Friday, September 30, 2011

Anything To Declare?

— Excuse me Sir, you’re not allowed to bring those into the country.

— Why not?

— They’re contraband — not allowed. Against the law. Illegal.

— But they’re only cigars! Surely that’s OK.

— No they’re not — they are asparagus.

— Not at all; they’re panatelas. Look.

— Sir, you are brandishing a box of asparagus spears.

— Spears? What? I have no spears. I have cigars. You know, tobacco.

— It is not permitted to bring raw vegetables into the United States.

— What does that have to do with my cigars?

— Certain fruits and vegetables carry the risk of contamination via pests and bacteria.

— But the heat from the smoke would surely kill any pests in my cigars —

— The Mediterranean fruit fly outbreak of 1980 can be traced to just three male fruit flies.

— That’s awfully specific. I don’t know what that has to do with my cigars though, to be perfectly honest.

— Sir, they’re not cigars. You have been duped. You are the victim of a hoax.

— What!

— You have been marked as a rube and have fallen for the oldest trick in the book.

— Why, I —

— You have been sold a box of asparagus spears in lieu of your panatelas.

— How is that even possible?

— I see it all the time. You’re not alone. It’s a racket. But you have to hand them over, I’m afraid, because under the current customs guidelines, they are restricted. You can bring in as many cigars as you fancy, just not asparagus.

— But what are you going to do with them?

— I am duty bound to confiscate them, Sir.

— Well, I’ll be darned . . .

— I’m sorry, Sir; them’s the rules. Move along now; you’re holding up the line.

* * *

— Pssst — Jason!

— Yo, wassup?

— Get a load of these panatelas I just confiscated.

— Nice, brother! What d’you want for them?

— $50 should do it.

— I’ll give you $20.

— $30.

— Sold. That old asparagus line works every damn time.

Vegetables, The Knapp Press, 1983

Thursday, September 29, 2011

SPAM: A Madd Couple Well Matcht

 In 1652, the dramatist Richard Brome introduced to the written language the charming phrase “noonings and intermealiary lunchings” in his play, “A Madd Couple Well Matcht.” The word for a meal eaten around noon, luncheon, dates from around 1580 (at least in print), and usually referred to a thick slice of bread eaten with cheese.

It took 357 years for the Hormel Company to change all that by inventing a new “luncheon meat,” SPAM. In 1937 when it was launched, neologisms were all the rage in advertising, and a chap named Kenneth Daigneau — a brother of a Hormel executive — came up with it, pairing spiced with ham, one of the more successful cases of a word whose origins exemplify a “couple well matched.”

So popular was this tinned meat that it soon entered the literary sphere. In 1939, Steinbeck referred to it in The Grapes of Wrath: “The tractor driver stopped‥.and opened his lunch: sandwiches wrapped in waxed paper, white bread, pickle, cheese, Spam.”

But in just twenty short years, Spam’s reputation took on a darker flavor; by 1959 the term “spammy” had come to mean commonplace, mediocre and unexciting as a direct allusion to SPAM’s distinctive blandness.

By the time personal computing and email required a term for opportunistic crud that flooded your mailbox, 5 billion tins of SPAM had been sold. It proved the perfect word to poach for this new purpose, which the Los Angeles Times did in 1993 with “This rumor may have a high Spam content.” Thus it was that a proper noun — SPAM — transformed itself into an adjective and a verb; hence to spam; to be a spammer. By utilizing the word in a new, lower-case context, proprietary laws governing the brand name’s use can be avoided.

None of this seems to have hurt SPAM itself, however. Its popularity remains in place, partly due to a re-engineering of ingredients to keep pace with the public’s perceived need for low-fat, low-salt versions, and a healthy dose of nostalgia. Indeed, the Hormel Company appears to have decided to embrace the new meaning of their word by promoting the satire “Sir Spamalot” on their website (where the word “SPAMALOT” is once again brought under the copyright umbrella as an officially trademarked name.

This seems fitting; good old Kenneth Daigneau was himself a well-known Broadway actor. Ultimately, it’s all a play on words — not just a play with words. 

 Most-For-The-Money Main Dishes, Campbell Soup Company, 1975

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Avocado Ice Cream

Guacamole: it’s a lovely onomatopoeia — describing the thick and glossy texture produced when mashing buttery avocado, either in lumpy chunks or smooth and creamy. Mixed with a squeeze of fresh lemon or lime juice to preserve its pale green color, it can be made more or less piquant with the application of hot sauce, cilantro, garlic and tomato. It goes perfectly with a salty crisp corn chip or ten or twenty.

