Thursday, May 31, 2012

Forgive Me Doctor, For I Have Sinned

One of the things that is lost with electronic books and readers is the physical page, and all that it can provide. It’s not just that writing is printed on the page; it’s that the page has margins, gutters, corners and numbers. You can interact with a page, decorating its borders with marginalia, turning down its dog-ears, and staining it with your life. Even a very roughed-up book is still a book that can be read. The page can become a palimpsest of layers forming a more complex narrative for having been read.

Sometimes, a found book can carry with it the detritus of someone else’s life — a forgotten bookmark or recipe hiding within the  pages waiting to be released.

Tucked into the page of Dr. Stillman’s disastrous diet book that offers his response to common excuses for those falling off the diet wagon is a slip of paper bearing dense, penciled notes on Latin vocabulary acting as a bookmark. The page it marks bears this confession:

“I’ve been a bad girl, I ate like mad.”

Was the girl bad because she ate like mad, or did she eat like mad because she had been a bad girl? The possibilities are intriguing. It’s an intimate confession that ties behavior — possibly sinful behavior — with consumption, loaded with guilt. This is a very old chain of events: the Eucharist acts as a form of redemption through the consumption of bread, the transubstantiated body of Christ. At the alter rail, you are only allowed one meltingly thin host, which must suffice for all the bad behavior you can think of.

This confession also reeks of the idea that the eating itself was bad. The girl didn’t simply overeat or fall off her diet; she “ate like mad,” implying a loss of control with which her rational mind could not compete. Eating like mad is akin to bingeing, which only serves to stuff the eater with anything to push the guilt out.

Perhaps the girl was simply ravenous, having only consumed 600 calories all day on her liquid diet, and was playing catch-up to survive. Perhaps she bristles when she reads Dr. Stillman call her kind “heavies,” and “overweights.”

comedamus et bibamus cras enim moriemur

The Doctor’s Weight Loss Diet, Irwin Maxwell Stillman, MD, and Samm Sinclair Baker, 1969

Also from this book: Little Drummer Girl

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Little Drummer Girl

Karen Carpenter and John Bonham Hash It Out: Heaven, 1983

KC:  Hey! Fancy running into you up here!
JB:  Oh, it’s you.
KC:  Why, are you surprised to see me? This is the drum club, right?
JB:  I’m not surprised to see you in the least. Actually I’m shocked it took this long.
KC:  Why is that?
JB:  You looked half-dead in ’75. How much did you weigh back then?
KC:  More than I do now! I was a whopping 91 lbs!
JB:  And you’re what — 5’5”?
KC:  So?
JB:  I never understood how a girl like you could manage to hit a drum and stay on your stool.
KC:  Typical. I can play the drums as well as any man. Are you still mad at me for the Playboy Poll?
JB:  Hell yes. “The Best Rock Drummer of 1975.” You ranked number one? Really? Over me? I just don’t get it.
KC:  I'm a darn good drummer. Don’t be mean.
JB:  Lady, I’m just sayin’. I was such a badass rhythm man I got a nickname. They don’t hand those out at reader’s polls.
KC:  You’re proud of being called “Bonzo”?
JB:  Of course. I’m a beast.
KC:  How come you’re here then?
JB:  God loves drummers, Karen.
KC:  I was taught that suicides don’t get to Heaven.
JB:  I didn’t kill myself.
KC:  40 shots of vodka in one day? Sounds suicidal to me.
JB:  It wasn’t the drinking that killed me; it was the throwing up. Something I heard you did quite a bit of, you hypocrite.
KC:  That’s a nasty rumor. I wasn’t bulimic. I just didn’t eat, is all.
JB:  You mean to tell me you didn’t have a drug of choice?
KC:  Well, if you consider laxatives a drug… besides, I didn’t kill myself either.
JB:  What brought you here then?
KC:  Heart failure.
JB:  Young people don’t get heart failure. What caused it?
KC:  Anorexia.
JB:  There you go.
KC:  Well, that’s what all the doctors said. I didn’t buy it. I was just on a diet.
JB:  Jeez, what kind of diet?
KC:  The Stillman Diet. It’s a rapid weight loss zero-carb regime.
JB:  That’s crazy! How long were you doing that?
KC:  I started it in 1967. It really works, too: you can lose up to 15 lbs a week!
JB:  No shit! And you picked the instrument that burns the most calories!
KC:  Say, you play Ludwigs, right?
JB:  Yep.
KC:  Me too! Let’s put all this aside and be friends. We can jam together.
JB:  I thought this was supposed to be Heaven.
KC:  Oh, go to Hell.

