Saturday, May 23, 2020

Menu for a quiet Memorial Day

Memorial Day is supposed (in theory, anyway) to be a more subdued holiday since it is a memorial, after all. Of course, in practice it generally means families with 523 young children going to the park to incinerate pounds and pounds of hot dogs and hamburgers while the parents get more and more hostile thanks to the increasingly whiny kids and the dwindling beer supply.

This year may actually be more subdued since we're not supposed to have big parties. I'm not counting on it, though, so here are a couple of holiday recipes from Minnesota Centennial Cook Book: 100 Years of Good Cooking (ed. Virginia Huck and Ann H. Andersen, 1958) to help ensure that nobody will want to be a guest at your place. You don't want to be too obvious about the fact that you are trying to dissuade people who invite themselves over, so you can initially tell them that you're having coneys and macaroni salad. That sounds pretty normal, right? (And not initially repulsive to people who aren't as damn picky as I am.)

Then you can drop hints that the coneys aren't exactly hot dogs topped with meat sauce.


No-- they're Tuna Salad Coneys! Who can resist sitting in the sun eating hot tuna, egg, and American cheese salad  from a hot dog bun?

And if that doesn't scare them away, you might let slip that the macaroni salad isn't exactly traditional either.


The pasta is just a vehicle for serving rapidly-browning bananas, oranges, canned pineapple, and chopped marshmallows in a pineapple-juice-and-egg-yolk dressing!

If you're lucky, the menu plan will be enough to ensure you can be like me and spend a quiet afternoon checking out a repository of old Maine cook books. You won't even have to follow through with your threat to make the recipes.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Stairway to Hot Dish Heaven

When I got Minnesota Centennial Cook Book: 100 Years of Good Cooking (ed. Virginia Huck and Ann H. Andersen, 1958), I was not sure what to expect except for hot dish. (A lot of places write it as one word-- hotdish-- but this book consistently writes it as two, so I'm following their lead.)


The book has all kinds of recipes, from those for things that are decidedly Minnesotan (like moose and wild rice) to those that are decidedly not. (A surprising number of recipes call for avocados and/or shrimp, which are not exactly products of Minnesota.) Since I got it because I wanted to see hot dishes, though, I'm going to present all the hot dish recipes in roughly ascending order of deliciousness based on their titles.

The most utilitarian title gets last place. 


Quantity Hot Dish: The title tells you that the writer has nothing to say about how it tastes or even what's in it. It just makes a LOT (of noodles and ground beef in a sweet tomato-and-veggie sauce).

Next come the recipes that at least give away the main ingredient(s) in the title. Since dried beef was generally reserved for days when the pantry yielded little else, I'm going to guess that Corn and Dried Beef Hot Dish is the next lowest rank.


Is being baked with noodles, canned corn, cream of mushroom soup, and beefsteak sauce preferable to being made into shit on a shingle? I have no idea which fate is better for dried beef, but at least it had an alternative possibility. 

Chili and rice are both low-cost but generally pretty good if they're made well, so that's enough to put Chili Rice Hot Dish in the middle of the pack.


I'm not sure how exciting chili seasoned with "a dash" of chili powder and diluted with a cup of celery would be (not to mention using some tomato juice as the only tomato component), but hey, it's not dried beef and canned corn.

We're getting a little more upscale at the middle of the list.


This time, diners get STEAK with their tomato-and-onion flavored rice rather than weak chili.

Now for the upper echelons of hot dish deliciousness, we'll look at the recipes with adjectives in their titles rather than simple names of ingredients. The lowest rung here uses a single simple adjective.


I'm not sure how well zesty applies to Zesty Hot Dish since the only real flavoring that might even come close to being described as zesty is the can of tomato soup. The bar must have been pretty low in 1950s Minnesota.

I'm not entirely sure what the title of the next recipe refers to.


Are diners supposed to be licking their plates? The casserole dish? The serving spoon once the last serving has been scooped onto a plate? Or was the licking incidental and not actually related to the potatoes, onion, creamed corn, pork sausage, and tomato soup in Lickin' Good Hot Dish? 

And finally, the hot dish to which all other hot dishes should bow down, at least, based on its title:


Two kinds of steak! More than a pound of American cheese! Canned corn, noodles, and cans of chicken rice soup, pimiento, and mushrooms! Heavenly Delight Hot Dish has it all.

Well, all except Tater Tots. You might have noticed that none of these recipes feature the starchy treat that might be the most famous crown atop hot dishes. Tater Tots were first commercially available in 1956, so apparently they were not widespread enough by 1958 to make it into this cookbook. That doesn't matter, though, because hot dish could apparently ascend to heaven even without tots.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Bananas: Holiday-Style, Husband-Pleasing, or Elegant!

