Ross: It tastes like feet! Joey: I like it! Ross: Are you kidding? Joey: What’s not to like? Custard: good! Jam: good! Meat: good!
– from FRIENDS (the tv show, just in case you have been living under a rock)
Instead of your regularly scheduled programming, this week’s post is guest authored by: the daughter (aka “pewperson, jr.”). And now for something completely different from the usual fare:
Recently we acquired my great-grandmother’s cookbook. It has apparently made the rounds of all of my mother’s other sisters, and finally it is her turn to “look at it and then throw it away.” Of course, being one who loves to snoop, I had to take a look at it myself and within found the sole explanation as to why we had to have some form of Jell-O mold at every holiday event. No one would actually touch these dishes, until someone realized that Memaw had died about a decade earlier, and so it was ok not to serve those multi-colored wiggly abominations.
I’m just grateful that I was never around when she actually tried some of the more complicated ones, rife with floating vegetables and bits of meat. I must say that most of her hand written recipes are actually quite normal: sauces, cakes, breads, entrees, etc. The ones that are somewhat more interesting are the ones that someone with a severe brain injury thought fit to print in a magazine, and Memaw thought fit to tear out and save.
Now, before we go too much further, I must explain that the rest of the blog post is divided into two parts: 1. Things that have really funny names, and 2. Things that must include the full scope of the recipe to truly appreciate the fact that several people actually considered eating them. Ok, here we go!
In the 1940’s and 50’s, the trend was “convenience”. It was the age of affordable appliances, frozen dinners and acknowledging that housewives had a lot of work to do around the home, so why not cut yourself a break and take a few shortcuts to get a delicious dinner on the table? The people who created new recipes dove head first into this mind set and then apparently developed some form of psychosis that led them to see how many different ingredients they could cram into each dish. Also there was a lot of gelatin. I have taken the liberty of coming up with a menu for a dinner party based on Memaw’s cookbook. We do have all the recipes in case anyone would like a copy!
Some would consider appetizers the best part of dinner. They are supposed to awaken your palate and stimulate your appetite for the entree. For this party we have three things to choose from:
Toasted Cheese Loaf
(Uh… yummy? I think I’m gonna be sick.)
drum roll please: French-Toast Cheese Dreams
(I have also noticed that practically every recipe had to include eggs or mayonnaise, or both. I don’t think there is any gelatin in here, but theysure liked to put gelatin and mayonnaise together a lot too.)
I see we have the same taste in food, as I also would have picked the French-Toast Cheese Dreams. Good choice!
Apparently our main course offerings are very pork-centric, with one exception.
Ham Cups With Cherry Sauce
(These include a brown sugar-mustard glaze “and a bowl of hot cherry sauce to pass!” I think your taste buds may commit suicide over that combination.)
French Toasted Tuna
Mrs. Swenson’s Ham Loaf
(This includes two kinds of pork, one kind of beef, pineapple slices, and a can of pineapple chunks for good measure.)
Yeah, I guess two kinds of “French toasted” things are a little much. So Ham Loaf it is! On the side we have Lima Bean Stuffed Onions. You should be glad I couldn’t find a picture.
Ok, most of these don’t actually look that gross, plus dessert is mainly sugar anyway, so they can’t taste that bad either. Well there is one on the list that sounds pretty gross, but anyway… So I just found funny pictures to go with the names. I take that back, there are, like three that sound gross… and they all look about as bad… You know what? I’ll just explain as I go.
Marshmallow Refrigerator Loaf
(This includes chopped “nut meats”, pitted dates, and a pound of marshmallows. That’s a lot of marshmallows!)
Peanut Butter Hermits
(Okay, it’s actually a refrigerator cake that looks alright, but when I typed that into Google Images, this came up and I couldn’t resist using the picture of the creepy little girl obsessively ogling that piece of bread… or the knife, maybe… I’m really not sure which.)
How about some Divinity?
(That’s really the name of this… It’s supposed to be candy, but it kinda looks like soap to me.)
Or maybe some Cake with Sea Foam Frosting?
(Again, you don’t have to make the sharks, but the actual photos of the stuff just made it look really sticky, not cool like icing sharks.)
And finally: Lush Mush
(This got its name “from an admiring guest”. Um, admiring? Are we certain about that? It also includes gelatin, marshmallows, fruit cocktail, heavy cream, and various juices. Yummy.)
And now for The Second Part! (Also by me. I guess you probably figured that.)
This part features a trio of gelatin molds, which, judging by the actual recipes and some interesting photos I found, would make for a lovely holiday spread or maybe a nice addition to a potluck! I think I may have found dinner for our wedding reception!
First, here are all three recipes in all their glory (and pictures of what I imagine they would look like):
I imagine this dish to look like this:
(ew, and other inappropriate noises…)
This one, I think resembles this (minus the R2D2, which I don’t know why its there; it’s supposed to be Miracle Whip):
From the tantalizing snippet of picture off of this recipe, I imagine this dish to look like:
On top of this:
Maybe not so fancy…
Sunday Night Surprise: This one seemed the most tame to me; you know, just slightly gross in the way that only gelatin based salads can be, but then I hit the part about making celery pinwheels with soft yellow cheese. I think I may have lost all respect for this recipe. Not only have I no idea how to actually make these, (mine would probably resemble the work of a very stupid kindergartener in arts & crafts class) but are you sure these alleged “pinwheels” are going to make a tomato gelatin salad more attractive? Then it is apparent that this recipe came from a jar of Miracle Whip because of the blatant advertisement at the end. Why would it ever be a good idea to fill the center with Miracle Whip? What would you do with it, eat it with a spoon? I thought us southerners were supposed to have a strict aversion to Miracle Whip anyway. I bet Mrs. Harding Cecil wasn’t even a real person…
Tomato-Relish Ring: Right off the bat we get another song attesting to the glorious wonder that is Miracle Whip. The only difference is apparently Mrs. Cecil likes it because “Men especially like the flavor. It’s different – they say,” whereas this recipe asserts that its flavor appeals to whole families. And also it mentions something about “boiled dressing,” so… ew. Then the recipe looks essentially the same as the first except that they thought it would be a good idea to use pickle relish instead of minced onions. (I am starting to wonder whether anyone from this generation actually had taste buds.) Oh, and you garnish with deviled eggs instead of pinwheels, and you actually mix the Miracle Whip with lettuce so it’s not just a pile of goo surrounded by Jell-O.
Finest Recipe for Valentine Mold: Ah, my favorite! Save the best for last. While I am very sad that Memaw cut out the recipe with only a tantalizing hint of what it’s supposed to look like, I think I managed to put together a fairly accurate composite up there if I do say so myself. I really don’t have much to say about this recipe, I think it speaks for itself in terms of audacity and disgustingness, but what I will do is point out that this was intended for Valentine’s Day, you know, supposedly the most romantic day of the year? And they would like you to serve to your beloved ham mousse comprised of gelatin, ham, whipped cream and mustard beneath lima beans encased in chicken stock-flavored gelatin. Can you say aphrodisiac? Apparently the garnish for this one is up to you since there are not any plugs for Miracle Whip; just for the “finest of lovely, little limas,” which happen to be produced by Stokely’s Finest.
All kidding aside, it was fun to be able to look through something of Memaw’s. She died when I was seven, and though I do have some memories of her, they are sometimes few and far between. I can’t say that I ever remember eating anything she made, except for a vanilla milkshake one time (minus the gelatin), but even so, it was nice to see another side of my great-grandmother and to be able to talk about her once again. Also I did see some shades of Baba in there (sorry, Baba!). And you might want to look a little closer at your own recipe book, Mom!