Thanks, I guess? For the memories…

Recently I came across an article on the internets featuring photos of abandoned Pocono-area honeymoon resorts. I don’t know if this was something people knew about across the US, but for east coasters, the Poconos dominated the honeymoon and couples-getaway market with a plethora of romantically-themed resorts to choose from. I can recall the theme songs from the commercials pretty readily, because that’s the kind of effluvia that clutters up my synapses.

This article took me for a walk down…ummm…not quite Memory Lane, because everything about the upcoming story is just so weird. Should Have Been An Acid Trip Lane? I Must Have Made This Up In My Fevered Brain Lane? Here’s the deal:

A thousand years ago, when I was but a slip of a paisley, I was married. For the purposes of storytelling, I’ll call my ex Snidely. Snidely had a very good friend who had just ended a very bad relationship; a few weeks after that ugly breakup, this friend was at his office holiday party and won a romantic weekend getaway for two to a resort in the Poconos. Since friend was unattached and had sworn off women for a while, and his vacation package came with an expiration date, he gave his vacation to Snidely and me–here you go, Merry Christmas, have crazy fun. So far, so good, right? We picked a weekend (off-season, of course, because that’s the block of time the voucher was good for), booked a room, and planned to whoop it up.

In all honesty, I don’t remember exactly which resort we stayed in. I suspect it was, indeed, Penn Hills (see the above commercial), but the Poconos are littered with abandoned resorts that shared similar sensibilities. These are the hotels that kitschy dreams are made of; the places with heart-shaped tubs and round beds with mirrored canopies. With red accents on every available surface and shag carpeting on the wall. Because carpet on the wall is for lovers.

Hot cha cha! Image from roadtrippers.com

Hot cha cha!
Image from roadtrippers.com

As an aside…is anybody else interested in spraying shag-carpeted honeymoon suites with Luminol? I’d imagine we’d need sunglasses. And I digress.

The thing is, there’s a desperation to these sorts of places. They wink at you and grab your hand before you can stop them. They’re designed with this message: You? Are saucy. You? Can finally let go of your inhibitions! You? Can do IT. That’s right. The big IT. And we all know what’s going on, because we’re doing IT too. It’s like you’re obligated to have sex while you’re there, because it’s racy and naughty and expected and then you can go to breakfast the next morning and do that shy smile-giggle as you see your freshly-laid neighbors coming out their hotel rooms too. 

Can we also take a moment to consider how mirrored-everything is a nightmare for anyone with body image issues?

Oh, no, that's just...great! I'm...naked. And can see myself from every angle. *kill me now* Image from dcist.com

Oh, no, that’s just…great! I’m…naked. And can see myself from every angle. *kill me now*
Image from dcist.com

We pulled up to the parking lot and of course, this resort had a sign out front to announce events or welcome special visitors. You expect them to say something like, “TONIGHT! MAGYCK MOMENTS PERFORMING LIVE IN THE TIKI LOUNGE” or “GIVE HER SOME MORE MEAT WITH OUR TUESDAY NIGHT PRIME RIB SPECIAL FOR TWO”, right?

What you don’t expect to see is this.

Who brings the party?

Who brings the party?

That’s right. Accordion players.

I’m sure I had photos of this, at one point. I looked for them last night. If I had any, they are long, loooooong gone. Please enjoy my artistic rendering.

It seems that we had booked our romantic, couples-only resort weekend on the same weekend that an accordion players association was hosting a convention. And while I appreciate the works of the noble accordion, we were surrounded by two hundred men (and only a tiny handful of women; ladies, you gots to represent!) with a country mile of great bushy eyebrows between them all, decked out in tuxes, accordions strapped to their chests. They would play accordion all day long. As they walked down the hall. If they took a smoke break and went outside. You couldn’t get away from it. This doesn’t say “sexytime” so much as it does “polka party”.

If we had gone there for a polka weekend, it would have been perfect.

