Monday, July 21, 2008

Reader's (in)Digest(ion)

What would you make if I gave you a pound of Velveeta, a pound of butter, a cup of cocoa, four pounds of powdered sugar and a tablespoon of vanilla? Why,chocolate cheese fudge, of course.

Hungry? How about if I tell you that the best way to serve cocktail weiners or rumaki (bacon-wrapped chicken livers and water chestnuts) is swimming in a brew of Coca-Cola and grape jelly and/or barbecue sauce?

Here is a famous recipe for potato salad: boiled potatoes, milk, Miracle Whip and salt. The creator of the recipe says "it offends no one," but I beg to disagree.

Do salmon fillets coated with mayonnaise and cornflakes and cooked in margarine, sour cream, cheese and canned tomatoes with chilis sound good? If so, perhaps you are the one who wants my recently acquired selection of community cookbooks.

I found these recipes and scads more when I browsed cookbooks I found while helping clear someone's house. They are from the mid 1980s to the early 1990s, and most of them are from the MidWest. The cookbooks show a rather touching dependence on canned soup, "oleo," Wesson oil, Velveeta, canned milk, bacon, salt and sugar. The canned soups go toward making gravies and sauces; most of the soups are creamed chicken, mushroom, and so on, though tomato soup pops up frequently.

I used to attend many church lunches and dinners during the years that these cookbooks were published, and I saw many familiar recipes. I recalled the year that chicken salad with grapes swept the nation, then it was chicken salad with canned mandarin oranges and Chinese noodles. Those recipes are here. Also here is the grandaddy of recipes that took the nation by storm, pot roast made with (dried) Lipton Onion Soup mix. Then there is the "ideal side dish," Stove-Top Stuffing mixed with canned soup and broccoli. Its contributor says it's perfect with anything.

These cookbooks were compiled from recipes submitted by members of churches, women's clubs, charitable organzations, hospitals and others. The most popular recipes appear time and again in almost identical words, often within the same cookbook.

The cookbooks give me a view of what was popular in a particular time and place. It's interesting to see what was considered healthful or exotic. I always get a kick out of recipes that claim to be old, old family traditions, then end up calling for Cool Whip, Reddi Whip, packaged cookies, chili sauce, etc.

I thought I would find new and tempting food ideas, but I ended finding a good many things I would never eat because they are mostly fat, salt, sugar and other things I avoid. But it's been fun. I know there are more community cookbooks waiting to be found as I clear houses, and I look forward to more amusement and fun.


Carrie K said...

The mid 80's? Those recipes sound more like the 60's. I need to run over to Chez Panisse and kiss Alice Water's hem (figuratively).

teabird said...

I still remember when Kraft sponsored a musical variety show, and my family used to begin to grimace BEFORE the commercials ran. In those days, everything had marshmallow fluff, Velveeta, and marshmallow fluff. (Did I mention marshmallow fluff?) The conglomeration of unrelated ingredients was truly horrid.

Thanks for the reminder. Gee....

Anonymous said...

You're quite right, both of you - - they do sound like mid-1960s recipes, and I forgot to list marchmallow fluff. The cookbooks are simply *stuffed* with marshmallow fluff.

teabird said...

"stuffed" with marshmallow fluff...

now I'm REALLY queasy!

Anonymous said...

These recipes reminded me of nothing so much as William Bolcom's "Lime Jello Marshmallow Cottage Cheese Surprise." If I'd found it on youtube I would have added the link.