Tuesday, October 25, 2005

I'm baaaaack--and just in time for Halloween

What can I say to excuse my appalling neglect of this excellent blog?

I can't argue that I've been so busy making ultra-high-quality entries to my other blog--at least, not with a clean conscience--because while I have posted there fairly often, it's not like the editor of The New Yorker is reading it, moved to speechlessness--nay, awestruck--by my brilliance, and is wondering shyly whether I'd laugh in his face if he flew me to New York to offer me a column.

No, as readers of my other blog will testify, I had baseball to watch, chipmunks to chase, and idiotic internet quizzes to take.

But this morning I realized something. What better way to discuss Horrifying Foodstuffs than to take on--honestly and fearlessly--an important sub-category of HFs. Which is, of course, the completely unappetizing (if not inedible) pseudo-food I had--up until today--completely neglected. And that is essentially unappetizing combinations of pre-packaged dessert mixes that boldly make a show of their own inedibility. Campy? Yes, of course. But in-your-face. Politically charged. Powerful.

Accordingly, I now present the Gay Pride marcher of cake mix recipes. The Stonewall of instant puddings. The ACT-UP drag-queen of Duncan Hines.

So with no further ado, I bring you

Kitty Litter Cake

1 German Chocolate Cake mix
1 white cake mix
2 large pkg vanilla instant pudding mix, prepared
1 large pkg vanilla sandwich cookies
green food coloring
12 small Tootsie Rolls®

1 new kitty litter pan
1 new plastic kitty litter pan liner
1 new pooper scooper

Prepare cake mixes and bake according to directions (any size pans).

Prepare pudding mix and chill until ready to assemble.

Crumble white sandwich cookies in small batches in food processor, scraping often. Set aside all but about 1/4 cup. To the 1/4 cup cookie crumbs, add a few drops green food coloring and mix until completely colored.

When cakes are cooled to room temperature, crumble into a large bowl. Toss with half the remaining white cookie crumbs and the chilled pudding. Mix in just enough of the pudding to moisten it. You don't want it too soggy. Combine gently.

Line a new, clean kitty litter box. Put the cake/pudding/cookie mixture into the litter box.

Put three unwrapped Tootsie Rolls in a microwave-safe dish and heat until soft and pliable. Shape ends so they are no longer blunt, curving slightly. Repeat with 3 more Tootsie rolls, and then bury them in the mixture. Sprinkle the other half of cookie crumbs over top. Scatter the green cookie crumbs lightly on top of everything -- this is supposed to look like the chlorophyll in kitty litter.

Heat 3 Tootsie Rolls in the microwave until almost melted. Scrape them on top of the cake; sprinkle with cookie crumbs. Spread remaining Tootsie Rolls over the top; take one and heat until pliable, hang it over the side of the kitty litter box, sprinkling it lightly with cookie crumbs. Place the box on a newspaper and sprinkle a few of the cookie crumbs around for a truly disgusting effect!

No, really??? People wouldn't want to eat cat shit? I'm shocked.

Would it help if we added some Cool Whip?

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Guilty Pleasure #1: Peg Bracken

Exhibit A--Isn't it cute?
Originally uploaded by Trilby.
I've put off talking about Peg Bracken until now. I don't know why, exactly. When it comes to horrifying foodstuffs, Peg is a seminal figure. She's right up there with C. W. Post, Clarence Birdseye, and Lucretia Borgia. How can I have avoided her this long? She's like the proverbial elephant in the room that nobody is talking about.

Now, this is the point where the astute essayist gracefully inserts some useful background information, since not everyone remembers eating "Sweep Steak" (pot roast made with cream of mushroom soup) or saw the advertisements where Peg talked our mothers into buying Bird's Eye frozen vegetables. Lucky stiffs.

Well, Ms Bracken--whose name, funnily enough, sounds a great deal like "brackish," although I believe there is no etymological connection--but I may be wrong--was essentially a humorist who chose to hand out advice to housewives. She was sort of an Erma Bombeck figure, if that's helpful. (But it probably isn't.) Or a Helen Gurley Brown, if Helen had written about the kitchens of respectable married ladies instead of the bedrooms of single girls.

Peg's first best-seller, The I Hate to Cook Book, was published in 1960. Now, for foodies, the 1960s are the crucially important decade. The 1960s were the decade in which Julia Child not only published Mastering the Art of French Cooking, but starred on television as "The French Chef." The sixties were also the decade where food faddism stopped being solely the territory of cranks like Gayelord Hauser and Adelle Davis and started to go a bit more mainstream. And most importantly, it was during the sixties that packaged convenience foods hoisted their flag over the American pantry, witih the result that many Americans had no idea what fresh vegetables tasted like.

Clearly, the forces were in place for a foodie revolution.

So Peg Bracken is the standard holder for the instant, frozen, just-add-water school of mid-century American "cooking" that was about to be subsumed by blanquette de veau, granola, regional Chinese food, Northern Italian cooking, sushi, and sun-dried tomatoes. Her books are loaded with recipes made from canned this, frozen that, and instant whatchamacallit.

You'd think I'd have tarred and feathered her long ago.

Except she's a great writer. And she's funny. I suspect that if I didn't have the post-modern, post-foodie outlook I do have, I'd want to be her when I grow up.

On top of that, her books were illustrated by Hilary Knight, who also illustrated the Eloise books and Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle. So we have to give Peg a break, because even if she was hooked on dried onion soup mix, she had excellent taste in illustrators.

On the other hand, Peg still provides a lot of material for mockery. For example, there's her

1976 Trifle

[which] takes

1 strawberry jelly roll--about a pound
2 small packages strawberry Jell-O
1 cup sherry
1 package cook-type vanilla pudding (not the kind you merely mix)
whipped cream
some maraschino cherries

and preferably a transparent bowl to put it in. Line the bottom of with the jelly roll, cut in one-inch slices. Make the Jell-O according to directions EXCEPT use only half the water it calls for and make up the difference with sherry (Not cooking sherry, which is salty.) Pour it on the jelly-roll slices and mush it together gently, then put it in the refrigerator to set while you cook the pudding. Pour it on the top of the Jell-O and let it set. Before serving, decorate it with the whipped cream and the cherries.

Now, this is not the vilest glop I've ever swirled over my mental palette, but it does seem like a lot of bother, considering the number of instant and store-bought ingredients and the time it would take to assemble them. I mean, why not just buy a bakery cake? For all the time and effort involved, you could make a custard and produce a real trifle. So why bother?

Also, the name is bothersome. It's been a long time since I studied American history, but I believe the American colonists fought the revolution and broke the chains of fealty to England in order to avoid eating English food--you'll notice the first thing we did was stop drinking tea--so why make a "1776 Trifle," when clearly, if we're celebrating the Bicentennial, what is called for is apple pie?

