Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Calf's Head Pie

On a cold January day in 1865 the dread puerperal fever took the life of the mother of all Yuckylicious books, Mrs. Isabella Beeton, who was just 28 years old and who had just given birth, a week before, to her fourth child.

You do not want puerperal fever. Let’s just clarify right off the bat: if you are going to deliver a baby, wash your hands first. And after. The great irony here is that of all cookery books, hers probably contains the most references of cleanliness, an attribute always foremost in her advice for just about anything. The outrageous phrase wrongly attributed to her that aims to illustrate how thorough her recipes are (“First, catch your hare…”) could easily be replaced with “First, rise at six and wash your house.” That is, if you have the misfortune not to be able to employ at least a maid and cook.

Of curious note to a modern reader is that she expects those women of the class likely to have to prepare the remains of a head to read at a level many of today's college students would find trying, even though compulsory education for children was only instituted five years after her death. 

Another thing you might not want is leftover calf’s head. In her chapter on “The Art of Using-Up’” Mrs. Beeton advises us that “Most cooks like to work only with fresh materials, a practice which must be guarded against.”

For a woman who lived at a time when childbirth was probably going to kill you at some point, and some 60-odd years before the antibiotics that could have saved her were discovered, learning to make the most of life without refrigeration must have seemed like sage advice.

Mrs. Beeton’s Everyday Cookery, Ward, Lock & Co., date unknown (just post 1948)

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Boiling Water

In 1980 the person who previously owned the 700-watt Amana Radarange Microwave Oven that came with this cookbook and user guide paid $507.74 for it. How do I know? The receipt and warranty is still tucked inside the inside flap. Today, a 700-watt microwave can be had for $55 — but it probably won’t last as long as the model from 30 years ago which, if YouTube is anything to go by, would still be going strong if by chance you had not tossed it out already.

In the introductory section that instructs the new owner on how to work the machine, it says “You will find that your introduction to Cooking with the Amana Radarange Microwave Oven is very easy to read and understand. It’s also designed to lay completely flat so you won’t “lose your recipe page” at an awkward time.”

Why that phrase is in quotation marks is anybody’s guess, but I can tell you that the book does not lie flat by any stretch of the imagination. One thing it does get right, however, is the part about it being easy to read. Forthwith are a selection of recipes from it.

There's a nice section on how to use your microwave to dry fresh flowers at the back too. Ingredients: fresh flowers. Those ones on the cover better watch out. 

Introduction to Cooking with the Amana Radarange Microwave Oven Cookbook, 1980

Monday, August 29, 2011

An Eye For An Eye

Jean Anthelm Brillat-Savarin, in his foundational treatise on the aesthetics and science of gastronomy, The Physiology of Taste, offers this essential aphorism:

A dessert without cheese is like a beautiful woman who has lost an eye.

How true that is.

Perhaps this is how the missing eye sees this Apple Pie — deeply red. Look! There’s the cheese imprisoned in a glass cage behind the pie lest it escapes.

Crisco’s Favorite Family Foods Cookbook, The Procter and Gamble Company, 1973

Also from this book: Sausage Breakfast Bake With Crisco, They Serve Coke At Parties, Don't They? 

Sunday, August 28, 2011

All For One And One For All!

 Once upon a time a gallant young fellow named d’Artagnan met three dashing musketeers who had such splendid moustaches and pantaloons that he immediately knew his life’s ambition was to become one of them. Their names were Athos, Porthos and Aramis.

            “What must I do to join your honorable band?” he asked, hat in hand.
“Why, yon ambitious chappie,” they replied in unison (and in French), “thou must lead us forth into an escapade so dastardly and heroic and complex that we cannot but admit you to our fraternity.”
“Will there be much fighting?” d’Artagnan ventured, for it was his great hope to secure some gruesome scars with which to impress the ladies back in Gascony.
“What do you think these fine instruments of disembowelment are for?” the three musketeers noted in unison (and in French), brandishing their gleaming swords, “picking our teeth?”
“Of course not, your majesties,” replied d’Artagnan. “When do we begin?”
“Chapter 11,” I do believe, Porthos said before his companions could get a word in edgeways. Immediately they turned upon him to argue the point in dramatically hushed but semi-audible whispers.
“Chapter 11,” they answered in unison (and in French), “for that is the chapter In Which The Plot Thickens.”

To cut a long story short, much adventure was had involving women, jewels, royalty and high jinx. True to their word, the three musketeers were compelled to add d’Artagnan to their rank, whereupon they presented him with a golden cutlass like their own, and a dashing pair of blue satin pantaloons so that he may look the part.

