Archive for April, 2010

Dominooooooo!

Before we get to the ethnic foods that can be made superior with the addition of savory brown sauce, let’s first just have a gander at what passed for pizza in 1950. If I were not so mild-mannered and well behaved, you might hear me wail, make fake vomit sounds and say the F word, as in, “What the F is that?” and “F me, that looks like the worst effing food I’ve ever seen!” and “Why the F does only one quarter of it have cheese on it? And such a sparse amount of cheese at that?” plus “Are those olives? Those are giant effing olives, they look like a herd of crocodile!” But I’m not crass and I might have children reading this, so I’ll refrain. I also don’t know what a bunch of crocodile are called. God, this pizza looks awful.

Worst-ershire

Now, back to how to make friends and influence people you cook for, all through the magic of Worcestershire sauce. Growing up near Worcester, MA, first of all, this is a sauce that I will never spell or pronounce incorrectly and it’s a pet peeve when others can’t seem to figure it out. It’s not that hard, people! It’s like getting used to Wednesday having a vestigial “D” or Connecticut’s silent “C”, which brings shame upon all residents from Greenwich to Hartford. Anyway.

The Worcestershire propaganda begins at the beginning, with the table of contents, which is partially categorized, to my delight, by age and sex. Yes, it’s true. In the 50’s what you ate was completely up to chromosomes and birth dating.

Two things: man-appeal? Legerdemain? Really? The man-appeal I get. This was Betty Draper time. It was before that, even. This was The Wonder Years and Kevin Arnold’s mom cooking for her surly husband, played by beloved actor of stage and screen Dan Lauria time. That man loved to say “bust my hump,” huh?

Legerdemain though, I mean, I guess I didn’t have enough vocab quizzes in school because what is that? Funny story, my senior year in high school I actually DID have vocab quizzes every week in English class, and we learned definitions of words and their origins, only our teacher (who will not be named in order to protect the innocent/stupid) would make us learn words like “Snapple” and “Pretzel” and “BMW”. So thanks  to him, I know that Snapple is a combination of snap + apple (although, I mean, is it really?), and BMW stands for British Motor Works, which I guess we learned because Wikipedia didn’t exist back then, but legerdemain was deemed not worthy of our time.

leg·er·de·main

a display of skill or adroitness

Now, every recipe in the book has its own description – sometimes one that touts its succulence, ease, or just a fun fact. I enjoyed this one because I’ve never really had this Sophie’s Choice dilemma.

If you’re at a barbecue, isn’t it standard to just eat a hamburger and a hot dog? Or am I just sloth incarnate? No, sloth incarnate is what happens when you wrap a burger around a hot dog. Shudder. This is like what people on Atkins used to do instead of eating a dog on a bun. Also, I read this as Frankenburgers, which is kind of what ground meat is anyway, right?

Some of the other fun recipe descriptors include:

I never want to eat chicken that has been curled. EVER. And look, I know that Clamato exists, but it still makes no sense to me and it especially doesn’t make sense as to why shellfish juice is a great idea after a “hard” Saturday night. Props though to the author for recognizing that no matter the decade, people love to party.

Coming up next: a look at how exotic and vaguely racist our forebears were when describing gourmet delights from Mexico and the Orient!

Let’s Get Cookin’

Yesterday, I promised that I had a special surprise, and here it is. Thrifty-Book-Buying Companion and I were out for a stroll the other night – a new hobby we’ve taken up, although we took a stroll last night too and the clouds of pollen we inhaled might put the kibosh on strolling until the yellowy tint to our vision subsides – and along the way, we stopped in at a local used bookshop.

Brooklyn Heights/Cobble Hill have a few used book stores, but the Atlantic Book Shop has a lot of weird, cool stuff (like an entire wall of vintage cookbooks that I. Want. So. Bad). They also have a dollar cart out front where every book is a buck. I decided a while ago that for my lovely friend Kirsten’s wedding shower, in addition to all the normal kitchenwares, I’d like to get her a cookbook because we like to talk about cooking. But I wanted to get her a special one –  something that would make an impression, that she might laugh at, or that she would look at and think of me. (Because it’s always all about me.) And then I found them.

Four small books that were bigger than a pamphlet but smaller than a book (Booklets? Cookbook novellas? This is Brooklyn Heights after all, home of Truman Capote, tiny author of tiny books) that were “sponsored” by various different brands, all dating back to the 1950s, all full of recipes and tips for the good hostess, all on the dollar rack. First, we have Lea & Perrins’ “100 Ways To Be Original”, which is code for “100 Ways To Shoehorn Our Worcestershire Into Anything.” As you can tell from the cover, pies and Jell-O mold are not immune to the tweakage of Lea, Perrin and their crack team of kitchen experts.

I also found “A Guide To Wines”, courtesy of the California Wine Growers Association.

“300 Healthful Dairy Dishes” from, you guessed it, the Dairy Board.

And the “Host And Hostess’ Cook N’ Carve” Guide, courtesy of Swift’s Premium Meats.

I’ve gone through all four books and I’ve learned A LOT about what it meant to be a) a cook in the 50’s, b) a woman, prior to “feminism”, and c) someone who basically writes Worcestershire sauce propaganda. There is so much more to come. Also, I have yet to decide if Kirsten is going to receive these or if it’s back to square one with her gift. Sorry, pal!

Leaven It Up To You

Just in case you missed this gem on Facebook a few weeks back, I was explaining to my dad how I’m taking a bread-making class and we had quite the pun-fest discussing it. Here though, is a photo of me (only it’s not exactly me!) posing with the bread haul I got to take home on the second day of class. I’m going to have a lot of food-related content coming up because I found the world’s most awesome books at a used bookstore in my neighborhood the other day and I’ve been scanning my buns off (bread pun!) so I can upload the pictures here.

Anyway, here’s our highbrow discourse on the merits of my bread course:

Rick: where will you be?
me: in bread making class
4:09 PM Rick: do you knead to go there?
me: har it’s paid for so yes. it was a lot of dough
Rick: I hope at least you will bring your Mom some flour
4:10 PM me: (that was a stretch)
Rick: I knew I would get a rise out of you
4:11 PM me: it’s the yeast I can do
Rick: please, let’s stop the half baked puns
4:12 PM me: but we’re on a roll
Rick: for crust sake stop it!!!
4:14 PM me: I can’t, you bread me for this
Rick: I am through. I need a rest I am going to go and just loaf for a while
4:15 PM me: fine, I’m through with this crumby computer
Rick: I don’t know how you can sandwich this kind of chat in between your work
4:16 PM me: it’s a Wonder
Rick: you have a rye sense of humor
me: i aim to make people hoot and challah
Rick: well, I have barley begun
4:19 PM me: dont make me spelt it out for you
4:20 PM Rick: (obscure) I quit, I am raisin the white flag