Saturday, July 30, 2016

Staring straight into August

It's almost August! August! That time of year when my childhood self knew the mornings of building yard clipping huts for My Little Ponies and dinosaurs were numbered, and there was no way a fresh box of fresh, pointy crayons was going to protect me from being made fun of when school started.... It's funny how close the feeling of impending doom still lies when I contemplate changing the calendar to August.

It also will mean I can start my countdown to Halloween, though, so it's not all bad. Maybe the calendar flip won't feel so bad if I sing "Ninety days til Halloween, Halloween, Halloween. Ninety days til Halloween. Silver Shamrock!" (I'm sure you're going to thank me for that one.)

Here, the advent of August can only mean one thing: more menus from Glamour Magazine's New After Five Cookbook (Beverly Pepper, 1963). What glamorous menus could '60s couples expect as the summer heat reached its zenith and began to subside?

Well, a Tuesday might reinforce feelings of existential dread with this spread:

Liver Squares! Here, the liver and onions get a bit of an upgrade with tomato paste, red wine, and seasonings (but it's still liver and onions). The side combines limas-- the most stick-in-your-throat tasteless beans-- with celery-- the most stick-in-your-throat, tasteless veggie. Hopefully the cream will help. At least blueberry shortcake sounds genuinely all right, especially if you make sweet biscuit shortcakes instead settling for dessert shells.

Wednesday might initially seem to lighten the mood a bit:

Corn-Stuffed Peppers! I was shocked to see a seasonally appropriate item. Fresh sweet peppers! Corn! (Yes, the recipe does suggest canned corn, but it also acknowledges you might actually have fresh corn to scrape right off the cob.) Of course, the side goes back to frozen asparagus served over toast with a can of cream of mushroom soup dumped over the whole lot, but how much can we expect? That side plus the thought of avocado, orange, and onion mixed with French dressing in place of dessert brings me right back down to liver squares with lima beans and celery territory.

Thursday is less a day of despair than one of confusion:

What kind of a menu is this? The tomato juice, scrambled eggs, and bread seem to suggest a breakfast-for-dinner theme. The "Risotto Milanese" seems to belong to an entirely separate menu. Besides, that, I had to use scare quotes to get myself to call this a risotto at all. The recipe looks more like one for a pilaf, since it seems to call for regular rice, the bouillon is added all at once rather than installments, and the rice is cooked covered, rather than being stirred. The cheese and butter are considered toppings, not stirred in at the end. To its credit, this version has wine and saffron, but Risotto Milanese it is not. The fancy-sounding Chocolate Coupe dessert is just instant chocolate pudding with grated chocolate and walnuts. (Despite all my grumbling, this is one menu I would gobble up without a second thought! It's incoherent and guilty of false advertising, but it all sounds pretty good to me.)

As the week winds down, the menu falls into a state of tedium:

Fillet of Sole Portico is just a fancy name for fried sole with some mushrooms. The Celery-Seed Peas and Watercress & Endive Salad are exactly what they sound like. The only frisson of excitement is dessert: Lemon-Prune Cream. If you've ever wanted an excuse to whip a jar of baby food prunes into an egg white with lemon juice and sugar, this is your chance! (And if that is your idea of excitement, your hobbies are even sadder than mine...)

What have we learned for August?
  1. Once in a great while, it's okay to serve fresh seasonal produce like blueberries, peppers, or corn, but it's got to be carefully balanced out with frozen lima beans and cans of cream of mushroom soup to avoid too much of a shock to the system.
  2. When there is a bit of extra space, throw in a random drawing of a row of sausage links. Stretching intestines across the page adds a decorative touch.
  3. Balance in menus is overrated. If your main dish is primarily vegetables, add two vegetable sides. If your main dish is a starch, serve it with some bread.
  4. Using the word "Portico" as a cooking term meaning "with mushrooms" never caught on.
  5. If you see the words "mushroom sauce" in a vintage cookbook, it's a euphemism for canned cream of mushroom soup about 72% of the time.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Self-delusion in all its glory

As the heat index begins to rival the number of cookbooks in my collection (Who am I kidding? My house would burn down if it were really THAT hot out. Just play along with my introduction, will you?), I thought it was time to dig out "The No Cooking Cookbook" (Lillian Langseth-Christensen, 1962).