Guacamole is the perfect summer concoction, a blend of salty and sweet that makes for a great appetizer — hang on, did you say ice cream? Surely I heard you wrong. Maybe the signal’s corrupted or something. Let me move to the other side of the room. I’m talking about guacamole, what are you talking about? Ice cream? No: guacamole, you know, the stuff you make with avocados. Stop saying ice cream.

No, no no, this is crazy talk. There is no such thing as avocado ice cream. Truly. That would be insanity. Besides, the only acceptable flavors of green ice cream are pistachio and mint chocolate chip, everyone knows that.

What, you can prove it? No way. Look: let’s have a friendly wager. I bet you a week’s pay you cannot produce an actual printed recipe for avocado ice cream, from a real published recipe book. Yes, I said a week’s pay. Are we on? Good.

This’ll be the easiest money I ever make….

Meta Given’s Modern Encyclopedia of Cooking, J. G. Ferguson Publishing Company, 1947

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Frying Tonight

Ah — the English Chippie. 

Whether lit like a fluorescent beacon on the high street or perched on a windy bluff on the seafront, it beckons customers like a siren with its alluring aroma of frying cod and big fat chips, peas and malt vinegar.

Condensation fogs up the window; the floor is scuffed linoleum; a selection of fizzy-pop sweats in cans in the glass-front case; a big board behind the counter lists your choices: cod & chips, plaice & chips, haddock & chips, onion rings, mushy peas — the same in every chippie, anywhere. The door is always open, and a bin outside is stuffed with the detritus of a day’s trade: squashed-up balls of greasy paper, napkins and plastic forks. It’s as irresistible as anything on a fine dining menu, but more evocative and probably more romantic too, in its way.

When you’re about to tuck in to your steaming hot packet of crisp battered fish, still huffing air to cool the vinegar-soaked fat chip you popped in your mouth — still hungry, knowing the rest of the meal is still ahead of you — this is the moment you silently offer up a prayer of thanks to whomever first accidentally dropped a fillet in the egg — then uh-oh, the flour — then dammit! the pot of boiling oil. Oh well, you might as well eat it….

This skillet of whole cornmeal-coated rainbow trout fried in bacon drippings “hot enough to make the tails curl” bears absolutely no resemblance whatsoever to the above.

Easy Skillet Meals, Better Homes and Gardens, 1972

Also from this book: All Fired Up

Monday, September 26, 2011

Bohemian Rhapsody

Queen’s epic opus is 5 minutes and 55 seconds of pure crazy-ass genius that makes absolutely no sense whatsoever, and remains to this day one of the most complex recordings in popular music, having been recorded over three weeks on so many overdubs the tape was nearly worn through.

You have to have an enormous, swaggering pair of cajones to think you can get away with singing it in concert if you are not Freddie Mercury; those who do and can pull it off are rewarded handsomely by a raucous crowd of happy hand waving headbangers judging every single note.

The song’s impenetrable lyrics have been subject to much speculation, ranging from the most jargon-entwisted academic intellectualizing to Mercury’s own admission that they were just “random rhyming nonsense.”  

Until now. Here, for the first time, is the culinary catalyst upon which “Bohemian Rhapsody” was surely based. To wit:  Homes and Gardens’ monstrous book Meals With A Foreign Flair’s section on “Stout German Fare.” 

Is this the real life?
Is this just fantasy?

Behold the glory that is the Hausplatte, a veritable symphony of meat served on a wooden trencher alongside tankards of beer. It surely is a meal for someone teetering on the brink of a nervous breakdown who thinks that “nothing really matters.”

MAMA just killed a man,
Put a gun against his head, pulled my trigger, now he's dead
MAMA, life had just begun,
But now I've gone and thrown it all away

We are eased in to the opening movement (in which the protagonist confesses to murder, says he doesn’t want to face the consequences, and wishes he’d never been born at all) by the Duchesse potatoes edging the platter, keeping all the meat in and providing an ever-present context for the meal’s theme. Who among us would not wish they’d never been born when faced with his dish? Who would not be driven to shoot someone in the head?

