Goodness, Gracious, Great Balls o' Beef!


You know what I love so much about vintage cookbooks that are deeply devoted to a particular theme, like this week's 1960s "Great Ground-Beef Recipes" from Family Circle Magazine?

I love that what starts out as a terrific culinary journey— a helpful, comprehensive look at a highly versatile food— always takes the off-ramp to Weirdsville, as "creative ideas" incrementally transform into "what in the sweet name of Julia Child is that?"

And that's what we have this week, my friends...


A place where cabbage plays the Sundance Kid to ground beef's Butch Cassidy...

A land where black olives do death defying stunts and performance art...

And a place where dinner, and cleaning out the refrigerator, bear a striking resemblance.

I mean, sure, I could show you all happy, yummy meatloaves and juicy All-American burgers.

But because the recipes among these pages require witnesses, I'd much rather show you things like these "Golden Gate Saucy Burgers with Spaghetti and Rarebit toppings"...


"Teenagers find so many excuses for a party, and here's fare to please all," says the book.

Leftover spaghetti, pickle relish and rarebit cheese on a burger? I beg to differ, O Family Circle-- teenagers will be finding so many excuses to never eat at your house again.

Who came up with this dish? Was the mom of Shaggy from Scooby-Doo working in the 60s Family Circle culinary department?

This dinner is either a way to ensure your kid's first party is the last, ever, guaranteeing a school social life complete with ostracism, alienation and a vague garlic scent. Or it's a clever way to get rid of all those leftovers you didn't quite want to throw out...

"Pasta that hasn't quite turned yet? Block cheese that only molded on the edges? Don't toss it! Feed it to the teens in this festively frugal burger!"
Okay, they didn't write that. But they could have.

Oh... they could have.

I only mention this, because with this next burger, you might start to notice a recurring theme...

"Dig right in, for Hamburger Clubs! Includes everything to satisfy a hungry appetite. One bun half holds a juicy cheeseburger and onions, and the other, saucy beans and crisp bacon slices!"
Yes, you read that right: "saucy beans" on the burger... Saucy green beans...


The sauce, in case you were wondering, is soup! Now that's innovation: taking the soup, salad and veg courses and combining them all into one single entree!

Why waste time having to eat course after course? And why waste acreage on your dinner plates, and make more dishes for yourself? Now you can just layer it all onto one single burger-licious, bean-a-lovely dish!

I was waiting to see if they included a burger that also contained the post-dinner hot fudge sundae. But I guess that might be the second edition of Great Ground Beef Recipes.

It does really seem to need chocolate sauce.

Oh wait-- at least, I did find peanut butter!


Yet there are two other important things I learned from this cookbook. One is that cabbage and ground beef are an absolutely inseparable twosome. Like Laurel and Hardy... Abbott and Costello... Lucy and Ethel...

Or Hollywood celeb couples known by cutesy name consolidation, until they break up three months later and regain their individual identities.

I would recommend that the cabbage-meat couple above break up now. Now please. No one wants to see that. Avert your eyes, dear friends.

Also, I cannot explain to you why the ground beef center in this dish seems to be white. Yes, I am as scared by that as you are.

Let's move on to celebrate more wonders with cabbage...

I feel a little sorry for the meatballs in this "Skillet Dinner," actually. They look all confused and out of place, wondering how they managed to accidentally get lost in this vegetable class reunion...


And now we come to the second thing I learned from this cookbook. Not only are cabbage and ground beef tried-and-true performers, but black olives are Artistes!

I mean, just take a look at the zip, the verve, the creative energy they add to this plate of Cabbage Roll-Ups!...


Working with their friend the yellow pepper, olives levitate, they lift, they stand proudly on toothpicks and demand your attention! When you see them on a plate of noodles and cabbage wraps, you think, "Now this... this is class."

Or, sometimes, they put on their fancy plumed hats and do a Vegas showgirl routine!...


That little veg teepee on the left is a "dill pickle fan." But, really, how can it upstage our pert black olive beauties?...


Well, before we go today, I'd wanted to share one last tidbit of information with you from this book...


Heh, no, no... I'm not going to make the obvious joke here. But apparently we can learn that by taking slices of American cheese and arranging them into geometric designs, this is what truly turns a casserole from fine to, erm, fahbulous!

  • Before you go, if you'd care to check out Wednesday's Treasure Box post, where we peruse some journals made out of recycled books, and check out the local farmer's market, click here.
And me, I'm going off to have myself a nice Sunday dinner, complete with cabbage, white beef, dancing olives in elaborate headdresses, topped with spaghetti and a nice peanut butter soup sauce.

Tasty!

19 comments:

Da Old Man said...

