Thursday, August 9, 2012

After Five Campbell's Cookbook (1960's)

Good morning!

Is it the neo-sixties' housewife in me that feels regret when faced with not being able to cook a Julia Child level meal for her loved ones after working from 8-6? Maybe not even Julia Child, but at least Betty Crocker? Yesterday, Matthew had some friends over to play video games, and I was literally heart-struck by the idea that if I was getting home around 6:30, and they were to be there at 7, I was going to have to have them order a pizza. I know I have to loose myself of some of these ties to having everything "just so", especially if I want to be able to have people drop into the house at their leisure, but golDURNIT I like to impress people with the bounty of my larder! And in this case, having been struck midweek with about 24 hours warning, there wasn't anything I could but call Domino's. And cry a single tear to the inconvenience of modern women's working schedules.

While I'm sure 90% of these recipes are not waist-line friendly, I was happy to find this early 60's pamphlet from the Campbell Soup Company that addresses my member-of-the-workforce conundrum. It opens with a salute to me! The working girl!

For the single gal, newly wed, working mother, and those with a 25 year pin, meals mean kitchen duty, be it... dinner alone for two....supper for the foursome...the office gals in for a snack...or family affairs. The smart business gal knows how to meet each occasion with a good supply of convenience foods. Most important in this reserve probably is canned condensed soups.

I want to be that smart business gal! Carolyn Campbell says, through the magic of can-cookery, I can be both well-thought of as a hostess AND gainfully employed. Click on any of the pictures for an upclose, non-ant-perspective scan of the page.

Sometimes, when I'm in a particularly low place in my menu planning for a shindig or get together, and I make the mistake of voicing this lack-of-confidence, my mom ALWAYS butts into the middle of my lachrymose list of cooking complaints with a " can always have hot dogs! Or hamburgers. Hamburgers hardly cost anything to make. And they're easy!" or some similar, non-comforting convenience suggestion. I appreciate the sentiment. It's not the food itself I'm opposed to (I love both hamburgers and hotdogs), it's the missed opportunity for "wowing" my guests with some crazy sixties' kitchen concoction. No worries here! Among the suggestions for starters are "herbed cracker snacks" (buttered saltines with onion or garlic salt), "black bean dip" (cream cheese, black bean soup, and hot sauce, sevred with crackers or potato chips), or "hot cheese dip" (cheddar cheese soup, ketchup, and garlic). I remember my grandma eating lightly buttered Premium brand crackers, and like the banana-in-cereal incident, me thinking she was out of her mind. Do you not know about peanut butter, woman?! I need to broaden my convenience cooking horizons, I guess.

Helpful to the still junior hostess like myself are the menu suggestions in italics at the top of each recipe. Doesn't it drive you crazy when you've worked out that you're going to have such-and-such, but you can't think of anything to have as a side dish? Or you can't decide if one side or two sides is better for the whole plate serving? How suburban 1966 do these suggested menu sound?

Chili Beef Sandwiches                     Frank and Bean Buns         Broiled Tomato & Bacon Sandwiches
Pickles     Olives                             Stuffed Celery or Endive     Potato Chips
Orange Sherbet   Cookies              Fresh Fruit                          Pickled Watermelon slices
Coffee                                            Coffee     Milk                      Cookies         Tea

That's probably not what Jackie Kennedy served at the White House, but it sounds weirdly good to me. I don't know how I feel about the dish called "polka dot chowder" (seems....wrong somehow), but I could get behind some pickled watermelon slices and tomato bacon sammies.

This page admonishes the lazy cook in me to dine well, even if I dine alone or just have one guest! We probably actually dine best when it's just Matthew and me, as I'm more willing to try involved recipes if all I have to do after the dish is done is eat it and watch Dateline (as opposed to entertain guests, make sure everyone has everything they need, etc, etc). Do you notice how into curry people were in the sixties'? It must have been a new, international cuisine discovery for the average American household, as I've seen Junior League cookbooks from the era that curry everything from boiled eggs to tuna.

My one complaint about this book is that every page doesn't have a fashion-sketch like illustration of me, the consummate after-5 hostess, as seen in the scans above and below. Doesn't the lower one look a little like sixties' Joan Crawford (everywhere I look, I see Joanies!). Anytime a soup recipe adds "Souper" as an adjective, by the way, I am a happy, happy gal. Above, there are "Sunday" recipes for Brunch, Midday, and Dinner. I need to do another brunch-related party. Sunday afternoons are the most underutilized type of social calendar real's so nice to drop by on a Sunday afternoon and feel sociable and not-rushed like on a typical Friday or Saturday night!

Casseroles? Check. Molded gelatin salad? Check. I'm fascinated by the idea of this "open-faced divan sandwich", by the way, which incorporates asparagus spears, cream of chicken soup, milk, boiled ham, and toast. Sounds a little like a rarebit or melted cheese-and-bread dish, but I want to know what it tastes like!

Back to the curry again, and devilled meatballs-- is it the horseradish that makes them devilled? Or the rakish gleam in their eye? I don't think anyone born after the year 1980 will accept a "broth cocktail" at the beginning of a meal...and what a shame, as these sixties' cookbooks were LOUSY with bouillon cube based drink suggestions. I would probably drink one, but again, I think I'm the exception rather than the rule. In this and many other things.

Hilariously enough, after I specifically put the kibosh on hot dogs and hamburgers, the After Five cookbook suggests that if I need "meals in minutes...skillet dishes are the answer". Guess what these skillet dishes entail? Essentially, a fancy presentation guessed dogs and hamburgers! Well, maybe Mom was right after all (how very often I am compelled to say that).

What do you for "dinner in a jiff" at the end of a hard day at the office? Do you have any Samantha-on-Bewitched like tricks for putting together a dinner party in seconds? Which one of these dishes sounds the most appealing, and which one sounds the most like you would probably not come to my house again if I served it? What did your mom like to make for "company food"?

That's all for today...see you guys tomorrow!


  1. Oh, I always really really really hoped that one day I would wake up with Samantha powers. No such luck. Yet.

    Who wants to cook after working or going to class all day? I know I didn't. I still don't want to cook on a fairly regular basis. :-/ I think it's more that I dread doing the dishes.

  2. oh i am like you, i like to be prepared and have some kind of amazing meal ready when people come over. even if it is just two friends i've known forever, the grilled cheese at least needs to be fancy and cut into an interesting shape with made from scratch tomato soup!



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