Monday, December 31, 2012

Jellied Salad

The word “congealed” today has a negative connotation when it comes to foodstuffs. We use this word when describing something that has sat out on the table too long and become inedible. A mayonnaise-based salad, for example, will take on an alarming transparent glazed look after several hours. This out to indicate to any casual observer that the salad must not, under any circumstances, be eaten, for it has become toxic.

But this is not what the word “congealed” means.

Congeal dates from the late 14th century Old French congeler, meaning to freeze or thicken — which in turn comes from the Latin congelare, meaning to freeze together. Com means together; gelare means to freeze.

An ice cream or sorbet, then, is congealed. Ideas can become congealed in your mind if they cease to be fluid.

You never want someone to remark on your intellect as “a shimmering interplay between aspic and mousse,” for example.

 Salads, Time-Life Books, 1979

Also from this book: Eat Your Vegetables, Mind Your Tongue

Friday, December 28, 2012

Mind Your Tongue


Can there be any better word to describe, in its very being, the English language than “tongue”?

In order to qualify for this honor, the word would have to have several overlapping meanings across many disciplines, be at least a verb and a noun, and be spelled incomprehensibly.

The answer then, is yes.

It means both the organ of speech and an entire language. As a verb, to tongue something means to lick it. To lick also means “to drive out” or defeat, which is another old meaning for “tongue.” To hold your tongue means to stop speaking, not literally to hold your tongue. To be tongue-tied is to be unable to produce speech.
Geographically, a tongue is a protrusion of a glacier into the sea. A shoe has a tongue-shaped tongue which lies under the laces, which you must pull on to fasten your shoe.

Yet the word itself is spelled t-o-n-g-u-e, which one might pronounce ton-gew, rather than tung. A Tung is a deciduous tree native to China.

The finished dish

I wonder if our modern aversion to eating tongue is due to the fact that we do not like to bite our own tongues, and that it looks rather a lot like a penis?

Salads, Time-Life Books, 1979

Also from this book: Eat Your Vegetables, Jellied Salad

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Roast Dove

The holiday season often involves eating lots of rich foods, and meals centered around turkey, ham, and perhaps, if you’re really old-fashioned, a goose.

For those of you who would like a bit of respite from the fancy stuff, why not try this recipe? It’s very simple; all it requires are common kitchen ingredients which you probably have on hand, and six doves.

If you are a bit squeamish about eating a dove (which, after all, is the bird of love because doves mate for life), don’t worry: the doves will be dead before you buy them. Who knows? You could be eating Mrs. Dove while your own husband or wife eats its mate!

The Sunset Cook Book, Lane Book Company, 1960

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Our Father (Christmas), Who Art In Heaven

The basic premise of Christian theology is that the life you lead on Earth will determine if you spend eternity in Heaven, or Hell. Different doctrines hold that either your ultimate destination is predetermined and there’s nothing you can do about it; or that you’re given a last chance to renounce your sins and be granted a pass to the glorious afterworld. Still others say that you’re being watched and judged every single day, and that your behaviors have a cumulative effect, like an end-of-year grade, weighted according to your overall piety. St. Peter is traditionally seen as gatekeeper, for whom you must pass muster to be let inside the exclusive club.

On the other hand, Santa does the very same thing at Christmastime, a fact millions of children or people who have once been children, can attest (there are even picture to prove it), which begs the question: is Santa St. Peter in disguise?  

“Ho ho ho,” the big man with a beard will murmur merrily as you approach, trembling amid the whiteness. “What’s your name, little [BOY or GIRL]?”

At this you will tell him your name. Probably your formal name, the one on your birth certificate, as opposed to the nickname you have been known by your whole entire life.

“And tell me,” the portly fellow will huff, “have you been naughty or nice?”

Naturally, you’ll report having been nice. Very nice, in fact. Super-nice.

The imposing gentleman will peer at you to confirm your confession’s veracity, because he has super powers and can determine such things. “Fair enough then,” he’ll snort, “you can come in. Close the door behind you, you’ll let in the draft.”

Christmas!, Wilton Enterprises, 1992

Also from this book: Santamas

Monday, December 24, 2012


If you think that Christmas is all about celebrating the birth of baby Jesus, you’re wrong. It’s all about Santa, and how many gifts he’s going to drop down your chimney. So instead of artfully arranging a quaint and highly unrealistic nativity scene featuring a lowly stable, the Holy family, some inquisitive animals and the Three Wise Men, get up to speed with Santamas and make an edible Santa’s Workshop instead. Let’s face it: the miracle of the season is how on Earth an old fella at the North Pole can determine if you’ve been naughty or nice all year, and select a gift especially for you that is made by elves. Elves, people.

In case you become suspicious about the substance of this glorious diorama, please be assured that the figures are made entirely of piped frosting.

Christmas!, Wilton Enterprises, 1992

Also from this book: Our Father (Christmas) Who Art in Heaven

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Crock of Sh*t

A crock of shit is literally another name for a chamber pot — that large jug one used during the night in one’s bedchamber when one did not have an indoor lavatory.

