Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Calico Craziness!

Are you ready for some hospital food? No?

Well, that's okay. Calico Cookbook (third printing, September 1976) isn't actually from the hospital; it's from the Auxiliary of Community Hospital (Springfield, OH). I picked it up in part because I adore the patchwork calico cover (lovingly drawn by Carol, who was apparently famous enough in Springfield that she went by just her first name).

It's been a while since we've had one of my patented Menus of Mayhem, so how about a crazy calico dinner?

We'll start out with a salad:

No, not a boring salad that's mostly lettuce, oil, and vinegar, but one that is mostly Jell-O with extra sugar, cream cheese, canned fruit, and a cup of celery so it won't count as dessert. I picked this from the bounty of Jell-O salads because it came with a bonus appetizer! If you look at the end, you'll see that this should be served with Triscuit mini-pizzas. Pepperoni and Triscuits are a great opener for an apricot salad that doesn't actually contain apricots....

Now for the main dish! Let's go for something easy since we've already made both appetizers and a salad.

Actual macaroni and cheese from a box mix to make this Easy Chicken Tetrazzini would be a little too complicated, so let's just go with canned mac and cheese. Layer it with some sautéed veggies and cooked chicken, dump a few bread crumbs on the top, and nobody will ever know dinner came out of a can. (Well, unless they try it and immediately notice the mushy pasta and the metallic off-note of the cheese...)

Now, you could make a separate vegetable to go with dinner, but there was some celery in the salad, and a few veggies in the tetrazzini. Making one more vegetable seems like a lot of extra work, especially if it can be sneaked into the dessert.

If you're imagining that I'm going to suggest carrot cake, you are mistaken. Dinner should be rounded out with a nice green veggie.

Asparagus Cake! At least this calls for fresh or frozen asparagus. Can you imagine a can of asparagus in the cake along with the pineapple and orange rind? It would be like a dirty gym bag with a little potpourri thrown in to try to cover up the smell.... Now it will just be a tropical fruity cake with green bits everywhere, and the only sweet that will make you remember what you had for dessert the next time you need to take a piss.

I hope you have enjoyed this Menu of Mayhem! Now go try to assemble an entire meal menu out of nothing but cakes. (I offer Bratwurst Cake with Beer & Sauerkraut Fudge Cake and Artichoke Spice Cake.)

Saturday, January 25, 2020

It's Jellied Florida Day!

It's always warm in Florida, so I decided to make an all-molded-salad menu from The Gasparilla Cookbook: Favorite Florida West Coast Recipes (The Junior League of Tampa, copyright 1961, 10th printing 1973) for the Gasparilla Pirate Festival.

Let's begin with a very light starter:

Yes, let's all start the meal with bouillon, canned consommé, and orange juice congealed into a brownish lump.

Then we'll need a mold that smells like farts and mayonnaise.

A mold of broccoli and boiled eggs should fit the bill nicely.

Since we're in Florida, an avocado will be required.

And since the recipe is from the '60s, the avocado needs to be ring-shaped and buttermilky.

And finally, we need a little protein. Florida means seafood, she how about Shrimp Ringold?

Okay, a lot of Shrimp Ringold is just various condiments (catsup, mayonnaise, anchovy paste) used to keep the shrimp in suspension. (I'm sure the people who see fries as a conveyance for ketchup and bread as a vessel for mayonnaise won't see that as necessarily a downside, even if I am a card-carrying condimentophobe.) And since you need biscuit halves (I'm going to pretend I didn't notice it actually says beaten biscuit halves) for serving, here's a bonus recipe for Florida-style biscuits!

Maybe the citrus will go well with the shrimp? Or maybe the biscuits will make you pucker up? Either way, happy Jellied Florida Day, the holiday I made up to amuse myself to try to escape the mid-winter blahs. Now go congeal something!

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

A Pirate Invasion!

My area has mostly been lucky so far this winter--warm and clear enough that I've been out walking on the trail (and getting in the joggers' ways!) more often than not. Then when the cold snap hit, I pulled out this cookbook to keep me warm.

