Saturday, March 28, 2020

A Little Something Fishy for April Fool's Day

I was a little disappointed that Herring in Oatmeal (from The Only Cookbook You'll Ever Need, Zoƫ Camrass, 1977) was not what I imagined.

It's just herring fried in a light oatmeal coating.

However, you could go with my original thought and give that special someone the thrill of a lifetime by secretly adding some fish to their bowl of apple-cinnamon or maple and brown sugar oats on April Fool's Day.

Of course, you run the risk of having some nasty cleanup (depending on the recipient's gastrointestinal fortitude) and/or of getting herring in your car's ventilation system if the recipient feels like revenge.

Plus, if you have a sleepover guest who you don't want to make a second appearance, herring in the morning-after breakfast oatmeal is a great way to tell them to get out and stay out!

I guess that makes this post a lucky two-in-one: April Fool's prank OR unlikely dating advice from a cookbook blogger. (Or you could pay attention to the actual recipe and have herring butter-fried in oatmeal, but what fun is that?)

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Eat it plain or mixed together. It doesn't matter much.

Some people may think of old-fashioned delights when they spot the Der Dutchman Amish Kitchen Cooking Cook Book (workers and friends of Der Dutchman [restaurant], Walnut Creek, Ohio, 1973).

Of course, those of us who love reading through old-fashioned cookbooks know that old-fashioned cooking is often code for bland, and the little poem (written in German and translated into English) at the beginning of the chapter for main dishes does little to change this expectation:

Yes, "Potatoes, meat, beans,/ Peas, tomatoes, and eggs" are eaten "plain or mixed together./ Which, it doesn't matter much." Yes, that indifference to flavor does really get the old salivary juices to... dry right up? This seems suitably utilitarian tinged with bleak for our current environment....

We get such delicacies as Hamburg and Noodles, where the recipe title can almost double as the ingredient list.

Okay, it's got celery, a little butter, and some salt in addition the the hamburg and noodles. Whee!

There are some recipes for the adventurous types, like Beef International.

What makes round steak smothered in canned cream of celery soup and Miracle Whip international? I have no idea. Maybe the Worcestershire sauce is supposed to make it vaguely British?

It's just about as international as the Italian Delight is Italian.

I'll bet Mrs. Emanual M. Beachy got this recipe from that fancy ristorante in Florence, where steak is always cut in cubes and cooked with corn and noodles in a sauce of two cans of soup and a half-pound of Velveeta. (I guess the noodles are supposed to make this Italian, but even that seems like a stretch! At the very least, this should call for macaroni instead of plain old noodles.)

The book isn't all old-fashioned cooking, though. When they're canning, apparently the workers and friends at Der Dutchman want their finished product to taste just like it came off the store shelf. For example, I guess trying to get homemade ketchup to taste like the most popular one is a bit too much to ask, but aiming for Hunt's seems a bit more reasonable:

And home cooks may not have the patience to juice the eight different kinds of vegetables that give V-8 its name...

...but they suppose that tomato juice with garlic, celery, and onion salts is close enough to pretend this is a replica.

You might think with cooking like this that Der Dutchman would be long gone, but apparently it's still around today! In fact, there are six restaurants in two states, plus inns and gift shops. (Well, the gift shops are closed now, but they weren't when I wrote this before the plague hit.) This book is a testament to the staying power of good old midwestern blandness.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Funny Name: Second Verse, Same as the First Edition

You know, I was thinking of  making chicken for dinner tonight, but the family is getting kind of tired of it. Maybe I should try topping it with something so it will seem a little different....

*Consults pantry*

Well.... How different can it be if I can't even go grocery shopping? I guess this should technically count.

Thanks to Calico Cookbook (Auxiliary Community Hospital, Springfield, Ohio, Sept. 1976) for the creative new chicken topper.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Leisure and Economy from Westinghouse!

 How to Cook Better Meals Easier with Your Westinghouse Electric Range (Westinghouse Electric & Manufacturing Company, 1940) is definitely a book written for a country just coming out of the Great Depression. (Maybe the thrifty homemakers of the '40s would be proud of me that I paid exactly the cover price-- fifty cents-- that they did! Of course, inflation means that they paid the equivalent of a little over $9, so I got a great deal!)