So Peg Bracken, Queen of Culinary Incorrectness, is my guilty pleasure. It's probably shocking--as though Oprah Winfrey had been caught reading The Surrendered Wife under the covers with a flashlight--but there it is.


Tuesday, July 12, 2005

As Seen on TV!

Betty Crocker Bake and Fill
Originally uploaded by Trilby.
I think I may have just stumbled upon something my daughter has been babbling about for a couple of weeks. I gather that Cartoon Network or The Fox Box or some other Children's Television Network From Hell is running back-to-back advertisements for this weird cake-baking doo-hickey.

(I'm also hearing a lot about something called "The Chocolate Factory," where you make chocolate fondue, chocolate lollipops, etc. But while grossly overpriced, at least The Chocolate Factory involves chocolate. Which is pretty hard to make Horrifying enough to deserve inclusion in the Horrifying Foodstuffs canon.)

However, the Betty Crocker Bake 'n' Fill monstrosity wants you to use cake mix (three guesses which brand) and bake two layers of cake in such a way that you have a big hollow space just waiting to be filled--with some Cool-Whip™-addled substance, I have no doubt--unless General Mills, parent company of Betty Crocker, has a different product they'd like me to use.

But what's a mother to do? My daughter wants me to buy it for her. I'll probably cave.

Unless a new advertisement for some new mass-produced atrocity comes along to divert her attention. Even a gross of My Little Ponies is a small price to pay to avoid having to bake a giant lady bug cake.


Thursday, July 07, 2005

A cornucopia of Cool-Whip™

Teddy Grahams caught by paparazzi; film at eleven
Originally uploaded by Trilby.
OK, so tonight you're getting the Lazy Woman's Blog Entry. I mean, why should I page obsessively through my cookbook collection looking for a new nadir in revolting recipes, when the web has become a moveable feast that can, in a few clicks, glut even Templeton the Rat? And with colored photographs, too.

For example, I just discovered this. An entire website devoted to--you guessed it--horrifying foodstuffs. They have it all: 241 recipes using Velveeta; 769 recipes using Jell-O, and a mind-boggling 803 recipes calling for Cool-Whip. In fact, it looks like every recipe contains at least four non-food processed bullshit ingredients. And there are seasonal delights, too. They have a section devoted to summertime desserts featuring--guess what? Jello-O and Cool-Whip! I mean, what could be cuter than a cake decorated to look like a swimming pool for Teddy Grahams? But they don't stop there! They use the same old processed ingredients in new and exciting ways! Fudge made of cheese! Who would have thought of that? I know I wouldn't. Plus a section devoted to recipes especially for children. What a relief, because I know my kids wouldn't be able to handle the gourmet adult fare featured elsewhere on the site.

Isn't it amazing? Of course, if I were the nervous type, I'd be afraid that this website would put me out of business. Bye-bye blog.

But I have one thing they haven't got.

My secret ingredient.



Tuesday, July 05, 2005


OK, I lied. No, I haven't found a sorbet recipe that is so revolting that it simply must be included in the Horrifying Foodstuffs canon. No ... although I suppose the field is ripe for a degree of exploration and mockery ... anyone for squid ink/prune? Or tuna/tomato/pistachio? Or raspberry/chive?

You know, I'm sure some foodie somewhere has come up with something really gruesome in the sorbet department. I really should Google something up.

But I digress.

No, as the summer progresses, I've done a bit of cooking. Of decent food, mind you, not the crap I write about here. I've also climbed back onto the organic food wagon. And at the moment, the produce section of the local Whole Foods is a cornucopia of yumminess.

I've come to the conclusion that what this blog needs is some actual food recommendations. So what I'm writing today is a chance to cleanse the mental palette. A metaphorical sorbet. In which we turn away from the apparently infinite number of Horrifying Foodstuffs to think about food that--just this once--won't make you want to puke.

(Don't worry; I haven't lost my edge. I promise I'll Google up some more revolting sorbets real soon.)

OK, good food tips from Poppy:

1. Buy organic produce. Organic milk is also fantastic, but the taste difference from the regular stuff is less obvious. But with produce even the dullest of palettes will snap to attention.

2. If you're tired of grilling (and yes, Joke, this actually does happen to some people) there are ways to cook without heating up the kitchen. Your microwave is your friend. Tonight I poached filets of sole in a court boullion I made in the 'wave and they turned out great.

3. Another appliance I lean on is my rice cooker. Somehow it can cook a ton of rice and keep it warm without blowtorching the kitchen.

4. Also--and I'm going out on a limb here--the crock pot comes in handy. The other day I cooked black beans in mine and they were fabulous. And again--the kitchen remained pleasant. And so did I.

5. I was eating a ton of Ensalada Caprese until I realized that I'm really not all that crazy about basil, and I'm not always in the mood for mozarella. So here is how I'm fixing tomato salad these days: I smash a clove of garlic and rub it all over a platter. Then I slice red, ripe organic tomatoes as thinly as I can right onto the platter--I don't drain the slices; I keep all the juice. Then I splash on some extra virgin olive oil and some balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper. Then I put the platter on the table and ignore it while I cook the rest of dinner. Maybe I'll remember to flip the tomatoes to get the garlic on both sides of the slices. This is heaven. OK, I'm a tomato fanatic, but seriously, this is so good you'll want to slap your grandmother.

6. I was away for the weekend and didn't have my trusty iron skillet and needed to make cornbread. So I did the emergency cornbread recipe, which is to use the recipe on the Quaker Corn Meal tub, except omitting the sugar and switching the proportions of flour and corn meal. That way you end up with a much cornier bread with more of that wonderful buttery taste and to-die-for ever-so-slightly-gritty corn meal texture.

7. For Independence Day I made strawberry shortcake. And I made real shortcake, the biscuit-like stuff, not the little round cakes from the supermarket. And needless to say, I whipped the cream myself. I did not use Cool-Whip.™

OK, that's enough sorbet. More snarking anon,


Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Yellow Alert

My more fanatical readers (and you'd have to be pretty fanatical to consider yourself a "reader" of a blog that is so narrowly-focused and cranky--not to mention that it only gets updated about once every six weeks) will recall that in these ruminations, I have been known to speculate on some fairly deep issues. Such as, say, the geo-political basis of the American main dish casserole.

Well, call me Chicken Little, but it appears to me that the situation is very grave. It appears that open warfare is about to break out. America--and America's casseroles--are being invaded.

