Against the Grain with Funny Recipes from Riceland Rice

Rice: a staple... versatile, filling and-- in spite of its mild-mannered exterior-- still able to raise eyebrows with the best of 'em. That's what we'll see here today as we take a peek between the covers of this 1970s Riceland Rice cookbook.

Prepare yourself for a world where political correctness just meant you'd pulled the lever the whole way down in the voting booth...

Where multi-culturalism meant putting cheap souvenir travel figurines next to the plate...

And where high cuisine looked like a crime scene on CSI.

Welcome to Riceland Rice...

We peel back the cover and immediately notice that ideas of what's in good taste have, um, changed a bit since the 70s...

From the cheerful stereotypical coolie mascot brandishing bowls of perfectly-cooked long grain rice, to the company's tagline, "Riceland Rice: Velly Nice!", I suspect their marketing firm spent most of their R&D time brainstorming during a Charlie Chan film festival.

But that's not the only good taste in question here. Because today's tastebuds might just find themselves swimming for shore over this "Tuna Time-Saver"...

"Meetings all day? No crisis about dinner with this casserole ready for the oven! And, its creamy, bubbly goodness and browned cheese topping will soothe your shattered nerves."

Personally, my nerves would not be soothed by a main dish that seems to be not only drowning in a swamp of cream of mushroom, but smiling about it.

Is it just me, or doesn't it look just a bit like a whole clown-car going down for the count under a tidal wave of white face paint?

Also, notice the random conch shell, the fish-shaped serving dish holding oyster crackers, and the potted plant on the table. They're there to say to the reader, "This is seafood. It's natural and festive. Pay no attention to the fact that the main dish is gurgling for a lifeguard on its third time going under."

This proven 70s decorating technique of Using Many Decorative Items on the Table to Distract From the Fugly Main Dish is leveraged again here, with "Robin Hood's Chicken"...

While less visually off-putting than the Tuna Time-Saver, certainly, I really can't figure out why this is called Robin Hood's Chicken. I don't recall any tales of Robin Hood robbing from the rich and then making a skillet casserole. But then again, I'm not perhaps as well-read as I should be in this historical time period.

Perhaps after a full-day of plundering and pillaging, Robin and his Merry Men enjoyed sitting around Sherwood Forest with a nice fry-up containing the free-range Nottingham woods chicken, peas, carrots, rice from a country they didn't know existed yet, and ketchup.

Or perhaps Robin just stole the meal from a lost nobleman who'd picked up take-away. Hard to say.

Should you decide to make this dish, don't forget to decorate the table in a smirking Robin Hood toby jug, an Errol Flynn feathered hat and some arrows!

Well, maybe rethink the arrows. The guests may get ideas once the indigestion kicks in.

And speaking of guests and indigestion, here we have the "Riceland Rice Oyster Ring"...

"Oysters take on new glamor and new taste in this exotic main dish.. yet it's simple as A-B-C- to make."

Yes, those are some glamorous oysters there. If "glamor" means looking a bit like something that needs to be lanced by your favorite health care professional.

You know, in most of these photo spreads, I've felt the surrounding decor has been over-the-top and unnecessary. But here, I have to take that back. Those three tiered glasses of mixed drinks really say something.

They say, "You might need a few toddies before attempting to dip in to this oyster ring. Blurred vision here is an asset."

I agree with them.

And while we're talking about blurred vision, no, this dish isn't really blurry. It's supposed to look that way. It's "sensational Indonesian Chicken-Shrimp Superb"...

My readers from Indonesia, feel free to pipe up here with your feelings on this dish. Does it remind you of your homeland? Just like mother used to make?

Um... no, I didn't really think it did.

But the cookbook says:
"Cooks in Asian countries are masters at combining unusual food combinations for sensational flavor. Here, shrimp, chicken, peanut butter and seasonings make a delicious and subtle blending of complementary flavors... A real conversation piece!"

And that conversation probably starts something like, "Oh, my, Gladys-- is that Crunchy Jif I taste?"

Note: don't forget to add dancing porcelain figurines to the table for color and interest... Also random oyster crackers to give your guests something to do while they push the main course around on their plates.

And now, let's head back to the U.S. with "Ham 'n Rice Unique"...

