Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Fakin' it in Florida

The cover claims this is Polk-Pourri:

It looks more like an urn that would rapidly start to smell very, very bad to me. Layer the fish on top of the pigs and mutant-sized geese and crabs, and you will have an unforgettable (and unavoidable) odor in no time.

Polk-Pourri was a fundraising book for the Polk Public Museum of Lakeland, Florida (1979). As I flipped through the pages, I found a lot of recipes that mirrored the cover, in that they were not exactly what they claimed to be.

For the main course, how about some Chicken Kiev? Are you imagining a crispy crumb-coated chicken cutlet hiding a luscious herb butter center? Well, that ain't Chicken Kiev in Lakeland.


Their Chicken Kiev (titled "My Chicken Kiev," but I don't want you to mistake the "my" as referring to your humble author!) is something like a hoity-toity version of shit on a shingle, sans the shingle. The dried beef is wrapped with cheese inside the chicken breasts, which are then wrapped in limp, flabby bacon and baked in mushroom-soup-and-sour-cream sauce. It's just like Chicken Kiev, in the same way that Green Bean Casserole is just like Haricots Verts in herbed butter.

To balance out that heavy main course, let's turn to the vegetable section for a side dish.


Okay, there's nothing bad about Cheddar Cheese Noodle Pudding. It's Butter, cheese, noodles, and sour cream all baked into a gooey, cheesy casserole. It is genuinely in the chapter for vegetables, though, which makes me think that Lakeland has a very elastic definition of "vegetable" as well.

How about we just get some dessert?


Good old Elmer's Corn Cookies... with sugar, eggs, quick oats, Rice Krispies, coconut, and... no corn. Mr. LeRoy T. Swanson might want to know who the hell Elmer is too, while we're at it.

I guess I'll just leave you with a nice illustration instead of a recipe.

Maybe it's the fact that Mickey and friends seem to be part of some fever dream (and is Mickey flipping me off?), but I don't think this picture was officially sanctioned by Disney.

Nothing is what it seems.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Let's abandon this halfw

For a late summer weekend, I decided to give you a menu that really highlights the bounty of fruits and vegetables. Let's start out with a salad from Better Homes and Gardens Good Food on a Budget (1971). Doesn't it look fresh and colorful?


Okay, maybe lettuce with varying shades of reddish-brown is more apt, but the caption insists this mix is "intriguing."


And yes, the caption is also accurate when it says the salad combines diced apple and (American) cheese, kidney beans, onion, and salad dressing. I'm also guessing it says these things in a significantly different tone of voice (more weirdly optimistic and less horrified) than I do. The writers apparently think I've always wanted to figure out a way to serve all of these ingredients at once...

The Best of Home Economics Teachers Bicentennial Cookbook (1975) seems to invite us to raid the garden for the Garden Patch Dinner Dish...


...which is apparently a loose collection of slime-coated vegetables contained by a ring mold of paste.

Even more interestingly, the garden is just barely involved. Half the veggies (okra, squash, and green beans) are frozen, and onion is a pantry staple. All you'd need to steal from the garden to make this is a single green pepper and tomato, but "Dinner Dish Mostly Dug Out of the Freezer" didn't sound quite as appealing.

Heat it all together with a little cream and dump into a cottage-cheese-and-noodle-ring, and you've got... well... probably a bland and watery meal that is nominally from the garden. Way to celebrate summer.

Let's top off this bounty with dessert from Ann Seranne's Good Food Without Meat (1973). How about some nice fruity ice cream?


Yeah, if you know old cookbooks, you should have seen the prunes coming. Why enjoy ice cream too much if you can make it vaguely medicinal? Even though it looks as if I only gave you part of the recipe, this is the full thing. Apparently cream infused with prunes is so delicious that you will barely have a chance to churn the ingredients together before starving hordes will devour it. Or maybe they figured nobody's going to waste perfectly good cream on this anyway, and abandoned the recipe halfway through. (I'm teasing-- the full instructions for ice cream come before the list of recipes, but it's fun to imagine the writer just giving up on this offering.)

That seems like a good bet for this late summer menu: lazily kind of look it over, but abandon it once you see it's all kidney beans with apples and American cheese, mucilaginous frozen veggies, and ice-cold prunes. Just eye it all and back awa

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Souper Heinz

When I was a kid, we lived not too far from a Heinz factory. We always knew back-to-school time was approaching when we could smell ketchup in the air. (I'm sure that's not the only reason I can't stand the condiment that everyone else seems to love, but it's probably part of the equation....)

Even though everyone thinks ketchup when they think of Heinz, I have a cookbook that will probably surprise American readers. 


For Variety Cook with Soup is a Heinz company cook booklet from 1977 trying to get home cooks to use Heinz rather than Campbell's soups in all their home cooking. (Even though Heinz gave up on selling soup in America, it's still a thing in the U.K.)