Am I overreacting? I think not. Because upon flipping through Pass The Plate, (which again, my fanatical readers will recognize as one of my favorite community cookbooks), I found not one, but two extremely suspicious-looking dishes residing within mere pages of each other.

Now, one of these casseroles could be considered an aberration. But two? A close examination of the ingredients leads me to believe that it is not just people in Tibet who should be concerned about a military build-up in China.

Need proof? Fine. First, I offer Betty Simon's (Mrs. Donn L.)'s

African Chow Mein

which amazingly enough, contains not a single ingredient indigenous to Africa. Although it does contain actual soy sauce. So, naturally, this begs the question: why "African" Chow Mein? Could this be some kind of blind? Or are African ingredients some sort of gustatorial "Ligne Maginot?" Did Africa simply crumble at the idea of being invaded by China? Read on and judge for yourself:

2 cups boiling water

1 pound hamburger
1 (10 ounce) can cream mushroom soup or golden mushroom soup

3 small onions, chopped
1/3 cup soy sauce

1 cup celery, diced
3/4 cup uncooked rice

Note: Variations are: 1 can drained mushroom, toasted slivered almonds or 1/2 can water chestnuts sliced thinly.

(And don't think I don't notice what the inclusion of these "variations" ingredients do to the balance of power, mmmk?)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brown together in a little butter using a large frying pan the hamburger, onions, and celery. Add rice, water, soup and soy sauce and put into large buttered casserole and bake covered for 1/2 hour. Stir and bake uncovered for additional 1/2 hour.

You might be thinking, "for Pete's sake, Poppy--control yourself. It's just another goofy recipe. Cut it out with the conspiracy theories." Well, while I was puzzling over my usual issues, for example, what, exactly, makes this particular dish connote "Africa" to the culinary sophisticate, in turning over a few pages, I discovered

Italian Goulash

in which the citizens of Italy and Hungary have obviously being invaded by The Yellow Peril. To wit:

1 1/2 pounds ground round steak
1 (10-ounce) can tomato soup

3 strips bacon
1 (16-ounce) can spaghetti

4 medium onions, chopped
1 (16-ounce) can spaghetti sauce with mushrooms

4 stalks celery, chopped
1 (8-ounce) can water chestnuts, sliced thin

1 (16-ounce) can Chinese Vegetables, drained
1 (5-ounce) can Chinese noodles (more if desired)
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon parsley
Grated cheese

Fry bacon and save for garnish. Add onions and beef to bacon grease and brown. Add tomato soup and sauce with mushrooms. Add green pepper and celery and cook until slightly tender. Add spaghetti, Chinese vegetables, water chestnuts and season with Worcestershire sauce and parsley. Salt to taste. Serve on Chinese noodles and top with grated cheese and bacon. Yield: 8 servings

Italian? Goulash? HA! As if. Eugenia Hofler Clement (Mrs. Robert L.), you ought to be ashamed of yourself! Did you think I wasn't going to notice your perfidy?

Ma'am, I'm going to be honest with you: sneaking all those Chinese ingredients into an Italian Goulash is treacherous and frankly, unAmerican.

For the rest of you--be on the lookout for any more signs of a culinary invasion. And if you find McDonald's starting to hand out packets of soy sauce with their fries, please, alert the authorities.


Monday, May 09, 2005

Pray for Me; I'm Languishing in Pie Purgatory

Originally uploaded by Trilby.
Remember the Lemonade Pie I was whining about a while ago? The bastardized version of Lemon Meringue Pie? The one that Willie Nelson was going to start the Lemon-Aid fund-raising concert for?

Well, I just found another, even more bastardized pie recipe. Can you believe it? This is getting farther and farther from a whatchamacallit--you know, the familiar yellow citrus fruit. If this keeps up, pretty soon it will be Six Degrees of Separation from --wait a minute; it's on the tip of my tongue--oh yes. An actual lemon.

OK, back to this "pie." Surprise, surprise--the situation has deteriorated. At least the first bastard pie had a couple of fresh ingredients. I remember some sour cream--and even an egg or two.

But this latest concoction bears the Mark of the Beast.

I realize I'm going all Book of Revelations on you, but trust me. I read this recipe a while ago, and I'm still shuddering. Go ahead and think my Final Days/Fire and Brimstone/Day of Judgment imagery is over the top--then read this and weep:

Lemonade Pie

One tub Cool Whip
One small container lemonade mix
One small can fat-free sweetened condensed milk
One pie crust bottom

Mix first three ingredients. Place the mixture in the pie crust. Chill for about one hour, then serve.

See what I mean? This so-called "pie" doesn't contain a single fresh ingredient. This pie was invented because it can be mixed together in five minutes. Also, since none of the ingredients is fresh, students in dormitories, people who have been incarcerated, mountaineers on the slopes of Everest, and shipwrecked sailors on desert islands can whip together a tasty Lemonade Pie whenever they're in the mood for something sweet. Also, it is posivitely impossible for this "pie" to go bad. For one thing, it contains nothing that could support life. Have you ever seen mold grow in a bowl of sugar? Exactly. This concoction has got to have a longer half-life than a Twinky.

But I still think the name isn't sufficiently evocative. How about "Lemonade Mix Pie?" Or maybe "Emergency Pie?" Or--because it would apparently hang around for a very, very long time--how about "Purgatory Pie?"

I don't know, though. The idea of Purgatory is that eventually you get to leave and go to Heaven. And call me judgmental, but this is a fate that this pie simply doesn't deserve. In fact, I think this pie would be headed in the opposite direction. So I think the recipe should conclude: "Garnish with 666 colored sugar sprinkles."


Sunday, May 08, 2005

One picture--hold the thousand words.

Don't you think it's about time this blog got some illustrations? I do. I mean, if I don't get some visuals, how in the hell am I going to compete with the food bloggers who post fifty zillion pictures of the rare asparagus at their farmer's market, or the ginger-infused sun-dried tomato coulis they're currently pureeing to use as a sauce on their foie gras sushi?

Of course, I didn't plan to start my career as The Illustrated Blogger by requiring my readers to look at pictures of dog vomit. I really didn't. I mean, I realize anyone with any imagination has to have a pretty strong stomach just to deal with the recipes I'm posting--let alone the proof that someone actually cooks this crap. And takes pictures of it. And posts them to the web.

People. Have you no shame?

But far be it from me to ignore opportunity when it's knocking on my door. After all, we're all grown-ups, right? We realize that people don't publish recipes with the idea that no one will actually use them, right? (I mean, people except me.) So we're just going to have to forge ahead bravely. However, with an illustration like this, I feel my usual commentary is unnecessary. Nothing I can say can possibly elaborate upon that picture of dog chunk. At any rate, here is an example of one of the foul concoctions being foisted on an unsuspecting public by the pork and canned soup industries:

Tater Tot Casserole

8 to 10 slices of bacon
1 pound ground beef
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 cup chopped onion
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoon minced garlic
2 cans cream of mushroom soup
1/2 lb crumbled blue cheese
1 bag (32 oz) frozen Tater Tots

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 9x13 glass casserole dish with non-stick cooking spray.

