Friday, July 24, 2009

Reminiscing: Shortcut Cooking

Let me just say this: if this is what quickly prepared food looks like, put me down for hours in the kitchen every day. All the way from 1969, I bring you Shortcut Cooking:

One lesson that I have learned from reading all of these cookbooks is that titles really must be carefully considered. Here is another fine example of a poor choice of words: "Tuna Jackstraw Casserole." What is a jackstraw? This recipe uses shoestring potatoes, so why not call it "Tuna Shoestring Casserole?" It would make more sense. Then, I thought that maybe the recipe used Monterrey Jack cheese and that's why they used the word "jackstraw." No, no Jack cheese. Every. Single. Ingredient. In. This. Dish. Is. Canned. Or. Frozen. I think that when "time's a-flying" and my family is "starving," I'll serve tomato soup and grilled cheese. It is faster, healthier, and better tasting than this crap. Remember that you can click on the images to enlarge them.

Here, the authors of this cookbook have challenged themselves to make an entire menu out of items from the freezer:
There have clearly been some major advances in food photography since these cookbooks were published. Did people sit around trying to think of ways to make the food look worse than it tasted? I can just imagine these conferences:

Suit #1: Fake wood, lots of fake wood.

Suit #2: Yes! And let's try to slip a voodoo doll into the top left corner and see if anyone notices.

Suit #3: Um, guys? I think we're getting a little off track...

Suit #1: No, no--this is great! Let's carry the yellow of the hard cooked egg yolk throughout the table--get salt and pepper shakers in mustard yellow, also a few plates.

Suit #2: Yes! And be sure that you include something in the shape of a ring. We are under strict orders to include as many "ring" dishes as possible.

Suit #3: (Finally getting into the spirit) Yeah! Throw some maraschino cherries on the platter with the pork chops!

Again, recipe titles are important. "Corned-beef Bunwiches?" Put the corned beef and the rest of the filling in a bun and then freeze the whole thing? Why, for the love of God, if you wanted to eat corned beef, wouldn't you just make the filling and freeze it and then put it on fresh buns when you were ready to eat the corned beef? Also, "High-Hat Meat Loaves?" I love food that is assembled to look like a hat, especially when part of the dish involves instant mashed potatoes (because mashed potatoes take so long to make from scratch).

Need I comment on the first recipe? It is difficult to make a recipe title racist and sexist at the same time. That takes talent...

Chicken pot pie. Using canned chicken in gravy. Ew.

Nothing says tasty like a "Bean Banquet." I love that you can use any kind of luncheon meat, as long as it is canned, in addition to the tiny pieces of "pork" (i.e. fat) in the canned pork and beans. "Bologna Bake:" another use for giant hunks of bologna, hard cooked eggs, mayonnaise, and the potato chips at the bottom of the bag. "Sausage-Noodle Treat"--the word "treat" in a recipe title falls into the same category as "surprise" and "delight." For these recipes, all one need do is close one's eyes, open one's pantry, pull out four to six items at random, and combine all of the ingredients with rice or noodles. I can't even write about "Soup-kettle Supper" without retching. Then, the icing on the cake is the recipe for "Chicken Livers Stroganoff" at the bottom of the page.

What a delicious looking feast!

I'll let this one speak for itself (be sure to read the caption):

Leah, I know it isn't Rosy Perfection Salad, but I thought you'd like this anyway:

It includes sauerkraut and you have the option of serving it with horseradish mayonnaise.

Lemon mayonnaise? Ew... One time, Grandmother of Ken made a fruit salad that had Father of Ken salivating. She insisted that it have some kind of dressing and before anyone could stop her, she dumped oil and vinegar all over it. We always wondered where she got the idea, but I think it might have come from one of these cookbooks. I cannot understand why there are so many recipes for fruit salads with dressing, especially ones that involve mayonnaise.

Note: As I write this with the cookbook next to me on the couch, McKenna is licking the cookbook. Perhaps some residual Vienna sausage joos?

I don't know what to say about these recipes:

Here, they have kindly provided a list of substitutions. Some of them make sense. One of them does not. If you do not have one whole egg, you can substitute two egg yolks, according to this chart. How, exactly, would you have two yolks and not have a whole egg? I suppose they could be referring to yolks that you had saved, but is that something that a lot of people always have around in case of an emergency? How about if you're out of an ingredient, you nicely inform Father of Ken and tell him that if he can make a quick trip to the store to get what you need, you'll let him lick the beaters and the bowl?

That's all, gentle readers, until I dig up some more musty cookbooks from the days of yore. I hope you have enjoyed these installments of "Reminiscing."


liddadog said...

Please be advised that we will no longer be serving hot dogs at the family home in Parsons, Kansas. We will be serving "pups". In a ring. With hard cooked eggs. And lemon mayonnaise.

Leah said...

I am very scared of the term "surprise logs." Even more so of the surprise itself. It's a wonder people survived decades of cooking like this.