This weekend, spoiler alert, I bought a really neat mail carrier type thingamado to put on my baker's rack. Previously, there was a small, black file piece, maybe six inches long by two wide, that held all the paid bills, stamps, invitations to weddings, drawings made in the margins of grocery lists, coupons, and similar flotsam/jetsam that rate hanging on to but defy categorization. It was, needless to say, and due to my lack of editing skills, ALWAYS overflowing with stuff, so when I found a prim and neat little forties' mail holder with a lithograph of a castle on it, I decided, ah, let's redo this. In doing so, I had to disrupt the twenty-ish cookbooks and cookbook pamphlets that were nesting just to the right of the microwave, and this gem-dandy fell out of a Better Homes and Gardens Barbecue book from the sixties'. AND I LOVE IT. Isn't it great to find stuff you forgot you had hidden in other things you forgot you had, all in the luxury of your own home? (#borderlinehoarderthoughts)
Item one: how many of you forget that stores like Kroger (or whatever your local, dominant big box food retailer may be) has been around forever? I have a stack of pamphlets from the forties' that I found in a moldering estate sale shoebox containing wartime rationing tricks and tips from Kroger, and was struck by the idea that they existed before, say, the fifties'. Note to self: trying to build up a massive conglomerate chain of grocery stores might prove difficult when 90% of your competition has been in business since the 1880's (this is probably why the inside of the no-longer-family-owned H.G. Hills on Dickerson Rd holds very little over a Circle K convenience store in terms of product availability). I think this book is probably from the later fifties' or early sixties', and my, doesn't it show in the most marvelous ways.
Item two: THE ILLUSTRATIONS. IN THIS BOOK. ARE MAGNIFICENT. I always hungrily snap open frayed booklets and cookbooks at estate sales and thrift stores looking for JUST these kind of atomic age doodles, and many is the time I've been disappointed. With this one, NO SIR. The mint green with black and white color scheme is something I'd like to see repeated in my own house, much less in this cookbook's illustrations. While I'm on super-particular-no-eggs-no-dairy-no-meat right now (I eat air, obviously, in answer to your question-- and a LOT of soy or tofu products), I nonetheless think fondly on dips and dunks and crabmeat delights of days past, and honestly just trill with delight over the pictures. Maybe I can vegan-ize some of these crazy concoctions? Does vegan Jello taste anything like real Jello? Did I mention that the cover describes the recipes là-dedans with my new favorite one-two combo punch statement of "Some are hearty. Some are party." I die.
Until I was typing, I didn't notice that the center of this snack plate is a poor little frog toothpick holder with practically marks of Calvary all over him. Why have they speared him thus? Did they make toothpick holders in other shapes that I need to know about? Whenever I've done this kind of spread in the past, also, I've never been keen on making a huge variety of things-- as a hostess, hard-won experience dictates that whether you put out taste perfect matzoh balls or an elegantly carved rack of lamb or a pizza you ordered from Domino's, people are just going to eat them. While I love whimsical presentation and artistic expression through food, honestly, I'd rather have a hundred of a mid-grade level effort item that tastes good and is pretty, than twenty of a hand-crafted, oh my God I spent all afternoon folding the dough for this, thing-that-is-eaten-and-gone-by-the-time-half-the-revelers-show-up. Running out of food, in my Southern-bred little heart and mind, is probably the most terror-striking thought I can have in the middle of running an event, and when it takes three hours to assemble the finely sliced olives on tiny snack crackers, well, FORGET IT.
OH. MY. GOD. GREEN. JELLO. Never, never does it cease to amaze me, the number of non-sweet, non-dessert gelatin based items that were made in the midcentury. Yes, it is scientifically possible to suspend radishes and cucumbers and all kinds of other crisp vegetables in gelatin...BUT WHY WOULD YOU WANT TO. I love their look and shudder to think what they must have tasted like. The one below has pears and grapes in it, but I'm still not completely convinced because it also has cream cheese and milk and VINEGAR in it, for goodness sake. Next.
Salads! Minus the anchovy fillets and egg, I could get behind this celebrated Caesar Salad. Check out the six-inch circumference of the flirty-eyed homemaker's checked dress. Yeeks!
"A salad to make you famous" is what every woman looks for in a cookbook, and I am no exception. Look at the girl and her ma eating a single serving jello mold. Elegance itself. I love their matching dresses and hairbows!
Oh look, they return together! Mother and daughter, and AMAZINGLY LARGE JAR OF MAYO. Look, if you're going to make sixties' salads, you're going to need a whoooooole lotta mayo. From what I understand on the Wikipedia history page, Kroger was one of the first grocery stores to try and do generic products-- where they can't hold a candle to Publix's generics (I am a generic connoisseur, haha), they've actually gotten pretty good with their Private Selection stuff.
More cute illustrations, more jello:
Fruit salads, green salads...we gotcher salads right here!
"Man Bait Salad" (the secret's in the...stuffed olives? Canned shrimp? I couldn't tell you) is on tyhe same page as Mac Salmon Salad, which for some reason, I find hilarious. Also, it's cute that the homemaker is barbecuing a potato. You get it, girl!
Peanut-butter toastwiches involve the following ingredients (OH. MY. GOD.):
- Peanut Butter
- Dill Pickles
- Potato Chips
I thought this was a recipe, but then I realized that the pickles and chips are to be served alongside rather than in the sandwich (which would have made it the most pregnant-lady food request sounding sandwich ever). Still, do you really need both butter AND peanut butter? This is grandma-watching-the-kids-and-cooking-for-them at its finest/worst.
Last but not least AH! "Too tart! Ah...Just right!" might be my favorite illustration in the book:
That's all for today; see you kids tomorrow! :)