This cookbook promises "maximum pleasure and minimum effort." The pictures on the cover-- a whole pineapple to be carved up and cored, a big stock pot full of something simmering, a whole lobster to cook, cut apart, shell, etc.-- suggest that the author is just a bit delusional about her recipes.

A quick check inside the book suggests that yes, this is the case. Take something that should be easy, like chips and dip.

You could just put in the minimum effort like the cover suggests-- stir together the dip, put it on the table with a pile of potato chips, and let everybody dig in. That would apparently be a little too easy, though, as you apparently have to mix the ingredients, mince up some water cress, spread "only medium-sized potato chips" carefully with the mix, and then dust the finished product with the cress. (After all, what are chips if they're not dusted with minced cress?) What an easy, laid-back recipe!

Sometimes I wonder about Langseth-Christensen's ideas about word meanings. Take "raw," for example:

Raw Soup starts out with canned beets-- certainly not raw!-- and tomato juice-- extremely unlikely to be raw. While the home cook is probably not the one who cooked them, they're still cooked, so either "raw" had a different meaning in the '60s, or the cooking step didn't count if somebody else did it.

The section that struck me as most delusional might be the chapter on chicken. It starts out with this introduction:

Pay special attention to those last two sentences. For one thing, her recipes do not "call for 'One can chicken combined with one can mushrooms and one tablespoon chopped parsley.'"

Nope. They might call for ...

...1-1/2 cups canned chicken and a can of mushrooms with Parmesan instead of parsley...

...or 2 cups of canned chicken and a can of sliced mushrooms with jarred macaroni...

...or 1-1/2 cups of canned chicken with a can each of rice and mushrooms...

...or canned chicken and chicken liver pate with a can of mushrooms. (It even has the parsley!) I think when the author said her recipes would not be "One can chicken combined with one can mushrooms and one tablespoon chopped parsley," she meant that literally. A lot of recipes call for canned chicken and canned mushrooms with a garnish, but none of the recipes is exactly the one she disavowed in the introduction! They all call for something more than just the canned chicken-mushroom-garnish combo.

The other highly questionable line is that the "main course ... can never take more than about 20 minutes to prepare." If that's the case, I have a hard time explaining this:

Is anyone really going to carve the breasts into supremes, put them on ham spread with goose liver pate, coat with a thin layer of "gelatine," chilling and repeating "until Supremes are beautifully coated" in less than 20 minutes (especially considering that the gelatine has to be kept over tepid water to prevent it from setting-)? Cold Chicken Jeanette is just one more example of how deeply deluded Langseth-Christensen seems about the nature of her cookbook....

Now, I'm off to organize my own cookbooks. No, I'm really going to do it this time. Just as soon as I buy some more bookshelves... and get them put together... and ... hey, wait! I don't think I've featured anything from the Dinner Party Cookbook I just found when I was moving this stack. It won't hurt to flip through for just a couple minutes. Right?

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Great Grains! (not the cereal)

Sorry, but I am feeling pretty nostalgic this week. My favorite thing about summer vacation when I was a kid was 4-H projects. (Well, it was once I figured out that I sucked mightily at sewing projects and that I should stick with cooking projects. I could wrestle with fabric for hours and end up crying over a puckered mess that would be hell to try to model at judging, and my incompetence with shears meant that sometimes I had to add an iron-on patch to the inside of the garment to try to hide the hole-- a fact that the judges never missed. My little sister was a wiz at sewing, but I was waaay happier when I finally gave up.)

No, my specialty was cooking projects. I won't claim that I was a particularly spectacular at them either-- although I did occasionally win ribbons for being in the top 10% at the state fair-- but I liked learning the science of cooking, and even recipes that didn't work out well didn't feel so cataclysmic. I'd make them for dinner, we'd fall back on peanut butter sandwiches if the results were truly appalling, and I would know to make a different recipe to bring to judging. Judging usually came near the end of July-- right about now-- so I've been remembering the frantic rush to memorize the functions that eggs serve in recipes, or the perfect kneading technique, and the monumental decision of what recipe to cook and serve the judge. It had to travel well; it had to taste good; it shouldn't be too easy to mess up, but still difficult enough to look impressive. I would lie awake nights trying to plan it all.

