Harben’s Alligator

Well, not a real alligator, of course. It’s just that when I came across this photograph in Philip Harben’s Cookery Encyclopedia (1955) I was quite startled for a moment.

But this is, in fact, a gurnet, which is a kind of fish.

It really does look menacing on that plate, though. And the shadow/plate design just under the head looks like a big jaw with long teeth.

Philip Harben was a British cooking authority of the 1940s and 1950s. He wrote a cooking column for Women’s Own magazine, and wrote many cookbooks. He also had the first TV cooking show ever, in 1946, on the BBC. It was called Cookery. (And that is about as many times as I want to use words beginning with c-o-o-k in one paragraph!)

And gurnet or gurnard is a rather cheap, inexpensive and bony fish. Apparently Mrs. Beeton had a recipe for it, see here. It does look bony, doesn’t it? And like it’s ready for a good meal itself, as opposed to vice versa.Philip Harben caricature 1955

No Can Do

Poppy Cannon (nee Lillian Gruskin) was a food editor at the Ladies’ Home Journal and House Beautiful who also wrote a few cookbooks, including this one – behold, The Can Opener Cookbook!

You’ll be relieved to know that of course Poppy does not wish us to saute our can openers, but to open up the wonderful array of cans we have got on our shelves and voila! Gourmet dishes aplenty!

She asks: Have you a chafing dish? a crepe suzette pan? a cut-glass punch bowl? [No ma'am...not really, no. My mother had a cut-glass punch bowl but it is in storage. Not here in my house. I guess that's a no.]

Keep them in mind when you begin to think about “what shall we have to eat?” and don’t be self-conscious about repeating your specialties or even your menus. [Oh, believe you me - I am not self-conscious about repeating my  - specialties. Not even an 'OMG, not this again' can deter me when it's 5pm and I am desperate.]

You see, if you put canned things in fancy dishes  – and sprinkle them with toasted almonds or India relish (or both! why not both!) – they will be gourmet. And delicious!

Here is one of Poppy’s gourmet recipes, featuring our old friend, Underwood’s Devilled Ham Spread. Because this is well after the war, and you don’t need to spread it thin.  Glop it on, discerning diners!

Cannon pate 1

That’s “crock” just above, not “croc” by the way – you’ll be glad to know.

I thought that Smithfield hams came in one piece in their cans, and Poppy never explains what you would do with a whole ham. I know, I know, you’re supposed to grind it up. But she ought to say so.

And just look at the gorgeous cover! That must be one of Poppy’s gourmet menus – brought to you today by the color red! Tomato aspic ring, red punch with lemon slices, and red other stuff with pastry leaves on top. And cans of cherry pie filling and tomato sauce.

Oh, also a can of tuna and some canapes which have levitated, swami-like, just over the Westinghouse can opener.

The pink Devilled Ham glop will color-coordinate just perfectly with all of that.

The Golden (Brownie) Ratio

It has been awhile, I know, since we had any recipes or – well – kitchen-related retro, around this joint. I know, I know! It gives the blog title an ironic twist, which can be fun but it only goes so far. Whatever that means. Anyway, there will be kitchen kitsch and kitchen retro, sometimes. And look what we have here on Vintage Thingies Thursday (for that is what Thursday means around here, thanks to the Apron Queen, who reigns supreme over this weekly Retro-palooza) – why, I do declare! It’s an old advertisement AND a recipe!

Cocoanut Brownies ad 1953

Oh, and also we have a cutesy play on words. Golden-brown and golden-brownies. I get it. That’s mildly amusing!

The recipe is notable for its use of melted coconut candy bars which “are rich in natural shortening” (that would be the coconut – pardon me, cocoanut – but I think they might put in extra lard or Crisco or something in the bars, too).

The actual bar looks more fun than the brownies, which pale quite literally in contrast to the dark chocolate bar. I prefer dark chocolate myself. I can imagine setting out to make this and then just saying the hell with it and serving the Welch’s Cocoanut Bars as they are.