Cook the bacon until crisp. Drain. Chop.

Brown the ground beef. Add thyme. Drain the beef in a colander. Saute the onion and garlic in the olive oil until the onion is soft.

Mix the bacon, beef, onion mixture, and the cans of soup. Spread in a layer in the prepared baking dish. Crumble blue cheese over the mixture. Cover with a single layer of tater tots. Bake for one hour.

Sprinkle saw dust. Sweep up. Put in trash.


Thursday, May 05, 2005

The Lost Cole Slaw

You know how you read some random bit of information somewhere, and even though you know it's random, it still seems to be aimed right at you?

Well, that's what happened to me recently. I was flipping through the coupon supplements of the Sunday paper the paperboy had mistakenly delivered to my house, and a recipe simply leaped off the page at me. It seemed to say "Poppy--read me; become revolted by me; blog me!"

It was one of those recipes apparently devised by a home economist employed by a major food manufacturer. You know, the kind of recipe that just happens to call for six or seven ingredients produced by the company. Well, this particular recipe was for coleslaw, except it had a ton of fruit in it. About half a dozen varieties. If I remember correctly, canned mandarin oranges sections were involved. But before I had a chance to blog and thus immortalize this so-called "coleslaw" recipe, the recipe had gone the way of all recycling.

When I realized that my Canned Fruit Cole Slaw recipe had disappeared, I was distraught. Where would I find a recipe like that again? How could I ever find its like? I felt like the speaker in A Lost Chord. Where could I find a recipe that would lie "on my fevered spirit / With a touch of infinite calm," or, for that matter, could flood "the crimson twilight / Like the close of an Angel's Psalm?" I ask you.

Then it occurred to me. If I did a web search, I might find the website for whichever company was behind this so-called "coleslaw." They might have posted the recipe of which they were--justifiably--so proud.

And lo and behold--a quick web search for "cole slaw fruit" immediately revealed this beauty. I realize it's not the actual recipe. For example, there is a relative dearth of canned fruit. When I read it, alas, I hear no "sound of a great amen." But this concoction has a sheen and a perfection of its own:

Fruit Coleslaw

1 C. Miracle Whip
2 T. cream
2 T. sugar
4 Cs. shredded cabbage
1 1/2 Cs. crushed pineapple, drained
1 c. miniature marshmallows
2 sliced bananas

Mix Miracle Whip, cream & sugar.
Add to cabbage, pineapple & marshmallows.
Lastly fold in bananas. (Put bananas in when about ready to eat salad as they will turn dark if left in awhile.)

Isn't it wonderful? With the exception of The Lost Coleslaw, this is the weirdest excuse for "coleslaw" I've ever encountered. To begin with, there is all that fruit. My mother's coleslaw contained about five ingredients: shredded cabbage, mayo, a bit of grated onion, and Durkee's. It's possible that celery seeds were involved, but that's about it for rococo embellishments. She even eschewed such fripperies as the now-ubiquitous grated carrot.

Well, compare that with the above. It's either an embarrassment or an embarrassment of riches--I can't decide. I mean, first of all, it includes that key ingredient, Miracle Whip. I don't believe I've included a recipe containing Miracle Whip, and it was definitely about time that this member of the Blessed Whip Trinity (the other two members of course being Cool and Dream) appeared in this blog. For that reason alone, I am grateful to the person who posted the recipe.

Second, this recipe is so unashamedly bastardized. I mean, sure, it has four cups of shredded cabbage. But is anyone else here reminded of those so-called "Ambrosia" "salads" you sometimes see for sale in a supermarket deli case? Miniature marshmallows, Miracle Whip, sugar, banana, and canned pineapple? Are they out of their minds? They have the nerve to call this Cole Slaw? If there were any justice in this world, the recipe would call for it to be garnished with an elaborately embroidered "C," a la Hester Prynne's scarlet "A."

So while this recipe isn't the one I saw in the newspaper, it was so uniquely repulsive that it deserves inclusion in the Horrifying Foodstuffs canon.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Of Karl Marx and Cool-Whip

The University of Chicago has a lot to answer for. For example: me.

You see, the problem with being grievously over-educated is that you find yourself spending an inordinate amount of time thinking deep thoughts about shallow subjects. Take the matter of Cool-Whip. This fluffy white substance has been occupying my gray cells for quite a while. Basically, what's it all about, Cool-Whip? (I mean, other than being a source of cheap plastic containers, which it undoubtedly is.) Like, who really likes it? Does anyone think it tastes like whipped cream (which I'm assuming--correct me if I'm wrong--it's supposed to resemble.)

My idea is that Cool-Whip is designed for only one thing: to make people get fat by getting them to consume highly caloric non-foodstuffs. In that, of course, it is not alone; there are millions of junk foods with the same goal. But follow me closely here. You get into your car and drive to the supermarket, where you can (I believe) get Cool-Whip in the freezer section. You buy it and bring it home. You put it in your refrigerator or your freezer. Then, whenever you have an urge for a dollop of whipped topping, you take it out and serve it forth.

Compare this to whipped cream. You have to bring home a carton of cream, get out a bowl and mixer and some powdered sugar and vanilla, and then you have to whip that cream for about 15 minutes. Now let's imagine that you don't have a mixer. You have to do all of the above, plus you have to get out the whisk and actually whisk the cream for 15 minutes.

Now let's say you actually have to walk to the supermarket to get the cream. Or--and I admit this is a stretch--milk the cow and separate the cream yourself.

Well, you see where I'm going here. The idea is to commodify foodstuffs so they are cheap to manufacture, have an indefinite shelf-life, and are easy to consume. And since the way to stay fit is to eat food in its natural state and move around a lot, something like Cool Whip is ideally suited to make people get fat. If people had to whip cream for fifteen minutes to get whipped cream, they'd eat a hell of a lot less cream. But they will apparently wolf down squillions of whipped-cream-calorie-equivalents worth of Cool-Whip, and it's just as easy as pie. And that's why, ladies and gentleman of the jury, Cool Whip is on my long list of Horrifying Foodstuffs, as is any food prepared with it as an ingredient.

More recipes and rantings real soon. I just had to vent. (It's Karl Marx's fault!)


Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Willie Nelson needs to hear about this one

Because if Willie did hear about it, he'd immediately gather the necessary forces to hold the first of many annual Lemon-Aid concerts.

