Food Is Scary


You know I loveAnthony Bourdain like I love my own left breast but every time on his show that he whips out some sweetbreads or boar intestine or whatever and talks about how tasty it is fried with some testicles I start screaming at the TV. We don’t need to eat that stuff anymore. Though we’re not quite at flying cars yet I think most of us can probably safely stop gnawing on the assholes of various mammals for amusement. I feel the same way about this: There is a KFC almost everywhere now and we don’t need to make creme bruleé out of come.

On a similar note, my mother recently gave me a cook book put out by what appears to have been the entirety of the1950s home cooking school of thought. The way I know it was the 50s is that under “appetizers” it lists margaritas, brandy slushes, and Long Island iced teas.

I think those are listed in the hopes that you slam a few down before the meal and don’t notice the selections of salads: Strawberry Congealed Salad. Mystery Salad. Quickie Salad. Frosted Raspberry Jello. I’m sure somewhere in here is that weirdly filthy alleged salad of a pineapple ring with a banana stuck through it. Then there’s the beef dishes, the cooking instructions for which are almost always “put all ingredients in dish and bake:” Dreamy Spaghetti Casserole. Taste-of-Taco Spaghetti. Lazy Man’s Meat Rolls. Magical Mushroom Pot Roast. MOCK FILET MIGNON. What on earth was going on back then that we needed to resort to that?

The fish dishes are even better: Salmon Loaf and on the next page, Super Salmon Loaf. Something called “On The Wharf” which in addition to a fish dish is also a musical and a porno. Dockside Delights, same deal. The whole thing scared the shit out of me. I read some of them to my father as he was driving us down the road the other night, and he nearly drove into a ditch when I got to something called, simply, “Puppy Chow.”

There’s also recipes for useful things like German potato salad which I love and could eat by the gallon but have never made myself, and pot roast which really is best when made by someone who remembers the 50s personally, but I was tempted to pull out a few of the weirder ones in here and send them to whoever makes up the challenges for Iron Chef. Your secret ingredient is … The Eisenhower Years!


27 thoughts on “Food Is Scary

  1. My wife made a black cherry Jello mold (with black cherries and some whipped cream folded into one of the Jello layers) for Thanksgiving. It was right out her mother’s recipe file from the 50’s. Several people wanted the recipe because they hadn’t had anything like it in years.
    It really was pretty good. We have Jello about once every 15 years or so. Most of the stuff from the 50’s was pretty awful, but you have to remember that this was way before Julia Child and the revolution in food and cooking that took place then. Some things that are common now, were just unavailable back then. For example, you only got fresh tomatoes in the summer.
    Can’t imagine what “mock filet” would be, but it sounds like something from the 50’s. I don’t think I even saw a real filet until about 1975.
    Nice post. Thanks.

  2. Worse than some of the stuff Bourdain has eaten (I think the wild boar anus in Namibia was the worst) is Andrew Zimmern’s show.
    Egads! Drinks made of snake bile or “aged” camel meat with clumps of yellow fat and eggs. *Blurgh*

  3. “… most of us can probably safely stop gnawing on the assholes of various mammals for nutrition.”
    Fixed that for you. I will never stop mammalian asshole mastication for amusement. Never do you hear.

  4. I personally don’t care for offal, though I agree with a vegetarian friend of mine: Meat is meat. Intrinsically, it shouldn’t be any “grosser” to eat sweatbreads than in is to eat a drumstick or a flank steak.
    Plus, we raise and slaughter animals for food, then end up wasting a huge volume of edible items. That’s just wrong.
    In Britain, the bad economy has resulted in a 67% increase in sales of offal, which is much cheaper than regular cuts of meat.
    The Epi-Log on Awful Economy, Offal Sales

  5. accordinmg to my danish friend who i made german potato salad for(it is not that hard) said she had never seen anything like it in germany, so i think it’s either german IMMIGRANT potato salad, or german DEPRESSION potato salad. she did relish it tho.
    i got some 60’s era recipe books. it mentions pepper and bay leaf. the recipes call for cans of soup and or mayo. everything looks like they need flavor. lots of jello. thank god for foreigners invading. bring on the mexicans and asians.