Unfortunately, I've lost most of my 4-H project books in various moves, but I came across one and couldn't resist writing about a couple of the recipes. The Great Grains project book is relatively new-- 1986-- but I'm letting it in anyway. The project was meant to teach about various types of grains and their places in cultures around the world. I made all kinds of things: croissants, blini, tortillas, Scotch broth, fried rice. These are the two recipes I remember best, though, probably because I had the most trouble!

I've read many times that simply soaking bulgur for 20-30 minutes is supposed to hydrate it enough for recipes like this. I don't know what the issue was. Maybe my bulgur was too coarse or too old. Maybe I was supposed to use hotter water. In any case, I might as well not have bothered because the bulgur stayed rock hard. I remember my family trying to eat what amounted to VERY crunchy and oily hamburger patties. It was like they were full of gravel. I think this was one of the nights we finally decided to save our teeth and bust out the old reliable government peanut butter.

By the time I got to this recipe, I was better at thinking on my feet:

After the Kibbe Nayya fiasco, I knew to keep checking my grain. Maybe I had the temperature set too high, or maybe the rice was old, but I remember discovering the liquid was gone WAY before the rice was done. I could have ended up with a pan full of inedibly crunchy rice, a pan full of burned (and still crunchy) rice, or I could try to fix it-- so I added extra milk and kept checking as it cooked. It turned out fine! My mom liked rice pudding-type recipes and raisins a lot more than I do, so I let her have most of the batch, but I was proud of myself for figuring out my own cooking problem. I actually did decide to make this recipe for judging. (Plus I knew the judge would have way fewer criteria to check for this recipe than on, say, a croissant, where she might evaluate the layering, the shaping, the browning, the crumb structure, etc. For this recipe, I just had to make sure the rice was tender and not burned. I was no dummy.) I'm pretty sure I placed in this project, but I'm not sure what it was. I just remember being excited about perfecting a recipe on my own.

Happy Saturday from Kernel of Knowledge, the project mascot! Now you know what a grain of wheat with creepy eyes looks like. You can thank me later.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

A very few prize recipes

Prize Recipes of Bowersville (undated, but I'm guessing it's from the '70s) is not quite as boastful as the title may seem.

The United Methodist Youth Fellowship of Bowersville, Ohio, could only find 40 pages worth of recipes to fill out this little book. To be honest, 40 is stretching it because plenty of those 40 pages are partially or entirely blank with a little "Write extra recipes here:" line above the blank space. It seems that Bowersville seriously overestimated the number of prize recipes they had.

The 40 pages of recipes look even sadder when you read through and realize that everybody in town apparently had very similar tastes, and nobody had the guts to pick between Mrs. Gleason Bloom's or Diane Earley's Chocolate Date Cake, so both got included.

In fact, of the four bread recipes in this booklet, three are for pumpkin bread. (The fourth is for cranberry nut bread.) The most interesting of the trio may be this one:

Yes, along with the usual sugar, flour, spices, pumpkin, and oil, this takes a box of dry Jell-O brand coconut pie filling. I guess this is the preferred recipe for people who like to pretend they have suntan oil in their pumpkin bread. Keep a ray of summer sun in the fall favorites.

The salad recipes have a little more variety. Only six of the 16 total salad recipes consist of some combination of pineapple, marshmallows, and a creamy accompaniment. Several of them actually sound pretty tasty, but this one fills me with despair:

Fluff Salad is meant to satisfy when only a mixture of whipped cream, mayonnaise, and marshmallows rolled in cabbage and pineapple (How would that even work?) will do. I'm not sure what bizarre turn of events would make such a craving likely, but I hope never to experience it. *Shiver*

I won't say that Bowersville's very loose interpretation of the word "salad" is all bad, though. This recipe is clearly very healthy and deserving of its place in the salad chapter rather than alongside the other desserts:

See? Oreo Salad has bananas right there as the second ingredient. And it's got nuts, too. Clearly a health food. Don't let the Oreos and Cool Whip distract you.

