A well-prepared dish and an appetizing meal is a creative
I shall derive happiness from work itself.
-The Cook's Creed, The Modern Family
yall might remember from last year, The Goddess of Foof
LOVES Thanksgiving! Me and The Husband-Type Man host dinner
for our families every year, and, in the course of this tradition,
weve gotten quite fond of giving the meal an annual
theme/spin. At first, it was just enough that we were preparing
something other than my Grams canned-green-bean casserole
or his moms processed turkey loaf. We could be as foofy
as our hearts desired. But with each year, its gotten
more and more out of hand. Like last year. Last year, we hosted
the gloriously Snotty and Pretentious Thanksgiving Dinner.
Then, I proudly proclaimed:
Yeah, we could just crank open a can of pitted black
olives or grab the nearest box of stuffing... but why?
Why spoil the integrity of a sublime roasted turkey,
a gourmet dish of mashed potatoes, an exotic mushroom
loaf or succulent asparagus dish or homemade pumpkin
bread pudding with... Cool Whip? Canned cranberry sauce?
Or, heaven help me, a... a... a casserole made with
cream of mushroom soup... from a CAN! The horrors! No
Thanksgiving 2001? Quite different!
This year, thanks to the publication of Mr.
James Lileks book version of The
Gallery of Regrettable Food, weve hit on a rather
special theme. When I discovered that Gram and Mom actually
OWNED a couple of the cookbooks/booklets featured in the Gallery,
Yes, welcome to The Thanksgiving of Regrettable Food!
Predictably, Mom and Gram expressed dissent when I mentioned
this to them. Oh, honey, Mom groaned, dont
make a whole meal of things no one can eat! Um, Mom?
It wont be all that different than canned-green-bean
casserole and canned-sweet-potatoes w/marshmallows, then,
would it?! Ha! Ha! Ha hahahahaaaaa! But no, we arent
actually making pigeon pie, Mary Margaret McBrides Link
Loaf, or Ketchup-Pistachio Cake
yet we ARE taking our
dishes and, especially, presentation straight from the regrettable
pages of Grams old cookbooks/Mr. Lileks site.
Curly parsley! Jell-o molds! PIMENTO! Yes, yes, yes!
Here, Mrs. Homemaker, is a book to
take to your heartand to your kitchen!
Yes, over the years, Ive been pinching the old cookbooks
that Mom and Gram never ever EVER use. Ive referred
to them in the past for theme parties; the appetizer sections,
in particular, are an inspiration for a variety of Lounge-related
parties. But things coalesced when I brought The Gallery of
Regrettable Food book down to show Mom and Gram, and by coincidence
was helping myself to the last two cookbooks buried behind
a Price Club package of 400 paper plates stashed in the cupboard
above the oven. I started paging through the appetizer section
of one of them when
Frankfurters take on a new
glamour in this gleaming aspic. And the next page, why,
it was the tuna loaf with the spinal column! And the next
page, chicken shortcake served individually! Manna
from heaven, in the form of The Culinary Arts Institute
Encyclopedic Cookbook by Ruth Berolzheimer, 1968.
Also included in our cookbook inspiration are:
- The Modern Family Cookbook by Meta Given, 1942
- Womans Home Companion Cook Book by P.F. Collier
& Son Corporation, 1942
- McCalls Cook Book by the Food Editors of
All quotes throughout this entry are courtesy of The Modern
Family Cookbook. Most recipes are to serve 6; adjust
My familys satisfaction with my table setting
and service is my responsibility: therefore
I will manage my linens and other equipment, my
method of work, the assistance of my family, to the
end that the table shall be clean and beautiful and
service easy and dignified."