I'm just a poor boy nobody loves me
He's just a poor boy from a poor family,
Spare him his life from this monstrosity
Easy come, easy go, will you let me go
Bismillah! No, we will not let you go
(Let him go!) Bismillah! We will not let you go

With a sudden change in tempo, the thudding of a lone piano introduces us to a hysterical dialogue between the protagonist and his demons, here represented by the myriad artery-bursting array of animal proteins that form the plate’s centerpiece. The sausages, as Scaramouche, appear ready to do the Fandango in one’s mouth, while the boiled beef plays the part of Galileo, trying to tell the truth about meat’s essential nature. The weinkraut in the middle are surely Bismillah, the Arabic god with whom the protagonist enters a crazed dialogue begging for and denying his freedom. Before all hell breaks loose, Beelzebub, the devil himself, appears in the form of pig’s knuckles anchoring this sordid tale at both ends.

Beelzebub!.. has a devil put aside for me, for me, for me

Once any diner has commenced engorging him or herself in this orgy of meat, the music, and heart races. One can hear it begging:

Oh, baby, can't do this to me, baby,
Just gotta get out, just gotta get right outta here

Once safely removed from the table and no longer a threat, the diner slouches in a chair, sated, greasy juice dribbling down his or her chin and soaking into the napkin tucked into a collar. Eyes rolled back, is it any wonder the song ends with this final sentiment?

Nothing really matters, Anyone can see,
Nothing really matters,
Nothing really matters to me
Any way the wind blows.

The metallic chime of a gong — the bell that tolls for thee — finds echo in a long and gratifying burp.

Meals With A Foreign Flair, Better Homes and Gardens, 1963

Also from this book: Sweet-Sour PorkVive La Cuisine Franglais!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Stuffed Onions (And Peas)

Have trouble getting the kids to eat their peas? Have they reached that awkward stage between delighting in their greenness and roundness and the discovery that they can be flicked all into every corner of your dining room when your eyes are averted, and a full-on tantrum if any of the peas so much as touch another item on their plate?

All hope is not lost! This ingenious method of hiding the peas in the hollowed-out center of an onion is a sure-fire way of pulling the wool over their eyes. They’ll think they’re just eating a plain old onion, yet in the meantime they will have consumed an entire serving of peas! The piquant flavor of barely cooked onion masks the taste of peas like a dream — and since everything is spherical, it all feels the same once you put it in your mouth.

Works once — works twice — works every time!

Microwave Cooking Fruits & Vegetables, Publications Arts, Inc., 1981

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Flights of Fancy: Songbirds

The French have a way with bureaucracy: they generate a lot of it, and a large percentage involves laws regulating the finer things in life: sex and food. They understand completely that the point of such endeavors is to make one more like the other. Hence, a certain forgving attitude towards the taboo leads one to create one’s own point of no return, which is surely sexier to knock up against than one imposed by the State. By deeming it illegal to pay for, yet perfectly legal to consume, the ortolan, they create a loophole just large enough or the tiny songbird to fly through. Françoise Mitterrand, the former President, combined all of these in his person: both as a bureaurocrat charged with maintaining the law, a man who openly maintained both wife and mistress, and as a gourmand, whose last meal (of ortolan) demonstrated a flagrant disregard for the very laws he oversaw.

Another thing the French do damnably well (and with as much constricting oversight) is language. Thus it is that one of Auguste Escoffier’s many recipes for Ortolan is the divinely named Slyphides d’Ortolans. Not for him the pedestrian nomenclature one usually finds on the menu; no Roasted Songbird with Pineapple Juice for him. Instead, he calls upon the sylph, those fairy-like wisps of femininity who are composed of and inhabit the air. The ballet Les Sylphides has no plot per se, just delicate ballerinas flitting about a bloke they fancy. It’s a very French type of story. A bit like the wee ortolans flying over Landes before the traps are sprung.

Once netted, the hapless ortolans are fattened up in the dark. Death comes for them at the bottom of the glass of Armagnac in which they are drowned. They are then roasted whole so that none of their fats and juices escape until popped into the mouth of a lucky diner, head, tail, legs, wings, guts and all. Crunching their tiny bones scratches the insides of one’s cheeks, so that the diner’s own blood mingles with the bird, enhancing its flavor. The perfume is said to be worth the effort, and is often cited as the reason this whole affair takes place with one’s head hidden beneath a large napkin (all the better to trap the aroma), though romance and superstition claim it is necessary to hide the disgraceful act from God.

The more observant among you will have noticed that this is all a very clever magic trick for turning actual birds into mythical women via semiotics (both are “Les Sylphides” and made of air, like ideas and language), which incidentally is about as French as it gets.