The “crock” part is from language as old as we can fathom form all over Europe meaning pottery — hence crockery for plates and bowls, or anything made from clay. A potter potters about making pottery; but he used to be called a crocwyrhta, or crock-wright.

To call something a “crock” means it is no good, useless — probably associated with the bedchamber use.

A crock-pot is merely a pot made of pottery in which something is cooked. Today, that usually means slow-cooked or prepared. This recipe for a Crock of Herring requires a whole day for them to slowly pickle.  

Introduction to Scandinavian Cooking, The McCall Publishing Company, 1960

Also from this book: Ubiquity, Sardine Rabbit

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Gee, Thanks …

Let’s ignore, for a second, the jaw-defying “cookies” that girl is icing in the foreground, and pay attention to the phenomenal coiffure Mom is sporting in the back. Holy Smokes! It looks like Mama is wearing a drab olive polyester pantsuit with that giant lapel shirt! Is that a wig? Because I can’t fathom how long it must take to backcomb that hair to get it that high.

And how come in the Glorious Nineteenseventies people thought yellow ochre went with avocado and brown? And the kind of aggressively patterned wallpaper that ought to reserved for the bad boy room at the county jail?

OK, back to the cookies. Patty is too young and innocent to know what folks will do with her gifts. It’s just as well. We know.

Homemade Cookies Cookbook, Better Homes and Gardens, 1975

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

King-Sized Balls

This recipe goes to some lengths to make this dish consisting of ground meat rolled into balls sound exciting and quick to make — but what it says to your family is “I work for a living, don’t have time to cook for y’all, can’t be bothered to stop by the drive-thru, and frankly don’t give a damn.”

Only they wouldn’t say “damn,” they’d say “fuck.” The husband, he’d probably say “damn!” when served this (if he’s particularly fond of canned cheese soup) and tuck right in. But if he’s not a fan of the soup-as-sauce method, he would probably utter a loud “fuck!” and throw his newspaper down. Only he wouldn’t be reading a newspaper, he’d be clutching a beer in a can, and a bit would splash out of the pop-top onto the table. Only it wouldn’t be a table, it’d be a countertop.

The son, he’d push his chair back and say there weren’t no way he was going to eat fluffy grass, by which he means the parsley garnish. Only it wouldn’t be a garnish made from parsley; it’d be fluffy grass.

The daughter would try to mollify her father by saying “at least it’s not Cream of Mushroom or stuffing mix like last time,” only she’d insert the word “fucking” in there a few times, and then get told off for using foul language. Then she’d sulk.

The Mom would plop down in her chair and light a cigarette, lean her head back, let out a long stream of forceful smoke, and say “take it or leave it.”

The cat would hop up onto the table and sniff it, then walk away. The dad would say “scat!” and hit it with a napkin. Only it wouldn’t be a napkin; it’d be a rolled-up copy of Guns & Ammo.

“Y’all are ungrateful sonsofbitches,” the mom would complain, then play the pity card by following up with “I work my fingers to the bone to put food on this here table and make it healthy and pretty and what do I get for my trouble?” Only she’d probably just stare at them without saying anything.

Then she’d take one of the king-sized balls and cut into it, ignoring the alarmingly pink tint at its center. She’d put a forkful in her mouth and chew.

The rest of the family would look at her.

Then she’d swallow and put her fork down and say “Jesus.”

Ground Meat Cook Book, Better Homes and Gardens, 1969

Monday, December 17, 2012

Nutty as a Fruitcake

To be “nuts” is to be crazy. The head, often referred to as one’s nut, is the locus of sanity. If it if cracked — if one has become cracked — then one has turned into a “nutter.” Mental institutions are known as “nuthouses” accordingly. To be described as a “fruitcake” means to be nutty — crazy. Fruitcakes traditionally have lots of nuts in them, hence the term.

Although fruitcakes are as old as time, using them to refer to crazy people only dates back to 1952.

Budget Saving Meals Cookbook, Ideals Publishing, 1980

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Rudolph The Red-Nosed Pot Roast

This Christmas, why not go for something more seasonal to celebrate? It’s the only time of year you can reasonably expect to find fresh reindeer meat — but you have to use your ingenuity to procure it. You only have one shot (Christmas Eve), so it’s best to have something else on hand should your plan fail.

Cooking for Young Homemakers, Culinary Arts Institute, 1964

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Eat Your Vegetables!

Conventional wisdom suggests that in order to get a reluctant entity to ingest an object that is inherently good for it, one has to use the ancient art of subterfuge.

Most commonly, this involves hiding or disguising the good thing (be it medicine or carrots and celery) within something far more desirable, which is then eaten. Pills can be crushed and blended into a hamburger, or some carrot blended into a tomato soup: the unsuspecting recalcitrant is none the wiser.

Mothers, in particular, are experts at hiding good foods within bad ones. They’ll try to squeeze in as many vitamins and minerals as possible — the way cereal companies do when they offer sugar-crusted candy corn shapes which have been infused with micro quantities of the ingredients heavily advertized in fun colors at the top of the package.