-The Family Hostess Creed
As with any meal (in my world), the décor is important
as well. I mean, der. And, by happy coincidence, the refurbishing
of the Breakfast Nook and the Lounge here at the Mansion is
going to be complete in time for the holidays! The old lady
pinkness, the Formica, the quilted leather, the atomic wallpaper
all will help to contribute to the Era of Regrettable Food
atmosphere. Moreover, THTMs mom has been cleaning out
their garage, and weve scored, as a result, some FABULOUS
dishes and glassware from the 40s and 50s! Rock ON! So the
dining room will be rigged out with Grams Plastic Tablecloth
(the festive embossed holiday version), various platters and
molded things, and as much Melmac as I can rustle up. The
table centerpiece, in fact, will be a gelatin mold of the
most noxious variety, and Ill accent with what Moms
old BH&G cookbook calls harvest fruit: nuts,
small pumpkins, Indian corn, gourds, the usual horn o
plenty stuff. The sideboard is an Ikea table that
I used to use as a desk, but have now painted white and covered
with bodacious yellow oilcloth; the sideboard will be decked
out with the punchbowls and some sort of era-appropriate flower,
like yellow pom poms and/or white mums.
But above and beyond, were providing something special
this year: souvenirs!
trip back to the East Coast in October, THTM and I took
a couple of days to drive up the coast and wander around looking
at Fall Colors. We ended up in Plymouth one morning, and,
thanks to a very SPECIAL gift shop, we stocked up on vinyl-covered
Pilgrim and Mayflower placemats, erasers shaped like Miles
Standish and Squanto, and various postcards. Something for
everyone! We may use the postcards as placecards, in fact
We thought long and hard about the appropriate music for
The Thanksgiving of Regrettable Food. Regrettable music, certainly,
is a must. But we didnt want to do the same old Lounge
Tunes. Whilst wandering around NYC the other week, The Husband-Type
Man and I got to discussing what music wed associate
with that sort of 1950s mentality
and suddenly, I remembered
La Mesa Music. No, you cant buy it at any
stores. See, when I was little, like 4-5, I lived in Santee.
Gramma and Papa lived in La Mesa. On my moms car radio,
whenever we went anywhere, was then-popular adult contemporary
music. Mac Davis. Starlight Vocal Band. Elton John. That kind
of stuff. And Gramma and Papas LTD car radio was always
playing E-Z Listenin music. Big bands. Doris Day. Andy
Williams. Perry Como. I just thought that if you got your
car in Santee, like we did, it played Santee Music, and if
you got your car in La Mesa, like Gramma and Papa, it played
La Mesa Music. And so when we were driving someplace in the
LTD and Mom switched the radio station, I was baffled. I
thought this car only played La Mesa Music!
To this day, Grams 1940s E-Z Listenin music is
known as La Mesa Music.
So yeah, were gonna find us an LA radio station playing
La Mesa Music for the occasion.
Ive got a stunning polka-dot dress from the 50s that
I was hoping to break out by the holiday dinner, but my Weight
Watching has hit a yucky plateau this month, and I might not
be able to squeeze into it just yet. No worries! I have a
LOVELY chiffon apron to deck myself out in! Now Ive
just gotta hit Gram up to pincurl my hair
My familys enjoyment of food is my responsibility;
I will increase their pleasure by planning for variety,
for flavorful dishes, for attractive color, for appetizing
-The Cook's Creed
this is where is all comes together!
Eggplant/Red Cabbage Porcupine
Gram does a similar thing with a tinfoil-wrapped grapefruit,
but Ill take this one crucial, classier step than that
and stick my hors doeuvres into a colorful vegetable
instead. And Ill honk up the cheese and ham cubes and
Vienna wieners slices and olives and cocktail onions with
something more interesting. For instance
at the risk
of poaching on Mr. Lileks territory, enjoy this quote
from our mutual copies of The Culinary Arts Institute Encyclopedic
Cookbook : Almost anything you like can be rolled
in bacon, oven or pan-broiled, and served on picks.
Well, okay, then! Lets make us some Bacon Rolls!
8 strips bacon
4 tablespoons peanut butter
Spread strips of uncooked bacon with peanut butter.
Roll up tightly and fasten with toothpick. Broil until
crisp and serve on hors doeuvres server.
