Ask Poops, Please

Putting my two cents in.

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Location: Belmont, New Hampshire, United States

Born and bred in a small New England town, I am convinced that I know something about everything, and that my opinion matters. If only to me. Well, you'll see what I mean. And I love to knit, so you'll see what kind of things I'm doing when I should be vacuuming the living room.

Monday, October 18, 2010

PSA #2: Friends Don't Let Friends Cook Drunk

If you've ever watched The Barefoot Contessa, you've likely seen an episode or two where some of Ina's underlings are preparing one of her cookbooks for publications. She's making dishes that look just scrumptious right out of the pan, use only the finest and freshest ingredients, and then there's the whole aforementioned staff working hard to make sure that when they're in print, the pictures make you want rip it right out of the cookbook and stuff it in your eager maw, it looks that yummy, you betcha.

There was a time in cookbook publication where that was clearly not the case. Let's face it: cookbooks have come a long way, baby. First and probably the biggest improvement is that the art of photography and publishing (and food photography in particular) has come a long way. Better equipment, better film (or no film at all), better printing, better lighting...just better everything. Technology is your friend.

The second option is that cookery has come a long way. You can still go to the grocery store and you can pick up any number of recipe books at the checkout stand. I have a Pillsbury one that features their "poppin' fresh" line of refrigerated doughs in the recipes, and I have one from Betty Crocker with cakes and other baked delights concocted from her simple mixes. It seems clear to me that the cooks in the test kitchens were actually working hard to make simple yet very tasty meals with convenience foods you could grab at the grocery. Very seldom does one open to a random page and go "What the FUCK were they thinking?"

The Heinz Cookbook brings a third and far more likely scenario to mind: the authors were just snot-hanging drunk when they wrote this sucker.

It's 1939. One war is over and a new one is Europe is just starting. Prohibition has been repealed and powerful men in natty suits are having cocktails and smoking endless cigarettes around the board room table. They're looking at photo prints and recipes from the folks down in the Home Economics Department. "That looks good!" Harry Bronstein (not his real name) exclaims. "Put it in!"

Harry has a thing for peanut butter and pickles. He developed a taste when his wife was pregnant with their son Skippy, since that was all she served him for dinner for three months. Harry complained...once. The next day she served him peanut butter and boogers. Harry's loved peanut butter and pickles every since.

How else would you explain that this isn't the only PB&P combo in the book? It's not even one of TWO. Is there something about this concoction that I'm just not getting?

Now imagine, if you will, the young exec that looks at the chapter so carefully prepared on "Sauces" and says to the hushed stares around the boardroom table, "I'm not fond of sauces--I want to taste my food."

The first thought, naturally, is to burn the young man with cigarettes until he comes around to the party line, but then our forward-thinking top exec Don says, "Hold up, Harry. Before you touch up young Frank here with your Lucky Strike, let's think about that. What if other people out there are thinking the same thing about sauces? We have to make them think that they've been doing sauce all wrong! Make them think that they're practically cavemen if they don't douse everything in a concoction made from our fine ingredients. Why, they could use Heinz Tomato Ketchup, Cream of Celery Soup, or even Heinz Strained Apricots and Apple Sauce as a topping for everything. "

A murmur goes around the table as options are considered. Don pulls a photo out of the pile. "Look here," he says. "Look how scrumptious these onions look with a can of tomato soup on them! We're not going to be able to keep women from tearing the page right out of the cookbook! They're such simple creatures, you know."

Laughs and hearty back-slaps are exchanged as glasses are refilled and cigarettes are lit.

It's the only way I can reconcile myself to the fact that this is a recipe in the book.

Bologna Cups of Spaghetti

One large (24 oz.) can of Heinz Cooked Spaghetti in Tomato Sauce
Slices jumbo bologna, cut 1/8 inch thick
until they cup. Fill bologna cups with Spaghetti then sprinkle with
Grated parmesan cheese.
Garnish attractively and serve at once.

Just be glad there wasn't a picture of this.