To get away from the 24-hour polka party people, we stopped in the hotel bar. And indeed, Magyck Moments (or whoever they were) were playing in the lounge, torching up songs that shouldn’t have been torched. (Wait…I remember having to get up and go to a different seat, because from where I originally sat at the bar I could still see and hear the goings-on at the accordion banquet, while listening to the bewitching sounds of Magyck Moments. It was pure sensory overload.) The Magyck Moments singer, a woman, was murdering something totally poppy, taking “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” from bubblegum to dirge. I remember she had a Linda Evans, Dynasty-era haircut, only it was screaming red, and she was wearing some kind of holdout, ’80s-leftover prom dress. It was blue and had copious amounts of sleeve. Like this one; though I remember hers being even more shiny.

Everybody wang chung. Toni-i-i-i-iiiight. Image from liketotally80s.com

Everybody wang chung. Toni-i-i-i-iiiight.
Image from liketotally80s.com

Since she was clearly past the age of prom, I can only assume she pilfered it from her daughter’s closet.

I can’t tell you much more about that weekend. I remember things were kind of tense with Snidely because the whole situation was so weird, and this was at the point in our relationship where we still liked each other. Since we were there off-season, all the activities they advertised–things like horseback riding and nature hikes and tennis and golf–were not operational, so there was a lot of wandering around relatively quiet hotel grounds. It was as though I dreamed of all the ways that weekend could become an insane, not-romantic spectacle and it all came true. All it was missing was some sort of brute strength. If there was an assemblage of Scotsmen playing highland games, it would have been ahhh. maaaa. zing.

You know what else I remember? I remember that the burger I got at Flood’s was excellent. Please note: the honeymoon hotels are reduced to monoliths, sad reminders of the limits of kitschy romanticism. Snidely and I have long split. But Flood’s is still in operation. It seems that a good burger withstands the test of time.

Photo credits

Heart-shaped tub: www.roadtrippers.com

Round bed: dcist.com

Welcome sign: Me 🙂

Prom dress: www.liketotally80s.com

Flea Market Find: The Story of Cane Sugar

…which sounds like it could be a porno, but it isn’t.  Instead, it’s a pamphlet that is–best as I can figure–printed before 1941, when the Pennsylvania Sugar Company was taken over by the National Sugar Refining Company. I’m only guessing that because there’s nary a hint of anything about National Sugar on the pamphlet, and why wouldn’t a parent company promote itself?

It's like a map. Did they give these out at gas stations?

It’s like a map. Did they give these out at gas stations? And what are those guys sitting on the boxes of sugar supposed to be?  Elves? Railway workers? I honestly can’t tell. Front and back covers.

As a side note, I *love* all the doodles on the cover. I used to do much the same thing when I was a kid; I’d write on anything and everything. I even remember writing on a bottle of baby powder, though I don’t remember why I needed to claim that as my own. Please note that in the bottom left corner, in the space surrounding the teacher in the blue dress, some imp wrote: Miss Wangor, The Old Crab. (At least, I think it says crab. Any and all other guesses welcome.) And I digress.

I came across this bizarrely charming little pamphlet while crawling among the racks at the much-beloved Street of Shops. The pamphlet is an anomaly of sorts, a throwback to an earlier time, when…

…ummm…

I actually don’t understand what this is. Not that I don’t understand what a pamphlet is, I just don’t understand why/where/how/the reasoning behind the Pennsylvania Sugar Co. printing up pamphlets to be distributed…where?

See what I mean?

But the fact is, I don’t really care why they made it, I just care that they did. These sorts of “modern miracles” economic history printings really speak to the idea of some kind of grandiose dreams of expansionism and empire. Anyway. Getting to it…

Why don't they finish the instructions for chocolate cake???

Why don’t they finish the instructions for chocolate cake??? HOW WILL I EVER MAKE THIS CORRECTLY?

The above image with its disappointing cake recipe was found on the inside pages, when you open it like a book. And then it folds out, first into a tri-fold that I have more-or-less stitched back together for you.

Sugar Cane trifold

Come visit the enticing world of sugar harvesting.