I'll admit that I picked up The Gasparilla Cookbook: Favorite Florida West Coast Recipes (The Junior League of Tampa, copyright 1961, but mine is from the 10th printing, 1973) partially because this book came with a history. Not only do I know that Pat gave it to Betty Jane as a gift in 1974 (thanks to the inscription), I also know that Pat felt bad because she bought it right after new year's and didn't get around to sending it until March 31. (She's been sick this winter, and she was sad, missing her mom since mom's birthday just passed. The good news is that Joyce got an internship in General Dynamics, but she's the only female in the department.) (And yes, Betty Jane kept the letter with the cookbook, so that's how I know so much.)

When I started reading the book instead of the letter, I realized this was a great pick for a dreary day. Tampa is home to the Gasparilla Pirate Festival, a midwinter celebration of pirate José Gaspar. When the book was written, the pirate invasion took place in February, but a quick internet search showed that the festival is still going on, and it has moved up to late January this year. I'm not sure what goes on anymore (other than being repeatedly reminded that whatever is going on was sponsored by the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino and Bud Light Seltzer) because I don't have the patience to dig past all the ads on the official site. Instead, here's a peek at what the Gasparilla Pirate Festival used to involve.

Waiters served trays of Bollitos, "a Spanish appetizer made from ground dried black-eyed peas, flavored highly with garlic, formed into small balls, and fried in deep fat until they are a crusty, crunchy gold."

They sound kind of like a cousin of falafel to me.

The event had a king and queen, and 1960's king was kind enough to lend his salad recipe to the cookbook.

King Gasparilla XLVII was apparently a salt-lover (like me), as this is loaded up with salted peanuts, bacon, dried beef, and bleu cheese. (It must not have hurt him too much, as he lived to age 88.)

Here's a custom that I'm pretty sure has died, based on the number of times the current website reminds festival-goers that they need to support the officially licensed food vendors: "During Gasparilla Week one of the main attractions for tourists is the serving of free Spanish bean soup."

It's interesting that chorizo is now so ubiquitous that we can now buy even vegetarian versions, but back then it needed a bit of an explanation.

And finally, I'm adding a dessert recipe just because no celebration is complete without a sweet. I doubt that this was served at the Gasparilla Pirate Festival, but I picked it for a couple of reasons.

While I see a fair number of recipes with fillings in orange cups, they're usually not baked in an orange basket. I can't quite imagine eating a warm marshmallow/fig/coconut pastry from an orange peel. Also, oranges must have been a lot bigger in 1960s Florida than the ones I get from the grocery store! I'd be lucky if cutting "a 2-inch thick slice off [the] bud end" of an orange meant cutting it in half. Usually, that would be the equivalent of cutting a 1-inch thick slice off the smooth end.

Anyway, shiver me timbers (or "Bake me orange peels!"? "Shred me dried beef!"? "Rub me black-eyed peas!"?) and hoist the Jolly Roger! I hope the talk of a Florida pirate celebration shakes off the January blahs for at least a few seconds.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Funny Name: Simpler Times Edition

What do you think of when I say "Hollywood Dessert"? I imagine a mousse made of avocado, cacao nibs, and stevia, or maybe an organic quinoa, açai, and raw honey bowl or matcha-flavored frozen coconut-milk dessert. Apparently, the perceptions of Hollywood were a bit different in the 1970s, as A Kitchen Full of Joy (Flowing Wells Assembly of God Christ's Ambassadors, Tucson, Arizona, 1976) suggests.

Yeah, it's real Hollywood to dump a can of fruit cocktail into the cake batter. Different times!

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

A Kitchen Full of Joy and Camino (but Maybe Missing Eggs)

Woo hoo! Today, we're entering A Kitchen Full of Joy (Flowing Wells Assembly of God Christ's Ambassadors, Tucson, Arizona, 1976).

The kitchen might not be quite so full of joy as the title or the woman dancing with a bouquet on the cover might suggest, though. The book starts out with a lament suggesting that putting together community cookbooks is not necessarily as easy as it might seem to readers.

There's no winning for those who share their recipes: they're too silly or serious, too lazy to create their own recipes or too fond of showing off the recipes they've created, too stingy or generous in their choices of which recipes to publish. The ending suggests that they Assembly of God members might not naturally be this cynical in their outlooks, though, as the whole poem is swiped from another source.