Don't believe me? Read on.

Today's gustatorial guttersnipe comes courtesy of Pass The Plate, a community cookbook published by Christ Episcopal Church in New Bern, North Carolina. (And they wonder why there is schism in the Church!)

Actually, Pass the Plate is a fantastic cookbook. It has a lot of great-sounding recipes. I don't think it's going too far to argue that Pass the Plate is exemplary of community cookbooks at their best. It passes the ultimate test of cookbook quality; it has a spiral binding, it includes the names of the women who submitted the recipes, and the recipes underwent minimal editing. I mean, I think the committee published every recipe they got, which means that just in the dessert section alone, great grandmother's secret Tea Cake recipe jostles for attention with grandmother Sigridür Hall's Icelandic Vinarterta, five million recipes featuring Cool-Whip, and Ann Lander's Lemon Meringue Pie. (Tsk, tsk. Weren't you supposed to send Ann a little money and a self-addressed envelope for that one? I think her estate might sue.)

At any rate, we have Dollie Mallard Kellum (Mrs. Norman, Sr.) to thank for

Lemonade Meringue Pie

1 cup sour cream
3 egg yolks, slightly beaten
1 4 1/2-5-ounce) regular vanilla pudding mix
11/4 cups milk
1/3 cup frozen lemonade concentrate, thawed
1 9-inch baked pie shell

3 egg whites
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
6 tablespoons sugar

OK, so right away I'll note that no, this recipe doesn't include any guts, and it doesn't even include Cool-Whip, so what's my problem, right? Picky, picky, picky.

(I'll also note that I'm leaving off the directions because I don't want you making this pie. And I'm afraid that you'll be fooled, due to this recipe's lack of offal and Cool-Whip, into making it. So no, I'm not including the instructions, and you can't make me.)

I suppose now is a good time to admit that I don't particularly like lemon meringue pie. And maybe there isn't a version anywhere that would thrill me. But the thing is, we already had a perfectly good bastardized convenience-food version of lemon meringue pie. The one with the can of sweetened condensed milk. The one that has made it almost impossible to find a lemon meringue pie made without sweetened condensed milk. To wit:

Magic Lemon Pie

1 (8- or 9-inch) crumb or baked pie shell
1 (14 ounce) can EAGLE BRAND® Sweetened Condensed Milk (NOT evaporated milk)
1/2 cup lemon juice from concentrate
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
2 eggs, separated
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar, if desired
4 tablespoons sugar

See? We already had the bastard pie with the sweetened condensed milk and lemon juice from concentrate. Was it absolutely necessary to create an all-new and different bastard pie using pudding mix and frozen lemonade concentrate?

I ask you.

Somewhere out there, an actual lemon is weeping.


Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Mrs. H. R. Flintoff, Jr.'s Asian Scapegoat

You will be pleased to hear that no clue to the ingredients in today's recipe can be derived from the above title. In other words, no, we are not going to be reading about eating goat.

Which is maybe not such a great thing, when you find out what this recipe--published in Nashville Seasons (Nashville, TN: 1964)--actually does entail. And that is war-mongering. Imperialism. Oppression of indigenous peoples. And the flagrant overuse of canned ingredients.

Let's begin at the beginning, shall we?

Peas Orientale

1. Is nobody afraid that masses of indignant Asian people will rise in violent protest that this travesty is being laid at their door?

2. Does French-frying the word "Oriental" make it better? or

3. Does French-frying the word "Oriental" somehow connote gourmet cuisine?

You be the judge. Check out these ingredients:

3 10 ounce packages frozen peas, cooked
2 small cans water chestnuts, thinly sliced, drained
2 large cans bean sprouts, drained
1 lb. button mushrooms, sautéed in butter
2 10 and 1/2 ounce cans cream of mushroom soup
2 3/12 cans French fried onion rings

Beat soup with fork

until it screams for mercy

Mix vegetables with soup and place in large buttered casserole. Bake at 350 degrees approximately 30 minutes. Top with French fried onions and continue baking another 15 to 20 minutes. Serves 12.

Now, Mrs. Flintoff, don't sell yourself short. I'll bet this will serve a lot more than twelve. Especially if they don't actually eat any of it.

This is a wonderful vegetable casserole for buffet dinners, and goes well with almost any meat or poultry dish.

Absolutely! I could easily see it accompanying a plate of fish sticks, but I'm sure it would go just as well with Spam. Or Chicken McNuggets.

It is easy to prepare in advance, and has an unusual and distinctive flavor.

I'm sure it does, ma'am.

Well, now. Talk about an embarassment of riches. Where do I begin? What hath Mrs. H. R. Flintoff, Jr., wrought?

Notice--well--everything. The almost total lack of fresh ingredients. The fact that frozen peas are cooked, then cooked again for 30 minutes, then cooked again for another 15 to 20 minutes. Note also that this recipe includes not just cream of mushroom soup, but canned French fried onion rings, as well.

"Mrs. Flintoff, what were you thinking?" I cried to the unheeding desktop monitor.

And then it came to me. So-called "Peas 'Orientale,'" from a cookbook published in the United States in 1964 ... why, this must be an attempt to sway public opinion during the Vietnam war! Mrs. Flintoff was opposed to those commies in North Vietnam, and her recipe was clearly a piece of fiendishly subtle anti-Vietcong propaganda.

Now ordinarily, I never would have thought that the ladies of the Junior League were such accomplished propagandists. But really, it's the only rational explanation.


Monday, February 21, 2005

Quick--kill me

OK, today's foulness fix comes courtesy of To a King's Taste, published in 1952 by the National Society of the Colonial Dames in the State of Louisiana.

I found this book on eBay, and I bought it for two reasons. First of all, the theme is Mardi Gras and the place of publication is Louisiana. Chances were that it would contain a lot of delicious recipes. Secondly, and perhaps more important, I am a Dame myself. In the Illinois Society, not the Louisiana Society, but one must be loyal to one's fellow Dames.

In case you don't know this, and why would you, The Colonial Dames are one of many hereditary societies founded around 1890 when Americans of English descent realized their days of majority rule were pretty much numbered. So they founded a bunch of private schools, clubs, and hereditary societies. This gave them the opportunity to swank around and feel all kewl and exclusive and stuff.

The most well-known of these societies is probably the Daughters of the American Revolution. The DAR managed to achieve lasting infamy when they refused to let Marian Anderson sing in Constitution Hall. Eleanor Roosevelt resigned her membership, Miss Anderson sang at the Lincoln Memorial, and history was made. (If you click on the link, you'll see that the DAR are still trying to make it up to Marian. I hate to burst your bubble, ladies, but she's dead.)