I love that the artwork is all scrolling and pirate-y and a completely romanticized glossing of the sugar industry, largely harvested thanks to slave labor or poverty-level wage earners. The industry saw a significant amount of unrest in the 1930s (i.e., roughly around the time this pamphlet was printed, and these links are but a few small examples). But it’s all good, right?  Because Nancy Tice reminds housewives: Sugar is one of the most necessary foods in the family diet (see the back cover image if you don’t believe me). So that makes it all OK, right? I also love that Thailand is still referred to as Siam and the rest of the Cambodia/Laos/Vietnam/Myanmar peninsula has been lumped together by western mapmakers as one big “Indo-China“. Who needs specifics when you’re pirating the sugar trade and working with slave labor? Yo ho, me hearties!

But then.

And then.

The entire pamphlet opens up into a centerfold of sugary awesome, as the Pennsylvania Sugar Co. examines the total process of sugar production, from harvest to loading to ships steaming in to Philly, through production and then onto the trucks for distribution unto a hungry world clamoring for sweetness.

Centerfold? Hey, this did turn sexy!

Centerfold? Hey, this did turn sexy!

Oh, for a simpler time, when no one balked at the idea of using cheap labor, and the world was ours to harvest at will!

One question: what have they got going on in Louisiana?  While the world labors to make sugar affordable for all Americans, are the Louisianians…sitting around playing banjo? Is that it?

As gloriously jingoistic and kind of craptastic as this pamphlet is, I’m still having a hard time trying to understand its practical benefits. Mainly because I can’t figure out when or where this would have been distributed. I mean, sure, at the grocery store, but that begs the question of the consumer: why would you take it in the first place? Though–believe me–I know why I paid one entire dollar for this baby, and it was worth all 100 pennies. Hells to the yeah.

FYI: This scanned e-book is an interesting way to explore the concept of economic and trade pamphleting, but its writing style is dry and old-timey, so be prepared that it’s kind of like reading through sandpaper.

SCORE!

I was in the flea-markety basement of Street of Shops, the closest thing I’ve seen to a bazaar for freaks, weeding through old dishes and dated cookbooks and discarded dolls and rusted cookie tins. Lest you wonder why I was there, you can find treasures at the Street of Shops. I’ve found the dishes I use every day. I’ve found some great furniture.  And today, I found…this.

BRING ME SOLO AND THE WOOKIE.

BRING ME SOLO AND THE WOOKIE.

That’s right. It’s an orange lucite deer, chained around the throat to its own fawns.  And the whole deer family looks a little deranged.

A boy's best friend is his mother, Norman.

A boy’s best friend is his mother, Norman.

Not that it’s not understandable. Because as much as I love my mother, I don’t think I’d thrive if I was chained to her.

I LOVE MURDER.

I LOVE MURDER.
And apples.

I have them set up so that they’ll blaze bright every morning in the rising sun, because who doesn’t want to feast their eyes on that every day while making one’s coffee?

Seriously. What.

Seriously. What.

Even my adorable woodland deer salt and pepper shakers look on in bewilderment. George pointed out to me that I paid good money for them and I maintain that they would be a bargain at twice the price. Because you don’t just come across beauties like this every day.

I can’t believe someone got rid of them in the first place.

Score!

Beans! Enjoyable the World Over

While I was out shopping in our local flea market and home of amazeballs finds, I came across BEANS: Enjoyable the World Over.  A mini-cookbook and repository of bean knowledge, this li’l joybomb was distributed by the Michigan Bean Shippers Association in 1963.  And!  Its cover features a foppish kidney bean with pomaded hair and a vest, who sports a cane and carries a top hat.  It’s hard to fail when you start this strong.

Hey there, Mr. FancyBeans!

Hey there, Mr. FancyBeans!

Thanks to this pamphlet, I’ve learned a lot of things.  I know that:

  • Nobody knows why we’ve started eating beans.
  • Egyptians thought beans were the symbol of life.
  • Greeks and Romans voted by tossing beans  of different colors on a table.
  • People have used beans as a cure for baldness.
  • A bean found on the coast of Africa was used to establish the size and weight of a jeweler’s carat.  (Though somehow, “It’s a two-bean ring!” doesn’t hold the same allure.)
bean king

Why does the title “Bean King” seem most suited to belong to a 15-year-old boy?