One thing I really enjoyed about this book is that it had so many Mexican-American food terms before the spelling was standardized and/or easy to look up. (It took me a while to figure out that camino was probably their way of spelling cumin, for example. Let me know if I'm wrong on that, and the recipes are really calling for a teaspoon of rust off a Chevy tailpipe!) My favorite alternate spelling was probably this one for chimichanga. 

"Bean Chime Chunga" just sounds like a name for an ill-conceived wind chime made by hanging a few cans of refried beans that really make a racket when they hit the house in a high wind.

I was not always sure of the merits of the Mexican-American recipes, though. I'm not exactly sold on the idea of canned tamales to begin with....

And I'm not sure that plunking them on top of a layer of cooked lasagna noodles (or covering in "Mozarilla" cheese and "tomatoe" sauce) would really do a lot to improve them.

When I saw that the book had some vegetarian loaf recipes, I was hoping I might find some spicy, Southwestern spins on the stodgy, dense bricks that other cookbooks of the era offered.

Apparently, though, meatless loaves were not really adapted to the area cuisine. No spicy black bean loaves with enchilada sauce or anything like that. Just mushrooms, cottage cheese, and oats held together with tomato sauce and eggs, seasoned with sage. Sigh.

At least the whole recipe seemed to be there for the Mushroom Loaf. I have a feeling that something got left out of the Weight Watchers Pumpkin Supreme recipe.

Canned pumpkin with milk, sweetener, and spices is just.... sweet pumpkin soup, right? Why bake it? I'm pretty sure this is supposed to be a custard and the eggs are missing. Even if we accept that it's missing the eggs, though, I'm still curious how we get two four-ounce servings from eight ounces of canned pumpkin and six ounces of milk. Math is not my specialty, but I suspect this is one of those diet recipes that fudges the numbers so diners can feel like they're really cutting back without having to fully go through with it. (Of course my dessert is only four ounces. It said so right in the recipe!)

I'm not sure how joyful these recipes would make my kitchen, but the book sure brightened up my day as I pondered its mysteries.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Funny Name: Varsity-Level Sex Positions Edition

Waaait a minute! How would that even work?

Oh! You mean actual sausage and actual eggplant! Never mind! (From Neese's Country Sausage/ Neese's Liver Pudding, ed. Beth Laney Smith, ca. 1971).

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

GOURMET EATING! (Put the calorie control part in parentheses and maybe people won't notice.)

Trying to put together some diet plans for the new year, but tired of Metrecal and grapefruit (1960s) or cauliflower and Greek yogurt (now)? The Fascinating World of Gourmet Eating (with Calorie Control) (Wm. S. Merrell Company, 1967) promises a world of gourmet dishes.

Yes, the book provides all the Italian, Jewish, German, and American favorites in a single slim volume, with even fewer recipes than you might initially imagine once you realize that the first half is simply menus for each cuisine. 

I loved the breakfast menus because their ties to the nominal cuisines were extremely variable. Fishy breakfasts weren't too hard to guess.

Yes, Sprats and Pumpernickel was a German breakfast, and I'm sure you can guess that this is the Jewish version:

It's interesting to imagine an America where people would be unable to find a bagel and have to substitute half a hard roll, and even harder to imagine one where half a bagel could realistically have only 60 calories! In 2020, a quarter of a bagel could easily have more than that....

Other breakfasts seemed pretty interchangeable.

Bet you wouldn't guess that cold cereal with strawberries is an Italian breakfast.

And American in this book must be the broader, more inclusive north American meaning, as Canadian bacon is an American breakfast. 

I liked the ways that some menus were just variations on a theme. The book suggests both German and Jewish cheese sandwich lunches, for example.

It's Handkäse or cottage cheese on dark bread with radishes and carrot sticks or farmer cheese on pumpernickel with cucumber and lettuce.

Got to love those thrilling international flavors.

The book does have some recipes, though, and they're not limited to the groups shown on the cover. The Swiss are represented with a different variation of cheese and bread:

Nope, not Swiss cheese! Cottage cheese thinned with buttermilk, thickened with gelatin, and fluffed up with egg white in a rye wafer crumb crust. Mmm-mmm!

Even though the previous recipe uses the time-honored '60s diet technique of pumping a dish full of gelatin, buttermilk, and cottage cheese, more of the book seems to take the tactic of just making servings really tiny to justify calling the food a diet food. (See the 60-calorie bagel!)