For more on these hereditary societies, you have to check out this website; it's truly weird and good for at least a half hour of Internet time-wasting. I especially recommend the Advisory Council section. Do these people look like they know how to party or what?

At this point you might be wondering what on earth all these hereditary societies have to do with cooking. Well, it's quite simple. The Colonial Dames have never achieved the same level of infamy or public recognition as the DAR. But who knows--it might still happen. And while it isn't on the public-relations-fiasco level of dissing an amazingly gifted opera star who just happens to be African American, if the Colonial Dames do achieve infamy, it might just very well be because of this blot on the gustatorial landscape:

A Quick-Frozen Tomato Salad

Mix thoughly:

1 medium-sized bottle tomato catsup (14 ounces)
1 medium-sized can tomato juice (no. 2 can)

Add one tablespoon grated onion

Oh dear. Now they've gone and ruined things by adding a fresh ingredient!

and season to taste.

Does that mean I'm actually expected to taste this?

Pour in refrigerator tray and freeze.

Now back away from the freezer slowly and quietly, and maybe the "salad" will die a painless death.

Serve in thick slices on lettuce, garnish with thinly sliced avocado and mayonnaise.

Oh, damn it. You let it out of the freezer before I could tie a tag on its toe.

Well, there you have it. Proof that when it comes to bad food, the English--and their descendents--still rule.


Friday, February 18, 2005

Snot very appealing

Apparently, my reading public is not completely satisfied with the caliber of Horrifying Foodstuffs I'm dishing up. According to them, merely being Inedible or Unappetizing isn't enough to warrant a recipe's inclusion in the HF canon.

Well, for these nose I mean nit pickers, I am pleased and proud to offer a dish I found skulking around the creepy dark "Salads" section of the Charleston Receipts Repeats cookbook. It just goes to show you that the right kind of Junior League cookbook is an equal opportunity offender, happily shoe-horning the Truly Revolting in with the Merely Inedible.

I am therefore pleased and proud to present Mrs. Edward J. Reynolds (May Robertson)'s infamous

Pistachio Salad

• Easy • Prepare Ahead • Serves: 8 to 12 • Chill: 4 hours

1 (3 1/2 ounce) box pistachio pudding and pie mix
1 (12 ounce) small curd cottage cheese
1 (15 1/4 ounce) can crushed pineapple, drained
1 (11 ounce) can mandarin oranges
1 (16 ounce) carton whipped topping (cool whip) [sic]

• Combine pudding mix with cottage cheese.
• Drain pineapple and oranges and add to mixture.
• Fold in whipped topping.
• Refrigerate for four hours or overnight.

* Can be used as dessert.

It's breathtaking, isn't it? Judging merely from its ratio of fresh and unprocessed to canned and boxed ingredients, this concoction exemplifies Horrifying Foodstuffs. That the recipe includes a carton of Cool Whip™ is merely--you should excuse the expression--the icing on the cake.

But wait; there's more! Not only are the ingredients rather vague (we don't know whether Mrs. Reynolds wants us to buy a box of instant or cook 'n' serve pudding, so we are left wondering whether we might buy the wrong kind, and the salad won't come out right) but the name of the recipe is so wonderfully misleading. I mean, with a name like "Pistachio Salad," one would expect to find a pistachio or two on board, right?

But no--there is nary a nut to be found. The putative pistachio pudding preparation's purpose is apparently to lend the crucial thick green opacity to a recipe which is obviously meant to resemble nothing other than alien boogers.


Thursday, February 17, 2005

In Scotch we trust

I've already mentioned how much I like Junior League cookbooks. The Southern ones, in particular, really make my thing sing. I simply can't travel to the south without looking for another Jr. League cookbook to add to my collection.

The problem is that the League is really starting to take its cookbooks seriously. They've gotten all foodie. I mean, except for the little blurb in the front about "promoting voluntarism" (the Junior League being the only entity that uses the term "voluntarism" instead of "volunTEERism"--but I digress) and maybe some information about what makes their particular city unique, Junior League cookbooks are starting to look like something Nigella Lawson or Martha Stewart or somebody like that would produce.

This is all wrong. Junior League cookbooks aren't supposed to be huge coffee table volumes full of air-brushed colored photographs of meals that no one in her right mind would ever attempt to cook. Let Martha and Nigella do that. I want little spiral-bound volumes with no pictures and three essentially identical recipes for something like banana nut bread. And I want weird recipes like the one that Mrs. William C. Prewett (Karen Padgett) saw fit to have included in Charleston Receipts Repeats, the tome where I found today's winner:

Embassy Dip
"The scotch makes it!"

• Easy • Serves: 12+ • May Prepare Ahead

1 cup mayonnaise
4 tablespoons ketchup
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
dash Worcestershire sauce
1/2 ounce scotch

• Mix as listed above, adding scotch last.
• Serve with fresh vegetables or taco chips.
• Can be made ahead if kept chilled.

I'm sure that after the meal I described on Valentine's Day (stuffed calves hearts for those of you who missed it) you're probably wondering what the big deal is about this recipe. You're probably thinking "What's her problem? It's just a dip recipe. I mean, at least it's not guts."

Granted, this recipe is not actually offal. However. Part of good cooking is understanding the importance of proportion. Now look at this list of ingredients. I'll wait a minute while you cast your eye over them again.

Now then. Notice the amount of mayonnaise and ketchup. Now notice the amount of other ingredients. I'm sorry, but an eighth of a teaspoon of cayenne pepper? Can anyone even measure anything that small? What are we trying to accomplish here--see how many grains of cayenne pepper can dance on the head of a pin? And a "dash" of Worcestershire sauce? And wonder of wonders--a whole half ounce of something exotic (at least, for South Carolina) like Scotch.

So ... you add a dash of this, a grain of that, and a trickle of scotch, and you call this a recipe? No way. I say it's ketchup and mayonnaise. And I say the hell with it.


Monday, February 14, 2005

Offally sentimental

I'll admit it. I've been waiting for a couple of weeks to post this one. Because I'm childish, that's why.

You see, today is St. Valentine's Day, the time for a lovely, romantic, truly memorable meal with the one you heart. So what could be more perfect than this dish--another winner from The Modern Priscilla Cookbook, (Boston, Priscilla Publishing Company, 1924):

Stuffed Heart

2 small calves' hearts
1 cup bread crumbs
1/2 teaspoon poultry dressing
1 teaspoon salt

Wash the hearts thoroughly and remove muscular portions.


Make stuffing by pouring boiling water through crumbs and draining well. Add seasonings, and when cool fill the hearts.


