Kraft Dinner Triumph

IMG_0001 WD 1963 Kraft ad 

It isn’t often that you see the words “Kraft Dinner” and “triumph” in the same sentence, is it? I mean, Kraft Dinner is what you tend to serve up when you feel tired, or cowed by kitchen complexities, or you are totally out of ideas for meals – or maybe you just are in a terrible hurry, or have had small children about all day who really like mac and cheese from a box and – you get the idea. That is when I have tended to serve KD anyway. I don’t think we’ve had it in awhile though (she added a tad defensively). But in Forty Meatless Meal Recipes from Kraft, you might expect to see KD exalted as an ingredient. And so it is, and so it is. The booklet dates from 1958, as per the ad for the Kraft Hour on TV, starring Milton Berle on Kraft Music Hall - on the back inside cover. Berle hosted this only in 1958, so there you go.

Kraft Dinner Triumph 1 7 oz. can tuna, drained
1 Tb chopped green pepper
1 Tb. chopped pimiento
1 1/2 cups hot medium cream sauce
1 pkg Kraft Dinner
Hot cooked sliced carrots, seasoned

Combine the tuna, green pepper and pimiento with the cream sauce, and heat. Prepare the Kraft Dinner as directed on the package. Heap it onto a round serving plate, make a depression in the center, and fill it with the hot tuna mixture. Surround the Kraft Dinner with carrots.

I suppose the carrots act as a sort of moat. It all sounds very creamy and – amorphous. And what the heck is medium cream sauce anyway? Cream sauce is cream sauce, right? Maybe they mean medium thick. Somewhere between whole milk and library paste.

This is just too much work for what you end up with. Kraft Dinner is supposed to be quick and easy. I don’t want to triumph at the table, I just want people to eat it and like it, OK?

Oh, and you will like the household hint at the bottom of the page (every page in the booklet features one of these):

Scrambled eggs take on new color when you stir in 1 tablespoon of orange juice per egg before putting in pan.

Yes, they turn orange. And they will take on a new taste too. It will not be a triumph.


IMG horsford 1886 almanac whopovers

Here we have the oddly named cousin of the popover, from The Horsford 1886 Almanac and Cook Book. Horsford’s was a brand of baking powder  made by the Rumford Chemical Works, which fine company we met briefly on Pi Day. They also made Bread Preparation, Cream Tartar Substitute, Yeast Powder, Acid Phosphate(for drinks), Sulphite (“for preserving cakes”) and Anti-Chlorine (“for paper makers”). I guess if you got tired of preparing bread and drinking phosphates, you could make a little paper. Makes a nice change of pace!


Mix two heaping cups sifted four with one heaping teasponnful Horsford’s Baking Powder; then add two eggs, one large spoonful sugar, a piece of butter as large as a walnut, two cups sweet milk, a little nutmeg and salt; melt the butter. Bake in cups in a quick oven.

The picture above says, “A significant characteristic of Horsford’s Baking powder is its invigorating quality.”

Especially, I would think, Whopovers – which are clearly served to (or rather aimed at) people through some sort of small cannon.

Cottage Cheese Séance

IMG foyle 1968 party book salad

A dinner party suggestion from Christina Foyle’s Party Book (1968). Is it a cocktail? Not really. A salad? Depends on what you call salad. Should you serve it at a dinner party?

Depends on how you feel about the guests, really.

Cottage Cheese Cocktail

1 tin of Fruit Cocktail
Creamed cheese

Method: Line a large glass or bowl with crisp lettuce, add the fruit cocktail and top with the creamed cheese, garnish with walnut halves.

Notice how the jars of walnuts is staring at the salad – or cocktail, sorry. Whatever it is, in the bowl. They are trying to figure out how the single walnut half got stuck in the cottage cheese as if in culinary quicksand. In the lower left corner, a whole walnut manages to escape. This is obviously a place of danger for walnuts.

Also it looks more like a séance, not a dinner party. Maybe they are trying to conjure up something good to eat.

A Sumptuous Pseudo-Scandinavian Treat

IMG BHG Foreign Flair 1963

You learn something every day. Well, theoretically (I don’t, not necessarily. Depends on the day, doesn’t it? Some days feel like the opposite, like I never learn anything – those are the days when I lose stuff and leave the pedometer in the library washroom and forget my sunglasses at home and so on).