(The Stillman Diet that Karen Carpenter followed contains no carbohydrate and no fiber. Constipation requiring laxatives is a noted side effect. It is only meant for short-term use.)

The Doctor’s Quick Weight Loss Diet, Irwin Maxwell Stillman, MD and Samm Sinclair Baker, 1967

Also from this book: Forgive Me Doctor For I Have Sinned

Tuesday, May 29, 2012


If you think living in the suburbs is akin to something like hell on earth, you are right. Well, etymologically, at least. The suburbs are places beneath the city (from the Latin sub = under, and urb = city), not literally underground, but beneath, as in “not as good.”

The suburbium was an outlying part of the city, which in old French became suburbe, or a residential area outside a city. Now, whole municipalities are suburbs, without the city. We call then “bedroom communities,” because it is presumed that people only sleep there, and drive off on a highway to work somewhere else. But what of the families left behind? They are suburbanites, anonymous as their name.

In 17th century London, suburbs became associated with inferiority and bad behavior. By the 18th century, the word “suburban” took on the more complex connotation with narrow-mindedness.

Old Suburban

The Chevy Suburban has been around about as long as actual suburbs: it’s been in continuous production since 1935 (the longest-lived nameplate still in production). Just like its brick-and-mortar counterparts, the Suburban has undergone considerable changes in design over the years, though mostly downhill, aesthetically speaking. Where once it was an ergonomic expression of style, all business and curves, it is now mostly just business and square.

The suburbs are an artificial kind of living environment because they have no history and have not been rooted in the landscape by geology — merely by an excess population which gathers like plaque around vehicular arteries. A lack of neighborhoods means that suburbanites buy food from supermarkets. In 1970, perhaps they ate Suburbia Stew. It was the Golden Age of the Suburb, where Moms still had time to cook stew, bought vegetables, and had a bay leaf on hand to flavor the pot.

The Exurbs had yet to arrive.

Kraft’s Main Dish Cook Book, 1970

Also from this book: Women's Lib, Mariachi Supper

Monday, May 28, 2012


Ladies: because Memorial Day is a national holiday that occurs during warm weather, you have to cede control of the meat to the most senior male in your household. This is because on national holidays, the menfolk work the grill. You will be in charge of the shopping, the salads, the drinks, the entertainment and all the cleaning.  


The New Wolf in Chef’s Clothing, Robert H. Leob, Jr., 1950

Saturday, May 26, 2012

What a Jerk!

Jerks have been around a very long time. So has the word for them.

A “jerk” meant the stroke of a whip in the mid 1500s, and the term for the kind of rapid flick has stayed with us ever since. A Soda Jerk was so-named due to the fast pulling motion required to work the machine.

An involuntary spasmodic shudder became known as a jerk in the 1880s, leading to “jerky” movements. To employ such movements deliberately is to “jerk off,” especially if you are a man.

To be a jerk — a tedious person — comes from the implication that you are the kind of guy who masturbates a lot. One presumes the idea is that such a person is self-obsessed to the point of social ignorance. (In Great Britain, there is a direct correlation with the words “wank,” and “wanker,” although the insult is far greater.)

Jerky, on the other hand, also refers to thin slices of dried, often seasoned, preserved red meat. The word comes from the Quechua (Incan) word “charqui,” dried flesh.

A “jock” is an athletic man, from “jockstrap,” a protective supporter for the genitals often worn by athletes. Although jocks have long existed, the terminology is surprisingly recent — dating from the 1950s.

Jokes have been played for as long as people have had a sense of humor, which might go all the way back to the time when proto-humans were puddles of slime wobbling with laughter. The Romans called a joke a “iocus,” which became, via the French in the 1660s, a “joque,” a jest.

It is possible, then, for a jock who is a jerk to be jerkily jerking jocularly off while wearing a jockstrap, thinking about being jerked and eating jerky, as a joke.