  6. Well, virgotex, I guess that’s what the semen cookbook folks are trying to remedy–the waste of useful parts. Or fluids. Or…gah, ick.
    But your vegetarian friend is right. What’s less icky about eating a thigh vs. a sphincter? They’re both muscle meat…

  7. The Mock Filet Mignon reminded me of the single worst meal I had in my first year of college: Beef Balls Stroganoff.
    Because apparently they thought that there was some sort of truth-in-advertising clause when it came to cafeteria food.
    I come from a place where eating *real* beef balls (by which I do, in fact, mean bull testicles) is common. And believe me, the ONLY reason to do so is because it’s simply a delivery system for deep-fried batter.

  8. Is this the wonderful fifties cookbook by jane stern? “Candlelight” salad of pineapple with a standing banana and a teeny piece of red sliced pimento laying tastefully across the top? That is one of my favorite cookbooks of all time. I think it has “undescended twinkies” too, a dish where you partially submerge twinkies in jello.

  9. “Candlelight” salad of pineapple with a standing banana and a teeny piece of red sliced pimento laying tastefully across the top?
    I remember something like that from “My First Cookbook” as a child- a banana in pineapple ring on a piece of lettuce. I think the flame was a maraschino cherry.

  10. What’s less icky about eating a thigh vs. a sphincter?
    Poop doesn’t come out of your thigh.

  11. Not to mix threads but every freaking recipe known to man is online and cookbook sales are still thriving. The internet and shaky economy isn’t killing every kind of publishing so maybe newspapers should stop reviewing $100 restaurants and start telling you how to make minestrone.
    And this recipe for bread pudding rocks. I add more bread and cinnamon and use one less egg. The key is squishing the bread evenly with a fork. I’m Iron Chef Squish.

  12. Well, gang, flatiron steak is a roast cut sideways.
    Look, you can eat well — and not be freaked out — at home for less than you can eat at restaurants.
    Jello is what it says it is — reconstituted gelatin, which cooks out of bones and cartilage when you make such yummy things as cassoulets and roasts. It’s actually not bad for you. Artificial colors and flavors are an arguable additive. Much better to use plain gel (which you can get made from seaweed if you’re a determined enough vegan) and cook at home.
    Now I’m not all up in the grille of anybody who wants to play ringtoss with bananas and pineapple slices; that’s your kink, it doesn’t hurt anybody. If you actually eat a little more fruit as a result, what could be cooler?
    But here’s the thing. You can eat well for lots less if you think of meat not as the primary goal but as the luxe addition.
    Use a slice of shank for the fond in a stew or cassoulet or a pot of chili, and be shocked at how good it tastes / feels in your mouth — for less money than if you bought special stew meat or chili meat. A crock pot is your friend. So is a roaster atop two burners if you don’t want to raise your gas bill using your oven (although in winter weather it can help lower your heating bill to bake / roast at home).
    I make a killer salmon dish: a sleeve of butter crackers crushed to crumbs (store-brand ‘ritz’ or ‘club’), a can of salmon, two tablespoons of parsley, one of dill, a diced green onion or two, dashes of salt, pepper and lemon, and an egg, beaten together, formed into patties, and cooked in my cast-iron skillet in a skosh of corn oil until golden and crispy. On the side I’ll serve smashed potatoes and green beans (from a freezer bag or a no-salt-added can) and for about $7 I can feed four people. You’ll notice a decided absence of canned soup or exquisitely priced ingredients — try the recipe, then come back and give me a review.
    In the 1950s and 1960s, we were coming off years of shortages in the pantry and kitchen, and scratch-made dishes were … ahem … “trashy”. Glam, glitz and glitter came with Jell-O, and convenience came with canned soups and little foil packages of sauce. That MSG and gods-know-what-else came in with them isn’t the fault of the cookbook writers of the day, any more than “bouillon cubes” as a food (substitute) is the fault of the grocer who carries the product. People buy and eat ramen with the factory flavors intact every day, after all.
    Am I the only one who remembers that Charlton Heston ad begging for HOPE or UNICEF or something similar talking about kids overseas who ate nothing, every day, except “a piece of bread dipped in oil”?
    Dude, if I’d known then what I know now, I’d’ve been begging for the recipe for Mediterranean sourdough to dip in EVOO!!!!

