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.