This is a “kitchen-tested recipe” – why are they so proud of this? I guess we should be glad they didn’t try to make the golden-brownies over a campfire or in a hotpot or something. I once tried to make Kraft Dinner in a hotpot (I was living in a dorm, don’t ask). It didn’t work out, let’s just leave it at that. The hotpot was never the same again. (And this is why this is not a straight cooking blog, folks!)

Finally, we also get a Happy Hint. Who doesn’t love a Happy Hint! The Hint being that the Welch’s people would be really Happy if you bought a lot of their candy bars and forced them on your friends and relations pretty much ’round the clock.

No, you know what, I want to see an All Right Hint: “This product is – well, it’s all right. There’s probably better candy bars out there, but ours are OK and they’re pretty cheap, really.  Just buy a couple of bars. Please. If you feel like it.”

Ice Cream Quickies

GH Ice cream pic 1950s

Sealtest answers the perennial question “What can I serve that’s a little different?” That’s what they say they are answering, anyway…

The answers depend on how many gallons of Sealtest ice cream you happen to have on hand, though.

For example, suppose it is Election Day. Party time, right? What are you going to do about that? You make a Ballot Box, of course:


Turn out contents of half-gallon pkg. Sealtest chocolate ice cream on serving platter. Make a “slot” in the center and write “Ballot Box” above it, using stifflu whipped cream put through pastry tube. Decorate around top and base and down corner edges with flutings of whipped cream. Place cookie donkeys and elephants on top and sides.

You make the cookies from butter cookie dough, using those donkey and elephant cookie cutters that everyone has lying around the house, and frost them too.

What do you do to represent the other political parties in cookie form? Suggestions, anyone?

And here, in the understatement of the year, is what Sealtest calls


Just turn out contents of a half-gallon pkg. of Sealtest ice cream onto a serving platter and write “Happy Birthday” on it, using whipped cream put through a pastry tube. Decorate around top and base and down corner edges with fluting of whipped cream. [Sounds suspiciously like that Ballot Box, up to now; but wait, there's more!] Put ring of cupcakes around the base; stick candle in each.

Whew! I was worried when I read the recipe title there. And heaven only knows what Betty Crocker would have concocted and called a Birthday Party Quickie!

Moving right along….And finally, the dramatic and tricky


Cut a slice of Sealtest ice cream from a half gallon package. Remove a strip 1″ wide from the slice and save for “candle.” Place slice flat on dessert plate; cut out a small square in center of slice for base of candle.” Now place the 1″ wide strip upright in the square. Make a handle by adding a small ring-shaped candy or cracker. Quickly dip small sugar cube in lemon extract; set on top of “candle.” Light immediately with match to set aflame.

The lovely recipes from 641 Tested Recipes From the Sealtest Kitchens (1954). And the lovely image – which is not of the Ballot Box and the Candle Magic and the Quickie, because Sealtest didn’t think they warranted a picture (I think they really did!) – but of some random 1950s ice creams from a Good Housekeeping ice cream booklet. Looks like a little ice cream hat is down at the bottom though, which could be tossed into a ring cake to be in keeping with the political theme.

And of course the true Ice Cream Quickie (ahem) is going to Carvel and buying an ice cream cake there. Remember those? Those of you from the New York area (of a certain age) will also recall the delightful Carvel commercials voiced by the gravel-tongued Tom Carvel. They were SO great! And here’s one of them. I think I can embed stuff from YouTube now, so here goes:

The Culinary Waterloo

IMG Guardian Kettle Oven and Pies

If you are a “Guardian Service Homemaker,” the above title would be in reference to pie-making.  I’ll bet you didn’t know that the pie business was quite so – serious. The final battle in the war that is wrangling a meal onto the table! The author of Guardian Service Tested Recipes (ca 1955), Betty Gay, writes a whole sidebar about this terrible pie problem, entitled “Now You Can Have Fresh Pies Without Lighting the Oven.” You are, of course, supposed to make them in a Guardian Kettle Oven, which actually does sound like fun. The picture above shows the noble Kettle Oven with some of its best friends.