But today I learned of a traditional Scandinavian dish, all thanks to Better Homes and Gardens’ Meals With A Foreign Flair (1963). They say “we give a Swedish version” of the famous smorgasbord. “Add Scandinavian trims, if you have them” they say – which seems unlikely, really, doesn’t it? But never mind, because the smorgasbord has got something traditional and “sumptuous” – that word always makes me think of Hyacinth Bucket (pronounced “bouquet’) on the 1990s British sit-com Keeping Up Appearances. Sumptuous was one of her favorite adjectives, although I am not sure that she would apply it to these little guys:

Egg-and-Olive Penguins

Each little fellow is fashioned from a bog hard-cooked egg, a couple of “giant’ ripe olives and a few pieces of carrot.

Cut thin slice from large end of each peeled egg, stand up. Fo penguin;s head, peg olive to egg with toothpick. Use 1/4 of a ripe olive (cut lengthwise) or each wing, a lengthwise sliver for the “necktie”; toothpick in place.

For feet, cut a lengthwise slice of carrot, a little less than 1/8 inch thick; cut the slice crosswise in 3/4-inch lengths. Taper slices of each piece of carrot and notch wide end to make webbed foot; tuck a pair part eay under each egg. Whittle a beak from carrot and push into “head.”

The notched feet and the beak-whittling would be a little bit much for me – carrots are hard to whittle. Not that I have tried it but they probably are.

The burning question here (besides “Why bother?”) is what in the world have penguins got to do with Scandinavia? They live mainly in Antarctica.

How about we relocate them to the mashed-potato/turkey salad igloo? They will feel right at home. Only in this case do not outline the door with olives – that will totally freak them out! That is what their little heads are made of!

Waffles De La Nuit

IMG Reddi-Wip ad WD 1953

When is cake not just cake? When you aim a spritz of fake whipped stuff out of the shaving cream can, that’s when. It’s ready when you are, it is even called Reddi-Wip. (Not suitable for spelling bee receptions, however).

How I love these ads, they are such fun. I love the hyperbole. This is not just fake whipped cream, it is “America’s Favorite Dessert Glamorizer.” It does to the chocolate cake what Maybelline does for your face. It glamorizes it, since “they’ve been taking your chocolate cake for granted.” Yeah, that’s what’s been bothering me. Not the extreme drudgery, the cleaning, the incredibly stupid yellow frilly aprons. It’s that they don’t give the stupid dessert a standing ovation.

Reddi-Wip’s going to change all that. What the hell, it’ll probably change my whole life! The same can will also transform leftover cake and waffles. I don’t know if you can see the amazing recipes at the bottom of the ad but never fear, I can let you in on what is going on down there.

Chocolate Surprise = chunks of stale cake with chocolate pudding dumped on it, topped with you-know-what.

Strawberry Shortcake = biscuit dough spread with butter and brown sugar, rolled up and sliced in 1-inch slices. Bake “as usual” and add strawberries and – some of the stuff in that can of excitement right above the shortcake recipe, yellow like that terrible apron, you do see it don’t you!

And in the middle is my absolute favorite Reddi-Wip masterpiece. Here is Waffles De La Nuit. Waffles De La Nuit! What a fabulous name. Just take a frozen waffle. And – defrost that thing. And slop on some chocolate syrup, maybe some fruit, maybe not. Depends on what you have got on hand that nuit. And finish it off with – that stuff.

That stuff is very modern too, which means it is streamlined and automated and really easy to use. And it “is whipped automatically” – maybe they have a little Mixmaster in the can. Put it on anything – cake, gelatin, pudding, salad – yes, they say salad. Why not on the main course too, because heaven knows that’s probably being taken for granted too.

Believe me, no one will take anything for granted at the table ever again if you lather it with Reddi-Wip.

She Blinded Me With Jell-O

IMG_0001 WD 1961

Here’s the perfect buffet-table dish for physics conferences.

This is from Mary Margaret McBride’s Encyclopedia of Cooking (1960). Volume 1 to be precise, which includes ABC’s For Cooks, Appetizers and Party Snacks, and Bean Bakes. I am not sure what category the Self-Layering Salad comes under, but I am pretty sure that it is not a Bean Bake.

Self-Layering Salad

2 packages orange-flavored gelatin
2 cups hot water
2 cups cold water
1/4 tsp almond extract
2 cups drained sliced Cling peaches, drained (No. 2 1/2 can)
3 medium bananas, sliced

Empty gelatin dessert into 2-quart bowl. Add hot water and stir until gelatin dessert has dissolved. Add cold water and almond extract to gelatin mixture. Cool and pour into a lightly oiled 9 1/2 x 5 1/4 x 2 3/4 inch loaf pan. Add peaches and banana slices to gelatin mixture. Be sure bananas are coated with gelatin mixture. Stir to distribute fruit evenly. Chill in refrigerator until firm.