 Backpacker’s Cookbook, Margaret Cross and Jean Fiske, 1974

 Also from this book: Date Bombs

Thursday, May 24, 2012


“Oh Winston,” whispered Julia. “I had the most wonderful dream.”
“Really?” Winston replied, softly, careful that his voice not be detected by the microphone above the bed.
“It was of a meal served to us as a reward. We got to eat the same things the Inner Party members eat. You wouldn’t believe the foods! Such luxury!”
“How could you imagine them?” Winston asked. “Have you ever seen these foods?”
“Once, I caught a glimpse of a poster unfurled in an office. There were blocks of green things that looked frozen solid, and a plate with brown things on it, and some kind of red object filled with yellow bits. There was also a glass bowl with yellow and red shiny things in it.”
“Sounds delicious,” Winston said, shifting his weight silently.
“Very probably,” Julia said wistfully.
“How could you tell they were foods?” asked Winston, his curiosity piqued.
“The plate and the boxes, mainly,” Julia murmured, “but I don’t know. I could be mistaken.”
“Best, perhaps not to think of it,” offered Winston. “The Thought Police wouldn’t like it if they caught you fantasizing about imagined foodstuffs.”
“You’re right, Love,” sighed Julia, and turned on her side.

Microwave Miracles, Sanyo, 1982

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Penguin Eggs

It was once thought that penguins were the least evolved of birds — that they were the closest thing we had to living remnants of dinosaurs. You might think to yourself that’s a bit of a stretch, but this was back when penguins and dinosaurs were both novelties. The reason men of Science thought this was because the penguin seemed such a useless, odd and mysterious bird. It didn’t fly; it had scale-like feathers; it left the fathers to sit on the eggs for months at a time, and they conducted a great deal of their lives in the most inhospitable place on Earth — Antarctica.

The Emperor penguin, in particular, was the subject of much speculation, as it nested in 24-hour darkness in the middle of the Antarctic winter, where temperatures regularly dip to 70 below. Scientists speculated that if they could only get their hands on an egg which contained a penguin embryo, they could prove the link that had eluded them ever since enormous bones started showing up buried in sandy rocks.

Thus did three intrepid explorers set out in the winter of 1911 to trek from Cape Evans to Cape Crozier, where the penguin rookery was known to be. Edward Wilson, Birdie Bowers and Apsley Cherry-Garrard set out with wooden sledges and woolen clothes in the total darkness and encountered conditions no man had ever experienced, let alone survived. Cherry-Garrard later memorialized these five weeks of hell in his book The Worst Journey In The World. He was not one to mince words. He was only 24 at the time and it was so cold his teeth cracked. They returned with three penguin eggs which, when first presented to the Natural History Museum by Cherry-Garrard — by then the Crozier journey’s only survivor — were scoffed at. Now they are among its most treasured possessions.

It turns out that penguins are not the “missing link” between dinosaurs and birds after all. They just conduct their lives outside the sphere of mankind’s influence. Penguins don’t taste great and mate for life. They build nests out of rocks. That Cherry-Garrard's masterpiece of adventure literature was published by penguin books is one of publishing's most delicious ironies. 

This one has been lovingly recreated in hard boiled egg and black olive as a decorative garnish for a plate of cheese sticks rolled up in slices of ham.

Fast and Fancy Cookbook, Fawcett Publications, Inc., 1969

Also from this book: Spot The Recipe

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Ice, Ice, Baby

Before the glorious silicone ice cube tray — before the glorious automatic ice cube maker in the freezer ­— before the glorious automatic ice cube and/or crushed ice and/or ice-cold water dispenser embedded in the door — there was the metal ice cube tray. It consisted of a shallow metal tray into which you placed a metal spine with flat metal ribs along with your water, and placed in your freezer compartment. Once frozen, the idea was that you lifted a lever on the spine, which would move the ribs, thereby popping out your ice cubes.

This never happened. First, the water spilled all over the place. Then, it sat unevenly in the freezer atop a growing mound of white ice growing steadily inwards from every surface, embedding anything else stored in there: peas, steaks, vodka, spare cash, etc. Then, when you wanted an ice cube or two, you had to hold frozen metal, so the skin of your hands would get stuck to it. Then you’d have to stand there holding the whole thing under a warm tap to free your hand and loosen the rock-hard ice. Then, you couldn’t possible move the lever, which was frozen in place, so you took to smashing the tray on the edge of your table to shock the ice into falling out. All this did was dent your table. So then you’d throw it on the floor, hoping that would dislodge everything. If successful, you’d then get on your hands and knees picking up ice cubes which had scattered everywhere, picking up all the crud off your floor on the way. You’d always miss one or two which had shot under the stove or fridge, where it would melt, leaving a seemingly inexplicable pool you’d either slip and fall in or make you worry that the fridge was leaking. After you’d mopped up your kitchen floor, the usable ice cubes (those which hadn’t shattered into a million shards or become encrusted with debris) were already melting. 