Occasionally, however, you get a Mom who is either profoundly incompetent at this necessary skill, or who just doesn’t give a fuck, and fails to appreciate the very notion of “cloak-and-dagger” nutrition, and serves a sackful of carrots embedded in a translucent mold of clear jelly.

Under the impression of elegance, she will artlessly suggest that her creation isn’t in fact what it appears to be; she will have you believe that what are clearly carrot discs are some exotic orange fruit whose deliciousness will be a revelation. “Look,” she will say, “would I have taken such trouble to arrange all that flat-leaf Italian parsley around it if it wasn’t worth it?”

She’s the sort of person who will insist you eat the garnish too.

Salads, Time-Life Books, 1979

Also from this book: Mind Your Tongue, Jellied Salad

Friday, December 14, 2012

Slip Sliding Away

click for larger image

Some folks don’t like fish. That’s just silly. Perhaps they don’t like the bones or the scales.

In which case, they should eat eels instead.

It’s really easy to cook an eel. First, you must live near a fishmonger who can procure you a fresh one, because they are oily and spoil quickly. By “fresh,” I mean “live.” You’re going to have to kill it before you eat it, because it will thrash about quite a bit if you try to eat it otherwise.

Grab the eel’s head with a cloth and hold it tightly. With your other hand, plunge a sharp knife into its brains. Don’t worry if the eel continues to twitch for several minutes after this — that’s normal. Anyone would twitch after someone has jammed a blade into their head. You can’t blame it. Just make sure that before you plan to kill the eel, you don’t have something on the stove or anything you need your hands for.

Once you’re sure the eel is dead, you’ll need to pull the knife out and cut all around its head. Then take some pliers and pull back a flap of the tough skin. Once there’s enough to grab, hold the eel’s head in your cloth and peel the skin off its body like a stocking. It’ll be mighty slippery. After this, decapitate the head. Ta-da! Your eel is now ready for clopping up and making a delicious dinner with.

For example, you could serve this yummy-looking egg and eel stew, which is served cold.

Fish, TIME LIFE Books, 1979

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Broiled Steak

When I was a boy, my father took me to the barber for a hair cut once a month. The barber threw the cloth around my shoulders and fired up his electric trimmer, and ran it all over my head, and never once said a word. Once he was done, he’d undo the cloth, give my shoulders a quick dusting with his brush, and indicate with a nod of his head that it was time for me to hop off. My dad paid whatever it was he paid. The barbershop was like a clubhouse, but one that still held all its secrets. You could sit in the chair, but you knew you hadn’t been allowed in. I got the same haircut every other boy got in 1959. Some boys I know went to Vietnam having never experienced more than a quarter inch of hair their whole lives. Some hadn’t even started shaving for real yet.

The women went to the salon. I don’t know what they did there.

My father was a man’s man. He wore a suit and tie every day of the year, even on weekends. The only time I ever saw him in anything other than that was in his pajamas and robe on Christmas morning, and again, when he was laid up before he died. My dad never said much. He went to work and wore a suit, and slicked his hair back with pomade and kissed my mother on the cheek and poured himself a whiskey once he got home. He read the newspaper and watched some baseball.

He barbecued. He bought himself a big round barbecue grill and a big sack of coals and he grilled steaks on his birthday. Mother would pretend not to do any work, but she did everything except put the steaks on the grill. She smiled a lot but she also fell asleep early.

My uncle got a new camera. In this photo, he asked us to pose. He asked me to hold the raw steak up for my dad, and so I did. My mother never drank beer, but my uncle thought she’d look less awkward with a drink in her hand. Some of the steaks had been glazed with a marinade — you can see them — but the rest we just laid on the cold coals. No-one had remembered to light them up before my uncle posed us all for the picture. That’s the only way I could hold my hands out so close to the grill; it was stone cold.

This is not the recommended way to cook steak.

I can’t recall the look on my father’s face. I mean, I can’t name it. I guess impassive is as close as I’m going to get. He was the sort of man who thought it was important to cut your hair once a month and to own a barbecue. I’m not sure what my mother saw in him. Perhaps she saw a man in a suit and apron standing in front of an unlit grill holding a spatula.

Yes, now that I think of it, that’s exactly what she saw.

Better Homes & Gardens Barbecue Book, Meredith Publishing Company, 1959

Monday, December 10, 2012

That’s One Small Latke For Man, And One Giant Latke For Mankind

Latkes: so much time, so many potatoes. The endless grating, the cold, wet potato juice and shredded fingers. The annoying individual-sized portions and the annoying family members clamoring for them.

This year, cut your troubles by making one big latke. No-one will notice if you give them a greasy wedge, or that the potato in the center is raw. Don’t “flip your lid” — let the lid help you flip the latke!

Next year, you’ll save even more time when your family insists on ordering in instead! It’s a win-win!

Vegetables, Time-Life Books, 1979
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