Jenn, have you ever made any of these weird recipes? Just curious.

Jenn Thorson said...

Da Old Man- No, I haven't. I do old timey casseroles like tuna noodle and green bean casserole, but I can't summon the courage to do these.

Also, I'm unlikely to carve pickles into a fan. :)

Richard said...

My spouse collects old cookbooks! Very interesting article!

twobarkingdogs said...

Too funny! Have you ever checked out the blog No Pattern Required? She blogs once a week about fixing recipes like this and takes photos and her husband gives his review too.

I am not that brave!

http://www.nopatternrequired.com/?p=1626

If you're interested ... You guys should talk!!

Jenn Thorson said...

Richard- Thanks for popping by!

TwoBarkingDogs- No, I hadn't heard of that one-- and I wholly agree with you, that does take an amazing amount of bravery. Some of these things I have a hard enough time looking at, let alone making and trying to consume.

Of course, some just give me the giggles. :)

Melanie said...

Oh my! Oh Wow! I'm at a loss for words.

Thank goodness I've eaten already. That strange cabbage and mystery meat thing would have put me off my feed completely.

I can remember my mom having cookbooks like that when I was a kid. And then she wondered why I was a picky eater. Even back then I knew food wasn't supposed to look like THAT!

Joyce said...

You made me smile by reading this post. Reminds me of a recipe called Stuffed Burger Bundles and they were stuffed with stuffing mix and then soaked in a can of cream based soup. Yes I use to actually make them and eat them so it is no wonder that I now am on cholesterol meds:) Thankfully I lost the recipe many years ago but it was from a 50s type cookbook.
Joyce

Down Pillow said...

Old cookbooks can be so fun to look through, but the photography sometimes scares me :)

JD at I Do Things said...

Anyone tries putting spaghetti on my burger, and they get an olived toothpick to the eye.

And now I'm off to make a nice chevron-shaped cheese sandwich.

Mandi said...

Oh sure they look great, but how did they taste?! Love all the fancy flourishes they put on the tops of things...by the time you're done fixing it all pretty dinner is cold and you're ready to go out! Just kidding...wow it would be wonderful to have time to make such elaborate meals! Thanks for sharing, I love old cookbooks, and especially those with pictures.

Janelle said...

Ah, I needed those belly laughs! Thanks!

Lauren said...

mmmm i never knew the 60s were so culinarily dangerous... i'm working on decorating my apartment with thrift-store finds, and i'd love to find a cookbook like that for the baker's rack in my kitchen...

also goober burger would be perfect fare for a theme party

Jenn Thorson said...

Melanie- I know, I never had cabbage fear before this post. Now, I think I've probably also caused 400 subscribers to have it! (Sorry folks!)

Joyce- The bundles don't actually sound that bad-- were the insides unnaturally white? :)

JD- Cheese sandwiches always taste so much better when chevroned. :)

Mandi- Yes, can you imagine sculpting your olives and pickles into things? The times they have a-changed.

Janelle- Glad it's some belly laughs and not an ache from the food! :)

Lauren- Oh, it only gets worse the closer you get to the 30s-50s... The decades of gelatin! Let me know how the goober burger goes over with your party guests. :) (They'd be saying, "Um, Lauren, am I tasting... peanut butter in this burger?"

chyna said...

I was horrified by the green looking hamburger, after that it all went down hill fast!

You do seem to find the most amusing cookbooks. If nothing else any guy who decides to marry you will gladly not make you cook once he gets a load of those cookbooks! LOL

Jenn Thorson said...

Chyna- Ha, that just made me laugh out loud.

I'll try to remember to leave a few out prominently in my kitchen. :)

Sharyl said...

Jenn----I absolutely loved your share....I have tears running down my face from laughing...my husband who was working across the room, said what are you laughing about. Well after the jumbo meatball, strange cabbage and the gay cheese--omg you had me at "for the love of julia child.." THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THE FUN!!! loved it. Sharyl

Jenn Thorson said...

Sharyl- See, that just made writing the post entirely worthwhile! Making anybody laugh so their husband wonders what's up? That's the BEST. Thanks for making me smile.

CurryK said...

I'm a little late to the party here, but I've spent the last hour or so drooling over your blog. And then when I hit your posts on the vintage cookbooks... well, I'm pretty sure I've died and gone to heaven. I collect these little masterpieces too and it never fails to amaze me that there are recipes (and photos and descriptions) more "creative" than the ones I have already found! Great post!

Jenn Thorson said...

CurryK- Oh, I'm glad you're enjoying the site--

Plus you've reminded me I haven't done one of these cookbook humor posts in a while. So perhaps I'll have to trot out my collection and see what's cookin'. :)