Artichoked Up Over Befuddling Vintage Vittles

Ah, Amy Vanderbilt: the Martha Stewart of yesteryear. But even Martha has her "off" days, right? (Cooking and crafting ones, I mean. Not ones that involve electronic ankle bracelets; this blog can only cover so much.)

What I'm trying to say is: not all creative ideas withstand the test of time... or, say, make it comfortably through the digestive process. And those are the recipes I hope you'll get some grins from today.

The first comes from the 1966 Amy Vanderbilt Success Program for Women cookbook, "Serving Food Attractively."

The book tells us, "Artichokes, halved, filled with jellied madrilene and topped with a slim slice of lemon are beautiful to look at and wonderful to eat." Merriam-Webster defines madrilene as "a consumme flavored with tomato." So basically, we're talking cold brothy-tomatoey jelly veg-nests here.

To look at this dish and its display-- complete with spoon-- reminds me a bit of the dinner scene in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Only they used monkey heads instead of artichokes.

But what is it we have over here? The book tells us an important part of good eating is in the presentation. So what exactly adorns our table?

Why, artichoke candlestick holders, of course! Made from fresh artichokes. And over here on the wall-- what says Old World Charm more than a wrought-iron wall plaque adorned with... yes, that's right... MORE real artichokes?

Ah, dig deep into your refrigerators, my friends-- it could be a whole new world of decorating inspiration. Store salt in your squash, pepper in your pears, and hang shallots from your chandelier to give it that special je ne sais quois (translation, "Why the heck is THAT up there?).

Do you test spaghetti by tossing a strand against the wall? Leave it. Enough pots of pasta and soon, you'll have a unique, handcrafted sculpted art installation, envied by all your closest friends who also tap into the Food Pyramid for decor options.

And when you tire of it? The candlesticks and wall art of today might just be the main course of tomorrow. There's no END to the possibilities.

Or, you could just, you know, shell out five bucks for some thrifted candlesticks and some paintings. Either way, really.

Well, how about this?

Here we are in the Tower of London. Ah!-- aren't the Crown Jewels stunning? And--

Oops, my bad. That's lamb. But, wait, what's that bubbling up from inside that little roast volcano?

A little hard to tell from here. Let's read the caption, shall we?

"Try your favorite recipe for crown roast of lamb. Top it with a combination of sauerkraut, rice and honey..."

Sauerkraut, rice and honey? So... okay, cabbage and then...

"Brussels sprouts make a flowery center for a frill of golden yams, and the spectacular spumoni make this an exciting holiday dinner."

I'll say it'll be exciting! A holiday dinner of twenty people devouring heaping plates of cabbage and brussels sprouts? And we all know what Great-Uncles Ernest and Eugene were like at the family picnic after a couple of plates of baked beans. With great mounds of these gaseous greens, a Silent Night it's unlikely to be!

Well, let's move from the holiday table to more practical, everyday eating, with the Amy Vanderbilt Success Program For Women "Casserole Cookery" book. And this book truly understands the pain of the modern 60s homemaker:

"Does your husband groan when you mention you are going to have a casserole for dinner?... Between you and me, many a delectable casserole has been made from left-overs, but husbands usually have to be shielded from the information that left-overs are the prime ingredient..."
(The poor dear flowers. So sensitive.)
"...Casserole cooking should be creative and stimulating, both in an intellectual and gustatorial manner..."

That's right, folks. "Intellectual" and "stimulating." So with that, I give you:

Kraut and Frankfurter Tahitian-- "a flavorful combination of sauerkraut, pineapple, onion, green pepper and frankfurters."

Ah, Tahiti... the waves, the breeze, the outdoor stands where you can get a red-hot with kraut on it for just under a Pacific franc.

What, you'd heard Tahitian cuisine was based on the island's French and Polynesian heritage? No, no, no! That's just for TOURISTS. TRUE island cuisine reflects all the processed meat gusto of an Oktoberfest in Munich. Remember, this dish is "intellectual." So it knows about culture and context and all of that stuff the rest of us don't. Trust the cookbook. It's a lot smarter than we are.

As proven by the inclusion of this little guy...

This is the island god, Ozca Maia. He's protector of the processed meats and ensures the prosperity of the island's vast cabbage plantations. You use him to distract your husband from the fact he's eating leftovers by prompting a fresh and exciting dinnertime conversation.

Conversation like, "Honey, what is this wooden thing, and why does it look like it's yodeling?"

That's when you tell him that yodeling was a popular ancient Polynesian pasttime, vital to tribal morale and communication. In fact, Tahitian Idol, as they called it, was the island's most popular weekly evening event.

See, how much more this cookbook knows than we do?