  13. Ah yes.. the 50s love o’Jello. My wife’s family has an old recipe that they still pull out during the holidays and use to torture the uninitiated.
    Picture if you will lime Jello. Now picture adding heavy cream to it. And sour cream. And cream cheese. And pimentos (for color of course)along with a number of other non-Jello-ey type items. Mmmm…
    You have to love the old cookbooks though. I have one at home that is old enough that it refers to the amount of salt in one recipe as “the amount that will lay flat on the head of a shilling”. Now I just need to find the shilling..

  14. True dat, Sarah.
    I was raised in the ’60s with a houseful of sibs. Dad worked in the woods, Mom worked in the house. I remember dinners of Mac and Cheese Casserole with chunks of baloney in it. We had meat but not necessarily all the good cuts. So Mom would do with what we had, which made for some odd combos to be sure.
    But we were fed. (In my case a bit too well!) Looking back on the 50’s and 60’s, one tends to forget some of the reasons why we did what we did. Mom remembers eating lard sandwiches during the Depression. God, you can hear my arteries harden at the thought of that!
    Personally, I love to get old recipe books. Our family has the American Searchlight cookbook of the early 20’s which explains some of the measurements used by pioneers. Remember, cooks out on the homesteads didn’t have gauged measuring cups and spoons. They had ‘pinches’, dashes, and portions ‘about the size of your fist’.
    When it comes to meat, I’ll take a reasonable stand. If offal is all you got, grind it up, saute’ it with onions and butter and put it in a pie. Mr. Pepcid and I will deal with the consequences after that.

  15. Knowing what I now know, A, there is no way in hell I’m letting you cook for me… Fearful of an offal surprise. (tongue in cheek… or maybe in the stew…)

  16. Plus, we raise and slaughter animals for food, then end up wasting a huge volume of edible items. That’s just wrong.
    Back in the olden days, you’d use what you didn’t want to eat to either tan the hides (look up “brain tanning” if you don’t believe me) or slop the hogs. There’s no reason why we can’t do this today.
    I’m personally not too hung up about wasting animal flesh, though. If we didn’t eat things like cows, chickens, and turkeys, the kinds we eat would be extinct, and they are a renewable resource. We could do better on the farming front, however, admittedly.
    I don’t like organ meats for basically the reason joejoejoe mentions. You can’t quite convince me that eating the part of the animal that filters the crap out of its bloodstream really ought to be good for me.