Families fortunate enough to have a range might have had to save up quite a bit to buy it, so the book has lots of hints about saving electricity, instructing readers to quickly bring foods to a boil over high heat, then turn it down to simmer, which uses "75% less electricity than ordinary 'Low' heat." In addition, "On many short time cooking processes, it is possible to turn the switch to 'Off'' and continue the cooking for a period of ten to twenty minutes."

Of course, the money-saving theme followed through in the recipes as well. At first, I though Variety Pie might be a way to use up variety meats.

I guess, technically, it could be if there was leftover tongue or heart to send through the food chopper and mix with a can of vegetable soup to make a casserole. Variety Pie really, though, is a way to use up any leftover meat and bread crumbs, and "Combining two or three kinds of leftover meat is easy and makes a dish that the family will want to have again and again." Apparently, the variety is supposed to be the draw. (Maybe that's something to keep in mind as we all stick to cooking from our pantries for a while!)

Of course, there are casseroles like the Supper Medley from the cover:

It's a meaty spaghetti, with the ever-present addition of a can of peas. I will never understand how people could throw canned peas in everything!

If you want both fruit and veg with the meat, the Veal Chops with Fruit and Vegetables is one way to do it:

Again with the canned peas and tomatoes, this time with added apricots! (But, hey, if you need a pantry meal... well, this technically is one. Yay.)

One of the stove's real selling points was the Economy Cooker, which was kind of like a cylindrical slow-cooker built into the stove in place of one of the burners. It extended down into the oven cavity and foods would be stacked inside and cooked for hours. It's so well insulated that the booklet claims "A complete meal may be cooked for as little as one cent."

While the book offers a half-dozen full meal recipes to be cooked in the economy cooker, I was of course drawn to the vegetarian offering (for Catholics on Friday and the extremely rare '40s vegetarians).

Nothing quite like "dinner" being an enormous pile of steamed vegetables (Potatoes! Onions! Cauliflower! Beets! Carrots! Green peas or lima beans!) to make me see why vegetarianism was not a particularly popular option at the time. At least if the meal was made with frozen vegetables, they might be perked up with a package of melted Velveeta.

The book is designed for farmers with industrial-size families, too. The oven meals section really illustrates this:

Looking at the recommended oven setup for Oven Meal No. 23 sort of reminds me of loading food into the oven in the college cafeteria when I was a student worker. We had big pans like those that could go straight from the oven into the steam table.

And what is Oven Meal No. 23?

Pork Chops with Soup, Steamed Potatoes, Steamed Beets, and Apple Crisp Delight-- enough of each for eight "ordinary" servings or six "very generous" servings. I'm glad I didn't have to calculate whether the field hands required ordinary servings or very generous ones!

Since it's from Westinghouse, the book ends with a lovely advertisement for all the other conveniences the company can offer.

The washer looks like a bulky robot from an alien race in a '50s movie, like It Came from Outer Space to Wash Our Clothes More Efficiently than a Washboard. I'm not even sure I fully understand what the ironer is (but I make a point of never understanding much about housework).

The coffee maker looks like it could be Tom Servo's friend.

And of course, the big spenders could get refrigerators and dishwashers to go with their spiffy electric ranges, then lead "a life of leisure and contentment" forever after.


I will never be as happy as the women in their all-electric kitchens seemed to be in the '40s. Of course, the real women were rarely as happy as the ones in the ads either, but you know how the rubes used to fall for ads about how technology will make their lives so much better.

Anyway, I'm off to ask Alexa to turn off the living room light 17 times before it finally understands and turns off the goddamn light, because that's so much more modern and convenient than, you know, turning off the lights with a switch the old fashioned way.

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Mangia! Mangia! It's St. Patrick's Day!

Tired of the same old corned beef and cabbage for St. Patrick's Day? Well, the Scioto Memorial Hospital Auxiliary Cook Book (1972) offers an Irish recipe that is just as authentic as that mainstay.

Granted, I have no idea what makes this Irish Italian Spaghetti. I'm guessing it's the can of cream of mushroom soup in the sauce since that's the most non-standard ingredient (aside from the chili powder), though its connection to Ireland eludes me (but it seems a more likely candidate than the chili powder). Or maybe the spaghetti noodles were supposed to be elaborately shaped into four-leaf clovers before serving, and the recipe writer accidentally left that step out?

