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.

Instant Coffee Karma

Maxwell House cookbook cover 1965

Instant coffee karma’s gonna get you.

Because there’s coffee, coffee everywhere, but not so much to drink…No, no – to cook with. I love the specialty cookbooks, like this one from my buddy Maxwell House, from 1965. Coffee at every meal, the cover cries in urgent tones (much like me in the morning!). Coffee in everything that you cook! Quickly, quickly, bring more caffeine! And make sure that it is from the House of Maxwell, while you’re at it.

This is the sort of cuisine to make our old friend Mr. Caffein Nerves twitch with emotion.

Yes, there are the usual recipes for flavored coffees and there are lots of cakey things (coffee cakes and cakes with coffee in them, et cetera) but there are also rather – surprising recipes. Prepare to be amazed! For example:


1 cup sour cream
1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
1/4 cup salad oil
1 Tb lemon juice
2 tsps instant quality coffee

Blend ingredients together. Chill thoroughly. Stir and serve with salads of chilled canned or fresh fruit. makes one cup. Creamy version: substitute 1/2 cup mayo for the salad oil and increase lemon juice to 2 Tb.

There are main courses in which you can insert a teaspoonful or two (hey, maybe three!) of instant coffee: spaghetti sauce, barbecued ribs. You can drown your chops in coffee gravy and your shrimp tempura in coffee sweet-and-sour sauce. You can even put it in a fish dish:


1 lb fresh flounder or sole fillets
2 tsps quality instant coffee
1 Tb lemon juice
3 Tb salad oil
1/2 tsp onion salt
Lemon slices (optional)
Ripe or stuffed green olives (optional)

Place fish fillets in shallow baking dish. Dissolve instant coffee in lemon juice; combine with oil and salt, mixing thoroughly. Pour coffee mixture over fish and let stand 30 minutes, turning once after about 15 minutes. Broil 3 inches from heat 5 to 7 minutes, or until fish will flake easily with a fork. Garnish with lemon slices and olives. Makes 3 servings.

Why 3 servings? Don’t recipes usually make an even number of servings?

Maybe the cook gets a reprieve. You have to hang around with it in the kitchen, you’ve done enough!

Now I’m going to go get some more coffee. Just regular coffee, thank you. I am not planning to do anything special with it. No “fascinating new flavor” today, thanks.

Tijuana Hash

Bake Off 1967 Tijuana Hash

This is not Herb Alpert’s backup band. Nor is it some groovy hippie recipe for a pharmaceutical trainride to Mars, though given that this recipe dates from 1967, the name exudes a certain – how shall I put it? A certain psychedelic je-ne-sais-quoi.

But this is from the Pillsbury Bake-Off cookbook. Not the Pillsbury Love-In cookbook! ( I’d love to see what that would be like though!). Ann Pillsbury and the lady contributors would not approve. So I want to know how the Tijuana Hash lady thought up the name. And why Ann Pillsbury et al approved the name. (I suspect that naughty Betty Crocker had a hand in this, oh yes I do! This is exactly the sort of thing she would serve at one of her Frankly Fancy parties!)

In case you are having a few hippie homemakers over to, I don’t know, what would they like to do? Perhaps make bead curtains while listening to Strawberry Alarm Clock – anyway, here’s what you can have on hand when they all get the munchies:

Bake Off 1967 Tijuana Hash recipe title

Bake Off 1967 Tijuana Hash recipe

I omitted the author’s name in case she is a dear old lady somewhere who might not appreciate me linking her to the Tijuana Hash.

Did you notice that there is actually a non-Pillsbury intruder in this dish – who the hell is Mary Kitchen! What is she doing at the Pillsbury Bake-Off?

I’ll bet she’s in cahoots with Betty. I just know those two are up to something! Hmmm…

Let’s wrap this whole bizarre episode up with Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass playing “Spanish Flea” in TIjuana in a bull ring in 1965. This was the theme for “The Dating Game,” one of my childhood favorites (what? there were cartoons only on Saturday mornings back then, I had to watch something!). Also my parents liked this sort of stuff so I had to hear it at home, too. Herb is trumpet-syncing. Also, I love how the guy on the left is barely shaking his marraca. (Paging Davy Jones!) He (the guy, not Davy Jones) is holding a trombone too, why is that?

So many silly questions, so little to go on…

Sure-Bet/Sherbet Macaroons

IMG_0001 Bake Off 1969 macaroons

There certainly are a LOT of macaroon recipes out there – you know, out there (waves virtual hand in direction of cookbook shelves and beyond). So I thought I’d find something odd and strange and retro – new uncharted macaroon territory. Since it is National Macaroon Day, and all.

Where better to plunge into a retro-cuisine Brave New World than through the portal of the Pillsbury Bake-Off cookbooks?  And I was not disappointed. I hope you won’t be either. Depends upon your feelings about orange sherbet and whether it belongs in a cookie or not, though.