To celebrate, they took him out to dine at an establishment that catered especially to musketeers where the specialty of the house was a serving plate as big as a house made from solid brass, and upon this plate were enormous balls of deep fried corned beef balls. The merry party downed their beer and commenced to attack their balls with their weapons as is customary in those parts.

Halfway through the maître’d asked everyone to stand back and snapped this photograph for posterity.

Happy Living! A Guidebook for Brides, American Bride Publications, 1965

Also from this book: A Connubial Breakfast, Three Courses (Of Course), Creamed Eggs In A Corned Beef Crust

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Banana-Cheese Dressing

There are some flavors that have become part of the culinary canon because they are so complementary it seems as if the Lord in His wisdom made them for one another. Tomatoes and oregano. Lamb and rosemary. Chocolate and salt. Brie and figs. Fish and lemon.

Bananas and cheese is not one of them.

The person who snuck a spoonful appears to agree since they unfortunately regurgitated it onto the apples entombed in orange Jello rather than the green glass plate put there for the express purpose of catching unwanted bits.

Salad Book, Better Homes and Gardens, 1969

Also from this book: Salmon Avocado Mold, Ham Cabbage MoldWash Your Mouth Out With Soap

Friday, August 26, 2011

Cooties Especial

It is customary in cultures around the world to greet guests with the best hospitality one can afford. This often means bringing out the best china and linens and treating your new friends to a delicious meal of local delicacies — rather than, say, lobbing a spear at them as they disembark from their ships.

It is a little known fact that in 1492, Christopher Columbus and his men were served this very meal to welcome them to the New World by the indigenous people he met there. It truly celebrates the magnitude of the Columbian Exchange by mixing ground beef with packaged instant mashed potatoes, tomatoes, Saltine crackers, evaporated milk, onions and cheese.

After feasting on slices of this “meat loaf” the company enjoyed cigars and exchanged diseases — syphilis and influenza — which also proved to be vastly successful in their new spheres of influence. 

When bidding their foreign visitors adieu, the natives breathed a collective sigh of relief that it had all gone so well, but were frankly happy to get back to their everyday lives knowing that this would be the last they would ever see of the strange white people from afar with the large knives.

You, too, can recreate this remarkable historic meal the next time you have the neighbors over because the Ground Meat Cook Book has finally made the recipe available to the general public — but be sure to have plenty of Purell on hand, just in case, you know.

Ground Meat Cook Book, Better Homes and Gardens, 1969

Also from this book: Top-Notch Turkey LoafMeaty Surprise!Hamburger Helper?Peppy-Sauced MeatloafHam StrataTangiers HashKing-Sized Balls

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Shine A Light

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

It was very very bright on one side due to the giant megawatt spotlight, while also very very bright on the other due to the other megawatt spotlight, and for good measure a light was shone from above to ensure that the deepest shadows possible were thrown like an abundantly excessive tip onto the table, forcing wait staff and diners alike to shudder just a little bit with awe and revulsion.

The cake at the back has already started melting, probably for shame at the appallingly inept text layout. This page has been presented as is so you may also appreciate the washed out printing that has rendered all that lighting null and void.

Family Circle Illustrated Library of Cooking, Volume 4, 1972

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Mon Dieu — I’m stuffed!

This picture is a farce — in more ways than the one you’re probably thinking.

You may very well be entertained by the improbable pairings of protein and vegetable; you could even find the elaborate staging of the candle and flowers a satiric example of physical comedy. The poached eggs staring up like twin headlights from their sockets of hulled tomatoes appear to be praying for it all to end in some glorious plot twist. As such, it is a farce in the classical sense.

But it is also a farce in the culinary sense: in the language of classic French gastronomy, the term “farce” means “stuffed,” and these all are. It does shed new light on the Terducken, though, doesn't it? 

Kenmore Microwave Cooking, The Benjamin Company, Inc., 1984

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Beer Cheese Soup

Ah…1948, possibly the last time it was possible to get away with selling the idea that a trailer could be your dream home, parked in a small lot on cheap land next to many other trailers occupied by like-minded individuals just wanting to get away from it all and relax without the burdensome toil of housekeeping. 

Why bother with a kitchen when all you really need is a microwave and can-opener? China plates chip over time, but paper ones can simply be used and tossed with ease. And who wouldn’t want to dine al fresco every day in the company of your neighbors, instead of having to sit bolt upright on hardback chairs around a dining table you’re afraid to scratch? You need never make a bed that folds away — or wear anything other than your most comfortable clothes because let’s face it: it isn’t like you’re going to run into your boss walking the dog are you? In Florida and the Southern States the weather is always sunny so you can do away with those bulky winter coats and shoes that take up so much closet space. Why, you can even go barefoot if you like! It’s like a permanent vacation!