If you can explain what makes this "Irish Italian," be sure to elaborate in the comments. (A bellyful of green beer or Baileys may or may not be helpful in discerning the connection.)

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

The two-to-three ingredient cooks of Scioto County

The cornucopia on the cover of the Scioto Memorial Hospital Auxiliary Cook Book (1972) might lead you to believe that the recipes are brimming with abundant fruits and vegetables. The crookneck squash is looking down in embarrassment for you if you're thinking that. The Scioto Memorial Hospital Auxiliary fundraisers often seem heartily sick of cooking and like recipes of the five-ingredients-or-fewer (and mostly canned) variety.

Do you, like Ed Gein, like apple pie with cheese on it? Well, that's a lot of work.

How about some canned applesauce with sharp cheddar shredded into it? You can put it on a Ritz cracker and pretend that's the crust.

Do you enjoy the complex, sweet/ tangy/ smoky (and/ or whatever else, depending on your allegiances) flavors of barbecued meat? Again, making the perfect sauce and cooking the meat just right take a lot of work.

How about some diced leftover roast reheated in a can of vegetable soup? The auxiliary will call it barbeque and there's nothing you can legally do to stop them!

Sometimes when they make casseroles, the auxiliary members will go all out and get three ingredients instead of two.

If you think they'll spring for noodles in their salmon casserole, you don't know them. It's canned salmon and mushroom soup plus 25-cents-worth of potato chips. (The noodles would have had to have been cooked separately, after all. That's a lot of work.)

While the auxiliary was fully on board with marshmallow salads, they didn't always want the extra step of making Jell-O to encase the whole thing.

Canned pears, marshmallows, and whipped cream were plenty for a salad. (Plus, no suspense over whether it would actually come out of the mold in one piece!)

The thought of marshmallows in salads was sometimes enough to push the auxiliary to the extravagance of a recipe calling for more than five ingredients, though.

Yes, they could go all the way up to six ingredients if it meant throwing marshmallows, pineapple, and coconut into the cole slaw!

In short, the worst-case scenario in this cookbook is spending a little time on marginally edible foodstuffs and having to eat them. The best-case scenario is finding a low-effort way to convince the family to eat out more often.

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Funny Name: Do I Want to Know? Edition

Just tell me this recipe title from The Farmers' Almanac Cook Book (ed. Thea Wheelwright, 1969) doesn't sound like the nickname of a guy you ran into during your spring break/ semester abroad.

Prepare to meet the Texas Tongue! You kind of wanted to know how he got that nickname and you kind of didn't.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

What do chilly gymnasts cook?

I am a pure, unadulterated klutz, and an unlucky one at that. The one time I tried to ride a bike, I managed to hurtle over the handlebars and land in a patch of poison ivy. Broken bones + itching = no fun.

My point is that owning a copy of the Swedish Gymnastic Club Cookbook (Illinois, ca. mid-'70s. It's undated, but the write-up of the club's history mentions that they got a heating system in fall of 1972, and I doubt many people tell the story of getting a new heating system for decades afterwards, so I'm saying mid-'70s) is as close as I'll ever get to being a gymnast. (Or Swedish, for that matter.)

The book does have some Scandinavian recipes. They love their fish, so it was no surprise to see a fish pudding:

And no, this isn't a dessert flavored like the red gummy candy. (Okay, neither is the link, but it sounds like it could be!) It's canned salmon flavored.

The book doesn't stick strictly to Swedish recipes, though. There's a side trip to Bohemia...

I was a little interested to see dumplings made with yeast and already-cooked bread that are so big they need to be sliced. I'm used to the flavorless, gummy Bisquick variety.

I saw some twists on traditional heartland fare, like this take on Tater Tot casserole that swaps out the ground beef for fish (well, canned tuna)...

...and mayo in place of the canned soup.

My favorites might be the fancy recipes, like Beef Wellington.

Beef Wellington is just beef wrapped in canned crescent rolls, right?

To finish out the fancy dinner, let's add an exotic side dish.

Is it the water chestnuts, the pimento, or the slivered almonds that makes the celery exotic? Maybe it takes all three? I'm just thankful for my little sister sending this very exotic collection.