What kinds of delights did Heinz soups promise? There were, unsurprisingly, plenty of negligible casserole recipes calling for cream soups:

Corn Pudding is probably exactly as cheerless as you imagine a can of cream of celery soup and some extra eggs baked into a can of creamed corn might be.

I just picked this recipe because I love the ear of corn lying back on its husk, enjoying a summer afternoon, blissfully unaware of the fate that awaits....

Some recipes get pretty photo spreads.

What is this vision so bountiful that it necessitates an overflowing cornucopia in the background?

It's Harvest Bean Bake, for all those people who can't decide whether they'd rather have a tomato-soup-meat-sauce, a can of beans, or a serving of baked apples. Just throw them all together and bake for a real harvest "treat."

Of course, any soup cookbook would be a failure if it limited soup use to casseroles and skillet dinners. 

All the old cookbooks needed at least one recipe of foods wrapped in biscuit dough:


This ring is Beef Carrousel. The picture on the back cover is not quite as cute as the one with the recipe, though:


I love the little cows running around on the merry-go-round, especially the way that some of their tails are drawn so it almost looks like they're kicking up an extra leg. Maybe they're trying to run away from a recipe that will mix them with cream of mushroom soup before encasing them in biscuit dough and dumping on a leftover mushroom soup and tomato soup topping. Their resistance is futile.

My last recipe for today says, "Forget soup and sandwich; soup should be on the sandwich":

It doesn't dump barely-diluted condensed cream of something soup on just any old sandwich, either. It's over a baked tuna salad and cranberry sauce sandwich! What fun!

The recipes may be barely passable at best and "Run away!" at worst, but the pictures make this a fun booklet to page through on a lazy afternoon when I'm happy not to smell ketchup hanging in the air. 

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Kentucky-Fried, Boston-Style Surprise!

Fill in the blank to find out this weekend's theme food: Kentucky-Fried C_____.

You guessed right! 


Well, you guessed right as long as you guessed corn. If you guessed "chicken" like a normal person, then Favorite Recipes of American Vegetables Including Fruits (1968) is very disappointed in you. It's corn season! 

So go out to the field and grab some fat, juicy roasting ears the way grandma used to.


Or just open up a can of creamed corn and add extra milk and butter. Hey, there are all kinds of grandmas, and some of them prefer cooking with their can openers.

How about spreading corn with something luscious and grilling it over the coals?


Unless there's a ton of bacon (more than one slice and secured with something) to hold the peanut butter in, I have a feeling it will mostly melt off and cause peanut-scented smoke. Also, I'm thinking this is either a terrible idea (peanut butter sweet corn?) or a great idea (peanut butter sweet corn!). I can't decide whether this combination would ruin two good things or make them better. 

If you can't decide between serving a yummy picnic side and a mediocre-at-best picnic side, you can always combine them:


Boston-Style Baked Corn: for when you want to turn corn into something people eat because it's there, rather than because they actually want it.

And finally, a corn creation the Pieathletes should be happy I didn't send to the Pieathalon:


Canned corn! Canned luncheon meat! All cooked in a cheesy custard and topped with crushed crackers. What a fitting celebration of a Midwest... summer? Winter? Bounty? Hard times?

We'll just label it "Midwest" and leave it at that... Have a corny weekend! 

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Not so cool after all

You know how cool your family was if you had a microwave in the 1970s, even if the cookbooks for them were dismal? Well, 50 years before that, the coolest families had a different appliance:

Don't beat me up for using "coolest" to refer to the families lucky enough to have Frigidaire Recipes (second edition, 1929). Let the simplicity of the cover calm your nerves.

A refrigerator was a fancy appliance to have, and if the recipes are any guide, dessert was the single most important reason to own one. The book consists mostly of recipes for "frozen creams," mousses, sherbets, ices, parfaits, dessert sauces, and ways to dress up commercial ice cream if one had to resort to buying rather than making it.

The desserts sound pretty good for the most part, unless you're a kid:


Then you get treated to congealed leftover hot cereal with stewed dried fruit or canned fruit dumped on top. It hardly seems fair when the grownups get chocolate Bavarian cream or pistachio mousse.

The book also offers some chilled salads.


Even if you think lamb with oranges and French dressing sounds lovely, I think we can all agree that "cold waste lamb, cubed" is not the most appetizing description. I know it probably simply means "leftover lamb," but it sounds kind of like something the lamb left in the pasture instead.