Where was I? Oh yes: Beer Cheese Soup. Garnished with everybody’s favorite (and always on hand) popcorn! So easy to assemble and chances are you already have the ingredients in a box somewhere —perhaps the same box you keep the spare batteries and bandages in case of a hurricane. And if not, well it can’t be that long a walk to the nearest gas station where they are sure to have everything on hand. You, your spouse and four children can eat like kings any day of the week! 

Microwave Cooking Convenience Foods, Publication Arts, Inc., 1981

Monday, August 22, 2011

If Henry Kissinger was Petite, Pretty and Black

Why is it that in the 1970s photo re-touching was only applied by secret agents to either erase or add shady political characters to grainy Soviet balcony gatherings? Sure, it wasn’t always great; the non-person often left behind an inexplicable gap in a tight line-up and their shadow. But could this technology have also been put to use for occasions such as this? What is that gentleman on top of the author’s umbrella doing sticking a knife into his head? Could that be the author’s husband, Lee Elder? Is he trying to tell us something?

Sadly, the bizarre photo cropping is not the only odd thing about this book. To wit: the blurbs on the flyleaf:

“For many years, I have wondered why someone did not publish a ‘Favorite Recipes from the Tour’ book. Now, we have one. In its own way, it is very revealing as it lets us know what really soothes the appetites of our favorite people.

These man who play this game we all love so much, seem to enjoy everything from fish sticks to Coquille Ste. Jaques; Kentucky Fried to Poulet en Cocotte Bonne Femme; tacos to Carne Asada a la Tampiqueña. At each stop along the way, they have their favorite spots and learn to enjoy what is the specialty of the locale.

When they have a chance to go into their own kitchens, though, and say ‘Now, here is what I’d really like to have for dinner,’ it is interesting to see what they do choose.

Whatever, the Rose Elder Golfer’s Cookbook is a welcome addition to the bookshelf.”
— Tom Place (PGA Tour)

Really, Tom? There exists a man on this planet who actually asks for “Rose’s Own Clean the Refrigerator Stew”? (page 149) According to this book, what these well-paid PGA Tour professionals crave are not the fancy foreign foods they eat while away, but "Congealed Salad." Whatever. 

 There’s this from Jim Murray (Los Angeles Times): 

“You can go to your pro if you like to get a recipe for that loop in your backswing. I want his wife’s recipe for Tripe A La Mode De Caen, garnee sous cloche. Who wants Chicken Kiev when they can get Chicken Doral? I mean, why should I settle for chili dogs when Lee Elder can get Pompano-in-a-bag?”

Why, indeed. Curiously, none of these recipes is in the book, so he’s going to have to find another way to get them out of his pro’s wife. Likewise, the fabled “Pompano-in-a-bag” is also not listed, so we’ll all have to just settle for chili dogs.

There are 4 recipes for meatloaf, however, including the charmingly named “Dale’s Mother’s Meat Loaf” which comes with this note: “After several meat loaf recipes after Dale and I were first married, he finally asked me to get his mother’s recipe…and here it is!” That’s one recipe for a happy marriage, folks.

Finally, a glimpse at Phil Musick’s author bio on the back flyleaf gives us a clue as to the general “spirit of ‘75” air that guides the crazy in this book. It begins:

If Henry Kissinger was petite, pretty, black and somewhat less busy, he would be Rose Elder.”

The people of Cambodia, Chile and Argentina probably agree.

The Golfer’s Cookbook, Rose Elder, 1977

Saturday, August 20, 2011

“Is that a brain?!”

“Oh, wait — it’s that white broccoli, isn’t it.”Anonymous 7 year-old.

This may indeed look like it takes hardly any time at all to prepare — get yourself a head of cauliflower and bang it on a plate with a bit of obligatory parsley around the edges — but for the “woman in a hurry” this cook book is written for, it is rather disingenuous.

While the giant raw vegetable can be made in a jiffy (after all, nature has done most of the work for you), procuring the ethnic props to serve it with takes rather more time. First one has to scour the second-hand shops in an Eastern European neighborhood of your choice to find a pristine-condition doll in traditional garb, and then steal a nice large serving platter from a museum of antiquities. Then you have to wait until an elderly relative kicks the bucket so you can inherit the silver serving fork and plate.

