Horrors of Home Cooking: Recipes of Yesteryear

As Halloween approaches, our minds turn toward symbols of the harvest.... Of falling leaves.... And of good old-fashioned home-cooking.
Many years ago, Lea & Perrins decided to contribute to those images of home and hearth, with a helpful recipe book entitled “100 Ways to Be Original in All Your Cooking”...
This means “adding Worcestershire sauce to everything including your Jell-O molds.”

Today, as my little tribute to humor writer James Lileks’ “Gallery of Regrettable Food,” we will take a trip into the past. Back to a time where “Original Dishes Men Like” (read: meat, meat and more meat) were sought and prepared with love and spring-form pans...

Where the secret to “gracious living and fine eating” was available in one simple bottle...
And when the culinary creations before eating, and during digestion, tend to look roughly the same.
Also because I found the cookbook at the Good Samaritan Thrift Store really cheap.
We begin here...

Lea & Perrins tells us Men like:
Stew in a fancy silver chafing dish! And what stew is it? Why “Company Stew”!
Maybe it’s just my anticipation of the upcoming film, but I’m getting a bit of a Sweeney Todd vibe here...
“Did the police ever find Betty’s missing boarder?”
“No, it’s quite a mystery. But speaking of Betty, did she give you a quart of her Company Stew? She’s so generous, she’s given some to half the neighborhood! You know, I served it to Bob and the kids last night, and it was simply divine! That boarder sure did miss out on a some gracious living and fine eating!...What, you found some spectacles in yours? How strange!”
The fine print tells us this is “a man’s meal everyone in the family will enjoy.” According to the cookbook, Men also like:
--Corned Beef Hash Surprise (the surprise being-- you guessed it!-- Worcestershire Sauce)...
--a Frankfurter and Baked Bean Crown (standing hotdogs on end in beans will make your husband feel like the King of His Castle)
--And Colonial Cheese, referred to as a “bitey cheese spread for a successful stag party”...

I don’t know... the picture above looks more like what happens after the stags devour pizza and a few too many Rob Roys. But hey-- to each his own.
And now...
I can see it now. “Mmmm, honey, Crusty Chicken Livers and Mushrooms on Toast! You sure are original!”
If chicken livers were a morning food, why haven’t the breakfast cereal people caught onto this?
Oh, forgive me... crusty chicken livers. And they’re crusty because we are to “roll livers in biscuit mix” and “fry livers until golden brown and crisp.” The theory, I suppose, being that if you coat them in something innocuous, you can even turn the largest organ of the chicken’s body into a “Gourmet dish for an elegant brunch.”
I can’t say I’ve ever heard of “elegance” involving toast. But then I don’t get to the really posh places.
And now we’re going to...
These are Flamenco Veal Chops. The caption reads, “Confetti colored sauce to brighten the bland taste of veal.”
I know I haven’t attended many parties lately, but this does not look like confetti to me. In fact, the only comparison to a party I can easily make is to the Prom Scene from “Carrie.”
I love how they have a little dish to the side with a ladle in it in case anyone wants extra sauce. Now who doesn’t appreciate an optimist?

Okay, here’s something I bet a number of you can identify with...

Your 16 year old son has barely uttered two words to you since he started high school. Your 14 year old daughter is going with that greaser who’s into all that Rock And Roll. And you want to create a dinner that will really bring the family together. So you grab your bottle of Lea & Perrins and...
...All aboard the Meat Loaf Train!

This had to be a sure-fire way for families to know Mom had cracked under the strain of society. Cute, yes. but the very fact that she spent time cutting asparagus into tiny bits so she could load up a Meat Car means she’s either had one too many PTA meetings, or has been hitting the cooking sherry in the pantry.
Pretty soon she’ll be saying she’s seen space ships and forming a replica of Devil’s Tower in the mashed potatoes. Yeah, it’s anachronistic. But still...
Now let’s..

This doesn’t appear to be enough to serve eight people, but maybe they’re properly taking into account the amount folks will want when they see it. In which case, this could feed crowds on almost Last Supper levels.
What IS it, you ask? “Curried King Crab with Sweet Sour Sauce.” And the caption reads, “Far East cuisine with a chutney-type relish to impress company, yet simple enough to allow you to be a relaxed hostess.”
Did you know the key to Far East cuisine is Worcestershire sauce from the UK? It’s a little-known fact that Marco Polo used Lea & Perrins as a part of his culinary exchange program; he brought pasta from China to Europe and traded them Worchestershire Sauce from England. The history books just somehow skip over that detail.
Okay, get out that confetti again and put on the Lawrence Welk because it’s time to:

The items in the middle? They’re Filled Puffs.” The caption here reads, “Tiny bubble filled with ‘oh boy, what is it?’”
Sometimes additional commentary really is unnecessary.
And lastly let’s...

This is Pizza Plus. The Plus means only one person gets cheese on their slice of pizza. But the rest of the folks get a taste of everything including whole pearl onions. Italian Sausage slices and... er...
What is that series of exclamation points over on the left-hand side?
OH, it’s artistically-arranged ANCHOVIES! How silly of me not to recognize them right away.
All with a tomato-Worcestershire sauce. No oregano, basil or other traditional Italian seasonings are apparently necessary. (We are being “Original” after all, and Italian seasoning on pizza is just SO cliche,) The Worcestershire Sauce does all the work.
It’s suggested that this pizza be served “hot with tall cold drinks.” I suspect tee-totalers will be reaching for a beer when presented with this one.
“Marge, I didn’t know you drank!”
“Funny, I just took it up.”
Well, dear folks, that is the end of our culinary horrors for today. To continue the theme of humor and housekeeping, I also bring you my recipients of the “Make Me Smile” award. I was presented this by fellow-blogger Carrie at “Oak Rise Cottage”-- so kind of you, Carrie!-- and I thought it might be fun to share a few online venues that make ME smile as well.
Click here to visit the Make Me Smile page. Otherwise, I hope to see you next week!


Carl said...

Wow, first comment, woohoo!

Anyway, it's amazing what they used to produce back in the 50's, if they tried it now I think they'd be laughed off the supermarket shelves, but I'd love to have a copy of this kind of book for when guests come around

ThriftShopRomantic said...

Hey, Carl- The post was actually moved from a site where I didn't have a comment facility, so thanks for kicking it off!

You're right-- it's amazing the combinations that were put together during the Depression era and through the 50s. And these recipes are usually even worse when they all involve using one sponsored product, like the Lea and Perrins. I think humor writer James Lileks has ones that use 7-Up or Dr. Pepper in everything, and those are horrifyingly bad, too.

sherliez said...

These dishes are so wrong.... It made me gag for a while...

ThriftShopRomantic said...

Heh- sorry, Sherliez! :) Just be glad we all don't get invited to dinner parties where they're serving some of these dishes.

Jennelle said...

Holy crap, that meatloaf train made me laugh until I cried!