Ma Cuisine, Auguste Escoffier, 1934

Friday, September 23, 2011


Know what that means? Here’s a hint: it means chocolate. (So much for hints.) More specifically, when translated from the Greek, it means theobroma, or food of the gods. In 1753, when Linnaeus was classifying everything in the world, he added cacao, a word derived more phonetically from the Nahuatl term cacahuatl handed down via the Spaniards who first brought it back to Linnaeus's neck of the woods.

But why is chocolate so revered? 

Apart from sheer deliciousness, one of its active ingredients is the alkaline compound theobromine, which keeps humans awake and horny, but kills dogs and cats. This is why you give your sweetheart Valentine’s Day candy, but avoid giving it to your pet. If you plan on seducing your human partner, by all means ply them with a lovely bit of single-origin dark criollo chocolate with a fine snap and silky mouthfeel. If you plan on seducing your pet, you need psychological intervention, and no amount of chocolate can help you.

Not all chocolate is food fit for gods, however. Some of it is the food of hucksters and hoodlums who make a low-quality product they lobbied hard to name “chocolate” even while replacing the cocoa butter with partially hydrogenated vegetable oils. Naughty, naughty. The gods smite you for trickery like that. The FDA, siding with the gods, shot the Hershey Company down on this one, but some evil has unfortunately slipped through.

The Hershey’s Chocolate and Cocoa Cookbook manages, somehow, to make everything in it look mournful and full of dread — as if each cake, mousse and pastry were patiently awaiting their turn to be sacrificed on an alter of 1970's era wallpaper complete with a perfunctory sprig of plastic flowers. This is chocolate, people! 

Behold this cake above that looks like it was designed to be served at a wake — its own. Just be sure not to feed it under the table to Fido.

Hershey’s Chocolate and Cocoa Cookbook, Ideals Publishing Corp., 1982

Also from this book: Double Dipping

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Magic Roundabout

In 1973 Great Britain joined the European Community, a precursor to the EU, and all hell broke loose. Specifically, a slow kind of arithmetic hell broke gradually loose as it dawned on normal British people that the weights, measures and currency they had adhered to for many hundreds of years were now deigned stupefyingly nonsensical by their new Euro cousins, and that in order to enjoy all the Continent had to offer in terms of armloads of cheap wine and pastry procured by day trippers to Calais, it would be necessary to convert to the damnable Metric system.

Naturally, this impertinence to the beloved Imperial system was resisted vehemently in an attempt to cling to the very stuff that made British people British: namely, their bloody-minded oddness. Why describe a person’s weight in kilograms when you can use stones? (1 stone = 14 lbs. 1 lb = 16 ozs.) What the heck is a centimeter and aren’t inches and feet obviously better units of measurement for building things? (1 foot = 12 inches.) What does 18 degrees feel like, and would you have to don a cardigan? (Freezing = 32 degrees.) You could hold a pint of milk in your hand, but could you carry a litre? How many kilometers to the litre can you get for 60 pence? Shillings, guineas, pounds and pennies all morphed into new coins based on multiples of ten instead of 12 and 20. It was madness. CLICK HERE.

Thus is was that the government had to crack the whip and demand that for a period of time, both Imperial and Metric units had to be displayed on most everything you could buy. If you fell afoul of this law, a Belgian woman would be deployed to your place of business to give you a good seeing-to. Some things made the transition and some didn’t. You’d still order a pint of beer in a pub, though what you’d actually get would be whatever that is in whatever liquid is measured in in metric. Just thinking about it makes you drunk.

All of which is to explain why this appalling recipe from Dougal’s Cook Book has both Imperial and Metric units: it was published in 1973. It’s a recipe particularly unsuited for children’s tastes involving a raw cabbage and a snail. Have you ever smelled raw cabbage? I need say no more.

If you’re not British, you’ll also be wondering what that strange beast is with a chef’s toque on in the cover photo. That’s Dougal, star of a children’s television show that aired between 1965 – 1977 called The Magic Roundabout. The single most distinguishing thing about this show is that it was obviously all about the consumption of massive amounts of drugs and came from France. Dougal was fond of sucking on sugar cubes, after which he’d race around at top speed. It was a show for and about hipster freaks, and as such was beloved by a generation of innocent children who as adults cling to the memory of it with a nostalgia as passionate as that for the good old Imperial system.

Check it out HERE.