My favorite version of this might be the "diet" donuts.

If you're trying to figure out what makes these "diet," they use skim milk and an egg white instead of whole milk and a whole egg. I'm sure those small swaps make waaaay less difference stretched out over the two-and-a-half dozen deep-fried donut holes the recipe makes than the fact that a single donut hole counts as a serving.

If you get bored on your diet, just remember that approach! A single Reese's cup is only 105 calories, a real bargain! A mini has only 45 or so! Pretend you'll stop at one, and you're fine.

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Funny Name: Unclear and Unflattering Reference Edition

I'm not sure whether the title of this recipe from Happiness Is More Recipes (Twig 19 Barney Children's Medical Center Women's Auxiliary, 1966) is referring to the onions (which, I'll admit, are not known for their mental prowess) or to the person eating them.

I think I will leave them for someone else to eat, just in case.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Starting a Year of Martha Meade

The new year means a new seasonal cookbook to kick off each month! This year, we'll be making our way through Modern Meal Maker (Martha Meade for Sperry Flour Co., 1935).

Martha Meade had a radio show about cooking for Sperry Flour on the West Coast in the 1930s, so that's why the cover makes sure to prominently specify the recipes are by Martha Meade. When I initially picked up this book, I saw the "Winter/ Spring" designation on the cover and worried that I'd still have to track down the Summer/ Autumn book, but then when I flipped through, I realized that the fronts of the pages are printed with winter and spring; the backs are summer and autumn. In other words, I have the whole book! All I had to do to find the other half-year was flip the book over.

Every day has a full menu for breakfast, lunch, and dinner (or breakfast, dinner, and supper on Sundays). You'll notice there are way more menus than recipes 1115 v. 744) because the book assumes that home cooks already know how to do a lot of things (like bake potatoes, poach eggs, and broil liver with onions), plus a lot of recipes get reused. While there are fewer breakfast recipes than for the other meals, the ones that are included tend to be memorable. Do you want your entire breakfast in one compact disk? Have some Bacon and Egg Cakes from a menu for the first week of January.

Start frying and egg, and then top it with pancake batter that has bacon (both drippings and the crispy bits!) mixed in. I guess that's the 1930s equivalent of a McGriddle?

The bacon and egg cakes were part of a particularly memorable day that culminated in a savory shortcake. (Shortcake may mean dessert now, but that definitely has not always been the case!)

A Google image search for "shortcake" now will not show biscuits topped with fried hamburger and onions anywhere near the top of the page. (If you have infinite scrolling time, maybe you'll eventually find a dreary brown meat shortcake, but I still wouldn't bet on it.)

One interesting aspect of the cookbook is that so many of the lunches are quietly vegetarian. Average families in the 1930s apparently didn't expect (couldn't afford?) meat at every meal, and some of the options are more interesting than the usual brick-like loaves of leftover veggies glued together by eggs and breadcrumbs that older cookbooks tended to offer as meatless meals.

As a Spanish rice lover, I have to admit to being halfway tempted by the thought of Spanish rice cakes topped with melty cheese sauce! (I suspect that this recipe desperately needs some chili powder at the very least, though. Spanish rice needs some seasoning beyond salt.)

Since this is a recipe book from a flour company (and since a lot of recipes would require flour anyway, not just as a dough ingredient, but as part of a meat dredge, sauce thickener, etc.), it's no surprise that flour makes a regular appearance. The book is pushing hard to sell Sperry's Wheat Hearts (I know the link is to General Mills, but they owned Sperry), too, though, and those uses sometimes get a little odd. Why use plain old flour to make rich, sweet, chewy brownies when you can make Brownie Pudding?

Wouldn't the kids rather have wheat germ cereal with prunes and egg white folded in, and just enough chocolate that you can maybe convince them that it's actually chocolate-flavored? I'm sure it's a valiant effort to make a nutritious dessert, but perhaps taking the name "brownie" out of the title would make it less of a disappointment? Maybe "Cold Brown Mush that Tastes Mostly of Prunes but Maybe a Little of Chocolate if You Concentrate" would be more accurate... but not an easy sell. I guess I can see why it got that title.

In any case, I am excited to see a year's worth of Martha Meade's ideas! Maybe by the end of the year she'll have us all wearing our "I 💓 Wheat!" shirts.