And there is a nobility to bean commerce that we ought not to overlook.  This pamphlet reminds us, “Out of the seaway terminals at Bay City and Port Huron, ships loaded with Michigan Navy Beans sail to the far corners of the earth.”

The tale of Michigan beans is clearly global, and next time I’m at a great lake I will scan the horizon looking for the bean traders making their way back home.  I can only hope that’s not what the Edmund Fitzgerald was carrying on its final voyage, as it would be too much to bear for all those beans to have met their dreary demise at the bottom of the big lake they call Gitche Gumee.

The Enjoyable Bean reader is also given an overview of beans and their significance in American culture.  Delmonico’s, America’s first official restaurant, apparently served beans on its menu, much to the surprise and delight of New York City diners (though it seems that modern investigative techniques have turned this idea on its head, as the much-touted 1834 Delmonico’s menu may not be the Real Deal.  Scandal!  Horrors!  Where is my fainting couch when I need it?).

General Eisenhower baked his beans, though I suspect he piggybacked on Mamie’s skill to achieve bean-making success.  Plus, he used fancy-pants tarragon in his cooking, which I can only imagine was some ill-gotten taste he acquired while traveling overseas managing wars.  Conversely (and according to the recipe provided), First Lady Jackie Kennedy was an old-fashioned stay-at-home American-type Mom, who baked her beans with sugar and molasses and love (and the assistance of a classically-trained French chef named René Verdon).

This cookbook is interspersed with all manner of information and advice.  For example, did you know that there are about 2100 navy beans in every pound?  And did you ever think, when you were out in the wild…

OMG Really?

Who knew “going native” required a can opener?

Because the fields of canned beans are heavy with produce; it is exactly what the natives ate.

Though actually, sometimes, their advice is kind of interesting.

Maybe I *will* try this.

Maybe I *will* try this.

I can find out how the French like to eat their beans.

Mais oui!

Mais oui!

How to prepare Freedom Beans when practicing military maneuvers (because it’s not like you can trust the French;  Capitulée!  Capitulée!).

norfolk

And what intoxicating Michigan bean concoction Governor Romney (that’s Mitten’s dad George Romney, mind you, not Mittens himself) can’t live without.

How...wholesome.

How…wholesome.

Though I can’t stop giggling over the inclusion of a recipe called “Bean Hole Beans”.  *hee hee*  You can learn how to make Taco Beans, what to do with leftover baked beans, and why congress is full o’ beans.  There are recipes in here for party dips, bean salads and after-school snacks, though the “hint” that tells you to mix beans with raisins punches me square in the gag reflex.

This pamphlet is a 37 page powerhouse full of bean lore and succotash, culminating in what can only be the most lucrative of all the gifts beans can bestow upon humankind. (wait for it…wait for it…)

Toot toot a root toot tooooo!

All hail the beautiful bean queens!  May their glory never fade.

All hail the beautiful bean queens! May their glory never fade.

A bean queen “travels in behalf of beans and reigns throughout the year”.  That, friends, is a direct quote, and would be something to aspire to indeed.  And really, it’s best that produce has a liege lord that rhymes.  Bean Queen.  Cuke Duke.  Or at least is pithy, like Pump-King.

I have come to the end of my charming little slice of 1963-era bean cookery, and it was absolutely worth all 100 pennies I spent on it in MegaAwesomeFleaMarket.  And for you food academics, remember.  I have this baby entirely scanned, not just the comedic bits.  You know were to find me.  I’ll be right here, lost in the splendor of a home-grown Michigan bean.

Please enjoy the melodious melodyings of Brak, childlike imprisoned criminal and TV co-host of Space Ghost on Space Ghost Coast to Coast, singing about his favorite source of plant-based protein.

So Long, Roger Ebert, and Thanks.

