Friday, October 7, 2011
Cutco Cook Book (1961)
If a cookbook ever made this junior cuisinière feel the very vibrations of its frenetic energy before the stove was even on, it is the 1961 Cutco Cookbook. Behold! Marvel at is utter lack of cohesion when divorced from its text...who needs sense when you've got charm, charm, charm? Riddle me THAT.
Home to some of the strangest MCM illustrated tableaux I have possibly ever seen, this cookbook/advertisement for Cutco brand knives has been dutifully uploaded for your viewing pleasure:
Yes! I want to BE the lady in the painfully diamond-back patterned capris, top knotted kid at my hip, juggling dinner under an Eames-ian lamp fixture and the watchful eye of my fish wallhanging. You can find similar items and make my dream your reality here, here, and here:
Cutco's cook book is meat-centric, to show off the variety of products they have for slicing and dicing a variety of meats, opening the book with a anti-vegetarian declaration of purpose if ever I heard one:
"Down through the centuries, meat has always been one of the most universally liked foods. It is the heart of the meal, the center around which the menu is planned... Meat presents a mouth watering picture and its aroma and flavor tempt even the most jaded appetite..."
At which point the grandstands go wild. Meat! Meat! Meat! It's What We Wanna Eat!
Being a low-carb warrior, I have to say, I approve of this message. However, bab cannot live on bacon alone. How will I cook this meat? Whatever will I pair various meats with? Cutco has the answers.
The first chapter explains to us the "7 Methods of Cooking Meat" (which sounds suspiciously cult-ish to me, but I'll bite). You can see the methods, and a housewife holding an accordion of an elliptical number sequence, below. Illustrated are roasting, broiling, pan broiling, pan frying, deep fat frying, braising, and cooking in water. I felt bad in this section because I always wholly ignore whatever meat preparation suggestion sticker Kroger's places on their cellophaned packages and do what I wish with the goods, choosing cuts for economic rather than intended purpose. Sure, it's suggested that I braise this meat, but I don't have three hours to braise beef when I could pan fry it and be eating in twenty minutes. C'est la vie.
As is the usual in these cookbooks, merry little illustrations of the meat -bearing creatures in question dot the margins. I particularly like the little baby pig's handbag, but, as you'll see next, the pigs really are kind of the star of the book.
Pigs! Pork! Usually our porcine protagonists get the short end of the stick, but in this cookbook, the illustrations seem to go particularly out of their way to show you how much fun being a pig is. Before you're eaten, natch. At top, a little sooey snuggles up to one of my hillbilly ancestors for a barefoot-with-shotgun-in-reach snooze in the hills of Appalachia. This illustrates a recipe for "Baked Porkchops", so I don't see the connection, but we'll continue. At bottom left, a little pig smokes a hookah for, you guessed it, a page or two on the process of smoking hams. El cerdo español suns himself on a Mexican beach, unaware that he's touting the advantages of "baked ham". Ah, it's a pig's life. What's that I see at right in green, by the by? Could it be...a HAM in HAMLET? Oh, you sixties' cookbooks. You scamps.
Now, chickens don't fare nearly as well in illustrated treatment in the Costco book. The best a chicken does is maybe a little heat bath in the first illustration (though tell me how this doesn't end with his being dinner) or wearing a beret in front of the Eiffel Tower (for french fried chicken... get it! get it!).
Later, these whimsical doodles accompany a totally sick-out instruction sheet on how to "draw poultry", which, let me tell you, is a little beyond the skills of this non-Julia-Child-level gourmand. When "remove entrails" and "bend finger around intestine in order to vent" start popping up in the how-to's, I tune out, buddy. I tune out. What am I, Hannibal Lecter? Poor little chickens! Look how happy the one looks at middle left to be sharing a glass of sherry with me! And then removed his giblets. So sad.
Speaking of Hannibal Lecter: no. Annnnnnd.... NO.
In the interest of cheekiness, there are a number of international caricatures that were more or less inoffensive, and mostly cute:
And of course, where would we be without the happy atomic family pictures. Look at that tiny dachshund-esque puppy at the right. Oh, little guy, how I wish you could home with me.
The book concludes with a cute little dispan hands gal holding up her "finis" sign, but wait!
An unexpected coda at the end of the book documents different ways of outdoor living/cooking. I am now guilty I never did get around to buying a grill this summer. :(
En garde, Bobby in the atom age shirt! En garde!
Looks like that'll do it for the Cutco book. Found any outstanding MCM cooking manuals lately? Do let a girl know! Til next time.