Saturday, September 28, 2019

October pops into view!

It's almost October! Halloween season in earnest! This month, Peg Bracken's The I Hate to Cook Almanack (1976) emphasizes how different Halloween was 40+ years ago. Now, even people who love to cook don't think about making Halloween treats to hand out to trick-or-treaters. Parents pitch anything that's not individually wrapped and sealed in the factory, fearing that a poisoned homemade treat will turn the night into the stomach-turning scene from Trick 'r Treat (even though poisoned Halloween candy from random strangers has never been a thing).

I'd usually pity the cooking-haters condemned to make their own handouts for Halloween, but I don't know here....

Spending a late-October evening popping and candying a couple quarts of popcorn sounds like a lot more fun than grading a couple classes' worth of essays, which is what I'm sure to be doing. Maybe a little of that Halloween magic was enough to make Bracken's disciples sort-of enjoy cooking once in a while. (Or, more likely, they were handing out Bit-O-Honey, Bottle Caps, or Laffy Taffy while ignoring the almanac's advice!)

Well, all this talk of candy has made me ready to hunt down some Reese's peanut butter pumpkins. Have a sweet October!

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Happiness IS More Recipes!

The title of this cookbook is also my personal mantra: Happiness Is More Recipes (Twig 19 Barney Children's Medical Center Women's Auxiliary, 1966).

You've got to love that the kid on the front of my copy has a "mustache" made of the various prices people tried to charge for this book: $2.00, $3.00, (I think) $1.00, and maybe $13 from some crazy optimist. And of course, the price I actually paid was written on a Post-It note inside the front cover, so this book has had plenty of homes.

I'm not sure how anyone else was willing to part with this! The whimsical drawings by Mrs. Lee Bain that introduce each section are worth the price of admission alone!

Why would anyone be willing to give up a picture of a walrus waiter and a cook wearing a deep-fryer basket as a hat chased by an army of oysters?

Or a chicken standing on a pig that's surfing on a slightly-larger-than-pig-sized fish?

Or some explorers being stewed Looney-Tunes Style, who seem bored by the prospect of being boiled in their pith helmets?

Or of a turtle getting way too excited about the prospect of eating a sandwich while standing in a bowl of (presumably) turtle soup?

Like the drawings, the recipes were often surprising. One thing that really interested me about this book is that it has so many specialized recipes, but they're not segregated off into their own little sections the way they are in other regional cookbooks. Paging through, I found a gluten-free banana bread recipe from before going gluten-free was popular:

I think someone's family must have had a wheat allergy, as a cornbread recipe on a later page specified that it was good for people with wheat allergies. I was just surprised to see rice-based bread casually hanging out with all the other recipes in the bread chapter rather than stuffed in a "Miscellaneous" chapter in the back.

Jewish recipes were integrated too, as matzo was pretty popular, from the straightforward Passover Rolls... the more daring Passover Pizza Pie.

The Meat, Poultry, and Fish chapter even included vegetarian recipes made with meat substitutes:

Side note: Canned veggie "burger" is hard to find now that better options are available just about everywhere, but it is still available! I saw some in a specialty grocer just a couple months ago. I am excited to spot it in the wild, but I'm so sure that it's terrible that I've never actually tried a can.

The widespread "specialty" recipes threw my expectations a bit off, though. Now that cauliflower is used to make everything ("Rice"! Pizza crusts! Mashed "potatoes"! Veggie "wings"! "Cream" sauce!), I of course expected Cauliflower Dip to contain puréed cauliflower.

It's just a dip for cauliflower, though. Mrs. Frank Bustillo could just as easily have called it celery or cucumber dip.

And it's not all specialty or health-focused recipes. My last selection holds the prize for most packaged soup in a single recipe:

Delectable Shrimp Souprise has the soup part right, with five total cans of three types of soup, plus two packages of soup mix (plus seasoned salt to taste, as if there's not enough salt in all that soup!).

This is such a fun read that I can't accuse the cover of false advertising.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Funny Name: No Eggo to L'Eggo Edition

The title for this recipe from the Everyday Cook Book (Trinity United Methodist Church in New Springfield, Ohio, 1976) sounds like it should be a breakfast sandwich sold in the freezer case.

Hameggos do not involve Eggo waffles, though. They're just chopped ham, hard cooked eggs, and onion cooked in chili sauce and baked with cheese in a bun. I guess calling it "Gross Ham and Cheese Sandwich" would have given away the game.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

A double trouble salad mold and other oddities

Are you ready for some unlicensed Winnie the Pooh? If so, the cover of Ever Yday Cook Book (and yes, I'm making fun of the spacing on the cover of this book from Trinity United Methodist Church in New Springfield, Ohio, 1976) should scratch that itch, especially if you want Pooh to appear to be 1. better at spelling "hunny" and 2. attempting to dribble his tummy.