By this time, you needed a stiff drink in which to put those cubes.

Your Frigidaire Recipes, General Motors Corporation, 1568 [sic]

Monday, May 21, 2012

Women’s Lib

This is what men feared would happen when women decided they’d had enough of  staying at home and raising the kids, so demanded jobs in the workforce and were out all day long and burned their bras. On the one hand, the men liked the idea of no bras, and then they missed all that lingerie. They thought that maybe if they paid women less money than they got, the women would decide to go back home.

Instead, the women got around the problem of not being around to cook real meals by preparing ready-made, pre-packaged or frozen foods in their new microwave ovens. Eventually, the children came to think of this as normal and didn’t question the Kraft Mac & Cheese Hot Dog pyramid.

The women, on the other hand, thought that this dish was a symbolic representation of the home under a masculine hegemony, laughed a little inside, then ate a salad.

Kraft’s Main Dish Cook Book, Pillsbury Company, 1970

Also from this book: Suburbanites, Mariachi Supper

Friday, May 18, 2012

Spot The Recipe

In the frontispiece of this book it firmly states that “No part of this book may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer who wishes to quote brief passages in connection with a review written for inclusion in a magazine, newspaper or broadcast.”

That’s awesome because it allows for this review to be offered on the internet — which is neither a magazine, newspaper or a broadcast — something that could not have been conceived in MCMLXIX, which was how they said 1969 back in 1969.

Even more inexplicable than the complete incompetency of the layout of the recipe on this page is the fact that those responsible for it are named proudly in the front. Did they ever look at a copy of the book when it arrived from the printer and think “good job?”

Congratulations, Mike, Alex, Herbert, John and Jack. What a fine Art Staff you are. Special credit also to John S., in charge of Layout, and Silvio L, Creative Director.

June Roth’s Fast and Fancy Cookbook, Fawcett Publications, 1969

Also from this book: Penguin Eggs

Thursday, May 17, 2012

“England’s pleasant pastures seen”

This pastoral tableau, established to demonstrate the various pleasures of dining al fresco by substituting adults for children, is typical of the 1970s-era utopianism envisioned as an extension of William Blake’s timeless homage to England’s place in the pantheon of places clearly touched by the hand, if not the stylist employed by, God.

Behold, for example, the spread itself: the wholesome bounty of fruit alongside what look like fried chicken legs, a quiche, and cake. Each child has his or her own giant can of Coca-Cola, which, because it is pre-1984, is as close to wholesome as a soda can get, being made of actual cane sugar rather than high-fructose corn syrup.

How civilized are their accoutrements: the yellow-check cloth, the knives and forks, the wicker picnic basket itself, open like a shall disgorging its riches. No ants threaten to intrude upon the diner’s peace, though the ducks might.

Note too, the way gender roles have been firmly established for our young actors: the girls demurely managing the food upon that domestic square, while the boys carve out their own space upon the bank, where they angle for fish to prove their mastery over nature, and perhaps to justify this jaunt into the wilds of a manicured lawn.

Oh, how soon all this will change: the girls, drawn into strange and mystical moods and shapes by raging hormones, will slouch and moon, turning inevitably towards the incessant cat fighting that will dominate the rest of their teenage years. The boys, however, will not budge an inch — content to sit in the quiet company of their own kind upon the banks of some river, their rods cast into the waters dangling bait and hopes and dreams.

While the bows of burning gold shall rest in their hands hung with hooks, arrows of desire shall strike the girl’s hearts. The girls shall dream of spears while the boys imagine the chariots of fire they shall one day drive. Till they have built Jerusalem in England’s green & pleasant land, they will have to be content with a picnic, and afterwards, plenty of calamine lotion to soothe the sun’s wounds.