This shouldn’t be a problem, however, since raw cauliflower takes a while to decompose. It’s not like it’s going to go cold or anything.

Quick Dishes For A Woman In A Hurry, Culinary Arts Institute, 1982

Friday, August 19, 2011

Beet-Pineapple Mold and Other Perfect Salads

 In his foundational text on the subject, The Elements of Typographic Style, Robert Bringhurst notes that “typography exists to honor content.” He goes on to say: “when type is poorly chosen, what the words say linguistically and what the letters imply visually are disharmonious, dishonest, out of tune.”

As far as page layouts go, this one isn’t bad. There is proportion, balance, an easy line for the eye to follow. The recipe titles are clear; there is enough white space to lend a certain grace and clarity to the page. The typographer has utilized italics, all-caps, tab spaces and hyphens with a practiced and subtle eye. The page as a whole exhibits classic depths of margin and gutter. Clearly, a professional is at work and we should rightly take a moment to applaud what usually goes — by design — unnoticed. It is typographic poetry.

It’s a damn shame the actual words constitute such shit.

Salad Book, Better Homes and Gardens, 1969

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Suckling Pig

This particular suckling pig was procured from the little-publicized Livestock Foodstuffs Agency which provides toothsome-looking models for culinary photography. For some animals, whose only other avenue in life is a factory farm, it can be an appealing career choice, though it does come tinged with the occupational hazard of actually being cooked and eaten in the course of doing your job. For this reason, insurance rates run high, a cost passed on to the consumer. 

Not every hopeful beast is chosen, of course; a high priority is placed on a blemish-free and succulent appearance. Job training differs species to species — suckling pigs practice the apple-in-the-mouth pose under strict tutelage so that they may remain still, often balanced on a spit or serving platter for hours at a time. Many find the experience of being slathered in barbecue sauce quite relaxing, especially when it is rubbed in by a sympathetic food stylist. 

Despite the potential rewards that attend this profession it remains unregulated, though unionization has improved conditions in recent years with a set fee schedule and the provision of regular bathroom breaks and worker’s compensation packages for those nicked and burned in the line of duty. Sadly even this is sometimes not enough to forestall ruthless food editors from abusing their employees as one can plainly see from this example. Fortunately, the mandatory Livestock Foodstuffs Agency Life Insurance policy will provide for his porcine wife and piglets for a period of three years or until any exercise their right to sacrifice themselves for bacon.

The Art of Carving, House and Garden, 1959

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

In Your Face!

Serves Four.

If the above makes sense to you, you are a Perv and spend far too much time on the internet. ‘Nuff said.

Grand Diplôme Cooking Course, Volume 3, 1971

Also from these books: Sweetbreads NiquetteYour Goose Is CookedVatel’s Haddock Up To HereFrankfurter Salad

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Salmon Avocado Mold

In 1969 some prescient folks at Better Homes and Gardens saw that the generation soon to be known as the Baby Boomers comprised the bulk of the demographic their cook books were aimed at. Thinking ahead, they decided to include as many recipes as possible for the toothless, the gummy, the denture-set. By blending, whizzing, creaming and smashing normally solid ingredients and then reconstituting them as semi-solids in non-threatening shapes (helped along by plenty of gelatin), they managed to put the fear of God into their customers, who all flocked to their dentists and invested in really expensive preventive orthodontia to forestall the possibility they would ever have to face such foodstuffs before death relieved them of the chance they’d be force-fed them in a nursing home.

Exhibit A: “A spectacular salad for a foursome is the Salmon Avocado Mold. Frosted with an avocado dressing, cut wedges are pretty on the plates. It’s a do-ahead beauty to make the hostess’ job easier.”

Salad Book, Better Homes and Gardens, 1969

Also from this book: Banana-Cheese Dressing, Ham Cabbage MoldWash Your Mouth Out With Soap

Monday, August 15, 2011

Vatel's Haddock Up To Here

A Poisson Play (or, Too Little, Too Late)
A Play In One Scene.

April, 1671, Château de Chantilly, France. 4am

Who goes there?

Why it is I, a humble fisherman.

Oh thank goodness — I’ve been waiting for you. I presume you have my order?

Sure. I’ve got a couple bream, a small turbot and a nice Dover Sole. And in this basket I have four perch, an eel and a bit of skate wing. The rest of the skate didn’t make it, but the wing is OK if you sauté it with a bit of butter. Oh, and also a haddock.

Is this all?

I’ve been out on a boat all night mate. You’re lucky to get this.

It’s not enough! I have to feed 2000 people!

I thought it was a pretty good catch myself.