Broil each of the following until bacon is crisp:
Spread a slice of bacon with 1 teaspoon finely crated
cheese and 1/4 teaspoon chutney or India relish. Roll
Roll 1/2inch cube of aged Cheddar cheese in the
Roll large pickled onion in 1/2 slice of bacon.
Wrap rolled anchovies in bacon.
Wrap shrimp in bacon.
Cut stuffed olives into halves, put together with cheese
spread, wrap in bacon.
Stuff large cooked prunes with American cheese.
A variation of the Retro Cocktail Party staple
1 egg white
2 ounces Roquefort cheese
8 crackers or 8 (2-inch) bread rounds
Beat egg white until stiff; cream cheese, fold in beaten
egg white and heap on crackers. Bake in slow oven (300*
F.) 15 minutes or until brown. Garnish with paprika.
Every appetizer section of these old cookbooks shows those
red-wax rounds of cheese in SOME capacity. Arrange on a small
cheese plate with crackers and a few artful parsley sprigs.
Deviled ham eggs
To get the yolks in the middle of the egg, start the eggs
in cold water, keep moving them around, and never bring them
to a full boil.
6 hard-cooked eggs
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup finely chopped ham
3/4 cup Mayonnaise
Cut eggs into halves crosswise. Remove yolks, mash and
mix with remaining ingredients. Fill whites, sprinkle
with paprika. Decorate with sieved egg whites and chopped
Arrange celery stalks on a glass tray with lots of leafy
greens. You can fill in cracks with tomato- or hard-cooked
egg wedges, or deviled egg halves.
Whip 1/4 -cup cream cheese with 2 tablespoons chopped
black olives and 1/4 teaspoon lemon juice. Pipe or spread
into celery stalks.
3-oz cream cheese
1/4 cup creamy-style peanut butter
2 tablespoons light cream
1 tablespoon finely chopped onion
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
8 stalks celery
1/2 cup chopped salted peanuts
In small bowl, with wooden spoon, cream cheese and peanut
butter until well combined. Blend in cream, onion and
curry powder. Fill celery stalks. Sprinkle with peanuts.
Refrigerate 30 minutes before serving.
[Beverages] are also socially valuable, being practically
indispensable for all the between-meal refreshments
which are served to guests, as well as for planned entertainments.
Spiced Apple Cider
I made a special trip with Mommy to the Julian
Apple Festival to stock up on cider (and pies, but thats
1 quart sweet apple cider
8 whole allspice
8 whole cloves
1 stick cinnamon
Few grains salt
1/4 cup brown sugar, well-packed
Put cider into saucepan, add the spices, salt and sugar,
and cover; heat very slowly to the boiling point. Heat
should be so low that it takes the cider about a half
an hour to come to a boil. Remove from heat, strain,
and serve steaming hot.
Grape Juice Float
This is a honked-up version of The Husband-Type Mans
Familys favorite holiday drink: grape juice and ginger
3 cups grape juice
1/2 cup lemon juice
1 cup apple cider
1/4 cup sugar, or to suit taste
1 cup ginger ale
1 pint orange ice
Combine grape juice, lemon juice and cider, and sweeten
to suit taste. Just before serving add ginger ale. Fill
glasses about 3/4 full and drop a scoop of orange ice
on top. Serve immediately.
Who for such dainties would not stoop? Soup
of the evening, Beautiful soup
Cream of Corn Soup
Every good hostess has a starter for formal meals, you
1 cup fresh corn
2 cups canned creamed corn
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon minced onion
2 cups milk
Simmer corn and soup together for 20 minutes. Press
through a coarse sieve. Melt butter, blend in flour,
salt, pepper and onion; add milk gradually. Heat to
boiling, stirring constantly, and add strained corn.
Cook until thickened, about 5 minutes. Serve garnished
Food is actually more beneficial to the body
when it can be eaten in an atmosphere of good humor
The homemaker, as hostess to her family, can set the
pattern and guide them to make mealtime an event to
anticipate with joy and recall with pleasure.