Freezer Feast: Cooking For and From the Freezer, Caroline Rennie, 1973

Also from this book: Frozen Stiffs, Spotted Richard

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Selling Coal To Newcastle

William Carew Hazlitt, in his book Old Cookery Books and Ancient Cuisine (the “popular edition”) of 1902, gives us a learned and colorful account of exactly what the title describes. In this excerpt from a discourse on the development of the kitchen, he quotes the poet Nicholas Breton to great effect.

The early 1600s were a time of incomparable finesse in the English language, with writers much given to enlivening their text with sensory description under the thinnest layer of playfulness. There is a satisfying beauty in his description of coal as “the black Bowels of New-Castle soyle.” The absurdity of selling coals to Newcastle was by then a century old, which only attests to its staying power as a useful bit of idiom.

Old Cookery Books and Ancient Cuisine, William Carew Hazlitt, 1902

Also form this book: Errorem, or My Beautiful Boo-Boo

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Goodness Gracious, Great Balls of Fire!

— Marie-Antoine!

— Oui?

— Regardez-vous these appetizers. What do you think?

— They look like merde. Of what are they made?

— Butter, curry powder, chopped onion, chicken livers, walnuts, parsley, brandy.

— They are an atrocity. They are an insult to la cuisine Française. Remove them from my sight and throw out the pan you made them in while you’re at it.

— But Chef!

— What? I’m busy.

— I thought they would be perfect for tonight’s banquet.

— And why is this?

— We are cooking for the British. I thought…

— Aha. I see where you are going with this. Bring them back! Let me see them again. They are grievous to me. You set them alight, non?

— Oui, Chef.

— This is appropriate. It is a dish from the bowels of Hell.

— What shall we call them, Chef? Boules de feu de pâte de noix… Terrine des noyes boules en feu… Allumettes des Noix enfer….

— We shall call them what they are: Flaming Walnut Pate Balls.

— But Chef! En Anglais?

— Oui. The British will think we are honoring them. It was your idea, the curry powder?

— Oui, Chef.

— Tres bon, mon petit souris. Tres bon.

 June Roth's Fast and Fancy Cookbook, Fawcett Publications, Inc., 1969

Monday, May 14, 2012

Errorem, or My Beautiful Boo-Boo

It was decided that since Man is not perfect, a word ought to be added to the lexicon that described his shortcomings, of which there were many. A maid, unsure of the heat of her fire, would burn the milk. A man would become so distracted by the shape of a passing cloud that his furrows bent and twisted behind his plow. Etc. And so the word "error" was invented. 

At first, errorem were seen as faultless, a condition of Man’s inherent imperfection. A cosmic oopsie, if you will. A “my bad.”

But as the mistakes piled up, the word error came to refer to defects and flaws — the results of human or celestial imperfection. “To err is to be human,” people said, thus letting themselves off the hook. Seeing no way to account for all the error, they decided that the very existence of flaws were proof that God existed, for if all were perfection, how could one appreciate the perfect?

Thus it came to pass that people embraced errors as evidence of God’s work, including the best example of all — people themselves. Only a perfect God could have the genius to create imperfection, after all, they reasoned, with their faulty brains. Because this was a very clever idea, people worshipped God all the more fervently than before.

Some people, wanting to imitate God, deliberately made things with flaws built in to demonstrate that they appreciated the Free Will He had given them. After all, they could easily have made it perfectly if they chose to. Amish women to this day include a noticeable mistake in an otherwise immaculate quilt for this very reason.

The minions employed by whichever entity to scan in page after page of old books so that Google may provide digital copies of them are also subject to error, and partake of it often, with the dedication of supplicants on a mission. Whether the person responsible for the many blurry pages in William Carew Hazlitt’s book were merely distracted by the giddy joy of their task or were deliberately attempting to imitate God, who knows. All we are left with is the trail of whimsy they leave behind, holes in the text as impenetrable as the mystery of life itself.

Old Cookery Books and Ancient Cuisine, William Carew Hazlitt, 1902

Also from this book: Selling Coal To Newcastle

Friday, May 11, 2012

Boiling A Peacock

Some recipes seem made for illustration: this is one of them.

Cooks and Confectioner's Dictionary, John Nott, 1773

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Down The Hatch!

Introducing the perfect set of chinaware for couples who don’t have the space to store actual plates and bowls! And who does, nowadays? All you really need is a set of wine glasses — after all, you can’t drink out of a saucer. Clean up’s a breeze when all of your dinnerware is the same shape!