What makes this unique is its exotic blend of American cheese and, um, American cheese. The Crime Scene Investigation Unit will discover the precise molecular composition of that blend, once they conclude that it's okay, foul play had not occurred here.

"No, no, sir, we've determined that this wasn't the remains of a stabbing victim. This is just ham, shortening and tomato soup. Also a blend of American cheeses."

"Good work, men! Now bag it, tag it and send it off as leftovers."

Why is it, though, that so many of our casserole dishes from the 50s-70s looked like high-speed car crashes? Was it to assure us that what we were eating really had passed on?

Well, we'll find no answers here. And probably not with this next dish, either-- in the American Frontier, where the men were men and the "Frontier Beef Stews" used Worchestershire sauce from England...

The stew itself actually is one of the better-looking meals in this cookbook. I just wanted to show you that the next time you're looking for an attractive table centerpiece, look no further than your husband's gun cabinet!

From buckshot to beautiful in seconds!...

(Note: The Thrift Shop Romantic does not actually endorse putting weaponry of any kind on the dinner table... She is simply a smart aleck. Thank you. -The Management)

Now, I hear you folks saying to me, "Well, rice is nice, Jenn, but it's so... WHITE. I'd love to use it, but what I'd really need is to camouflage some of the other ingredients in these recipes. How can I do that?"

Fear not, my friends-- Riceland Rice has got you covered! Now you can "Tint it different colors!"...

From adding food coloring to make it any shade of the rainbow, to coloring it with maraschino cherry juice or carrot juice to add that extra flavor, "dress up a meal" in a kaleidoscope o' ricey color!

And how does that work out?

Well, just take a gander at the Bayou Country Creole Shrimp below, with rice simmered in tomato and cayenne pepper...

The tomato-cayenne makes the rice a nice and natural pink-- and really showcases the athletic abilities of the shrimp leaping through those sliced green peppers below.

You know, down in the bayous, they train shrimp to leap through hoops as a part of a miniature traveling circus show. It's gotten very popular over the years. People go down to New Orleans now for the jazz, Mardi Gras and synchronized shrimp swimming...

Little known fact.

But what if your guests can't eat shellfish and other meat? Or what if they just object to dining on something that's been trained to do splashy aquatic performances for crowds?

Well, then you serve them this "Glamour Vegetable Platter"...

Yup, it's that "glamour" again. Sure, many folks might think of glamour being a Hollywood film premiere, a major awards ceremony or an artistic magazine spread.

We Riceland Rice readers know it's really grated sharp cheese and mixed veg over cooked tomato slices!

Well, I'm afraid I'm all glamoured out for today, friends. I mean, this much exotic entertaining... this much sparkle and flavor... I just need to go and reevaluate my whole perspective on rice-based cuisine.

And I hope you all had fun today, as we went against the grain with everything we thought we knew about rice.

Otherwise, I hope you'll swing by this coming Wednesday as we succumb to Pyrexia, we go a bit deco and we wend our way along Route 30 antiquing.

Hm... think now I'll go make a casserole! Where's the ketchup?


Da Old Man said...

Jenn, this has opened up a world of possibilities to me. I can't wait to start tinting my rice various colors.

My famous Yankee-Mets Subway series casserole will take on a whole new perspective with rice dyed blue and orange.

BTW, I wonder if that chicken dish was named after Robin Hood because he did run afowl of the law.


Terry said...

Wow now I remember why we hated my Mom's attempts at cooking.
She must have had every cookbook printed in the late 60's early
70's and all her dishes looked blurry .
I love thrifting possibilities they are so endless.
I had a great time visiting today and I do have tons of new ideas .
Thank you for the awesome inspiration today.
Blessings of joy to you .
Happy Trails

Jenn Thorson said...

Da Old Man- Let me know how that Yankees-Mets rice turns out. Perhaps a scoop of white rice balled in the middle to represent a baseball, too-- what do you think? :)

And PS-- "afowl of the law"... you should be "pun-ished" for that one yourself. :)

Terry- Heh, here's hoping the post inspired you to continue thrifting-- and not to cook some of these recipes. :) I don't want to be responsible for that! Cheers!

Andrea said...

