, though, is more sophisticated than the usual cream cheese coating: this has avocado frosting! I hope the mayonnaise keeps the avocado green, or the whole loaf is going to look like a slimy log by the time it gets served. Maybe the wives of AMA medical officers and trustees are too busy to worry about shallow things like appearances. (So, hey, maybe even a hint of feminist consciousness after all?)

Saturday, June 8, 2019

A Jiggly Rainbow for June

Happy Pride Month! As your favorite bi blogger about old cookbooks (assuming that the number of bi bloggers about old cookbooks is even smaller than the number of people willing to eat pickles in orange Jell-O), I thought I'd celebrate with a rainbow of gelatin salads from The Thrifty Cook: Tasty Budget Recipes (food editors of Farm Journal, edited by Nell B. Nichols, 1974).

First up is red, in this case represented by Cranberry/Apple Salad, a good choice for "a co-operative dinner" and loaded with cranberry juice, cherry gelatin, apples, and celery.

Not a bad start. Now on to orange:

I will readily admit to a certain fondness for the gelatin/ pineapple/ carrot salad often called sunshine salad (especially if the vinegar is omitted), but carrots and cabbage gelled into a block of orange gelatin, orange juice, and pickle juice (along with some minced onions, celery, and pickles for good measure) does not sound nearly as appealing.

With yellow, we're back to something that is probably at least reasonably tasty:

Ginger, pineapple, lemon, and apple sounds fine, and the book helpfully notes that if you're worried about wasting the rest of the 12-oz. can of ginger ale, "you can salvage the leftover beverage by adding it to a fruit cup or pouring it over canned pears."

Things get questionable again when we get to green:

Poor lime Jell-O always gets the mayonnaise, cucumber, celery, cottage cheese, and green pepper glopped into it.

I'll admit that I had some trouble with blue. There is no blue gelatin salad in the book, and Berry Blue Jell-O didn't exist until the '90s, so I am cheating and adding the blue layer of the "Old Glory" Blox from The Knox Gelatine Cookbook (1977).

If you point out that blueberries aren't really blue-- they're purple, especially after they've been cooked, I will just tell you straight up that you're going to have a problem with my purple pick too. Just use the blueberry Old Glory Blox as purple and forget about blue if you're going to be picky about it.

I guess I already spoiled it that I couldn't find a real purple either, but the magenta hue of beets is purple-adjacent, so here's my thrifty choice to complete our pride month rainbow of gelatin "treats":

Yes, it's a "lively" salad of beets, vinegar, lemon gelatin, celery, horseradish, and onion, full of sharp flavors and a bright hue to "rescue meals that would otherwise be colorless."

I'm not sure anyone would want to eat all of these molded salads, but maybe they'd be a good addition to a live Jell-O wrestling float in the pride parade! One can always dream.... Happy Pride Month!

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Let's picture the '50s on a distractingly featureless background

I'll admit that a big part of the reason I picked up Creative Cooking Made Easy: The Golden Fluffo Cookbook (Procter & Gamble, 1956) was that it featured color photos, something that a lot of the older, smaller cookbooks just didn't have the budget for.

It seems kind of like the people who actually took the photos had their doubts, too, as the pictures are all like the cover photo, on a featureless, white background stretching on to infinity. And the pictures, well, they are not exactly colorful closeups.

For example, doesn't that French onion soup look enticing?

What, you can't tell that those white bowls set so far back that they're disappearing into the white backdrop are French onion soup? They could hold mud and flat, round stones for all you can tell? Well, at least the strawberry tart and Chickens Oahu are visible.

Surprisingly enough, the Chickens Oahu are among the few Hawaii-inspired chicken recipes that don't call for pineapple, with maybe green peppers, water chestnuts, and/or soy sauce.

They're ginger-flavored instead. (And for the photo, the Cornish game hens variation was used in place of the chicken breasts or drumsticks the recipe calls for.)

The real stars of the booklet come at the end, though. The buffet menus still have the white background, but they offer slightly better views of the food along with crazy centerpieces.

The American Smorgasbord is a buffet for teens who want to "Roll back the carpet and pile the platters high on the hi-fi." It features tuna salad, potato salad, cold cuts, cheese, garnishes, and "discuits" (the pile of flat bread in the back row), along with "A centerpiece of amusing papier-mache horses, colorful feather dusters, and paper pinwheels." You know how teens just can't get enough of feather dusters arranged near their food. (And mom can enjoy the aroma of old cold cuts wafting off the dusters when she does housework later!)

The grownups get the more sophisticated Curry Table.

The food on display here is mostly accompaniments to the unexceptional shrimp curry recipe from the cookbook-- things like julienned cucumber, chutney, chopped green onions, chopped peanuts, etc. I really love the napkin rings made out of sweet roll dough (Why?) and the centerpiece. If you can resist a melon spider with banana legs and persimmon eyes wearing a borderline-racist citrus headdress, then you are a better person than I.

Saturday, June 1, 2019

June: A Month for Fools, Nincompoops, and Tinkers' Dams

It's June! My original monthly cookbook, Betty Crocker's Cooking Calendar (1962) celebrated strawberries in June, and my current one, The I Hate to Cook Almanack (Peg Bracken, 1976), makes a similarly big deal about them. First, two super-easy recipes for the ones who really mean it when they say the book's title:

Strawberry Fool is pretty easy, but you still have to know how to make whipped cream without turning it to butter (unless you resort to Cool Whip and just pretend you can't tell the difference), so Strawberry Nincompoop is probably the best choice for the hard-core cooking haters.

For those who see the title as a being at least somewhat of a joke, there's a slightly more involved recipe:

A pastry crust filled with ripe strawberries glazed with raspberry jelly seems like it might even pass for a current recipe-- mostly fresh and simple ingredients, just a little work for impressive-looking results. It's not a casserole dish loaded with ground beef and other items that are best left unexamined....

And finally, for those of you who may actually try to make recipes from old cookbooks (rather than just scanning them, posting them, and calling it a day), here's a handy table of equivalents.

I'll admit that the culinary scale is the least interesting. It's worth at least more than the gunpowder to blow it up, but don't take my word for it because I don't know my arse from my elbow, sure as the Lord made little green apples.