As small as the book is, I think the next recipe title slipped past the proofreader. (I'm assuming no one in Bowersville realized that "Oreo's" should not be possessive and letting that mistake from the previous recipe slip by.) (Well, except I'm clearly not.)

Good old Licopis A!rocpt Bars! I'm stumped by this title. I'm assuming "A!rocpt" is supposed, somehow, to be apricot, but I have no clue about "Licopis." I tried searching it on Google and got Licopid (a drug for immunotherapy), Lykopis (an archery range in British Columbia), or Lycopus (a genus of herbaceous plants that tend to live in wetlands). Pretty sure none of these have any connection to the recipe. I thought of licorice, too, but there's nothing licorice-flavored in these things, so that seems like a dead end too.

That means I get to make up my own interpretation. "Licopis" means "werewolf piss" ("lico" being a bastardized version of the first two syllables of "lycanthrope" and "pis" being, well, piss). That means the real title of these cookies translates to something like "Apricot Bars that Taste like Werewolf Piss."

What do you think? Feel free to come up with your own interpretations if you like. I'm off to create a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Salad.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Potato salad as it relates to mental health

It's potato salad season! I'll try not to make too much fun of it because plenty of seemingly decent people actually like the stuff, or are at least polite enough to pretend they find it tolerable at a picnic. The smell of mayo throws me into suppress-gag-reflex mode, so I stay away from it myself. (And now that I'm an adult, I don't get dragged to family picnics where I have to endure all the grown-ups trying to force some onto my plate and giving me the "you don't know what you're missing" speech. I knew what you were missing, Aunt Pat, and that was having me barf on your patio, so you should have toned down your damn protests.)

But anyway, I have stumbled across a couple amazing potato salad (or in the first case, potato-salad-adjacent) recipes that I just had to share. These are potato salad recipes for control freaks... Potato salad recipes for the people who will lie awake at night if the carrots aren't arranged in perfect parallel lines in the crisper or if someone stirred the oil into the peanut butter in a counter-clockwise motion (as opposed to the obviously-correct clockwise way).

This first recipe (from Woman's Day Collector's Cook Book, 1960) is for the person who can't stand the chaos of tumbling cooked potatoes, dressing, and veggies all together. (It's madness! Madness!)

Yes, Potatoes Mayonnaise is potato salad peeled down to its bare minimum-- just the potatoes and dressing-- and served in the most precise, orderly way possible. Cooks don't just dump and stir the ingredients together: they paint individual potato cubes with the mayo mixture and serve each one on its own toothpick. Real sticklers probably have to cut the potatoes into exactly 64 cubes while they're at it so the serving plate can have a nice, neat 8 x 8 grid of impaled potatoes. The trick is not to have a nervous breakdown when guests break up the pattern by actually eating the little guys.

The second recipe (from National Grange Bicentennial Year Cookbook, 1975) is for the control freak who also has delusions of grandeur. Mixing ingredients up might be okay IF they can all become part of some bigger picture, some grander scheme that will make viewers step back, mouths agape, and think, "Wow! I didn't know she'd gotten this bad. I wonder if I can get her to talk to her doctor." I am referring, of course, to this beauty:

Nope, I'm not confused. I did not accidentally insert the wrong picture. This is, indeed, potato salad:

Wedding Cake Potato Salad must have been what every good country girl dreamed of having at her '70s wedding: ten pounds of potatoes, a whole bottle of Italian dressing, plus plenty of celery, onions, and Hellman's or Best Foods real mayonnaise. The whole mess is molded in tiered cake pans, then stacked and decorated with tomato roses (so much fancier than the run-of-the-mill radish roses), celery leaves, and cucumber cups filled with frilly piped-in mayo.

This "cake" is the perfect thing to display all afternoon on the patio next to an outdoor wedding, then serve the guests once it starts to melt in the heat. If the wedding party is lucky, the food poisoning won't set in until at least the next day, so the patio will be safe (although the honeymoon might take a very unsexy turn).