You may go vomit now.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

A Kinder, Gentler World

There was a time in the not-so-distant past when grace and gentility ruled the land. A time when the Modern Housewife pored over her cookbooks and planned menus with loving care. She considered carefully the dietary needs of her loved ones and showed her devotion to her family with new and delicious ways to serve them.

Except for those dull stepchildren.

"Fruits of the devil's very loins, those children. Their mother was a no-good drunk, you know. In fact, I ran into Mrs. Eckmann down at Don's Stairway to Beauty on Seventh, and she said that the only reason my husband Frank married that woman in the first place was because she was *whispers* in a family way. Of course Ellen's not his. Just look at that overbite and the vague look she always has. What can you expect of such poor breeding. But my Frank, he gave the child a name, poor thing. No, Alma, I know it's not charitable to speak of such things, even if it is the God's honest truth." *crosses self*

Luckily for the average Alaskan housewife of 1959, havens of gracious living were simply everywhere. The lower 48 has nothing on Anchorage's own Don's Stairway to Beauty (where a beautiful cook could make regular appointments), Eckmann's Furniture and Draperies (to purchase from a wonderful selection of SERVING ACCESSORIES to complement her culinary masterpieces), and of course fresh flowers from Barb's Florists. They wrote the damn book on gracious living.

I'm personally impressed by Market Basket Foods. Here's a selling point for you: "Where You Shop in Wide-Aisled Comfort." No need for the sylphlike matrons of Anchorage to squeeze past any fat-assed Eskimos in the Market Basket.

Curiously, I didn't find one recipe in the entire Favorite Recipes from Alaska (published by the Catholic Ladies' Altar Society of Anchorage, Alaska, praise God) for muktuk, either. No, just standard Alaskan fare like Cheeseburger Pie, Carrot and Pineapple Salad, and Soda Cracker Pie. Go figure.

"Oh, and Alma, as the coordinator of the hors d'oeuvres committee for the Friday Night Fish Fry and Rosary Social, can I persuade you to bring some of those delightful Hot Mayonnaise Puffs you made for the Whist Drive last April. Me? I'm making Mustard Pickle and Peanut Butter Wafers. Trust me, Alma. After your third Manhattan, they're delicious."

Praise God.

Friday, October 08, 2010

PSA: Friends Don't Let Friends Stuff Pickles

This morning I was surprised by Tanta running up to catch us on our way to the bus stop. Tanta took the day off--hooray!

On our way home, as we reached the foot of her driveway, she invited me up to the big house for a glass of fresh, unpasteurized apple cider and to see if I wanted any of her old cookbooks before she donates them to the Church fair. I do love me an old cookbook and some snappy cider, so up I went.

Oh, the gems one finds in old cookbooks. Aunt Elaine had a bazillion of them at one time and Sister and I gleaned out the best, most repulsive ones we could find to give to Raz on Christmas every year. Raz now has a collection of "Foods To Induce Nightmares" that is well on its way to becoming its own museum.

I thought I'd share a few gems with you from the well-worn pages of such culinary classics as "Campbell's Cooking With Soup" (circa 1968) and "The Heinz Recipe Book" (circa 1939). There's one wee pamphlet called "The Knox Menu Diet" that deserves its own post, and it must be eased into lest you get the bends. Trust me.

So to begin, as a bit of an amuse-bouche, if you will, we will examine some hors d'oeuvres from the pages of the Heinz Recipe Cookbook from 1936. Bear in mind that these people just survived the Great Depression, so anything that didn't taste like last winter's wool coats was probably welcome in the kitchen.

I believe you can embiggen the photo if you set your brower to Wambo. Or by just clicking on the image. If you still can't read it, though, let me spell it out for you.

Step one: hollow out a dill pickle. (You have to know that when a recipe starts with you coring a pickle, it's really all downhill from there.)

Step two: stuff the cavity with your choice of cream cheese, pimento cheese, or deviled ham. (But for the love of all things holy, DO NOT combine them. *shudders*)

Step three: After chilling for 3 or 4 hours, slice thinly and arrange on a plate in threes like wee shamrocks. Don't forget the thin strips of pickle for the stems and the watercress for garnish. Festive!