The big pot of honey on the cover may also serve as a warning. The book is so saccharine that it made my stomach hurt a little... and I'm not referring to the recipes this time! Every spare inch at the bottom of the page is filled with the types of optimistic, power-of-positive-thinking quotes that make me feel like barfing.

Are you feeling overwhelmed looking at that stack of after-dinner dishes? Well, smile!

Dirty dishes are a gift from God, and you have no business feeling like maybe there's something else you'd rather be doing with your life. The bootleg bear primed me to hope this would be a slightly subversive book, but no such luck.

The recipes often just leave me feeling a bit baffled. What makes this round steak spicy, for example?

The only "spice" is salt and pepper! While this does call for a sliced pepper too, I sincerely doubt it was jalapeno. These types of recipe books invariably mean bell pepper when they call for an unspecified sliced pepper. Maybe ketchup was the spiciest seasoning Mabel Black could imagine?

The word "health" in '70s cookbooks usually means that wheat germ, nonfat dried milk, some form of bran, and/ or sunflower seeds have been thrown into a recipe, so I'm not sure how "Health Stew" got the name.

Was it the addition of carrots to the usual potatoes and onions? That's my best guess, and it doesn't seem like a good one since most beef stews had carrots anyway.

Even the  gelatin molds-- a recipe genre I've grown somewhat desensitized to over the years-- could be a bit of a shock. I'm used to seeing salads that try to turn lime Jell-O savory by adding some onion and other salty or sour elements. I'm used to desserts that masquerade as salads despite their being full of things like cream cheese and Cool Whip. I am not, however, accustomed to seeing them both in the same mold!

This could be a pretty tasty riff on cheesecake if it were just lime Jell-O with Cool Whip and cream cheese-- but horseradish and onion?

The meaning of "pizza" seems to have escaped this town as well...

Pizza is a casserole with boiled wieners on the bottom, a tomato-sauce-flavored dough in the middle, and on top, sawdust-flavored dry cheese from a packet. Don't give in to big pizza and follow the directions on the pizza mix box!

Okay, the recipes are amusing enough that I can almost overlook the fact that the bottoms of the pages say shit like "The only wish speed at which to live is ... Godspeed." Godspeed, everyone!

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Funny Name: Surprise the Neighbors Edition

Life must have been very different in mid-century St. Petersburg than it is in my city now. At least, the title of this recipe from Adventures in Food (St. Petersburg Junior College American Dental Hygiene Association, ca. mid-'60s to early '70s) leads me to believe that.

If I knocked on neighbors' doors unannounced, I'm not sure they would answer unless I happened to be carrying a package that Amazon had mistakenly deposited on my doorstep. If they did open the door and I yelled "Cake!" I'm pretty sure they would smile weakly and close the door as quickly as humanly possible without actually slamming it. But then, I guess I'd be left alone with all that cream cheese icing, so I guess it's not too terrible that the neighbors all know I'm a weirdo.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Rawleigh's Follies

I have had the good/bad fortune to come across another pamphlet from the multi-level marketing scheme that ruined so many childhood weekends and summer vacation days. I just loved it when my sister and I had to sit around at some elderly couple's house while mom loaded the station wagon up with cases of medicated ointment and steak and hamburger seasoning. If we were especially unlucky, we might have to drag a wagon around the neighborhood afterward and try to convince our neighbors to buy ground pepper and antiseptic salve and whatever other nonsense mom had bought.

At least "Rawleigh's Good Health Guide Almanac ... Cook Book" from 1954 got rid of the creepy kids from the 1950 version and shows an idyllic stream with a couple bumpkin kids fishing in the distance.

This has a small set of mostly-boring recipes featuring (of course!) Rawleigh products, but a few are more interesting, such as scalloped pig's feet (or, more accurately, pigs' feet. unless the pig in question had six feet):

Rawleigh must have known their audience in the 1950s. Farmers who couldn't get to town too often might have had to rely on pigs' feet and seasonings from the Rawleigh lady for dinner. (I'm just not so sure that business model translated so well to suburbs in the 1980s....)

The mix of food and health products in the booklet seems a little weird sometimes. For example, it's hard not to worry a little about the salad recipes when they're across the page from ads for Rawleigh stomach remedies.

I always thought my grandma didn't know how to pronounce antacid, but apparently the tablets used to be called "anti-acids."

There's also the Rawleigh version of Pepto Bismol.

Not so fun fact: I have vivid memories of my cousin barfing Pleasant Relief all over my aunt's kitchen floor.

The salads are mostly pretty standard picnic salads (macaroni, potato), but you know I can't resist a weird molded salad:

I didn't even know Rawleigh made gelatin-- they must have quit by the time my family was in the racket. I guess selling the unflavored gelatin gave the company another way to try to sell their flavorings like Lemon Nectar (though mixing it with seedless grapes and celery seems like one of the less exciting ways to try to move product).