The slim volume suggests a few chilled cocktail appetizers as well. The section even has an illustration to show off their elegance:


Lovely as it looks, crab flake cocktail is pretty boring-- just canned crab with cocktail sauce in a chilled glass nestled in a bed of ice. The most interesting cocktail did not get a picture:


Raisins soaked in sherry and topped with catsup, lemon juice, and a few chopped almonds! Say what you will, but whatever is served after a raisin cocktail has got to look better by comparison, even if it is cold waste lamb and clumped up cream of wheat.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Peachy, but not always keen

It's that time of year when we get overrun with little creatures so chubby and fuzzy I almost feel bad when I butcher them. They never resist much (unless they're of the clingstone variety), so the guilt fades pretty quickly. I'm talking, of course, about peaches. What should (or shouldn't) you do with these furry little guys?

Your best bet comes from Rival Crock-Pot Cooking (1975). The recipe is a shameless plug for the brand's Bread 'n' Cake Bake pan accessory, but it sounds yummy:


Packed with brown sugar, spices, and of course the titular peaches and pecans, Peach Pecan Coffee Cake sounds like the kind of recipe that will make the house smell so good you will magically levitate when the aroma wafts through the house.

If you need your sad gelatin mold fix, Better Homes and Gardens Good Food on a Budget (1971) offers Spicy Peach Mold:


Made with orange gelatin, crushed pineapple, various spices, and the always-questionable addition of vinegar, the mold might pretty effectively hide the peaches, but how much can you expect from an old-time Jell-O salad? At least it doesn't have American cheese and celery too.

If you want something with an innocuous name covering a dark secret, The Stuart Simmers Cook Book (The Pine Needles Mothers' Association of The Pine School in Stuart, Florida, ca. 1970) offers Georgia Peaches:


The name sounds sweetly southern, and the recipe starts out as a fairly typical pickled peaches recipe. (Peaches in vinegar are emphatically NOT my thing, but I get that some of you think they're acceptable. Who am I to judge people who like perfectly good fruit that tastes like it's been lightly seasoned with barf?) However, even if you like pickled peaches, I doubt that you ask for them to be broiled with cinnamon-covered onions before serving.

Here's another inexplicable twist on a peachy classic from Woman's Day Collector's Cook Book (1960):


Cheese-Peach salad takes that dieter's standard of cottage cheese and peach halves on lettuce, and makes it exciting (and not so diet-friendly) with mustard mayonnaise thinned out with whipped cream. In short, an unexciting low-cal lunch is made simultaneously less tasty and more caloric, a trick that will please no one.

If you're just looking for straight-up odd, then check out this recipe from Robert Ackart's Cooking in a Casserole (1973):


If you've ever thought fish (the book recommends sole or flounder) cooked in brown butter needed to be punched up with (or maybe just punched by) a ginger-peach syrup, this is the recipe for you! It's basically a sundae with fish instead of ice cream. What could be more summery-- except, perhaps, asking "Why the hell not at this point?" and just adding a scoop of ice cream too. Filets with Peaches and Ginger à la Mode it is...

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Foil: The Final Frontier

August... It's usually still pretty hot, so in the '70s when the energy crisis meant cutting back on air conditioning, this would have been a good time to retreat to the dark, cool basement. 401 Party and Holiday Ideas from Alcoa (Conny Von Hagen, 1971) has just the project for that. Have a space party!


This may be Alcoa's biggest idea yet to sell yards and yards and yards of foil. Just look at the space party spread:


Space apparently means lots and lots and lots of foil. Foil wallpaper! Foil-covered tables! Weird foil balls full of apples or pretzels or something hanging from the ceiling!

You think I'm kidding about that foil being wallpaper?


I shit you not! The foil is "a permanent finish and can be applied to any wall." Just cover the walls in wallpaper paste "and apply slightly crushed foil." If the hours spent covering the walls with slightly crushed foil "wallpaper" are not enough fun for you, go back and "paint walls lightly with oil paint-- a section at a time-- and rub off." Why anyone would want to spend a few hours painting foil wallpaper and then rubbing the paint right back off again, I have no idea, but apparently people in the '70s had endless amounts of free time since they didn't have cell phones. Next time somebody tries to make you feel bad about how much more you could get done if you weren't always messing with your phone, just think, "Well, I could be covering my basement walls with foil, then painting them and rubbing the paint off again." Guilt trip averted!

The hanging foil spheres each take 2-3 rolls of aluminum foil wadded around a beach ball, so if you don't use the full case of foil to cover the walls, you can still make spheres. The book never explains why these containers are spacey. Maybe they're supposed to be planets full of snacks? In any case, they're practical because, as the book assures us, "You will use them many times over." For what, I'm not sure. My guess is that they will be presented as evidence against you in some dispute that is only now beginning to take shape....

You can even trap one of the kids in one of these spheres if you call it a space helmet.


Yeah, mom. I'm really enjoying this. Can I take it off now?

Of course, a space party needs space snacks. This snack is a familiar one, but it seems so much cooler with its new name:


I'm calling English muffin pizzas "Moon Pizzas" from now on!

Well, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to cover my basement in foil and rubbed-off paint. Maybe if there's time, I'll make Moon Pizzas.