Have a great weekend! I'm off to try to think about something other than mayonnaise! Typing the word that many times has made me a little queasy. (Maybe I'm a bit of a masochist. Mayo. Mayo. Mayonnaise! Gah!)

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Recipes that call for humility

I picked up who'll do the dishes (Columbus Alumnae of Kappa Alpha Theta, April 1960) because I loved the cover.

The goblet looks as if it holds almost as much as the teakettle, and they both (along with a bottomless frying pan and embroidered kitchen towel) float in midair above the cafe curtains. They're all part of a haunted kitchen ensemble! I want a skeleton to show up and try to fry a ghost egg.

I also love the stubbornly lower-case font and the absence of a question mark when the title seems pretty clearly intended as a question. (The admission that nobody really wants to volunteer for dish duty is pretty great too!)

What I didn't realize when I got this little book was that the cover's suggestion that the women of Kappa Alpha Theta rarely paid attention to their English teachers carried through to the recipes. To be fair, the recipes themselves are usually more sophisticated than the cream of mushroom soup, overcooked noodles, and canned veggie casseroles in a lot of the other regional cookbooks, so maybe that's enough to make up for a little bit of trouble with things like spelling:

Honestly, I wasn't sure how to spell vichyssoise when I saw this recipe, but I was pretty certain it was all one word. You know what I did? I looked it up! So while I'm impressed that Mary Lou Houck wanted to send a vichyssoise recipe as her contribution, I would also think the knowledge that this recipe would be published might inspire her to actually find out how to spell it. (I also notice that this version has no leeks, one of the central components of the soup, but I can't quite bring myself to make fun of the omission because I don't know how hard it was to find leeks in 1960's Columbus. Maybe the best you could hope for was some onions?)

Some of the misspellings are more entertaining:

When I saw "Pots Do Cream," I immediately had a mental picture of some pots gathered together in an unobtrusive nook of the kitchen, taking turns using a misappropriated straw to snort cream out of a shallow silver platter before they headed out to the dance floor....

Even if Janet Leonard didn't know this was supposed to be pots de creme, at least all the individual words in her recipe title would be spelled right in a different context. This isn't a hopelessly bastardized version either, like ones that would call for things like pudding mix or gelatin.

My favorite near-miss might just be this one:

Chicken and Broccoli with Moray Sauce! Mornay sauce is the more traditional choice, but eel sauce might have a bit more bite.... You'd just need to be careful because from what I've read, moray eels can be poisonous depending on what they've eaten.

Lest I get too high-and-mighty, the writers of the book also humbled me. When I saw this recipe...

...I immediately imagined Graham Cracker Bisque to be a big, steaming bowl of graham crackers with pureed veggies and cream in a best-case scenario (Hey, pumpkin spice bisque with graham cracker crumbles on top might not be bad!) or graham crackers with lobster and shrimp in a worst-case scenario.

Then I saw the actual recipe was a simple whipped cream based frozen dessert. As I did more research, I discovered that the more popular variation lemon bisque is actually pretty common in older cookbooks. How did I never notice that "bisque" used to be a frozen dessert term too? Even if these women couldn't spell the names of the relatively sophisticated recipes they submitted, they still had something new to teach me.

I guess the real lesson from this little book is that we're all idiots in our own special ways. That seems about right.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

The case of the missing Maillard

Quick! It's the late '70s or early '80s, it's a blistering July day, you have no central air conditioning, but you want to serve your family some nice fresh bread! What do you do?

Well, if you have a new-fangled microwave, you might whip up some batter and microwave it, at least according to Betty Crocker's Microwave Cookbook (1981). You'll have yummy muffins for breakfast in no time:

A few simple ingredients, 2-3 minutes TOTAL baking time (with no hot oven!), a quick dip in some butter, then cinnamon-sugar.

Of course, they're microwaved, so...

...they will look like this. Flat, devoid of color until the cinnamon-sugar dip proves that it's at least as much of a visual choice as a taste-related one (to help cover up that missing Maillard reaction). 