I was a little mystified by some of the cookies and desserts. I thought macaroons were cookies, usually involving coconut (and not to be confused with French macarons), but the Apple Macaroon recipe seems not to fit my idea of macaroons at all.

It's a scoopable dessert mostly made of apples-- not a cookie or biscuit. The only clue to why Rawleigh decided it was a macaroon is near the end: the baking should make "a macaroon crust [develop] over the top." Apparently, the pebbly top from the baked nuts is supposed to give this enough of a similarity to the cookies that we can just put it in the macaroon family? Or maybe the fifties had a looser definition of the term?

In any case, I'll leave you with my favorite image from the book-- a cookie that seems not to bear any relation to the actual cookie recipes in the booklet.

Besides being unsettlingly squat and having a hole in the right edge of its head (I guess so the booklet could be hung in the kitchen by a hook?), this creature has four fingers on one hand and three on the other. Plus, even though the body is human-ish, the mouth looks like a cat's muzzle. Or is it a weird mustache and the mouth has just disappeared completely? In any case, I have a feeling this little guy has to wave because nobody ever comes closer than waving distance... just like our neighbors when they saw us trying to sell Rawleigh!

Saturday, September 7, 2019

September Breakfasts with Betty

September is National Breakfast Month, so today we're going to see what confections Betty Crocker's Good and Easy Cookbook (sixth printing, 1974) suggests to make for the kids before sending them off to school.

Betty was clearly old-school in the belief that kids needed sugar to fuel them up. Want to make sure they have fruit in the morning? Add extra sugar. Melt some marshmallows on those apricots!

Syrup on the canned peaches not sugary enough? Melt candy in it!

For cereal, the book offers a twist on Rice Krispies treats:

Use a sweetened fruit cereal instead of Krispies! There's peanut butter too, so these will be vaguely pbj-flavored (and offer a little protein).

This next recipe suggests that Betty thinks kids are pretty dumb. I'm not sure how applesauce dumped over whole wheat flakes could really be equated to an apple dumpling-- a whole apple baked in a flaky pastry-- but she thinks home cooks can somehow sell it as one.

But my favorite cereal-based suggestion is the least sugary one. Behold, the masterpiece that is Soup 'n Cereal:

Perhaps realizing that bran flakes drowning in tomato soup would not be the best visual, the picture only shows Soup 'n Cereal pre-pour. I always thought Campbell's went the craziest with their soup recipe suggestions, but I have to admit that Betty is pretty wild with soup too....

I think I'll stick with my oatmeal or multigrain waffles with peanut butter. Happy Breakfast Month!

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Adventures in Florida Dental Hygienist Food

Adventures in Food (St. Petersburg Junior College American Dental Hygiene Association, ca. mid-'60s to early '70s) proves to me that Florida has always been a pretty ... uh  ... imaginative place.

I've long been puzzling out what "Pigs in a Blanket" is supposed to mean, but the future dental hygienists went in a completely new direction:

They make Herring in the Blanket, which are herring dipped in batter and deep fried. Plus, I learned that herring are far more particular than pigs, as they must be wrapped in the blanket, while pigs will settle for any old blanket.

The hygienists also buy into the idea that shortcakes should not be limited to fruity variations:

While I'm sure that white sauce full of canned peas, chopped celery, and hard cooked eggs is fine survival food when there's not much left in the pantry, I imagine the sting of having to resort to it is made all that much sharper when it's called a Glorified Egg Shortcake.

The recipes also help highlight how much it used to suck to be on a special diet before there were entire corporations eager to supply people with low-carb, gluten-free, vegan avocado-flavored Greek yogurt with aronia berry and chia crumble.

People used to have to combine diet chocolate shake mix (Fun fact: I Googled "chocolate alva 77" for an embarrassingly long time before I finally figured out that this meant Alba shake.) with crushed pineapple and freeze it to pretend they had actual candy bars. There was definitely an untapped market for better diet foods!

(Am I missing something about the variation? Why would anyone mix pineapple juice and applesauce and freeze it as a candy substitute? Did, perhaps, the person mean to substitute the applesauce for the pineapple rather than the shake mix?)

Of course, the book had its share of "salads" that really stretch our idea of salad today. The gelatin-based salad isn't just a regular sugar-on-sugar salad, though.

I think Tapioca Salad is the first salad I've come across to incorporate both a gelatin dessert mix and a pudding dessert mix. Of course, if extra-sugary fruit seems like it's too light and you want a real stick-to-your-ribs salad, there's always Baked Potato Salad.

I don't see too many salads calling for a dozen potatoes, a full cup of margarine, a pound of "Velvetta," plus bacon and olives. You can tell that this is light and healthy, though, because it's a salad and not a casserole. As always, I've got to love the optimism about what is healthy! Those dental hygienists are always looking out for the rest of us.