Peaches will sink to the bottom of loaf pan and bananas will float, making a self-layered salad. Serves 6 to 8.

I guess those peaches did sink – canned peaches are like wet sponges. All that syrup. They even call it heavy syrup. That stuff has a very low center of gravity.

I think this probably is a party snack after all – a party for research scientists. Serve the self-layering salad and have them figure out the physics of the fruit to gelatin ratios. Or devise a few experiments for determining which fruits rise to the top of Jell-O and if so, in what sort of formations. Oh, or whatever. What do you want, I was an English major. They’ll figure something out, believe me. They will just entertain themselves over by the buffet table over there, and then we can sneak off and relax out by the pool with a nice big vodka and tonic. (Well, if we had a pool. But you know what I mean!)

Image is from a 1961 women’s magazine ad, about promoting higher education. It claims that the guy is a high school student in a physics lab. I don’t like the look of the glowing smoking stuff on the right though. And I don’t see a classroom in the background. However, the ad says “who is to say that he won’t someday be a brilliant scientist.”  Me, I will say he won’t. For one thing, a brilliant scientist would wear protective goggles around that stuff on the right. And turn on the overhead lights too.

What I think he should do is get out of the lab and start making Jell-O salads instead.

Turkey and Igloos For The Go-Go Set

IMG cooking ontario's turkey 1957

I have a couple of booklets about cooking things in Ontario, which theoretically is perfect for me, since I live there. One is called Cooking Ontario’s Eggs and the other is Cooking Ontario’s Turkey (apparently there is only one turkey in the province, better make good use of the leftovers!).

Of course I keep wishing that one was called Cooking Ontario’s Goose, but no such luck. The booklets were both produced by the Poultry Products Institute of Canada in Toronto, circa 1957. You can imagine the pedestrian nature of most of the text – how to cook the turkey in an oven, how to make stuffing, how to boil eggs. And then there is a recipe for turkey burgers or meatballs - “for the Go-Go Set.” The burger has a face and a hat. The photo is above. What is the Go-Go Set, pray tell? Perhaps they are go-going far away from the smiling turkey burger. I would, certainly. They are probably not reading this book. Why, they are doing the Peppermint Twist at the go-go, Poultry Institute People – not home reading up on how to make Hot Turkey Salad For the Church or Club Supper.

And then I came upon this little item. This must be where the turkey burger and his groovy meatball friends live.

Igloo Turkey Salad

3 cups well-seasoned mashed potato salad
3 cups well-seasoned turkey salad
2-3 Tbs mayonnaise

Use a large round-bottomed bowl (6-cup size). Spread mayonnaise as evenly as possible around inside of bowl. Carefully(and lightly) press all but one cup of potato salad in a layer about an inch thick around sides and over bottom of bowl. Spoon turkey salad into the centre. Press down lightly. Smooth remaining potato salad lightly over top to seal in the turkey salad. Chill an hour or longer. To unmold, run a thin knife carefully around inside of bowl, place a serving plate face down on top of bowl and quickly invert plate and bowl in smooth motion with a slight bounce as the bowl is turned completely upside down.

Garnish serving plate with lettuce and radish roses or tomato wedges. Cut with a knife into wedges with a wide flat pie server. Yields six servings.

For a buffet supper or teenage party the illusion of an igloo may be carried farther by scoring the surface of the unmolded salad to represent blocks piled up as in making a real igloo. Use strips of green pepper or ripe olives to outline the door.

First of all, I would like to know what mashed-potato salad is supposed to be. It doesn’t exist in nature, that’s what. But then neither do turkey-salad igloos. I guess it is mashed potato and mayonnaise. But you are smearing mayo in the bowl right away anyhow. That is a lot of mayo.

And I don’t think they use radish roses and tomato wedges as architectural decoration in the Arctic. Or anywhere. Or green peppers and olives as door frames.

Finally, why do 1950s cookbook writers think that teenagers – even 1950s teenagers – will be impressed by you scoring bricks into the mashed potatoes? Particularly since this thing will never ever unmold properly. It will just be a mashed-potato slag heap (perhaps an evocation of 1950s Sudbury?). Really, you need some industrial-strength gelatin to reinforce this sort of structure.

If we really want to cook Ontario’s turkey (or goose), let’s build something a little more geographically appropriate than an igloo (talk about your Canadian stereotyping). Maybe a CN Tower made of celery and turkey wings.