The Magic Roundabout has attained such an iconic place in British culture that an actual traffic circle in Swindon is named the Magic Roundabout, mostly because it is so unnecessarily complex that instead of meeting certain death when venturing into it, people tend to emerge dazed but unscathed, because they’d had to drive so slowly to figure it out. It is a feat of post-Imperial engineering that appears to have been designed especially to confound our European visitors as an exquisite revenge, except the joke’s on the poor people of Swindon, because no-one ever goes there.

Dougal’s Cook Book, Hamlyn, 1973

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Terrible Terrine

Ever eaten a Patagonian Toothfish? It’s an ugly beast, you’d remember it. Don’t think so?

You’re wrong. You’ve had it. You’ve had it so much it’s now on the endangered species list, impaled on the hook of its own popularity when its unfortunately offputting name was changed by marketing whizzes to Chilean Sea Bass.

When something is unappetizing it’s easier to change its name than to change it: hence we have the lovely Dried Plums from the unlovely Prunes. We have Bob Veal instead of Newborn Calves. We have Jell-O instead of Gelatin.

Speaking of which, we have Terrine of Garden Vegetables rather than Leftovers. Sounds delicious, doesn’t it? How can you tell if a food’s moniker has been doctored? Look for obvious redundancies in its title. What vegetables don’t come from a garden, for instance? A terrine is a nice way of saying pot; the word tureen (something you serve soup in) comes from it. Terror, on the other hand, comes from the Latin terrere, meaning to frighten. Put the two together and Voila!

This one has been concocted from leftover crudités and gelatin. They suggest serving it with horseradish and a “lusty” wine. We suggest serving it with a blindfold.

Appetizers, The Knapp Press, 1982

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Roast Opossum

When the apocalypse happens, and it surely will, your local supermarket’s meats case will empty pretty quickly as folks rush in a belated attempt to stock up on goods for their Apocalypse Cellars. Because these folks are very tactical, they will already have prepared for this eventuality by putting aside multi-packs of batteries, tinned goods, bottled water, ramen noodles, candles, matches, playing cards, and enough guns and ammo to ensure that any remaining humans are swiftly dispatched. All they will need to live the good life and re-emerge into a barren post-apocalyptic wasteland is fresh meat. Some they will consume immediately, and some they will hang from the rafters in a misguided attempt to make jerky.

The Opossum
What will the rest of us do when we turn up to find the shelves and freezer cases empty? What will we do for protein as we wait our turn in the enormous queue that will form to sort out who goes into which afterlife?

We will look to our Hillbilly cousins for inspiration and kick-it old school. We will trap vermin and make a tasty dinner of it. We will treat the lacerations it inflicts with Neosporin and Band Aids. We will take all of our antibiotics. We will learn to enjoy “peculiar” flavors and avoid looking at the opossum’s snarling singed face and tail as we tuck in. We will search about in the entrails for the liver which is the central ingredient in Opossum Stuffing. We will be sure to remove the skewers and / or stitches before serving. We will invite all of our condemned neighbors over because there will be enough for ten.

Bring it on, bitches! Bring it on!

Cooking for Young Homemakers, Culinary Arts Institute, 1964

Also from this book: Fried Brains, Fried and Baked, Crown Roast of FrankfurtersRudolph the Red Nosed Pot Roast

Monday, September 19, 2011


Despite what it looks like, these Springtime Potatoes are not an example of something you’d find in a vomitorium. People spew forth from a vomitorium, not chunks of radish and cucumber in a sour cream and chive sauce. This is because to vomere is to exit, usually from an auditorum. We expect people to sleep in a dormitorium because dormaire means to sleep. Same thing. Vomit is short for vomitus, which when it involves Springtime Potatoes covered in a radish and cucumber in a sour cream and chive sauce is really emesis, for which you should take an emetic. Marijuana is a powerful anti-emetic, and can be found in most dorm rooms. Vomiting should not be confused with regurgitation, which is merely when undigested food comes back up into one’s mouth. Got it? Good.

Fix It Fast Cook Book, Better Homes and Gardens, 1979

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Human Flesh

“Preserving food has been a problem for man from the earliest times. If he lived in the arctic, he could freeze it. If he lived in the desert, he could dry it. And if he lived near the ocean, he could pickle it in salt water. Otherwise, he ate as much food as he could before it spoiled.”

This helpful glimpse into human affairs appears in the introduction to Better Homes and Gardens’ Home Canning Cook Book. In 1973 they didn’t care about piffling things like historical accuracy, and preferred to employ such vague terms as “earliest times” to denote specific periods of technological development. Evidently, preserving food was not a problem for man before the earliest times, since he was asleep, and his wife was already up slaving away over a hot fire stewing mammoth bones for breakfast.