After last week's post on all things bready, I wanted to continue checking out old banana bread recipes. If the novelty has worn off of plain old banana bread but you still have leftover bananas, and you want to go to a different time and place (say, winter holidays in the mid-20th century), then The Illustrated Encyclopedia of American Cooking (the editors of Favorite Recipes Press, 1972) offers a couple of unique banana bread recipes.

If you can find a cup of mincemeat somewhere, there's good old Banana-Mincemeat Bread.


Or if you're the type who actually likes holiday fruitcake, then Banana Holiday Bread might be fun (if you didn't use up all the dried and candied fruit on Wednesday's beef tongue).


For those who are cooking to please a husband (the highest calling non-libbers could hope to aspire to in the '70s🙄) who isn't into mincemeat or candied fruit, then something more basic, like a banana pudding, may be in order.


I've tried to figure out what "Husband-Pleaser" was code for in the old recipes, and my best guess is that the recipe would not involve a mix. (Feel free to speculate if you have better ideas.) (And "Jiffy" in the recipe title is usually code for using a mix.)

And finally, if you're tired of all this comfort food and want to make something a little more elegant with your extra bananas, I offer Elegant Banana Pie.


I'm not sure what's so elegant about banana slices suspended between layers of cinnamon-coffee gelatin, but the recipe says it's elegant, so it must be true!

Have an elegant weekend at home! (I will elegantly be watching some horror movies hosted by Joe Bob Briggs as I sip canned wine from Aldi. It's pretty good, and they deliver!)

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

A Construction Project for All Your Italian Needs



I'll admit that I didn't expect the Sunset Italian Cook Book (ed. Jerry Anne DiVecchio, 1972, though mine is the 7th printing, 1975) to be all that authentically Italian. Considering that I have zero Italian heritage so far as I know, I'm not much of a judge. The book starts off by noting that serving multiple starchy dishes together (like, say, garlic bread with spaghetti) is considered to be an Americanization by actual Italians, though, so I'm giving it the benefit of the doubt.

Well, the part that really sold me on its authenticity was its guess about just how far readers would be willing to go to get authentic European-style breads. Since people now at home with time on their hands anyway might be ready for a major diy project, here is a '70s idea to fill a weekend or two with hard physical labor just so it will be easy to accidentally incinerate the homemade bread and have a good blowout fight about whose fundamental inability to follow simple directions has now ruined the last of the dwindling grocery supply.


All it takes is at least a dozen concrete blocks, a 28-gallon drum, a 1-pound size can, 129 or so bricks, concrete wire, chicken wire, cement (some blended with mud), a door, exterior latex paint, a hoe, plenty of wood for fuel, a fireproof container, and an oven thermometer that goes up to 700º. 


And of course, you have to remember to start heating the oven hours before you will actually need it.

But hey, it's a far out thing to have in the back yard!


At least the Adobe Oven Bread recipe will make a couple of loaves of bread, so you won't have to fire it up every day.


If your plans for the coming weekend aren't quite this ambitious, the book also offers a way to use up what's left of the long-lasting vegetables with any dried/ candied fruits you might have leftover from Easter (or Christmas!) with a less-popular cut of meat.


Or if you would prefer to spend your extra hours on a smokehouse or a serious grill, I've got you covered on those fronts too. I'm going to limit my diy efforts to making my own sub buns using a bread machine for the dough and an electric oven to bake. (Man, I feel way less accomplished about that achievement now that I've written this post....)

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Breadify This!

I know banana bread is having a bit of a moment as people want something comforting and relatively easy to make that will use up the bananas before they get thrown out, so I dove into Mary Margaret McBride's Encyclopedia of Cooking Deluxe Illustrated Edition (1959) to see how fifties families used up whatever they had around the house by throwing it in quick breads.

While I of course knew about the popularity of adding cereal to muffins for bran muffins, I saw that adding cereal to quick breads was way more popular than I realized. Sick of the farina? Well, turn it into muffins!


Tired of the same old bread sticks?


Roll them in crushed rice cereal mixed with salt and caraway or poppy seeds! (I really hope the rice cereal ended up crunchy rather than gummy with moisture from the bread...)

And can you guess the layer of topping on this dough that's about to be rolled and cut cinnamon-roll style?


No, it's not bugs and sawdust.


It's cornflakes, honey, and raisins! There is nothing redundant about filling a bread with a cereal swirl. And you'll end up with 10 to 12 rolls that hope you will pay attention to the flowers and the pitcher of milk so you won't notice how much they look like shapeless blobs rather than dessert-y rolls.


Not all the recipes call for cereal, though. There's always at least one recipe for people who stocked up on too much canned soup. Why not turn it into doughnuts?


I'm not sure why these tomato-soup-based confections are called Pied Piper Doughnuts. I thought the Pied Piper was supposed to lure the kids away, not actively drive them away. (Trying to feed the kids tomato soup doughnuts might be a good way to get the afternoon to oneself, though!)