Cucumbers in Sour Cream
Gram digs stuff like this. So does THTM, for that matter.
1 large cucumber
1 cup thick sour cream
1 tablespoon chopped onion
3 tablespoons vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
Pare cucumber. Run tines of fork lengthwise of the cucumber
and cut crosswise into thin slices. Combine remaining
ingredients and pour over sliced cucumber. Marinate
Cranberry Ring Salad
The Culinary Arts Institute Encyclopedic Cookbook
version shows it filled with shrimp and garnished with
pineapple slices and cream cheese. Ooh. Nummy.
2 cups cranberries
1 1/2 cups cold water
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon unflavored gelatin
1/2 cup chopped nuts
3/4 cup diced celery
Wash cranberries, add 1 cup cold water. Cook until tender.
Add sugar and cook for 5 minutes. Soften gelatin in
1/2 cup cold water, dissolve in hot cranberries.
Chill until mixture begins to thicken. Add nuts and
celery/ Mix thouroughly. Pour into oiled ring mold.
Chill until firm. Unmold and place on large salad plate.
Place light lettuce around salad, arrange shrimp in
cender, or serve on a bed of chicory on individual plates
and garnish with mayonnaise.
According to my copy of The Modern Family Cookbook,
How long do you need to cook the Thanksgiving turkey
this year? Heres a way to find out for yourself, with
no ifs or buts: Just simmer the giblets a day ahead of time,
note how long the gizzard takes to become tender, and add
one hourand thats the length of time your turkey
should be roasted! Get right on that, okay?
Mashed Potatoes and Gravy
Another helpful hint from The Modern Family Cookbook:
Gravy should always go to the table piping hot. The
gravy boat may be heated thoroughly before the gravy is poured
into it, by letting boiling water stand in it for a few minutes.
My stuffing is a top-secret recipe, combining several
cookbooks directions/hints, plus some improv-ing of
my own. I refuse to reveal my secrets
my stuffing is
THAT fabulous. But the Regrettable aspect is one of my regular
a plastic tube of Farmer John pork sausage.
Cant serve too many rings for The Thanksgiving of
Regrettable Food! And, I guess, according to The Culinary
Arts Institute Encyclopedic Cookbook, you cant serve
too many rings filled with shrimp, neither. (Well prolly
skip that part, in fact.)
3 cups Cooked Spinach
1 cup White Sauce*
3 eggs, beaten; 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
Chop spinach fine, combine with white sauce, add eggs,
salt and pepper and pour into greased ring mold. Place
in pan of hot water and bake in moderate oven (350*F.)
30 to 40 minutes. Fill the spinach ring with creamed
shrimp and garnish with hard-cooked egg wedges.
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup milk
_ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
Melt butter and blend in flour. Add warm milk gradually,
stirring constantly. Reduce heat and cook 3 minutes
longer; add seasonings.
Bologna Cups with Peas
The second we saw this recipe, we KNEW, just KNEW deep
in our SOULS that it was DESTINED for The Thanksgiving of
Regrettable Food. THTM prepared it with a deep sense of pride.
6 (1/8-inch) slices Bologna
2 tablespoons butter
2 cups seasoned Cooked Peas
2 cups cooked rice
1 peeled tomato
Spread Bologna with butter, and place in heated broiler.
As the slices heat they will take the shape of cups.
Fill with hot peas and arrange around mound of rice.
Cut tomato into wedges and place between cups. Garnish,
if desired, with sliced hard-cooked egg and green pepper
Sweetpotato [sic] Biscuits
Down home harvest goodness!
1 1/2 cups sifted flour
2 tablespoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cold shortening
1 cup milk
1 1/2 cup mashed sweetpotatoes
Sift flour, baking powder and salt together. Cut in
shortening. Combine milk and sweetpotatoes. Add to first
mixture and stir quickly. Kneed lightly, using as little
flour as possible on board. Roll out to 1/2-inch thickness;
cut with floured cutters. Place on greased baking sheet
and bake in hot oven (425* F.) 12-15 minutes
One function of desserts is to produce a sense
of complete satisfaction at the end of the mealwhich
is a good enough reason for trying every one of the
recipes in this chapter. But youll probably need
no coaxing to do that, for where is the hostess who
doesnt love to hear the Ohs and Ahs
that are sure to greet a particularly delectable dessert?