I might even have been a bit generous in calling them flat. Look at the one behind the muffin being dipped.

Is it actually concave? It's not a great sign if the baked goods collapse on their removal from the microwave. (Of course, the fact that they're being removed from the microwave in the first place is your first sign of trouble....)

If you're too lazy to even make your own batter, there is always the even easier (and more amusingly-named) option from the Tappan Microwave Cooking Guide (1979):

Make a Roll O' Bread by microwaving refrigerated biscuits. You don't even have to take them apart-- just leave 'em shaped like a can!

Even though Tappan doesn't think the undisguised canned-biscuit-dough shape is a problem, they too realize something has to be done to cover up the lack of browning, so the biscuits need an egg yolk wash and a quick roll in some toppings before hitting the microwave.

Tappan recognizes the shortcomings of microwave cooking right up front: look at the comparison between the conventional and the microwaved dough at the top of this chart. Part of me feels like they deserve some credit for being honest, and part of me feels like "If you knew it was a bad idea, why did you go ahead and suggest it anyway?" It's like my students who admit right in the essay that the source they're using is probably not very reliable, but they go ahead and use it anyway. Admitting that you're doing something shitty does not necessarily make it any less shitty. It just shows you're aware of being an asshole.

Rants aside, the toppings are varied and interesting enough that maybe they can kind of make up for the fact that you're eating a microwaved stick of refrigerated biscuit dough. Rolling that puppy in bacon and cheese or crushed toffee bars could make it a side dish to remember.

Whether you want to hear years of re-tellings of the night you ruined your favorite baking dish and made the whole house smell like burnt chocolate and chemicals by microwaving a can of biscuits and some crushed-up Skor bars is a separate question.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Get out the shotgun and the dandelion bucket! It's nigh dinnertime.

Yeah, I know. I'm a couple days late for the optimal placement of the National Grange Bicentennial Year Cookbook (1975, so they were actually a little early on the bicentennial. Maybe their earliness and my lateness will cancel each other out). I guess I was so swept up when I was perusing the "heritage of recipes from the kitchens and hearts of yesteryear cooks" that I lost sense of time.

The cover is pretty plain, but you've got to love the wood grain! The recipes are often a real hoot too. I was having trouble picking just a few to represent this book (which is sure to make multiple appearances... There's a potato salad that deserves a whole post to itself!), so I decided to pick out a few of the most countrified, making-do-with-what-we-have recipes and put them together in a rural bicentennial menu.

The main course starts, as any menu of this type might, with a shotgun in the yard:

Squirrel Soup is definitely a country recipe, with few amounts specified beyond 3 or 4 squirrels to a gallon of water and a scant tablespoon of salt. The vegetable and seasoning amounts can be adjusted for how many people are eating/ how much corn, potatoes, tomatoes, and lima beans you have on hand. The weirdest step is to pour it all through a colander and "press squirrel meat and vegetables through colander, leaving bones." I can't really picture how that would work, unless colanders were different back then. The idea of being left with a colander full of little tiny bones simultaneously makes me 1. feel sad and 2. think Colander of Bones could be an interesting low-budget horror movie.

Want a vegetable and bread side all in one, but don't want to leave the yard?

Have some Dandelion Fritters! Is it just me, or does a quart and a half of dandelion blossoms sound like a lot of dandelions to pick? But if you've got more than a gallon of Squirrel Soup, you're probably fixing to feed a crowd, and fritters (full of yellow flowers or anything else) are sure to go fast.

For dessert, a country family needs a distinctive sweet. Here's a cake people will be more likely to remember than another apple or cherry pie:

Sweet Watermelon Rind Pickle Cake! I am super-sensitive to sour or vinegary flavors, so just the thought of the possibility of biting into a little pickle chunk in a slice of cake gives me the jibblies. Otherwise, the cake has got sugar, butter, spices, and nuts, so your mileage may vary. Feel free to ignore me as I continue my jibbling over here in the corner....

Happy Wednesday! I'm off to surreptitiously wave to the squirrels in my yard when I walk by and hope that the neighbors don't notice that a grown woman does indeed wave to the squirrels. (And here's a squirrel-related link for good measure. Thanks to Roberta Davies for sending it!)