She writes, “courage, dear ones, only remember to use these few tips, then flaky, tender crusts that melt in the mouth will be your proud triumph.” Betty is the Wellington of pastry chefs! Her sidebar instructions are pretty standard though – make sure the water is ice cold, add it a little at a time to the fat and flour, handle it carefully, chill it before you stick it in the Kettle Oven. Here is something that sounds quite good (minus the food coloring) that you can do with your triumphant crust:


(1 9-inch pie or one dozen tarts)

1 1/2 Tb plain gelatin
1/4 cup cold water
1/4 lb marshmallows
2 cups grape juice
1 Tb lemon juice
Red food coloring
1 1/2 cups whipping cream
1 bunch Tokay grapes
1 baked pie shell

1. Soak gelatin in the 1/4 cup cold water. Place cup in boiling water to melt gelatin.
2. Place marshmallows and 1/3 cup grape juice in unit over low heat. Fold over and over until marshmallows are almost melted, remove from heat – add gelatin, continue folding until smooth, cool.
3. Add remaining grape juice, lemon juice, few drops food coloring, blend in one half of whipped cream. Chill. When beginning to congeal, pour into baked pastry shell.
4. After firm, spread with whipped cream. Arrange halved grapes cut down side to resemble cluster of grapes, cut angelica to form leaves and a stem, or use a real grape leaf. 

I really wish that they had called making Napoleons a Culinary Waterloo. The jokes would certainly turn out better, anyway.

Hawaii Is Not Responsible For This Sandwich

IMG 40 Famous Menus Kraft

I’m not doing a links post today – I’ll probably just do them when the mood strikes. It was a long week and there was a heatwave in Ontario and, well, that’s my excuse. I will try and post a couple of short posts today, as I will not be running around buying socks and things at thousands of stores, and standing in millions of checkout lines. That was quite a popular thing to do yesterday around here. I felt quite plugged into the Zeitgeist, I tell you!

Making fun of things like, say, 40 Famous Menus From O.K. Economy and Shop-Rite is much more enjoyable!

What a lot of Kraft products there were (and no doubt are)! Too bad only one seems to be used in this lovely sandwich recipe. I’ll bet you could probably fit a few other Kraft ingredients in there somewhere, anyway. Check out the top picture (and there’s another inside the back cover of the book, too, with even more stuff) – blackberry jam, caramels, mustard, Romano cheese, Spaghetti Dinner. Creativity counts in these 1950s recipes, you know!


Hamburger buns
Peanut Butter
Canned Pineapple Slices
Velveeta Pasteurized Process Cheese
Maraschino Cherries

1. Slice hamburger buns in half. Spread each half with peanut butter.
2. Place on broiler rack. Cover each bun half with a slice of pineapple.
3. From loaf of Velveeta Pasteurized Process Cheese cut one slice of cheese for each bun half.
4. Place slice of cheese over each slice of pineapple.
5. Place Hawaiian Sandwiches under low broiler, heat unti lVelveeta melts. Garnish with maraschino cherries. Serve immediately.

IMG_0001 40 Famous Menus Hawaiian Sandwiches

You may not want to eat them immediately though – if ever. 

Amber Watermelon Punch

IMG_0001 GH Amber Punch 1958

In honor of the first really hot day of late spring/early summer/whatever-this-season-is in Ontario, here’s some punch seved in a whole watermelon. It’s from Good Housekeeping’s Book of Ice Creams and Cool Drinks (1958), which has plenty of things I wish someone around here, not me, would make and bring to me by the lake on the grounds of our Victorian era, renovated woodsy lakeside cottage.  Which we do not actually have.

But if we DID! Then I would be drinking this stuff – out there.


Add 1/3 cup granulated sugar to 2 quarts strng cold tea; stir till sugar dissolves. In watermelon punch bowl, combine tea, 2 quarts chilled apple juice, and 1 1/2 cups juice drained from maraschino cherries. Garnish with lime slices topped with whole strawberries. Add block of ice. Makes 36 punch-cup servings.

How’s your weather? And what would you like to drink – and where are you having your refreshments?