One of Franklin's tins
In later times, sealing food in tins made extended trips in ships possible, though it had its drawbacks. In 1845, for example, Sir John Franklin embarked on his final attempt to find the fabled Northwest Passage. He took 8,000 tins of food that was ordered from provisioner Stephen Goldner just seven weeks before the voyage. It was a rush job. The lead soldering them shut was "thick and sloppily done, and dripped like melted candle wax down the inside surface.”

No-one survived. Lead poisoning compounded with scurvy finished off those not eaten by their starving crewmates. How do we know this? Permafrost is a wonderful medium for preserving human corpses and relics.

Interestingly (a fact conveniently suppressed from the history books), Franklin’s shipwrecked men were taken in by the local Inuit, who tried to feed them these individual shepherd’s pies topped with “a mound of instant potatoes and a cheese triangle,” but they insisted on devouring each other instead. The length to which  men will go to to avoid causing offense to a well-meaning but inept hostess is impressive.

The lesson here? If you want to live to enjoy the future times, avoid canned foods and stick to fresh fruits and veg. Also, if you are reduced to dining on your companions, eat as much of them as you can before they spoil.

Home Canning Cook Book, Better Homes and Gardens, 1973

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Double Dipping

— Here we are again. This always happens. Who’s going to go first this time?

— Not me.

— Me neither.

— Hey – where’s Dominic?

— Oh, he had to stay home to work on some really important papers.

— But he’s a welder. What papers could be possibly be working on?

— You know, important ones.

— Well, I think he’s just making any excuse not to join us for our weekly fondue party.

— Surely not!

— We all made an effort to be here. It’s the least he could do.

— Maybe it was the hot curried salad from last time. It didn’t agree with him.

— It didn’t agree with any of us, but we still forced it down.

— At least I’ve dunked mine.

— Go ahead and eat it then.

— I’ll wait for you guys, then we can all taste it together.

— Dominic had the right idea, if you ask me.

— That’s not nice! If you’re going to be like that, then we shan’t continue with our fondues, which will be such a shame since we bought all of this fondue equipment.

— OK: everyone, on the count of three . . .

Hershey’s Chocolate and Cocoa Cookbook, Ideals Publishing Corp., 1982

See also: The Joy of Fondue

Also from this book: Theobroma

Friday, September 16, 2011

Confetti Meatball Supper

The term confetti comes to us via the tradition of tossing sugared almonds at couples on their wedding day so that they may be fruitful. Being pelted with hard sweets isn’t much fun, however, and rice (which was also used for the same purpose) tends to get all swollen and rotten when exposed to moisture. Colored paper shapes are thankfully used instead — what we today consider confetti. It is not just limited to weddings either, since no-one gets married nowadays, so it is thrown at any festive occasion.

One assumes that the association with colorful fragments denoting joy is what allows any dish featuring a sprinkle of color in the form of chopped vegetables to be called a Confetti. The joy, sadly, is missing from this particular dish, though the caption strongly suggests the arrangement gives it “eye appeal.”

Note how the recipe for this delicious-looking Confetti Meatball Supper does not feature an ingredients list. This is because the ingredients are:

1 can condensed Cheddar Cheese soup
¼ cup ketchup
1 teaspoon minced onion
1 teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce
1 cans Meatballs in Gravy
Package precooked rice
1 can mixed vegetables
2 tablespoons canned pimento
¼ teaspoon salt

Some things are worth noting here, and it’s not that this involves mostly things that come out of cans or bottles. What does one do with the rest of the onion after you only dice a slice of it?

Please note the recipe for what can only be the bastard child of take-out cuisine: an Indian Pizza. This Frankenmeal is achieved through the clever addition of curry powder to a pizza. It’s neither Italian nor Indian: it’s just horrid.

After Work Cook Book, Better Homes and Gardens, 1974

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Jell-O and Onions

Opposites attract, so they say. What would naughty be if not for a bit of nice? So it is with flavors; just the right touch of acid can provide a welcome tang to a bland dish — hence Sweet and Savory.

It appears the culinary geniuses at Jell-O followed this principal when inventing this doozy: Three Pepper Salad. Why eat peppers and onions by themselves as nature intended when you can enhance their piquancy with Lemon Jelly? If there’s anything one always hankers for in a bowl of Jell-O, it’s green onions and the faint addition of non-stick cooking spray.