I am not a huge fan of rice, although I'll eat it with Chinese food. These pictures really turned my stomach.
The one with shrimp and green peppers should be outlawed. Can you just imagine what shrimp and crunchy green peppers must taste like together????? Where's my barf bag?

Lois said...

Hi Jenn.
I have a book just like that but it is by Minute Rice.
Since rice is not a particular favourite of mine I haven't used any of the recipes. I've just been too lazy to throw the book into the Goodwill box. I am sure that I have a book for salmon recipes is where I turn green.
Gotta run.........
I'll read you soon.
Have a good week.

Jenn Thorson said...

Andrea- While I loved fried rice, I don't actually like cooked green peppers (raw yes, cooked no-- I know, it's inexplicable). But I'd imagine the green peppers would totally overpower the flavor of the shrimp. Of course, that's only ONE of the issues this cookbook has. :)

Lois- See, the salmon (if you liked salmon) might actually be good. It would depend a lot on how... creative... they decided to get. :) You have a good week, too!

chyna said...

I like rice in some casseroles but can't say any of those recipes would turn me on. Blech!!!

Jenn Thorson said...

Chyna- Heh, and what, you mean you also don't want to decorate your table in Robin Hood hats and dancing girl figurines?!

I can't imagine why! :)

Melanie said...

I love rice, but I think you've completely turned me off of it for a few days at least! Hilarious post Jenn. :)

Jenn Thorson said...

Melanie- If it's any consolation... me, too. :)

chyna said...

That rice ring looks like someone barfed in it. No I'm not impressed with these recipes, Robin Hood or not. ;) There is only so much you can put on a table to disguise the food.

Anonymous said...

Oh, my _eyes_....

Granted, I suppose some of my recipes might have peoples' eyes cross, but the things these ingredient-focused cookbooks came up with were so often so frightening!

Do you have "The Joy of Jello" in your collection?

Jenn Thorson said...

Chyna- I'm astounded you haven't embraced the beauty of the oyster ring! (snicker)

Rethoryke- Yup, the product-based cookbooks are always the worst-- they try too hard to make people think outside the box with product uses and go totally wiggy. And I do have the Joys of Jell-o, yes-- it's hysterical. If you search on Jell-o here on the site, you'll probably see a post or two about Jell-o cookbooks.

One, from the 70s, was worth it just for the amusing lifestyle shots.

chyna said...

Tell you what. If I ever get talked into coming to your town while the hubby is off watching his beloved team of bumble bees you can make that delightful conconction of vomit and rice. ;) But can we do it AFTER you show me all the thrift stores? LOL

Jenn Thorson said...

Chyna- 1.) I'd be delighted to take you to all the thrift stores if you ever get a chance to come to my town. 2.) No way on this planet am I making that oyster ring. Not even for grins!

Can't you just imagine us, staring at it in horror? Because it HAS to be even more scary in person. You know it does.

Denyse said...

Hi Jenn,
Just discovered your site.

Jenn Thorson said...

Denyse- I'm glad the scary rice recipes are seen as a plus and didn't frighten you off! :)

Bird said...

As a genuine English person I can confirm that over here shotguns and Toby jugs are essential accompaniments for any fine dining experience. What might seem strange, exotic or whimsical to you is perfectly normal to us Johnny foreigners. For realz!

Jenn Thorson said...

Bird- Well, I have been to England a couple of times and haven't been witness to the Toby-jug-and-gun decor, but then again, I haven't eaten at the truly posh places. :)

JD at I Do Things said...

"I don't recall any tales of Robin Hood robbing from the rich and then making a skillet casserole."


(Is it wrong that I feel hungry now?)

I don't know. I can see throwing a conch shell on the dining room table (er, lap desk) the next time I make fish sticks.

Great post. Thanks for reminding me I love this blog, too.

Anonymous said...

I remember having this cookbook when growing up...

I don't know that we tried any of the rice dishes, but there was a section in the middle of the book with Mexican recipies... we never could figure out how they had anything to do with Riceland Rice.

The only recipe we ever tried (and still enjoy today) was the Enchilada Casserole -- YUM!!

Jenn Thorson said...

JD- I totally think that conch shell decor would make the table "elegant." Also add some decorative salt and pepper shakers shaped like small sailors. :)

Anonymous- Now I'm all curious and will have to got back and check out the enchilada casserole! :)