And finally, if you really want something to do with the bananas, the book offers a couple of new options. I'll be nice and post a couple recipes that are probably at least okay, and perhaps an interesting change once the banana bread seems passé.  If you're a fan of cinnamon rolls, here is a banana equivalent.


And if you need to redeem yourself after the tomato soup doughnut incident, these might do the trick.


If you're stuck inside, you might as well enjoy a carb overload!

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Kraft on the Tee Vee!

Fun fact: Tomorrow is the 73rd anniversary of the day "Kraft joined the television pioneers and began sponsoring a weekly dramatic program called the Kraft Television Theatre." (You can find one of the most popular shows-- screenplay by Rod Serling! Shown twice in 1955, even though the performances were live!-- here. If you just want the Kraft content, there's coffee icing at 21:53 and a bunch of things to do with Cheez Whiz at 43:34, plus a margarine commercial at 58:11.) Today's selection, The Greatest Food Show in the Land (Kraft, 1982, though mine is a 1983 printing) is a little newer than I usually go, but I wanted to honor Kraft's achievements as a television pioneer.


Or maybe I'm just a sucker for books with "FOOD SHOW" in Hollywood lights on the cover.

My favorite bits might be the testimonials to the power of Kraft that pop up throughout the book. One note insists a "typical [Kraft viewer] comment is, 'I've always enjoyed your recipes, but the best thing is knowing they come to our kitchen from yours. They are beautiful, delicious, and the best because you can't beat Kraft products.'" Those sentences certainly sound like something a real person (not someone made up in an executive's mind!) would say, don't they? Who among us has not wandered around mumbling about how meaningful it is that giant food corporations so selflessly send recipes from their kitchens to ours?

The recipes themselves often give me the sense less that they were carefully crafted and more that the recipe writers took a pile of random foodstuffs and wondered how quickly they could slap it all together before moving on to a new pile.

Maybe they can get away with appetizer tidbits.


After all, meatballs and cocktail franks were common appetizers. Why not toss them together so there's something for everybody? And if serving Li'l Smokies in grape jelly was common, why not simmer the meatballs and franks in pineapple, green peppers, and water chestnuts? They could pretend to be vaguely Hawaiian or something.

And salads can be just about anything, right?


I'll admit that mandarin oranges and avocado might be fine together, or mushrooms and avocado, but I think the Californians are crazy if they put all three together with onion rings and Catalina dressing. (Of course, Californians might have felt like suing Kraft for defamation when they found out the company claimed this is what they ate...)

For the even more saladventurous, there's Safari Salad.


Who doesn't want onion rings on their melon balls? Right?

Maybe we should finish off the app and salads with a nice sandwich. Ready for something healthy?


I guess the whole wheat bread and alfalfa sprouts are supposed to make this concoction of canned pineapple, mayo, pecans, onion, and American cheese healthy somehow?

If you feel that the recipes just kept getting curiouser and curiouser, you can also check out Kraft Television Theatre's Alice in Wonderland. Happy anniversary to the Kraft broadcasts, even if I'm not entirely sure the recipes are ready for their closeups.

Saturday, May 2, 2020

Snowballs, Waffles, and Bricks for May

Mustering all Modern Meal Makers! It's May, meaning more Martha Meade (1935)!

Martha Meade does not seem to have much faith in spring weather, as May starts out with a bit of a snow storm:


Chicken Snowballs are just the latest in a long line of recipes intended to get people to use more Sperry Wheat Hearts hot cereal, so why not cook it up into "snowballs" with a dollop of chicken gravy in the middle? Chicken Snowballs are certainly likely to be better than getting hit by a snowball with a chunk of ice in the middle (especially if you can still find enough snow to make a snowball in early May)!

Martha Meade also seems to have decided that May is unofficially savory waffle month. There's no chicken and waffles, but there are both formal and informal savory waffle meals. I'll start with the formal version: 


Crab Newburg Waffles are made with tomato juice, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco, and extra butter to perfectly complement the savory crab sauce:


I have a feeling these savory waffles are NOT meant to be served with maple on the side. (I can kind of picture somebody doing it anyway, though!)

If creamed seafood waffles seem a little too fussy, there's always Barbecue Waffles.


I'm not quite sure that onions, bacon drippings, and parsley = barbecue in most people's minds, but these waffles get the label anyway, and they're meant to sandwich hamburger and pickles. I could see these as a fun addition to someone else's Memorial Day picnic.

And finally, May ends with the most delicious-sounding food format of all: the brick!


Yes, it's a good old Ham Buffet Brick! It's the perfect food for late May when you want a lump of ground ham suspended in mayonnaise-and-egg gelatin goo to slowly melt in the late spring sunshine as your guests decide maybe they would rather just go play croquet instead of eat. And if you notice how much of the Ham Buffet Brick is still waiting to be consumed, maybe a rogue croquet ball will smash the front window so you'll be distracted enough that the guests can make a quick getaway....