The recipe they provide makes 10 servings, so even the most reticent need not go without.

There’s Always Room For Sugar Free Jell-O, Publications International, Ltd., 1992

Also from this book: Knock Knock

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

It's A Green, Green, Green, Green World

It’s  Green, Green, Green, Green World
(The Brassica Song)

By: the hardest-working vegetable in the kitchen

This is a green world, this is a green world
But it wouldn't be nothing, nothing without some cauliflower or kale

You see, greens make the vitamins to keep us on the right road
Greens make the fiber to carry heavy loads
Greens make carotenoids so we can see in the dark
Greens make the selenium, and lutein for our hearts

This is a green’s, a green's, a green's world
But it wouldn't be nothing, nothing without a broccoli rabe

Green thinks about little baby collards and baby brussels sprouts
Green makes us happy 'cause green strikes cancer out
And after green has made everything, everything it can
You know that green makes them taste good with a little bit of ham

This is a green world
But it wouldn't be nothing, nothing without a cabbage or a kohlrabi floret

We’re lost in the wilderness
We’re lost in bitterness

Encyclopedia of Cooking, Vol. 3, Better Homes and Gardens, 1970

Also from this book: Teddy Bear’s PicnicSeafoam Cantaloupe Pie, Cooking By Encyclopedia

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Bullshit, or, Baked Bologna Jubilee

Some cities lend their names to truly great foods; Peking Duck, London Broil, Philly Cheese steaks, Buffalo Wings, Belgian Waffles, Hamburgers, Bismarcks, Boston Baked Beans, Boston Cream Pie, Chicken Kiev, Dijon Mustard, Eggs Florentine, and Salisbury Steak, to name a few.

The ancient Italian city of Bologne has given us two: Bolognase Sauce, without which no toddler will have been able to smear their face with spaghetti, and the ignoble Bologna, a fat sausage made from a paste of animal parts that has such a poor reputation its name has transformed into the slang word “baloney,” literally meaning something incredible: not believable — bullshit.

Example: Bologna is home to the oldest university in the world, founded in 1088. “What a load of baloney,” you say. But it’s true. Copernicus went there. Like many a student, he probably survived on pizza and bologna sandwiches and cheap beer — brain food. Actually, bologna is made out of brains, so that’s why he did so well at completely reinventing astronomy and basically kicking off the Renaissance and stuff. (Nerds, take note.)

Family Circle, that evil organization hell-bent on destroying America from the inside out by turning our insides out, gives us this recipe for bologna that pairs it inexplicably with bananas, oranges and olives. Studding the poor thing with cloves as if it were a delectable ham on the bone only magnifies the depths to which this once proud local delicacy has fallen.

The caption helpfully notes that “bologna is available in single pieces as well as slices.” In case you didn’t know.

Family Circle Casserole Cookbook, Rockville House Publishers, 1972

Also from this book: Wikiwiki Ham Bake

Monday, September 12, 2011


Few foodstuffs are more simple than cream; all you need is a cow. OK, a lactating cow. And a pail. And a stool.

But because human beings like to make things complicated, they have tried to re-invent cream, which will displease their gods for the gods like to think that everything they make is perfect.

Thus it is that human beings get smited by lightning and rabid dogs and typhoons and such. In order to guard against these punishments, the humans pray no-one will see them making such monstrosities as Mock Cream in their kitchens. We also do not know what “short weight” is: aren’t these things standardized? Furthermore, the sentence “Cream fat and sugar till white and creamy” appears somewhat redundant. Human beings have too much time on their hands in general, have historically had trouble explaining themselves, and are always tinkering and can’t leave well enough alone.

They are mocked by the rest of the Universe for their stupidity so we recommend that travel to Earth be avoided. For all you know they might treat your arrival with hostility and try to shoot you with one of their many shooting things, or worse, capture you and submit you to silly experiments. They will take your photograph and print it in all of their newspapers. They will attempt to feed you Mock Cream, no doubt.

We have raised the issue of more smiting for such things with their gods on a conference call last week and they assured us they were working on something special as retribution for “margarine.” We do not know what margarine is, but it sounds nasty. Meanwhile they said they have moved their proposal for reducing space debris through committee and expect a resolution in twenty years or so.

Please find herewith a nice snapshot of us they sent for tagging approval.