  17. The best cookbooks are some put together from the high schools or churches.
    Hilarious titles and scary ingredients.
    Here are a few from the Marian High School “Cooking with Class” cook book first printing 1981 but the recipes are from the alumni and the moms of girls who grew up in the 50’s
    Oysters on Horseback (Gitty up! yum!)
    Hot Crab Hors d’Oeuvres
    1/2 cup oleo (Yes that’s right OLEO!)
    1 jar Kraft Old English cheese spread (You just know that Kraft suggested this one, probably was part of a Good Housekeeping ad about “Quick Seafood treats for the holidays!”)
    1 1/2 tsp mayonnaise*
    1/2 tsp garlic salt
    1/2 tsp salt (can’t have enough salt!)
    1 pkg crab frozen
    6 English muffins.
    *Mayonnaise, The essential 1950’s miracle food! Soon to be renamed Miracle Whip!
    Miracle Whip. Wonder bread. Super Sugar Crisp. 1950’s ’60’s marketing really made the food very EXCITING!
    Meatballs in Beer (Hmmmm, meatball beer…)
    LuLu Paste (First, call your friend LuLu…)
    Cucumber Lime Jello Salad
    Ingredients: Lime Jello, mayonnaise*, cottage cheese, onion, celery
    “Five Great Tastes that Taste great Together!”
    *What salad is complete without mayonnaise?
    Sauerkraut Salad “Ve have vays of making you eat it!”
    Lickin’ Good Salad
    Ingredients: Lemon Jello, cream cheese, whipping cream, crushed pineapple, nuts, green peppers, maraschino cherries
    Great for the Holidays!)
    (They don’t say what you will be lickin’ after eating it. I’m thinking a Popsicle brand Popsicle to get the taste of this salad out of your mouth.)
    Overnight 7 Layer Salad
    Ingredients: 2 heads lettuce, celery, green pepper, hard boiled eggs, onions, cucumber, water chestnuts, frozen peas, bacon, 2 cups mayonnaise*, 2 T Sugar Canned milk, 1 cup grated cheese.)
    Actual directions: Refrigerate overnight. Toss before serving.
    (I think I really WOULD Toss it before serving, thanks for the tip!)
    *There it is again! You can also use Miracle Whip.
    And remember this was in the Midwest were you couldn’t get any fresh vegetables, everything was CANNED. What do you do when someone says bring a vegetable? Get out the can opener!
    Vegetable Casserole
    1 can green beans
    1 cansliced carrots
    1 cansliced water chestnuts
    1 can wax beans*
    1 canmushrooms
    1 cancheddar cheese soup
    1 cancream of mushroom soup.
    Place in Casserole dish. Bake at 350 till hot. about 25 minutes.
    *Wax beans? What? Do regular beans have too much flavor? Too colorful?
    (Open 7 cans and you are 25 minutes away from a hearty healthy heavenly dinner. Even faster if you have an electric can opener!)
    Your Secret Flavoring
    (I’m not going to tell you what’s in it. It’s a SECRET! But if you want to know, it’s on p. 157. Hint, it begins with an M.)
    Jello Cake
    White cake mix, jello, water, top with either Dream Whip OR Cool Whip
    (It appears the “Whip” is the necessary part of the topping. I’m surprised there was no call for Miracle Whip.)
    Eggless, Butterless, Milkless Cake
    Guess what the secret ingredient is?
    13 tablespoons of lard. (I’ll bet you thought the secret ingredient was mayonnaise. WRONG! But good guess.)
    “Flavorless? Hardly!”

  18. I was gonna mention Andrew Zimmern, but somebody beat me to it.
    Bourdain has said anyhow that some of the stuff he’s had, like iguana, is truly stuff that even the natives turn their noses up at, yet he’s had to have it because the producers have said it will make good TV.
    I guess Zimmern’s show is predicated on that thought for the course of the ENTIRE show.

  19. ROTFL, Spocko.
    I collect “antique” cookbooks. My current fave is the Ladies Home Journal one–it’s huge and full of those Kodachrome-esque photos where the egg salad looks radioactive and the veal looks, well, offal. Many, many heave-worthy towers of gleaming jello salads. From about 1960, the Mad Men era, and oh, goddess, the prose. Teh condescension, teh prissy, teh class warfare–it burns!

  20. … gnawing on the assholes of various mammals for amusement.
    I find doing it to a live female of my own species quite pleasurable. Heh …

  21. great post.
    i literally did a spit take when i opened the first link.
    spocko gets the cake — i was laughing so hard reading those recipes i had to stop several times to wipe my eyes and catch my breath.
    jello salad never stood a chance of making it onto our dinner table. my mother’s parents despised lard-eaters, and that attitude apparently grew to include jello-salad-eaters as well.

  22. As a kid in the 60’s my mom used to make what she called “Gravy Train” for dinner. Cheap cuts of beef or pork sliced thin, seasoned, floured and fried, smothered in cream of mushroom soup and baked long and slow so it “made it’s own gravy”.
    It was actually pretty good, and I still make it myself occasionally.

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