By now, we have all learned about–and, I hope, mourned–the passing of Roger Ebert.  The first film critic to win a Pulitzer Prize for criticism, he was also a keen-eyed social critic and a lot of fun to follow on Twitter.  Ebert’s life has already been eulogized here and here and here and…if you hit Google, you’ll find plenty more.  That is a conversation to which I cannot add.

But I can say thank you.  He was funny and thoughtful and eloquent and could write like a total motherfucker (I really need to sit down and study his style).  He once said about movies, “It’s not what a movie is about, it’s how it is about it.”  Cool.  Which is why I need to thank him, not just for his work as a film critic, but how he went about co-writing one of the greatest camp/cult classics ever spawned from human minds, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls.

It is not a sequel, indeed.

Actually that’s true, it’s not a sequel.  It has nothing to do with the book or movie Valley of the Dolls.  Written by Jacqueline Susann, the original Valley was a (theoretically) serious, soapy peek behind the showbiz curtains to a world full of chemical dependency.  It’s kind of a melodramatic nightmare, complete with swelling organ music and tight close-ups of tear-stained actresses having drug-addled fits, but it was crazy-successful.  Apparently, Fox initially asked Ms. Susann to write a sequel and then gave her script the finger, turning it over to Russ Meyer (king of the low-budget sexploitation flick) and his good friend, Roger Ebert.  Why they did that?  No one knows, and years later even Ebert admitted it was kind of a miracle.  It couldn’t be a “sequel” because Jacqueline Susann sued 20th Century Fox over the Meyer/Ebert work, claiming it was so tawdry she didn’t want there to be any connection between her work and theirs.

Whatever, lady.  Get over yourself.  Their film was better.

It is a murderous, violent, drug-addled flick filled with boobies and eyelashes and self-important people.  And it is hilarious.  Ebert said that in the six weeks it took to write the movie, he and Meyer spent their time laughing maniacally.  Part of the reason this film works so well, though, is that Meyer directed his cast as though it was a serious script.  It’s the same reason the character Lina Lamont works so well in Singin’ in the Rain; Jean Hagen knew Lina was someone who would take herself seriously and so playing her straight would create the comedy.  This is what Meyer banked on, and the clash of straight performance and WTF dialogue and situation makes us watch BVD with our head tilted a full 90 degrees, as though we are the dog confused by the ceiling fan.  As an added bonus, Meyer and Ebert gave the world an impressive list of  memorable lines, most notably “This is my happening, and it freaks me out!”, decades before Austin Powers ever uttered it.

(These clips?  Probably not safe for work or small children.  Consider yourself warned.)

Or this, uttered by the soon-to-be-future-ex-Mrs. Russ Meyer, Edy Williams.

And God knows I need to drive across the country with a map superimposed over my face, singing about “The Gentle People”.

BVD gave the world Ronnie “Z-Man” Barzell.  Fast forward to 2003 and it becomes strangely, creepishly prescient that the walking freak show-drug swilling-gun (and, eventually, sword!) slinging-murderous record producer was modeled after Phil Spector.

Only perhaps without the bizarre pyramid-shaped breast buds.

I promise, people, if I find a video clip where Z-Man utters the immortal line, “Ere this night does wane, you will drink the black sperm of my vengeance!” I will without a moment’s hesitation post it.  Because really, folks.  Roger Ebert wrote that.  You hear someone say that, you know that shit’s about to get real.

That’s what BVD is, and that’s what makes it a great movie.  It may be dated and cartoonish and bear the marks of rampant substance abuse, but it does so completely unapologetically.  That’s how this movie presents itself.  The dialogue is often ridiculous and the plot is absurd, the camera work is pure camp.  And this movie is all that, joyously.  It’s one of the best movie experiences I’ve ever had.

So farewell, Roger Ebert and thanks for the crazy ride.  You will be missed.

Image from pophangover.com

What Cookery Is This? My Great Recipe Cards 1984, Part 2

It’s kind of difficult for me to comprehend what must have been the utter travesty that was a full set of My Great Recipe Cards.  I only have maybe…maybe…a quarter of the set (and I’m betting that’s an incredibly low-ball estimate) and still, my pitifully small handful of cards is a veritable treasure trove of foodie nightmares.