Chowderhead With A Grapefruit

Good Housekeeping wangled some recipes out of celebrities back in 1958, and put them (the recipes, not the celebrities) in a book called Who’s Who Cooks. I posted Alfred Hitchcock’s rather mundane, decidedly unscary quiche recipe awhile back.

Here we go again, this time with James Cagney. Sadly, this is not a grapefruit recipe. You may recall Cagney’s famous pushing-grapefruit-into-costar’s-face scene in the 1931 movie The Public Enemy.  Director William Wellman added the scene because he fantasized about doing this with his wife’s grapefruit when he got angry at breakfast. (I trust that Mrs. Wellman had something hot out of the toaster to brandish threateningly if he got too close to the grapefruit).

Cagney, according to Who’s Who Cooks, liked to eat “most anything good.” That’s enlightening. So do most people. It would have been fun if he’d said something a little less predictable like “I like most anything burned to a crisp.”

The cookbook claimed that he actually made the clam chowder (and the apple pie recipe which follows). I really can’t see it, not if he got like that around a grapefruit. I don’t think it would have been in anyone’s interest to let him near a soup tureen.


Drain, reserving liquid: 3 dozen shucked raw soft-shell clams. Snip off necks of clams; cut fine with scissors. Leave soft parts whole. Place clams (ncks and soft parts) with liquid in saucepan.

Add 2 cups cold water. Bring to boil; drain, reserving liquid and clams. In large kettle, saute until golden, 1/4 lb diced salt pork.

Add and cook until tender, 2 medium onions, sliced.

Stir in:

2 Tb flour
1/2 tsp seasoned salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp monosodium glutamate
1 1/2 tsp salt
Pinch dried savory
Pinch dried thyme
Reserved clam liquid
4 medium potatoes, pared and cut into 1/2″ cubes

Bring to boil; cover; simmer over low heat 8 minutes, or till [sic] potatoes are tender. Meanwhile, in medium saucepan, combine and heat just till [sic] simmering:

1 1/2 cups milk
1 1/2 cups light cream

Stir into potato mixture. Add clams and 1 1/2 tsp salt, 1Tb butter or margarine, and 1Tb snipped parsley. Heat. makes 8 servings.

One final thought: why is Cagney advocating New England clam chowder, when he was born and raised in New York City, in Manhattan in fact – home of Manhattan clam chowder, which has tomatoes in it. At this site, I learned that in 1939 a bill was introduced in the Maine legislature to make it against state law to put tomatoes into clam chowder. I trust that Cagney wasn’t out looking for anymore culinary fights, what with the New England chowder versus him being a Manhattanite, and thus technically on the side of the tomatoes. But he was a tough guy in the movies. So we may never know.

Food That Inveigles

IMG_0002 Guardian pots etc

This recipe is called salad, and yet it is not. Retro cookbooks liked to use the term “salad” pretty loosely.

It reminds me of the canned baked apples of the late 1960s. They were pinkish red and very, very water-logged (or perhaps syrup-logged, which was how one felt after eating one). Lots of weird things got canned back then.  A culinary Scylla and Charybdis: either be named Salad, or get stuck in a Can.

This comes from the Guardian Service Tested Recipes (ca 1955), which featured the Guardian line of pots, pans and dishes. You could use these items to make a salad in, you see. Mold it in a saucepan, unmold it on the “Round Tray or Griddle Broiler.”  Remember to turn that Griddle Broiler off, though.


6 eating apples
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 pkg . cinnamon candies
Red vegetable coloring (abt 1/4 tsp)

Place sugar, water and cinnamon candies in unit [the Guardian Casserole-Tureen, see above, with bonus checkmark from previous owner], put unit over medium heat until candies are dissolved. Add vegetable coloring to give a bright red color.

Meanwhile, core apples, pare leaving on 1/4 of the skin down at the blossom end. Place in syrup, cover unit, reduce heat to low. Turn apples upside down after 7-10 minutes. When barely tender, remove apples to a cake rack. Turn heat up to medium, cook syrup in uncovered unit until very thick. Brush syrup on apples with a pastry brush or pour over them with spoon.