Saturday, July 2, 2016

A puzzling but Glamour-ous July

Welcome to July! Let's see what's sizzling for the hot '60s couples using Glamour Magazine's New After Five Cookbook (Beverly Pepper, 1963).

I normally only show weekday recipes because there are no Saturday recipes (It's the night to go out and do the Madison!), and the Sunday recipes are usually pretty decent. Plus they serve four because all hot '60s couples had another couple come to visit on Sunday?

I'm making an exception this time:

Yeah, canned jellied consomme with lemon wedges sounds boring. There is nothing new about minted peas. The Carpetbagger Fried Chicken-- marinated in sour cream and spices, then fried-- sounds downright good. I am just mesmerized by the Avocado Sweet Potatoes. The recipe starts with "Heat 4 jars infant pureed sweet potato"! Then mix it with mashed avocado, crushed pineapple, a few seasonings, and heat up the whole mess. I can't imagine what hot baby food and avocado would taste like to begin with, but to consider it company fare to boot? It seems like something aliens who only imperfectly understood human eating habits might feed the breeding pair on display in the zoo. "Happy feast day, hu-mans. Enjoy this steaming pile of orange-and-green glop with pineapple bits!"

Monday left me feeling confused as well:

Iced Asparagus Soup starts out with a can of asparagus soup and some ice cubes, but it is to be mixed "with 1 can iced milk." As far as I know, iced milk was the light dessert my grandma used to buy because rich ice cream gave her indigestion (and before we had frozen yogurt and double churned dairy dessert replaced old fashioned ice milk). I'm pretty sure that's NOT what the recipe means, but I can't get over the mental image of an asparagus soup sundae. (I'm also still not sure what the recipe is calling for. Milk mixed with ice cubes? Ice cubes made out of milk? Let me know if you have any idea.)

The rest of the menu is pretty straightforward, but as is frequently the case, Pepper can't bring herself to call for fresh seasonal fruit in the dessert when canned goods exist. It's July, so instead of some fresh berries or maybe a juicy peach, let's dump some canned apple slices over bananas and out-of-season citrus. Add some cinnamon and nutmeg so they won't feel as special when fall hits.

The idea of using in-season fruit eventually occurs to Pepper, as peeled, pitted (not canned!) peaches do show up for Thursday:

Of course, these unfortunate little guys are paired with Quick Veal Tonnato, a fancy name for veal scallopini in white wine with runny, pureed tuna salad dumped all over it. Why enjoy the main course when you can make it look and smell like a shark barfed on it?

That makes the book-typical salad of canned potatoes with French dressing and thawed-out peas seem positively delightful by comparison.

Finally, to round things out, let's hit another Thursday:

Good old Bayou Kidney Stew! I suppose it's not so bad if you don't mind organ meats-- otherwise it's just bacon, onion, green pepper, olives, tomato, and seasonings. The salad leaves me a little cold, though. Garlic toast topped with oranges, pimientos, French dressing, and hard-cooked egg sounds really random. Just clean out the fridge, dump it on toast, and claim it's a salad! At least the Fruit Wine Cooler might soften the blow....

So what have we learned for July?
  1. Puzzling over ambiguous drawings can make a Sunday fly by! I suspect it's supposed to be a baguette, but it could also be a lobster tail or an unusually domed turd. The picture doesn't seem to match any of the items on the Sunday menu (or on the Monday menu on the same page), so anything is possible. 
  2. Buttermilk is not just a liquid ingredient in biscuits, but can also be used as a handy dampening agent for already-baked goods.
  3. When in doubt, mash and/or puree everything so diners won't have a clear idea of what you're trying to feed them. 
  4. It is fun but also disturbing to imagine asparagus soup sundaes-- and then other variations. Maybe tomato soup over chocolate iced milk? Cream-of-mushroom over strawberry? The possibilities are endlessly gag-worthy. 
  5. When serving baby food to adults, plan on one jar per diner.
Have a great weekend! Now go dampen some biscuits! (I hope that's a euphemism for something fun.)