Here's hoping we have no snowballs this month! Welcome, May.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Getting Healthy with Honey

I know everybody's worried about health right now, so how about some health food? The Good Goodies: Recipes for Natural Snacks 'n' Sweets (Stan and Floss Dworkin, 1974, but mine is from the sixth printing, October 1976) is loaded up with good old '70s ideas of health food.


You gotta love the cake, cookie, sundae, and pretzel parading around in clown shoes with their arms around each other! (I think the cookie's pecan is supposed to represent a nose, but I can't help seeing it as a representative of an alien race that keeps its genitals right on its face.)

Anyway, this book follows the general '70s health food rule that refined sugar is terrible, but honey and maple are A-OK because they're somehow not sugar. And of course, powdered milk is the healthiest thing in the world because of protein and calcium, which leads to this epitome of '70s "healthy" recipes:


Well, it's hard to make icing without powdered sugar, so just thicken honey with a whole bunch of powdered milk and call it icing! Sure to be both tasty and load the kiddies up with nutrition.

Of course, the recipes are not all as simple as dumping powdered milk into honey. There are labor-intensive recipes to turn dried fruits into dried fruits stuffed with other dried fruits and seeds. (Plus honey, obviously!)


Yes, it certainly is fancy to stuff dates with raisins and sunflower seeds. (And it's definitely worth putting all that work into rolling and stuffing rather than just dumping it all together and calling it trail mix.)

Even though chocolate is a "health" food today, this book exhibits the classic '70s health craze's horror of chocolate, so we have such wonders as Mock Chocolate Custard (with the goodness of powdered milk, plus carob)!


And don't omit the lecithin granules! They're what make the custard creamy (as opposed to, say, dairy that's not in powdered form).

I know my cookbook's original owner (SallySue Mato, who got it from her grandma for Christmas in 1976 if I can trust the inscription in the front cover) didn't fully buy into the panic against chocolate, though, as I discovered this vintage foil Santa candy wrapper used as a bookmark:


My favorite recipe in the book just might be from the cake chapter. While I already had an Asparagus Cake recipe, I did not have an Asparagus Torte until now!


I'm a sucker for anything that requires egg yolks, honey, and asparagus chunks in a blender that's already ground up a batch of nutmeats! The whole nutty, honeyed, besparagused confection is leavened with nothing but whipped egg whites, so NO TESTING for doneness unless you want to make the thing collapse. Just shake to make sure it won't ripple when you think it might be done. Then enjoy your honey-nut asparagus cake. It's '70s healthy, so it's gotta be good.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Loafing Around

I promised some meat loaves from 365 Ways to Cook Hamburger (Doyne Nickerson, 1960), so get ready for some serious loafing.

Nickerson was a big believer in fruit-and-meat loaves, so he has not one, but two banana meat loaves-- well before the current banana loaf craze. (At least the current one is for bread!) There's a banana meat loaf for just the family, serving four and featuring the usual suspects of onion and bread crumbs with the mashed banana.


Then there's the company one, from back when people had company, which serves 8 and adds bacon strips topped with thick slices of banana for that special "Wow!" factor.


Or you can go pretend-Hawaiian with Hamburger Luncheon Meat Loaf.


Okay, it doesn't actually say this is Hawaiian, but Spam (sorry, canned luncheon meat) plus pineapple is clearly code for Hawaiian in all these old books. They might as well tell cooks to adorn this with a tiny floral shirt and lei. (Those are best added after basting with the brown sugar/ vinegar/ mustard mixture, right before serving!)

As another example that "California" cuisine meant something very different back then, there's a California Meat Loaf. It's not grass-fed ground beef with a sourdough and artichoke stuffing or anything like that...


It's hamburger with catsup, corn flakes, and raisins. (That sounds suspiciously mid-westy to me! Definitely more midwestern than Californian....)

I was a bit surprised that this next recipe wasn't labeled the California Meat Loaf.


Maybe fans of hot avocado think this sounds great, but seems like a waste of an avocado to me.

Meat rolls show up in the meat loaf chapter too, often using the stuffing as a way to work some veggies into the kids' diets.


I can imagine my childhood self meticulously eating around the seasoned mashed peas layer.

If you really want to fool the family, though, maybe try presenting the meat loaf as dessert:


Yes, hide the meat loaf under a velvety layer of mustard meringue! The kids will be afraid of lemon meringue pies for weeks afterward. (Oh, well. More slices for you!)

Actually, as much as Nickerson loved fruited meat loaves, I'm kind of surprised there's not a Lemon Meringue Meat Loaf or a Sour-Cream-and-Raisin Meringue Meat Loaf. Feel free to make up your own dessert-inspired meat loaf combinations!