I’ve already blogged about some of the cards in the set earlier this week, but the cards are like a train wreck.  You know what I mean.  You can’t stop picking at that scab.  You can’t stop poking your tongue into the cavity you just found.  In this case…I can’t stop looking at these cards.  I try, and I try.  And I fail every time.

With no further ado…

Human: The other, other white meat.

Hobbit: The other, other white meat.

I am admittedly suspicious of rolled meat that is intended to be eaten as an individual packet.  Primarily it’s because they tend to not cook very well; the seam where the meat ends overlap are often undercooked, the back of the meat is overdone, and the middle either disappears of its own accord (it oozes out) or doesn’t quite meld into harmonious stuffed goodness like you might want it to do.  So.  Imagine my horror at the thought of wrapping meat into a package that all-too-uncomfortably resembles gnarly big toes.  In sherried cream.  Hobbit’s feet: a special meal for that special someone.

And by “special someone” I mean, you know.  Sauron.

This mockingly calls itself "corned beef".

This mockingly calls itself “corned beef”.

Corned beef, the card says.  But we know better.  This is clearly a raw thigh muscle topped with jelly and sage and poisonous holly berries.  I like the black mortar and pestle standing just to the right of the meat; it confirms my suspicion that some sort of black magic went into the preparation of this…ummm…dish.

Derp! Don't they know?  Red meat shouldn't wear pink.   It clashes.

Derp! Don’t they know? Red meat shouldn’t wear pink. It clashes.

I so appreciate that the gravy for this meal is made with Pepto-Bismol.  Because seriously, folks.  Eat this and bad times are at your doorstep.

Editor’s note: I’ve noticed there’s a lot of beef in the pictures I’m posting.  National Beef Council, it’s nothing personal.  It’s just what I have on hand.

The Drowned Roast

Sirloin Roast of The Drowned God

Game of Thrones nerds, I know you’re with me on this one.  For those of us not unapologetically obsessed with the books, then I’m sorry to point out that this looks like it’s been draped with wet hair.  Or maybe fishing nets.  Because what is dead may never die.  Though you may certainly try to kill this with fire, which would do everyone around you a favor.

Yeah, just with a schmear.

Yeah, just with a schmear.

For those cooks who lack adequate knife skills and can’t control when they cut themselves, may I present: the ubiquitous, congealed “red sauce”.  Disguises any and all kitchen accidents and ensures mealtimes won’t be delayed.

Hey, wait!  This doesn't look so bad.

Hey, wait! This doesn’t look so bad.

Nope, nope, you’re right.  This doesn’t look so bad.  Corn patties, would probably be delish with salsa.  A vegetarian option in the mid-80s, before vegetarianism was more readily acknowledged as a lifestyle choice.  Pretty progressive, actually, right?  Until you read the serving suggestion on the back.

Oh.  I see.

Oh. I see.

And finally:

Angriest.  Eggs.  Ever.

Angriest. Eggs. Ever.

When my boyfriend looked at this card he said, “Whoa, this looks like it would bite a person back.”  Indeed.  The first thing I thought of when I saw this (man, I am busting out my full-on nerd pedigree for this blog; I’m so deep in the nerd closet I get dressed in Narnia) I thought of the Harry Potter Monster Book of Monsters.  And with just a little bit of tinkering…

Perfect.

Perfect.

That’s if for this set, I think, for now.  I’ve exhausted what’s truly disturbing and/or funny about them.  And I’m kind of relieved to lay them aside for now, since they have a tendency to put me off my feed.  But!  Don’t worry.  There’s more of the craptastic in store.  Because I?  Am a giver.

Bon appetit?

What Cookery Is This? My Great Recipe Cards, 1984

I remember being completely fascinated by my mother’s set of Betty Crocker recipe cards when I was but a wee paisley.  At that point in my life I was in the running for the title of Pickiest Eater: Anything Not a PB&J, but those cards…there was something about them that always drew me in.  I would look through them and reject them on principle.  Onions?  No.  Peppers?  Gross.  Mushrooms?  HA HA!  HA HA!  HA HA!  All I had to learn was that they were a fungus and then?  Profoundly no with an irritated hand flip for good measure.