Mayonnaise Cakes And Victory Mops

IMG Jessie DeBoth flyer 1942

It was surprisingly hard to find a mayonnaise cake. I was quite sure I had come across this oddity several times. When you have a lot of old cookbooks you start forgetting where you saw a certain weird thing. I am going to start writing interesting things on notecards so that I can access them for posts – a Rolodex of the Absurd.

Anyway, I found some brownies and date nut cupcakes in a Miracle Whip booklet entitled “Who’d a thunk it!”  Not me, looking at some of the other things in here, like Fruit Filled Lettuce and Frosted Pears (how they loved to frost things back in the day, didn’t they!).

Date Nut Cupcakes

1 cup Miracle Whip Salad Dressing
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 cups sifted pastry flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 cup cold water
1/2 cup chopped pitted dates
1/2 cup chopped nuts
2 Tbs grated orange rind

Combine Miracle Whip, sugar and vanilla. Sift together flour, soda, baking powder, salt and nutmeg; add alternately with water, mixing well after each addition. Stir in dates, nuts and orange rind. Place paper bake cups in muffin pans; fill 2/3 full. Bake at 375 degrees, 35-40 minutes. Frost if desired. [Makes] 18 cupcakes.

The brownies are a standard recipes substituting mayonnaise for eggs and oil – so I guess it is perfectly reasonable, if you look at it that way. And if you didn’t have eggs or oil, you could probably get away with a little mayonnaise in their place. It’s just that it sounds so – salady. Jessie DeBoth doesn’t care about that though – she’s going to call it like she sees it. And what she sees is a mayonnaise cake, that’s what.

The recipe for “Mayonnaise Cake” in  Jessie Marie DeBoth’s 1942 opus,  Jessie Marie DeBoth’s Cut dollars from your food bill Cookbook.Ms. DeBoth was the Director of the Toronto Star’s Cooking and Home-Maker’s School. The photo of her is from a handout from one of her cooking demonstrations, that I found tucked inside the cookbook. It took place at Toronto’s Massey Hall in March 1942. One of the many corporate sponsors was O-Cedar of Canada, makers of the O-Cedar Victory Mop. How wonderful is that – naming a mop a Victory Mop?

Almost as wonderful as a mayonnaise cake!

Jessie Marie DeBoth’s Mayonnaise Cake

1 cup sugar
1 1/2 oz. chocolate, melted
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg, beaten with 3/4 cup salad oil to make mayonnaise
1 3/4 cup sifted flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup coarsely chopped nutmeats
1 tsp soda
1 cup boiling water
1 cup seedless raisins
1 tsp vanilla

METHOD: Combine sugar, melted chocolate, cinnamon and salt with the egg and oil mayonnaise. Mix and sift the dry ingredients, pour the boiling water over the nuts and raisins and let stand [a] few minutes. Add the dry ingredients to the sugar and mayonnaise mixture, then stir in the drained fruit and nuts with the flavoring, mix well but do not beat. Bake in greased baking pan about 60 minutes in moderate oven, 350 degrees. Frost with seven-minute double-boiler frosting.

She suggested that you serve this in December with Mutton Cutlets, Brown Gravy, Mashed Potatoes, Canned Peas, and Fig and Cream Cheese Salad. (There were menus for all twelve months, with and without meat, because of war rationing).

I find it curious that she did not use prepared mayonnaise but homemade – in which case, what was the point? Why not use eggs and oil as separate components in the cake? Hellmann’s was the first commercial mayonnaise and it was first sold widely in 1912; by the 1930s there were several brands available (although maybe not in Canada). So it seems that she is going out of her way to make it known that this cake was a mayonnaise one.

Her cookbook and the handout are terrific, full of things I want to write about later on. But for now let me draw your attention to her spectacular blouse, complete with her initials, and yin-yang like star-burst pattern. She looks like she would have been a lot of fun. I would have gone to her cooking demonstrations. Oh, and I also wish I could get a Victory Mop – we need more victorious cleaning implements around our house.

Artful Ways To Frost And Decorate…The Main Course

IMG Swans Down promo 1947

I had never heard of a frosted ham until I read about it in Carolyn Coggins’ Successful Entertaining At Home (1952). She is the lady who writes about how to give a cocktail party in a tiny apartment when your kitchen is so small that it can be concealed behind a curtain (i.e. about the size of a shower stall). She got the ham idea from “the chef at the Caribe Hilton in Puerto Rico [who] arranges the most beautiful buffet each Sunday evening that I have ever seen.” His 35′ long buffet table is full of “breathtaking things” which include “an enormous frosted ham.” (The use of this adjective always reminds me of the Seinfeld episode called “The Hamptons,” in which an ugly baby and Elaine are both called “breathtaking.”)