Now that we're done with cultural exploration of the South Seas, we move on to our friends in the North. The Far North. With "Swedish Pancakes with Tuna."

Note the gelatinous mold in the background, which is a to-scale replica of Sweden's famous ice hotel...

Or possibly the end scene in Ghostbusters after Mr. Stay-Puft exploded over that art deco apartment building.

Well, ice hotel or achitecture coated in nuked Fluff , it's an elegant way to showcase your culinary talents and distract your guests from the pot o' cheesy fishy bed-rolls before them.

Finally, today we unveil a side dish...

"Red Cabbage with Marrons and Bacon." This is described as "a delicious combination of flavors and a good accompaniment to meat, especially pork." Because, of course, what goes better with pork than... more pork? These vintage cookbooks are about nothing if not variety.

That aside, in my own ignorance, (because as I'd said before, I'm not as intellectual as this cookbook), I had to look up what marrons are. Merriam-Webster defines marrons as "chestnuts, and especially Spanish chestnuts, preserved in vanilla-flavored syrup."

So, looking at the full ingredients here, we're talking cabbage, bacon, red wine, a quarter pound of butter, and then nuts preserved in vanilla-flavored syrup?

The nice thing about this dish is how it caters to the low-cal heart-health set.

And best of all, when you're reaching for your insulin and clutching your chest from the angina, you might not even think about how much this dish looks like a human rights organization example of how undetected landmines hurt millions every year.

In the mood to read additional posts on questionable recipes of the past? You might enjoy:
  • "Dubious Dinner and Riotous Retro Recipes," where sausages swim in synchronized routines and vegetarian dishes may very well be man-eating... click here
  • Or "The Horrors of Home Cooking: Recipes of Yesteryear" where Worchestershire sauce demonstrates its versatility as well as its ability to instill gastronimic fear. Click here for that one.
Or, if that's not your style-- click here to check out last "Treasure Box Wednesday: In the Pink with Pottery, Pyrex and Plates."

Otherwise, I hope to see you this coming Wednesday! (Hmmm... I'm hungry. Time to remove that vegetable wall display and have a nosh.)


Lidian said...

Hee hee - youare so funny! ove reading your take on retro cookbooks (and everything else)! I have one of those Amy Vanderbilt guides too, on how to have a really great marriage (gelatin molds optional)

Jenn Thorson said...

Hi, Lidian- I can only imagine Amy's advice on marriage is equally entertaining! (You said gelatin molds were optional-- but how about MSG? :)

Rosemary said...

So funny Jenn!!
Very entertaining. Who knew?
Have a great week,

Vallen said...

I love these cookbooks -they just make me snort with laughter. I have one that has a recipe for Shrimp Wiggle (shrimp in Jello) and another the name of which thankfully escapes me because the image that remains in my mind is quite enough. It is a whole potato, peeled and a big hole bored through the center, into which is thrust a hot dog. I am not kidding. This is a respectable cook book, too. Imagine the titters at table.

ThriftShopRomantic said...

Shrimp in Jello? Are ya kiddin' me, Vallen?

(No, no, I know the modus operandi of these cookbooks, so I know you're not. But please I hope you'll share that particular, um, delicacy with us in a post someday... I'm dying to see that and the improper potato.) :)

Too funny!

Michelle said...

What a hilarious post! You had me laughing a lot and I'll never look at artichokes the same way again!


Kari & Kijsa said... are hilarious...we started laughing from the first artichoke...thanks for the giggle!

smiles, kari & kijsa

Rhoda @ Southern Hospitality said...

Hi, Jen, thanks for stopping by! I so run out of time to visit everyone I'd like to these days.

What a funny cookbook, those poor old ladies of old. Can you imagine serving that up to guests. My hubby would definitely not enjoy those things, I would hear about it! LOL


Greg said...

And here I thought the other blog was going to be for comedy!!

I do like the artichokes as candleholders (but less so when I found out they were real artichokes!).

They really went crazy trying to make hot dogs a regular part of modern cuisine back then, didn't they?

Those jelly molds and stuff look attractive, until I start reading what's in them...ack.

Nicely done.

ThriftShopRomantic said...

Michelle- if you do encounter an artichoke and break into giggles I'll be glad to bear the blame. :)

Kari and Kijsa- thanks! I guess we should just be glad we weren't SERVED any of these things and be expected to keep a straight face.

Rhoda- Hey, I totally understand. I just enjoy checking in and seeing your projects. Where DOES the time go, really? And can you imagine the look on your husband's face if you served him some of that stuff? He'd think you'd lost it completely from overwork.

Greg- ah, you know me. I find the funny in just, well, everything. You noticed them pushing the hot dogs for all occasions, too, eh? I should do a post sometime that's a montage of bad hotdog recipes. hehehehe.