Don’t worry if you have company — your guests are sure to recognize that what’s in their glasses are solids, not liquids. Give them a fork so they can dig in! Because glasses are transparent, guests can easily see what they are eating, especially if you put the garnish underneath, rather than on top, of the dish.

If you, too, are tired of endless prawn cocktail, try tuna instead. It’s all pink, so no-one will know the difference.

And we all know that minerals are an important part of your everyday diet. This recipe ensures that you get even more of your daily dose of both mercury (in the tuna) and lead (leached from the glass) than the government recommends!

Spectator Publications, Ltd. 

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Where The Wild Recipes Are

Max’s Mom said “Max, it’s dinner time; wash your hands and come to the table.”

And Max washed his hands and face and came to the table. He asked his Mom what was for dinner and she said “Brain and Tongue Pudding. Sit down.”

But Max did not want Brain and Tongue Pudding, and threw himself upon the floor in a fit. His Mom said “Maximillian, get up this instant and sit at the table.”

“No!” Shouted Max.

So his Mom said “up to your room you go. No dinner for you.” Max quit his writhing and went up to his room and sat on his bed. Brain and Tongue Pudding? he thought to himself. How can grown-ups even think up such monstrous things?

“And the wild things roared their terrible roars and gnashed their terrible teeth and rolled their terrible eyes and showed their terrible claws.”

Mrs. Beeton’s Everyday Cookery

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

All Wrapped Up

Guess what we did in gym class today.


No! We did “sexed.”

You sexted people?


Never mind. Oh — you mean Sex Ed. Two words.

It was weird.

Yeah. What did they tell you?

We learned all about prophylactics.

You did, huh?

I have no clue what that is.

It’s from the Greek, prophylaktikos, meaning precautionary. It was used in the 1570s to refer to something that wards off disease. You use a prophylactic if you’re being cautionary.

Wow. You’re pretty smart for an 8th grader. You know everything! I wish our teacher had put it that way.

How did he put it?

He did a trick with a banana and a balloon. He kept saying we had to “pinch the tip,” but I don’t know what he was referring to.


What’s that?

A prophylactic. You use them if you don’t want to get a girl pregnant or catch a disease.

I’m confused. You eat bananas if you don’t want to have a baby?

No — you use a condom and pinch the tip.

Why do you have to pinch the tip?

When you — you know. Finish.

Oh…right, right. I know what you mean. I already do that.


I pinch the tip. You know, to finish. Don’t you? Doesn’t everyone?

Er — whatev.

I’m still confused about something though. The teacher said if we don’t get the banana example, we should think of a hot dog wrapped up in wax paper. Then he made a joke about buns and “enjoying them with relish.”

Dude — your teacher sucks.

No — he doesn’t. He specifically said he doesn’t suck. I have no idea what he meant, but he said he wanted to make that very clear from the start.

Clarity seems to be his specialty.

I don’t know who she is, but he said something else was — it began with a C too — a foreign sounding word. What do you think he meant?

Never mind, young Paduan, never mind.

Microwave Miracles, Hyla O’Connor

Monday, May 7, 2012

Cheesy Fish

The next time you have some herrings and cheese laying about, you might want to try this recipe for mostly cooked cheesy fish.

Or you might not; your call.

Someone, somewhere, once decided a nice bit of fish could only be improved with the addition of cheese. This person was a clown with too much time on his or her hands, and certainly too much cheese. Perhaps this individual had just broken up with someone and had lost all respect for life and just didn’t give a fuck anymore. You know how that is: one minute you’re happy, the next you’re a lonely loser obsessively listening to songs that remind you of better days with no appetite and yet the inexplicable need to continue eating. The meals you concoct are designed to give a giant culinary middle finger to the universe and the ex, and ought to simply be left to anonymous regret.

But no: this fool, in his or her despair, decided it would be good to share.

If you think you might want to eat fish in the future — buy it fresh, in the future, and cook it then. Your freezer will thank you.

Margeurite Patten’s All-Colour Book of Freezing, 1975

Also from this book: Darwinian

Friday, May 4, 2012

Have a Heart

Before 1935 it was impossible for you to have a heart attack. Not because such things did not exist — but because they weren’t called that. People only started calling them heart attacks in 1935. Of course, they might have been referring to this recipe, which some might consider an attack of hearts. You might think that people ate more hearts back then, but you’d be wrong: you probably eat just as many hearts now, only in hot dogs rather than stuffed whole ones like these.