Chill. Place apples on lettuce. Split each one in sections from top, part way down sides. Spread sections open. Fill center of apples with cottage cheese or cream cheese, put through a pastry tube. Sprinkle cheese with grated orange or lemon rind.

The chapter subtitle claims that Guardian salads “Will Inveigle the Family Into Their Full Vitamin Quota.” Unmold them and then step back! These salads aren’t just “crisp, firm and tasty” – they badger the diners! Inveigle literally means to lure through flattery. I don’t think I want the salad course to do that.

I don’t think these apples are going to do much inveigling though. They will be exhausted after all that cooking and basting and being colored an unnatural shade of red. I don’t recall the canned baked apples having much to say about my vitamin quota – full or not.

IMG_0003 Guardian salad

Meringue Shortbread and A Joyful Cake

IMG Daily Telegraph cookbook UK 1940s

Isn’t she lovely? That’s what your average, English Daily Telegraph reader looked like circa 1950. All dolled up and making homemade chips (or French fries, if she had been in a North American kitchen). That apron is a miracle against the forces of gravity, the way it stays up. Must be from starch. Could it be potato starch? That would be handy, since she probably has a lot of that around. Just wipe your hands on the apron to transfer more starch.

And there are some really good recipes, too. Canadian Sweet Cucumber Pickle – which amused me, because as far as I know, we in Canada are not especially known for our cucumber pickles, sweet or otherwise. Mock Mango Chutney – using plums. Why not call it Plum Chutney?

Savoury dishes include Celery Nut Balls (oh dear), and Dumpling Stew (oh dear again). Kipper Salad and Green Pea Sandwiches. Hmmm. Let’s move along to the next course, shall we?

Things do start to pick up at dessert (or “for pudding,” I suppose I should say – I love calling dessert pudding, it sounds so hopeful and cakey and – stodgy in a lovely way, doesn’t it?). Here we run into Shortbread Meringues for example –  that’s a good idea! And Joy Cake, too! Who could resist a cake that is full of Joy? (Not me, unless the Joy in question is the dish-washing liquid, in which case, thanks but no thanks).

Shortbread Meringues

For the Shortbread
2 oz. margarine
1 1/2 oz sugar
Few drops almond, lemon or vanilla flavouring if liked.
4 oz flour

For the Meringue:
1 white of egg
Pinch of salt
2 Tbs caster [sic] sugar
Glacé cherries

Beat the fat and the sugar together until they resemble thick cream; add flavouring to taste. Gradually knead in the sifted flour until it makes one solid lump. Roll out to abut1/2 inch thick, cut in small rounds about 2 1/2 inches in diameter, place on a greased tin and prick with a fork.

To make the meringue, beat the white of egg and salt together until the mixture stands up in a point when beater is sharply withdrawn. This will take several minutes’ sharp beating (rotary beater best). Add sugar gradually by lightly stirring it in.

Place one heaped teaspoonful of the meringue mixture on each round of shortbread, slightly flatten mixture over three-parts of the shortbread. Place half a glacé cherry in middle of each. bake in a very slow oven. Can be placed in warm oven after all other cooking has been withdrawn, and left, with gas turned down very low, until cakes are deep cream colour and meringue sets firm.

Joy Cake

6  oz. self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 dessertspoonfuls dried eggs (used dry)
1 Tb sugar (or less)
2 Tbs marmalade
4 oz. golden syrup
4 oz. sultanas
1/4 pint milk

Sift flour, baking powder and dried egg together. Add sugar, marmalade, warmed syrup and fruit. Mix all with the milk to a soft dough. Put in a greased tin and bake in a moderate oven 3/4 hour (375 deg. F; gas No. 5).

Did you notice up there in the first recipe how you are supposed to use a rotary beater for those egg whites? That is hard work! Apron lady must have biceps of steel. No need for the Bow Flex in 1950!

And as for Joy Cake, it must have been thought up by someone who was crazy about dried eggs. Or maybe when you make it you are really happy that you are using up all the stuff in your pantry, that must be it.