Frosted Ham

For frosted ham (let us pretend you have two small ones), neither score nor glaze, but bake until completely done. When the rind has been removed, cool and slice one ham, leaving the other whole. Make whatever size slices you desire, half or fourth of a slice wedges. Cover the whole ham with iced, boiled frosting and decorate with candied fruits, citron and fruit peels exactly as you would decorate a handsome cake. Then use the same frosting and similar decorations for the ham slices, arranging them on a large tray so tht people can help themselves.

This is really reminding me of that sausage Bundt cake I wrote about awhile ago. Why would you want a ham to look like a big old fruitcake, no matter how “handsome’ it was? I understand that ham goes well with sweet things like – well, sweet potatoes, and pineapple if you must. Or a spiced fruit compote, maybe – though that would be better with pork chops or something. But boiled or royal icing – not so much. And what about the business of decorating each slice individually? That sounds like a good way to drive myself crazy AND make a mess.

But people liked their frosted hams, apparently. Take a look at this ad from 1959 – just mentally add some candied fruit and you have Ms. Coggins’ masterpiece. Although it is studded with little greenish dots – so that frosting could be cream cheese and chives. I can’t read the text so I don’t know.

We are having a roast ham today and it will not be coming anywhere near cake frosting or candied cherries either!

Ms. Coggins also suggests that for Easter we can also “mold colored gelatin half-eggs in egg cups” and stick them together with mayonnaise “to make an Easter egg dessert.” No, no – please. No mayonnaise in the dessert – and no icing on the ham! Why don’t we just switch  them quietly and see if that isn’t loads better.

[P.S. I know that you can use mayonnaise in some cake recipes; I will go and find one to share with you for my next post, to contrast with the frosted ham].

What Every Candymaker Wants To Know

IMG_0001 1971 culinary arts

Well, where the sugar is, for one thing. Only that is not what the Culinary Arts Encyclopedic Cookbook (1971) means, precisely. They mean that you want to know how to jazz up your boring old candy with food colorings, nuts, coconut (yay, coconut work!), glacé syrup all over it. And also “making fascinating designs with pulled sugar or gossamer nests of spun sugar [which] lift a candymaker from the mediocre class.”

What if you made boring designs with the pulled sugar, or your spun-sugar nests were a little – twiggy looking? You’ll be held back to repeat the medoicre class, that’s what. But to tell you the truth, the Skuse’s Complete Confectioner from yesterday is really for the professionals. I was going to give you some more of those recipes, but you sort of need a starch machine and a Cream or Bonbon Warmer and, well, all sorts of things. And even though a Bonbon Warmer sounds fun, I don’t think I can get one at Wal-Mart or even Williams-Sonoma.

So today we will be making some candy with Ruth Berolzheimer & Co. I love the photo above, by the way. I’ll bet “the results are a joy forever” – if you like cleaning your kitchen again and again and never quite getting all the sugar off. Or if you plan to keep the spun sugar under glass on the mantelpiece.

Jam Sandwiches

Cut fondant into small squares, putting two squares together with a little strawberry or raspberry jam. Dip in melted chocolate.

Baked Fruit Fudge

2 Tbs butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, separated
2 squares chocolate, melted
1 tsp lemon extract
1 tsp orange extract
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup dates, raisins, figs, candied pineapple or cherries, chopped

Cream the butter and sugar together, then add the beaten egg yolks, melted chocolate, and extracts; beat well. Thoroughly bend in the flour and fold in the stiffly beaten egg whites Pour over the fruit arranged in a buttered baking pan and bake for avbout 30 minutes in a  slow oven (300 degrees). When cool, cut in squares.

I can’t resist this final recipe, since I always like recipes with strange names. I understand why it is called this, technically (sort of like the Krunchy Goo – it’s crunchy and it’s gooey) – it will stick to your teeth and by inference, to your jaw. But why would you put the lockjaw imagery into people’s minds in the first place?


3 cups granulated sugar
3 cups brown sugar
6 Tbs glucose
4 cups water
1 tsp almond extract
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 cups shredded coconut

Place the sugars, glucose and water in a large saucepan and cook to 312 degrees. Add the extracts and coconut. Pour into an oiled platter and when cold, cut into squares.

This actually sounds rather good – I would rename it if I was passing a plate of it around. Coconut Praline Fudge would be a good name.

Ultimately what every candymaker wants to know is: why can’t we just buy some candy for once. It’s hot and sticky in there with the pots and the sugar and the candy thermometer. Believe me, I know about all that. Stick-Jaw nothing, how about Stick-Fingers, Stick-Pots and Stick-Countertops!