Cover with hot water and cook in moderate oven or in fireless cooker. Drain off liquor and thicken for gravy. Sprinkle hearts with buttered crumbs, and salt and pepper. Put in hot oven for a few minutes to brown. Serve at once.

While you still have the nerve. Get it? Nerve? HAHAHAHA! A little anatomical humor for you.

Time in oven or fireless cooker, 4 to 6 hours. Temperature of oven, 325 degrees. Servings, 6.

Serves six? Six what? Six of whom? I mean, sure, you can get Snow White's stepmother to eat a serving--maybe two--but who in hell is going to eat the rest of it? Renfield from the Dracula movie? Voldemort?


Sunday, February 13, 2005

The road not taken

In this entry I posit a new model for understanding the many-headed hydra that is Horrifying Foodstuffs. To wit: horrifying foodstuffs that are the result of taking perfectly good ingredients and combining them in such a way that they become revolting. I've seen it all too often--blameless, nay, praiseworthy ingredients which--through no fault of their own--have been led down the primrose path to perdition.

Remember the scene in Pinocchio when the sweet little wooden boy bids Gepetto farewell, and accompanied only by Jiminy Cricket, heads off alone for his first day of school? (Nowadays Gepetto would end up in court for child neglect, but I digress.) And then Pinocchio gets waylaid by "Honest John" and the cat? And almost turns into a donkey?

Well, that's what appears to be happening in this recipe:

Eggnog II

1 dozen eggs
1 quart cream
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 pint whiskey

You see what I mean, don't you? Eggs, cream, sugar--what could be better? And the pint of whiskey seems like a good idea, too--although I wonder about the company it's keeping. Because usually I think of whiskey as the Nancy Drew of beverages, ordinarily found with its chums Vermouth and Angostura Bitters.

Separate eggs. Beat yolks and add sugar until creamy. Add whiskey slowly. Add whipped cream and stir well. Whip half of the whites (6) and add to the above mixture by folding them. Chill well. Serves 12-14.

Now, dear Reader, you might actually like eggnog. I'm sure many people do. But my mother used to make something very like this every year at Christmas--the separated eggs, the whipped cream, the folding in of a heap of egg white fluff, the massive amounts of bourbon ... I'm telling you, the result is horrifying. You end up with a big bowl of something with the consistency of a McDonald's shake, or maybe a jar of Marshmallow Fluff--too thick to actually drink. I'm not kidding. I've been handed a cup of the stuff straight out of the punchbowl and the ladle is almost useless. You can practically slice this stuff. And when you try to drink it, you tip the little punch cup towards your face and nothing moves for a while, and then you end up with a blob of whipped cream mixed with egg white on your nose.

And then there is the matter of how fattening this stuff is. If I remember correctly, a cup of eggnog has something like 4,582,821 calories. Now, this is simply criminal. What a waste of calories. There are plenty less fattening ways to get a buzz.

I mean, if you have to, go ahead and make and drink the stuff. Call me a Puritan, but I think all that wholesome, innocent, sweet dairy case stuff should be kept away from whiskey until it's old enough to drink legally. And anyway, the combination offends my palate. To me, it makes way more sense to drink a few glasses of bourbon on the rocks, and then, when you're drunk enough not to know any better, have creme brulee for dinner.


Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Ducks in a Barrel

Believe it or not, that's a metaphor, and not, thank God, a recipe.

No, I'm referring to the ease of finding truly revolting recipes in community cookbooks. Especially ones from Texas. Now, I was saving this one for the rainy day (don't look now, but here comes another metaphor) that I'm sure is inevitable. Like after I get nominated for a Bloggie and/or The New York Times mentions this blog--then the pressure will be on to be FUNNY and of course, I won't be able to get a funny boner. I will be im-humor-potent. I will have erectile dysfunniness. I will start making up bad puns.

And that, rather than now, would be the right time to pull out Tastefully Yours, a community cookbook published by the Hearthstone Garden Club of Houston, Texas.

I mean, this is my absolute favorite cookbook. It is a cornucopia of disgusting recipes. And you don't have to dig for them. This one appears on THE VERY FIRST PAGE:

Hank's Armadillo Eggs

2 (6-oz) pkgs. shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1 1/2 c. all-purpose buttermilk baking mix (recipe tested with Bisquick)
1/2 lb. sausage (tested with Jimmy Dean sausage)
1 (1 lb. 10-oz.) can (26 oz. total) whole jalapenos, seeded and devined
1 (6-oz.) box (2 env.) seasoned coating mix for pork (tested with Shake & Bake)
2 eggs, beaten

(I want to add "to submission" to that last. I mean, what self-respecting hen's egg would volunteer to be morphed into a FrankenEgg like this? I would expect the eggs to have been tortured if not brainwashed. But I digress.)

Mix half the cheese, baking mix and sausage. Stuff pepers with remaining cheese. Pinch together tightly. Roll dough 1/8 inch thick. Wrap each jalapeno in dough. Remove excess dough and seal completely. Shape like an egg. Roll "Eggs" in coating mix; dip in beaten egg and roll in coating mix again. Bake at 325 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes. Makes about 10. May be made in advance and reheated.

At this point, of course, you are probably pale and sweating slightly. I know I am.

You might also be wondering how I find all these awful recipes, and what are the criteria for selection? What does a recipe have to do to make the cut?

Well, the important thing is not the ingredients per se, but the ratio of food to non-food ingredients. Now, I'll grant you that somebody somewhere might enjoy Monterey Jack cheese, but I have personally never tasted it, except as an ingredient in Tex Mex dishes. Which, OK, I admit I'm from Massachusetts, but as far as I'm concerned, that means it's only a pseudo-food.

Now examine the rest of the ingredients: biscuit mix; pork chop seasoning mix, etc., etc. The only food in this recipe is the eggs, and they are used only to hold the coating mix in place. If they come up with a way to get Cool-Whip or Velveeta or even better Miracle Whip to do the same thing--and in the revised edition of Tastefully Yours, they probably will--then the only actual food in this recipe would be the alleged cheese.

Which as far as I'm concerned, is the equivalent of wining the Academy Award for Least Edible Appetizer.


Tuesday, January 25, 2005

This seal means recipe goodness!

That's what it says on the title page of Lunches and Brunches, by the editors of Better Homes & Gardens (Meredith Press, 1963). Now, isn't that a reassuring thought?

By the way, I searched in vain for the city where the Meredith Press is located. I've spent much of my life formatting footnotes, and properly formatted footnotes include that information. But the location of the Meredith Press was nowhere to be found. Personally, I suspect foul play. How much do you want to bet that Meredith Press is at the bottom of New York Harbor, her horribly decayed skeleton wafting gently in currents of pollution?