Before the 1930s, you could not be accused of being a “bleeding heart” because before that the phrase referred to a flowering plant, rather than an excess of sympathy. Being shot through the heart would certainly cause excessive bleeding (and also death), but it wouldn’t necessarily give love a bad name unless it appears in a song by Bon Jovi. Love has long been thought to reside in the heart, the heart itself represented by the symbol <3. Some people love Bon Jovi. Some <3 NY.

Literally speaking, love cannot lie bleeding, though there is a plant (amaranthus caudatus) whose common name is love-lies-bleeding. Its flowers look like spilled guts. You’d get spilled guts if the person shooting you through the heart aimed too low. Cupid, a cherub, is typically held responsible for shooting an arrow through lover’s hearts in a grotesque parody of reverse conception in which the product of the lover’s love results in a baby. Cupid is the Roman counterpart of Eros, the Greek god of love. Eros spelled backward is “sore,” which is what you’d be if someone shot an arrow through your chest.

If you are in love, you might say your heart is full — bursting with joy — as opposed to being stuffed full of cooked ham and breadcrumbs, as in this recipe. If your heart is stuffed full of ham and breadcrumbs, there is something grievously wrong with your digestive tract and you should see a doctor immediately. While waiting, you may be subjected to muzak (Bon Jovi, perhaps), which is not to be mistaken for music, which Shakespeare tells us is “the food of love.” Music isn’t the food of love, but these Casseroled Hearts almost certainly are.

Play on.

The ‘Pyrex’ Book of Regional Cookery, Diana Cameron-Shea, 1977

Also from this book: Brains and Bacon

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Iron Feng

Behold the glorious harmony in this student’s presentation. Above, we have the iron hearth, representing the heart of the home, rendered in miniature. Below, the giant spoon, representing the individual. Note how the utensil can also be used as a dagger, ready to strike at the black heart of anyone who trespasses upon the homely scene. In the center, framed by the black, lies the broccoli, facing east and west, in an oval bowl.

See how the stove looms forbiddingly above the dish, to remind the diner of those who toiled to bring him such riches.

Surely this student will soon be a Feng Shui master, ready to bring peace and harmony and severe foreboding to your home.

Microwave Miracles, Hyla O’Connor

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Frozen Stiffs

Ma’am? We’re here to deliver your coffins. Where would you like them? One in the kitchen, one in the shed? You got it. Fellas? You hear that? One inside, one out. Ma’am? If you don’t mind me asking, is there an electrical outlet in your shed? You see, the coffin has to be plugged in. You’ll run an extension cord out there? OK then. Excellent purchases, if I must say so myself. The wife keeps all our meat in ours. The price of beef these days! Mostly she puts stuff in, and doesn’t take it out. Usually we just eat takeaways of an evening, like we’ve always done. I like a nice curry or fish and chips, myself, after a long day’s work. It’s nearly full. You have two nice boys, I see. They should freeze nicely. For your convenience, these models can’t be opened from the inside. The chest model even has a lock on it — to prevent thieves from stealing all your frozen food. Terrible problem, that. You never know what you’ll find in a deep freeze. We found a cat in there, once. It had climbed in when the owner went to get some fish filets. I thought it had been an accident, but the fella assured me it wasn’t. They were going to serve it to the in-laws. You can’t really tell when it’s covered in sauce, can you? I should think both of these boys could fit in the one case, you know. It helps to keep a big box of ice cream sandwiches in there. Just be sure you keep the electricity on when you go on holiday. I know people like to save money by turning it off at the mains. Terrible mess. You don’t want that to come home to. Cuppa tea? I’d love one, thanks. Two sugars, loads of milk. Give it a few days — the boys will have all their friends around to take a peek. Just tell them it’s off-limits. You could have enough to last you for years — well into the 1980s at least. Great investment, coffins. Never go hungry again.

(From the introduction: "...if you are little, be careful when you are retrieving something form those depths. It's too easy to end up upside down in the freezer your legs waving in the air!")

Freezer Feast: Cooking For and From the Freezer, Caroline Rennie, 1973
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