G.E.C. Cookery Book, The General Electric Company., Ltd., 1954

Also from this book: Grantham Biscuits

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Raw Meat

Best served with tankards of foamy beer and a few sprigs of watercress. 
Guests like it that way. 
They always say so at other people’s houses. 

“She’s keeping true to her Tartar nature,” they say. 
“She’s a direct descendant of Genghis Khan,” they say. 
“Well, she’s got great ta-tas,” they say. 
“You know, I also noticed that,” they say. 
“I’d rather chew on those,” they say. 
“Another few pints and she might let you,” they say. 
“Really?” they say. 
“So the rumor goes,” they say. 
“Great in the bedroom, rubbish in the kitchen,” they say. 
“No kidding,” they say. 
“Like all Plains people, she’s an excellent rider,” they say with a wink. 
“Likes her meat,” they say with another wink. 
“I’m trying to think of something witty to say with the word bleu in it but I’m coming up short,” they say. 
“I think you just did,” they say. 
“Everyone’s a descendant of Genghis Khan nowadays” they say. 
“It ain’t nothing special.”

Fondue On The Menu, Western Publishing Company, Inc., 1971

Also from this book: The Joy of Fondue

Saturday, September 10, 2011


"Here Beginnethe A Boke of Kokery . . . "

This makes no sense until you remember that garbage is a term that comes from the seemingly useless remains of a butchered carcass. Folks were poor back in 1450 so your average housewife had to make delicious soups from the scraps one might otherwise throw away.

In case you can’t read the old English too well, here is a translation.

Chicken Soup

Clean the leftover chicken parts (heads, skin, feet, liver, gizzard). Cook in a big pot with beef broth, pepper, cinnamon, cloves, mace, and finely chopped parsley and sage. Soak some bread in the broth, press it through a strainer, and add to the soup, letting it come back to the boil. Add ginger, grape juice, salt, and a little saffron. Serve.

Grape juice was added as a necessary acid. Sometimes sour apple was used instead. Today we use lemon juice, but citrus fruit would not have been readily available. The pepper would be black pepper, since Columbus had not yet breached the New World. Hence it is a cookbook devoid of the solanaceae family (potatoes, tomatoes, aubergines, tobacco). The thickener here is strained bread rather than potato starch. The profusion of strong spices would have gone a long way to mask the flavor. 

Chances are these spices came to England via the Venetians just as the Byzantine Empire was falling apart at the hands of the Ottomans. The chicken fell apart at the hands of just as determined a force: a hungry woman.

Harleian Manuscript 4016, c. 1450

Friday, September 9, 2011


Hubert, your mother tells me some of the boys were picking on you after school today, is that true? Let me give you a little advice, son. Fight back. Scare the living bejeesus out of them so it doesn’t happen again. This sort of thing happens to me at work all the time — guys who think they can poach my sales and get my promotion. This is what I do to them: I rip off their balls. Yes, I reach in and just yank them right out of their sacks and line ‘em all up on a skewer like this and I eat them for dinner. That’s the only way to handle these low-lifes. And once I’ve got ‘em all on there I swing this thing like a golf club and usually there’s blood everywhere and people are screaming, but I don’t care, I’m THE MAN and you can bet your sweet bippy none of them messes with me again.

Just don’t tell your mother. She thinks they’re onions.

*  *  *  *  

Hello there, son! What’s up? Mom sent you out here to learn how to barbecue? Well, come a little closer and let me show you. See this? It’s a giant skewer. You use it to cook whole onions — you just push them on. It takes a good while, and you have to stand here basting them with juice from this red pot for hours and hours. But the most important thing about barbecuing is being properly attired. These, for instance, are my special barbecue slacks. I wear them with a matching brown short and this handsome yellow V-neck. Never wear black shoes with brown pants — that’s a fashion faux-pas — so team them with brown loafers. These match my belt. Whatever you do, don’t be a pussy and wear an apron. No self-respecting man should be seen in a pinafore. I think that about covers it.

 *  *  *  *  

Boy! Come here. I need you to hold this a minute while I go fetch me a drink. Between you and me, this whole outdoor oven thing we paid top dollar for isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. For one thing, there’s nowhere to sit. And this time of day, there’s no shade either. What I’d like to be doing is watching the game with an ice-cold beer. You’re too young to appreciate that. Look! It’s like I’ve got five baseballs on my bat at the same time! Here comes the pitch . . . good. Now just hold that over the coals. I’ll be back out in a couple hours.

Barbecue Book, Better Homes and Gardens, 1956

Also from this book: For Whom The Corndog Rises
Pin It