Oh, and this is what the note says: "This salad (and clearly they use the term 'salad' loosely here) may be used as a main dish salad for St. Patrick's Day, serving sandwiches or hot bread with it." What aspect of St. Patrick's day does stuffed pickles and hot bread celebrate exactly? St. Pat's time in an Irish prison? Good Lord.

Moving on, we have a whole page of hors d'oeuvres from the good folks in the Heinz test kitchens. Next to classic standbys like Deviled Eggs, Stuffed Celery, and Cheese Cubes (and I pity the fool that needs a cookbook to make them, by the way) is this gem: "Frankfurter and Pickle Appetizer."

Appetizer. You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

Step one: slice a small frankfurter and a Heinz Genuine Dill Pickle (accept no substitutes) into thin rounds.

Step two: using two slices of each, stack alternately then spear with toothpick.

YUM! Oh God, I'm sitting here drooling even as we speak. How can you not find yourself just salivating at the thought of raw hot dog canoodling with dill pickle on a plate? You can't. You just can't.

Leaving the Heinz recipe testers teetering on the precipice of a world war, we fast forward to 1968. America was embroiled in Vietnam, hemlines were on the rise, and the innocence of the early 60's was about to give way to the free-wheeling 70's. Naturally, the first recipe that caught my eye was "Penthouse Chicken" and I have to confess that I've just edited out a whole bunch of copy that was just completely inappropriate and wrong. I'll leave you with the words "fur bikini" and we'll just let it go at that, shall we?

Now, the good folks at Campbell's Condensed Soups assume that any asshole can open a can of soup. And the rest of us, as Sister will attest, know that if you open the cupboard and/or the fridge and throw whatever shit you can find in there into a casserole dish, chuck that can of soup on it, cover it with potato chips or Ritz cracker crumbs and toss it in the oven, you've got a meal. And back in the 60's, if you had a package of hot dogs (or frankfurters, if you will) and a jar of pimentos in the house, you had a feast fit for guests.

But there's a section called "Teen Soups and Snacks" geared just for the youthful set, so in a spirit of wholesomeness, I have selected two award winners.

Remember, you're serving this to your teens. As a treat.

First, we have a "Summertime Special". The recipe claims it's "great after a swim". We shall see, Campbell's. We shall see.

Step one: take a can of frozen condensed green pea with ham soup and a can of frozen condensed cream of potato soup, combine them with 2 cans of water or milk and a pinch and a dash of thyme and nutmeg. (Y'know, for flavor. I'm surprised they didn't tell you to add salt.)

Step two: heat all this shit together in a pan until the soups are thawed, stirring often.


Yes, you heard me. Chill that green mess and serve it in a chilled bowl with crisp carrot and cucumber sticks.

I'm not sure what your teens were smoking back in 1968 that they'd consider this a nice treat after a swim on a hot day. But then I suppose if your appetite was whetted up with pickle-and-weiner-kabobs, God knows what you'd eat.

Now, I know what you're thinking. Actually, I can only begin to imagine what you're thinking. I've had time to let these culinary masterpieces ruminate around in my brain. You're getting them cold. If you have to go lie down with a couple of Tums for a bit, I understand.

What you're probably thinking is, "While cold creamy pea and potato soup sounds scrumptious, isn't there something lighter for my teens to sip while lounging by the pool?"

Of course there is, silly head.

Try the "Sunbather's Special".

Step one: combine a can of condensed beef broth, a half a can of apple juice, and a dash of ground cinnamon and nutmeg.

Step two: pour it over ice cubes. Enjoy!

How's that for a random "snack"? You can wash down your stuffed dill pickles with it.

In my next installment, we will discuss all the ways you can serve Heinz Cooked Spaghetti in Tomato Sauce. I'll give you a hint: one way involves frying bologna in butter until it "cups."

You're totally welcome.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

What Your English Teacher Was Thinking

If you are at work, you might want to save this for later. Especially if you work as an English teacher. And God help you if you do.

If you're easily offended by salty language, you are a pilgrim in an unholy land, my friend.

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