Well, it's no more than she deserved for including this recipe in the chapter entitled "Show-Off Salads for Lunch":

Strawberry-Cream Squares

2 3-ounce packages strawberry-flavored gelatin
2 cupes boiling water
2 10-ounce packages frozen strawberries
1 131/2-ounce can (11/2 cupes) crushed pineapple
2 large, fully ripe bananas, finely diced
• • •
1 cup dairy sour cream

Dissolve gelatin in boiling water. Add berries, stirring occasiobnally till thawed. Add pineapple and banana. Pour half the mixture into an 8x8x2-inch pan. Chill till firm. Spoon sour cream over chilled gelatin, spreading in an even layer; pour remaining gelatin over. chill firm.
Cut in 9 squares; serve on lettuce ruffles. Garnish with dollops of sour cream and whole strawberries split in half from top almost to bottom. Makes 9 servings.

Makes nine servings unless someone shows up with an unexpected addition to the party. Then the harried hostess will have to subdivide the Strawberry Squares. Imagine the squabbling, the heartburnings--nay, the carnage.

Also please note that while the Editors of Better Homes & Garden are incredibly punctilious with regard to punctuation and other niceties (for example, note the "an" before the "8" in "8x8x2-inch pan"--you have to admire their thoroughness) they forgot to mention where you're supposed to get the strawberries for the garnish. You know, the ones you're supposed to slice "from top almost to bottom." Personally, I can't imagine frozen strawberries managing to survive this treatment, or looking particularly attractive it they did.

At any rate, there you have it; an incredibly labor-intensive, artificially fruity, vitamin-depleted, fatty and sugary excuse for a salad that probably tastes just like Starburst Fruit Chews.


Monday, January 24, 2005

Spaghetti with Mushrooms? Is this a trick post?

That's what you'll be thinking soon, because my first recipe sounds pretty innocuous. Tasty, even.

But first, some backstory. (You know where I said that my favorite things were my weird cookbooks? Well, I lied. My favorite thing is telling people I'm going to tell them something and then not telling them, sliding off instead into some kind of long-winded digression. Which in case you haven't noticed, is what I'm doing right now.)

You see, you really should know that this post almost didn't happen. Last night I thought I had found the perfect first recipe to post--perfect in that it was 1) made with two kinds of Jell-O and 2) looked like a colored photograph of a revolting skin disease. But then I realized that a large part of this recipe's appeal was the gruesome photograph of what happens, apparently, when Home Economists lock up suspicious-looking boxes of Jell-O, treat them roughly, subject them to unutterable humilation, and then TAKE PICTURES.

But with no way of uploading the picture, I thought it would be better to start with unillustrated recipes.

So, still shuddering faintly, I picked up one of my weird old cookbooks (The Modern Priscilla Cook Book: One Thousand Recipes Tested and Proved at the Priscilla Proving Plant, Boston, 1924). But I made the mistake of perusing the text in order. Well, the problem with that is that The Modern Priscilla Cook Book is arranged in strict order; first beverages, then breads, quick breads, crullers, doughnuts, griddlecakes, waffles, muffins, then cakes--what the hell was I going to do? These kinds of recipes are unfuckupable. These are the foods of the gods. I mean, I'm always looking for the ultimate cornmeal batter cake recipe, so picture my excitement when I spotted a recipe for corn waffles. Can you imagine them with butter and good strawberry preserves?

But dammit--this was getting me nowhere! So I flipped to entrees. (If that didn't work, I was going to head right to the heart of darkness--the chapter on salads.)

And then--I found it:

Spaghetti with Mushrooms

• 1 cup spaghetti • 2 tablespoons butter
• 1 can tomato soup • 1/2 cup cheese
• 1/2 cup mushrooms, diced

Cook spaghetti in boiling salted water until tender. Drain, rinse with cold water, and add to tomato soup. Brown mushrooms in butter and add with cheese to spaghetti. Heat thoroughly and serve. Serving, 4.

(That last part must be a typo--don't you think it should say "Serving, 1 garbage can?")

Oh, what a subtle, evil genius it was who concocted this recipe. How the name, "Spaghetti with Mushrooms," quickens the imagination. We envision a steaming plate of pasta tossed with a voluptuous amount of sauteed mushrooms. And then comes that can of tomato soup to spoil it all. And then--please note the cooking--you should excuse the expression--"technique." Note that the noodles go into the soup where they sit, rather like someone soaking her feet for a pedicure, until the mushrooms are browned. Then the whole mess gets combined and heated again. Can you imagine the sogginess?

Do you think this is where Chef Boyardee got the idea?


Sunday, January 23, 2005

Bad recipes and the woman who loves them

I spend a lot of time reading cookbooks. I've amassed a good-sized collection, of them, too. Way too many to actually cook even a tiny percentage of the recipes from them.

In general, my favorite cookbooks aren't pretty coffee-table type tomes. No, they're either extremely well-written, with a high text-to-recipe ratio, (think M.F.K. Fisher) or they're historical (James Beard American Cooking; The White House Cookbook; The Picayune Creole Cookbook) or funny (Plain Jane's Thrill of Very Fattening Foods Cookbook and the works of Peg Bracken.) I also adore community cookbooks, like the ones published by various Junior Leagues. And I love the really really old and weird ones, like The Modern Priscilla Cookbook, circa 1920 something.

Basically, my outlook is the weirder and more disgusting the food sounds, the better.
My favorite cookbooks are full of recipes that are either way too unhealthy or way too full of disgusting processed-food ingredients for me to actually cook them. I'm a sucker for recipes that use canned soup, Jello, Cool-Whip, Velveeta and/or Ro-Tel tomatoes.

The thing is, although I love the idea of these recipes, I'd have to be insane to actually cook and eat this kind of crap. So mostly I sit around at breakfast and lunch (two meals which through the grace of God I usually get to eat alone) eating my healthy, South Beach Diet meals while reading cookbooks, mainly about regional American, non-foodie type food. (Recipes featuring liberal amounts of bacon grease are big favorites at the moment.)

Over many solitary lunches I've found myself zeroing in on the most disgusting recipes I can find. "This is it!" I'll think to myself--"the most disgusting concoction I've ever heard of!" But then the next day I'll find one just as horrifying.

I couldn't bear to be the only one to get a huge vicarious thrill over what dumb, probably mostly dead people used to eat. So I thought I'd start a blog in order to introduce these appalling recipes to a deserving audience. Naturally, I'm going to spare you what these recipes actually taste like. I have no intention of turning this blog into a recipe review. I don't want to know. And neither do you. Don't even bother emailing to ask.

So anyway, this blog will be about recipes I'll probably never cook, and the many reasons why I wouldn't want to.