Corn Sirup [sic] Spice Cake
Gram, who grew up in North Dakota, pronounces syrup
as sirp, one syllable. This old-time sirup
cake, then, is just for her.
1/2 cup shortening
1 cup dark corn sirup
3 egg yolks
1/2 cup milk
2 cups sifted cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon mace
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon salt
Cream shortening, add sirup gradually, creaming continually.
Add well-beaten egg yolks. Beat in half of milk and
1 cup flower. Add remaining milk and fold in remaining
flour sifted 3 times with baking powder, spices and
salt. Turn into greased deep 8-inch square pan and bake
in moderate oven (350*F.) 45 minutes.
"Garnishes are to foods what lace collars,
belt buckles and costume jewelry are to dresses. And
just like these ornamental accessories, garnishes must
be well-chosen and well-placed to fulfill their function
at the dinner table. If your garnishing repertoire is
limited to a couple of bunches of parsley on the meat
platter and a sprig of mint floating in the orangeade
youll find that this chapter opens a fascinating
The garnishes MAKE the Regrettable Food regrettable you know.
But theyre serviceable as well
they hold slippery
deviled eggs in place, fill in spaces in a too-large serving
platter, even provide a subtle infusion of flavor.
Some indispensable items for this particular meal include:
This is the big pimpin stud mac daddy of garnishes.
It is EVERYWHERE in these old cookbooks. Deviled eggs? Garnished
with pimento. Corn OBrien? Garnished with pimento. Cheese
bakes? Pimento. Salmon rice loaf? Pimento. Halibut Salad,
Horse-Radish Molds, Spanish Rice? Pimento, pimento, pimento.
You can make eggs in pimento cups, mushroom-pimento sauce,
stuffed pimento hors doeuvres -
Black or green, preferably canned. Use them sliced on
top of molds and loafs, to decorate canapés, or sprinkled
over salads. Whole ones are groovy combined with other appetizers
(bacon roll, anyone?) or just served on their own.
In this case, curly, if you please. Everything from deviled
eggs to the turkey itself can be plunked on a bed of parsley.
Especially carrot curls. Using a potato peeler, scrape down
a carrot on one side until you get wide slices with both the
middle part and the outside together. Curl them up, spear
em with a toothpick to hold them, and put them in water
in the fridge for at least six hours. Voila!
A festive touch to any molded salad, THE thing to use on cakes,
can be served broiled or fresh
SO exotic and Polynesian!
The tiny sweet ones, mind. As with olives, you can wrap these
up in bacon or cheese or pastry and call em hors doeuvres.
You can serve them on their own. Or you can get fancy and
cut them into pickle fans.
Slices, halves, chopped sprinkles
. Even if a dish has
no apparent relation to egg whatsoever (Jell-O, fruit cocktail,
greens), you can garnish it with a natty egg slice on top,
or a lump of chopped egg scattered on top, or a dozen egg-halves
perched around festively.
bell pepper/red pepper
Julienne slices, rings, or chopped. You can wrap them around
bundles of green beans or asparagus. You can sprinkle them
over dips. They add color and contrast to any dish!
Cut into roses, natch. I havent mastered this art yet,
but Ive got my paring knife ready for the big day!
kale, Swiss chard, romaine lettuce, endive
Any leafy, fluffy, colorful green works well as plate- and
platter foof. Use them as cups to cradle mounds of ambrosia
fruit salad, make a bed for a molded loaf, or break off smaller
pieces to fill in cracks in an appetizer platter.
If youre in a hurry, use slices or halves to garnish
a platter. If you have a little time, use broiled halves to
garnish. If you have lots of time and a sharp knife, make
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