I rather like the name of these loopy cookies. As in, “I sure bet they taste – different!” Oh, and I just realized: I think the lady who made these up was making a PUN. Sure bet. Sherbet. Oh, I get it. Cue the laugh track!


1 pint orange sherbet
1 package (18 1/2 oz.) Pillsbury White Cake Mix
2 Tb almond extract
1 packages (7 oz. each) or 6 cups flaked coconut

OVEN 350 degrees  ABOUT 72 COOKIES

In large mixer bowl, blend sherbet at low speed to soften slightly. Add dry cake mix and almond extract; blend until just thoroughly combined. Stir in coconut. Drop by rounded teaspoons onto greased cookie sheets. Bake at 350 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes until light golden brown. Cool 1 minute; remove from cookie sheet.

TIP: Any flavored sherbet can be used with Pillsbury Fudge, German Chocolate, Double Dutch or White Cake Mixes; lemon and pineapple sherbet may be used with Pillsbury Pineapple, Lemon and Yellow Cake mixes.

[From 100 Bake Off Recipes, 1969]

These are described as “quickies that freeze well,” which I could almost make a good joke about if I wasn’t getting a little – well, in need of some fresh air. Will go outside as soon as I post this and see if there is any.

London Cake From South Africa

IMG South African Girl Scout cookbook 1968

A selection from a Girl Scouts’ cookbook, Be Prepared (1968), from South Africa. It is really more like a confection than a cake.


1 packet or 8 oz. digestive biscuits
2 oz. butter or Maypole margarine
2 Tb golden syrup
4 1/2 oz. slab chocolate
1 Tb each of finely chopped nuts and glace cherries and angelica
Half an orange or lemon

1. Crumble biscuits finely.
2. Melt butter or margarine, syrup and chocolate together.
3. Mix biscuit crumbs, chopped fruit and nuts with melted mixture.
4. Line a cake tin, 7 inches diameter, with greased sandwich paper base.
5. Pack cake mixture into tin, and pat smooth with cut side of lemon or orange.
6. Refrigerate till firm.
7. Top with coffee flavored cream or coffee icing.

You can also do this in a square tin (they suggest a 6 1/2 inches square tin), and each square can be “topped with a suitable decoration.” A candied cherry would be suitable, wouldn’t it? Or a chocolate coffee bean, those are really good.

The ad is from the cookbook. I guess you’d be prepared all right – that is one enormous fridge.

Mrs. Wiggs Entertains

images_nypl_org Bessie Barsicale

This lovely lady is the actress Bessie Barsicale, who starred in a production of Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch in New York in 1905. She is even wearing a cabbage leaf sort of thing on her hat. I don’t know if this is on purpose or not.

Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch (1902) was a novel by Alice Hegan Rice in which the titular lady, who is about to be evicted from her home (and cabbage patch, I suppose), has many children and a husband who has absconded (which is what they do in this sort of novel, they don’t just go away, they abscond). She is very noble and brave and clever and so on. The novel was turned into a play and several movies, the most famous of which features W.C. Fields and came out in 1934. I believe that he plays the absconder.

Anyway, this is what the redoubtable Mrs. Wiggs would have served at her At Home, had she had access to the fabulousness of canned Essex Cabbage Rolls. This is from the Essex Meat Packers magnum opus, Visit the World at Your Table (ca 1968).


1 14-oz. can Essex Cabbage Rolls
1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 cup shortening
1/2 tsp salt
3 Tb water

Prepare pastry as follows: Sift together flour and salt, then cut in shortening with a pastry blender. Add water to mix. Roll out dough very thin and cut in 3 inch squares.

Open one 14-oz can Essex Cabbage Rolls and drain off sauce. Cut each roll into 4 pieces. Place each piece of Cabbage Roll on one square of pastry. Fold edges up like petals leaving small opening on top. Place maraschino cherries or olives in the openings. Bake in 350 degree oven until pastry is lightly browned.

What a versatile recipe - you can substitute an olive for a maraschino cherry. Hmmm.

Serve these on cabbage ware plates, of course, what else?  Nonnie has a gorgeous cabbageware jug/gravy boat that I love, it looks just like a cabbage. We used to rent a summer cottage from people who had a cabbageware tea set that I longed for. Lovely stuff.

images_nypl_orgn cabbage ware

Images are from the wonderful New York Public Library Digital Gallery.

And for more astonishing recipes from the Essex Meat Packers of Hamilton, Ontario:

Wham Salad

Hawaiian Beef Salad

Jambalaya Salad

Glamour Hash Salad


I think this is it for Visit the World at Your Table, looking at all those links. That is just too many weird salads altogether.

The Marshmallow Menagerie: Jumbo and Leo Edition

IMG Fifi & Harry marshmallows

After this post, there will be three kinds of seagull, a dachshund and a giraffe. I believe that will constitute the entire Marshmallow Menagerie. It’s better than a Glass Menagerie, isn’t it – don’t you think that Tennessee Williams’ play could be rewritten? I think it would be a lot less tragic - how could you not feel happy looking at these little creatures? Plus if the unicorn was made of candy, you could just glue the horn back on with the recipe below, or just make him a new one out of a fresh gumdrop!