How am I going to manage with this! I placed an order for 2000 fishes!

Not with me you didn’t. Look: I walked all the way here in the dark, you ungrateful sod. Do you want the fish or not?

Mon Dieu!

It can’t be that bad. You look tired. Have you had enough sleep? You look a bit ragged around the edges if you don’t mind me saying.

I’ve been awake for 12 straight days. You have no idea.

Bloody Hell, mate. Go to bed.

Can’t. Got to cook dinner for 2000 tomorrow.

That’s a bit steep. My Missus wouldn’t have that many over in one sitting.

The King has waited five years for this banquet. Yesterday the roast failed at two tables — don’t ask — and today: no fish! It’s a disaster!

Ask yourself: What Would Jesus Do? He was pretty handy at dilemmas like this.

I shall never survive the disgrace. My career is in ruins!

Look: are you going to take this fish or not? It's not every day I have haddock.

What’s the point? I’m a dead man!

Whatev. Too much drama. I’m off home. Thanks for nothing. I bid you adieu, Sir.

Au revior. Try not to crush the jonquils on your way out. Where’s my sword? Where’s my damn sword?

*  *  *  *  

Three hundred years later we can see what Gourville may have served Louis XIV that Friday once Vatel's corpse had been found by the messenger sent to inform him all the fish he ordered had in fact been delivered after all. 

Grand Diplôme Cooking Course, Volume 2, 1971

Also from these books: Sweetbreads NiquetteYour Goose Is CookedIn Your Face!Frankfurter Salad

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Brown, Glamorous Brown

Ah, brown. The color of romance, of love. The color of nature, but without the greens, and blues, reds, yellows, purples, oranges also found there. The color of mud, or wood. Brown, the color of excitement, of daring, of imagination. The color of earthworms and moths and English people’s teeth. Brown, the color that lights up the heart and mind and sets your loins on fire. Would that all things were brown, or shades of brown: raw sienna, burnt umber, mustards and ochre, tan, khaki and beige. Brown, glorious brown.

Behold how this hostess has paid homage to brown, pulling out her best pottery and brown tablecloth and a fat handful of cinnamon sticks, plus topping the cake with a hefty layer of brown sugar! Naughty minx! Even the flowers are brown. 

Make-Ahead Cook Book, Better Homes and Gardens, 1971

Saturday, August 13, 2011

A Connubial Breakfast

Once upon a time not so very long ago, people married almost total strangers. Sure, they’d been on a few dates, dinner and a movie, and there was probably some chaste kissing at the lady’s doorstep at the end of the evening. After a period of engagement a wedding was had, followed by a reception and then the newlyweds retired to a hotel room to consummate their union before setting off in the morning for a week’s honeymoon.

Imagine the shock of sex after a really busy and emotionally draining day full of relatives in some strange bed with a guy you’ve never seen naked before but with whom you will have to spend the rest of your life even if the sex is horribly bad. Imagine discovering as you lay there all sore listening to him snore like a freight train.

When they return from their honeymoon the groom will pick up his bride and carry her over the threshold of their new home. Suddenly, married life begins without any practice at all and she’s probably already pregnant.

If she’s lucky, she will have been given a household management guide by her mother, which was an encyclopedic compendium of advice and reference for everything the new wife would face in her role as head of the household. Everything from how to buy furniture to how to make curtains to how to clean and what to wear, to cooking and being a hostess was described in detail. Mrs. Beeton had this pretty much covered in the tome that came under her name and was the absolute authority when it came to all things of the matronly persuasion.

If she’s less lucky she will have gotten married in 1965 and been given Happy Living! A Guidebook For Brides courtesy of Sibleys of Rochester, a department store hoping to cash in on all the purchasing it suggests you do. To help, it comes with a Bride’s Gift Record wherein one can list all the gifts one receives and keep track of whether you’ve acknowledged them of not. It’s ambitious; there are numbered lines for 256 gifts.

Among the truly revolting dishes it presents in nauseating Technicolor is this Apple-Beef Ring With Green Bean Succotash that resembles a dog bowl. Husbands must have recoiled in horror.

On the facing page is a recipe for A Connubial Breakfast of ham and eggs because “the bride, unsure of her mate’s morning preferences, might well serve them, for they bring that proverbial bliss.”

We all know what her mate’s morning preference is for "proverbial bliss," but curiously the guidebook doesn’t say anything about that whatsoever.

Happy Living! A Guidebook for Brides, American Bride Publications, 1965

Also from this book: Three Courses (Of Course)Creamed Eggs In A Corned Beef CrustAll For One And One For All!
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