FYI, the glue that holds the whole thing together:


1 1/2 cups unsifted confectioner’s sugar
1 egg white, unbeaten

In small bowl of electric mixer on medium, beat sugar with egg white until mixture is thick enough to hold a definite shape. Keep glue covered with damp cloth until ready to use. Makes about half a cup. When using on favors, let glue dry completely on each part before going on to next part.


1. For body, join 2 large marshmallows (flat ends together) with wooden pick.
2. For ears, place a large marshmallow at each side of one marshmallow, running wooden pick through all three.
3. For each leg, spear 3 mini marshmallows on wooden pick. Insert legs into underside of body; then insert into inverted paper plate, for support. 
4. For trunk, cut a piece of white paper, tapering it slightly. Fold back wide end, making a flap. Make a slit in face with knife; insert flap. Make eyes from pieces of licorice string.


1. On wooden pic, run together 3 large marshmallows (flat ends together) for head and body.
2. Insert 4 wooden picks on underside of head and body, for legs; insert legs into inverted paper plate, for support.
3. Glue 2 mini marshmallows to head, for cheeks. Between cheeks, glue strip from large gumdrop; make tip of nose with triangle of licorice candy.
4. Use pieces of licorice string for eyes. Insert wooden picks around head, for mane.

You can find all the marshmallow animals by going here -

The whole kit and caboodle: group photo!

Part 1: Lamb and Piglet

Part 2: Snowman and Turtle

Part 3: Poodle and Hippo

Marshmallow Favors How-To, Part 3: Fifi the Poodle and Harry the Hippo

IMG Fifi & Harry marshmallows

A poodle is the perfect critter to recreate in marshmallows – I love the mini marshmallows on her legs and tail, just like the pouffy bits on a real poodle. And Harry is one of my favorites, he has such a winning smile!


1. With wooden pick, join two large marshmallows (flat ends together) for the body.
2. Slide mini marshmallows onto each of 4 wooden picks; insert wooden picks into underside of body, for legs; insert into inverted paper plate, for support.
3. Glue one mini marshmallow in center of one end of one large marshmallow; surround with two rows of mini marshmallows.
4. Glue another mini marshmallow to center of face, for nose; glue pieces of licorice candy to nose, for tip.
5. Add pieces of licorice string to face, for eyes. Add mini marshmallow on wooden pick for tail.


1. Make head: With wet knife, split large marshmallows almost in half. Pull apart slightly; don’t break hinge. For teeth, insert small pieces of licorice string inside mouth.
2. Run wooden pick through 2 large marshmallows (flat ends together0 for body.
3. For legs, place 2 mini marshmallows on each of 4 wooden picks. Insert legs into underside of body; then insert into inverted paper plate, for support.
4. Glue head to body; glue two small gumdrops to head for eyes.

Just to remind you -


1 1/2 cups unsifted confectioner’s sugar
1 egg white, unbeaten

In small bowl of electric mixer on medium, beat sugar with egg white until mixture is thick enough to hold a definite shape. Keep glue covered with damp cloth until ready to use. Makes about half a cup. When using on favors, let glue dry completely on each part before going on to next part.

For the earlier parts of the Marshmallow Follies, you can go here:

The whole kit and caboodle: group photo!

Part 1: Lamb and Piglet

Part 2: Snowman and Turtle

Coming soon: Jumbo the Elephant and Leo the Lion…

Wedgies and Whuffins

IMG betty crocker cabbage w's

More fun from the Betty Crocker Boys and Girls Cook Book (circa 1960). Boys and girls, how about a wedgie?…No, no, not that kind! Stop that at once, please settle down. Betty is only talking about cabbage.

You couldn’t make this kind of thing up, could you? As Thomas Hardy said once (I think it was him, I am way too tired to look it up. And I have the horrid feeling that I already quoted this somewhere in this very blog. If so, please disregard!)  -”truth is stranger than fiction.”

Certainly nothing is stranger that a Cabbage Wedgie. Not a wedge, mind you. Because just hacking up a cabbage and serving it in wedges is not fun and perky enough!

The reference to Whuffins is rather startling after the Wedgies, it was to me anyway. So I looked them up. They are muffins, you see, with a few shovelfuls of Wheaties in them.

I really think Betty was in a wild and crazy mood the day she wrote that page, don’t you?

Face Up In The Cereal

IMG_0005 Betty Crocker boys and girls cookbook

You know, sometimes you are really tired in the morning. So tired you could just put your face in the cereal, you know? Oh, I know you wouldn’t really. But it’s just a little hard not to go back to sleep.

Unless of course there already is a face in there. Boy, this would wake me up in a hurry. But not in a good way.

And then after recovering from the initial shock, how the hell do you eat this without displacing a tsunami of milk onto the red-checked tablecloth?

I’ll just have a toasted bagel today, thanks.

[From Betty Crocker's Cook Book For Boys and Girls, circa 1960]