But those cards…they were shiny and…well, shiny…and they held the promise of exotic meals that I’d never heard of and probably wouldn’t have eaten anyway, often presented curiously.  Who in their right minds would put spinach in a clear glass trifle dish?

Elegance fail.from davidstable.com

Wee me deemed this an elegance fail. Nothing personal, Betty Crocker.
from davidstable.com

Spinach was something that was meant to be hidden away in the darkest recesses of our unholy present, never to be spoken of again.  Betty Crocker people, you so crazy!  And just to be clear, despite my current infatuation with the kitchen,  I didn’t care one bit about cooking at that point in my life.  Who knows why I found them so mesmerizing?  I just did.  I’m not sure if my mother got them in the mail (it could be that someone gave them to her, and it’s not as though she was consulting me on her cooking choices at that point in my life) but I do remember climbing up to the top of the fridge to get my tiny little meat hooks on that plastic box with the clamshell cover.

And so I lust for a set of my own.  The other day, my boyfriend and I were trolling the aisles at our local and amazingly awesome flea market when we stumbled upon an incomplete set of not-Betty-Crocker.  The cards we found were from My Great Recipes, circa 1984-1988 but you know what?  Still craptastically satisfying.  The foodie revolution had not yet begun except, perhaps, for Alice Waters‘s small corner of northern California and so much of the food presented largely originated out of cans and bags.  Food photography has also come a long way since 1984, so there’s a lot of cheesetastic, era-defining food horror contained in a relatively small amount of cards.  And the pack I found was only a–one, singular–dollar.  You can’t go wrong with that.

Thus, without further ado…a completely biased sample of the My Great Recipe card set.  There will be more to come as I work my way through the cards.  Prepare brain bleach.

Mmm, appetizers!

Mmm, appetizers!

Apparently, deep in the confines of this hallucinatory green nugget of Astroturf, there lives some boiled, shredded chicken breasts.  Two things: the only time I’ve willingly eaten boiled chicken breasts is when I was so sick I could only handle a bland diet.  Yeah!  Where do I sign for more memories of the stomach flu?  And, they want you to wilt spinach, then unfurl it.  Which is sort of akin to unfurling wet tissue paper.  It CAN be done, but more likely than not will require a scanning tunneling microscope so you can successfully move the spinach atoms without tearing the leaves.

Remind me not to bring this to a barbecue.

Remind me never to bring this to a barbecue.

Charred forearm of a burn victim, served with broiled fatty tumors.  It’s what’s for dinner.

Aloha, chicken!

Aloha, chicken!

The good people of Hawaii should stage a revolution in response to this…this…”chicken aloha”.  First of all, this recipe is an express ticket to Diabetesville, since it involves pineapple chunks in syrup, yams in syrup, and an unreasonable amount of currant jelly.  Would you like some chicken with your sugar?  And at first I couldn’t figure out the name (no matter how much you try and argue differently, Hawaiian is not made by pineapple alone) until I remembered, “aloha” can mean both “hello” and “goodbye”.  So I think it actually means “goodbye, chicken” and “hello, whole roasted juvenile pelican“.  Because I’m pretty sure that’s what’s in the pan.

Even I'm at a loss for words on this one.

Even I’m at a loss for words on this one.

Hi.  My name is Hannibal Lecter.  For my dinner this evening, I would like to order a half-cup of mayonnaise served on a cross-section of human ass, please.

Rare.

Thank you.

Ummmm...

Ummmm…

Are you sure you wouldn’t prefer the slabs of granite left over from your countertop installation, served with soothing river stones and watercress?

Erhmm...

Erhmm…

Ooh, tempting.  But no, I’ll take the crusted meat that’s been left out to dry for three days, topped with your phlegm and melted plastic reduction.

Savor the flavor.

Savor the flavor.

And for dessert, perhaps some sliced grapes with welts?  Sitting in a pastry crust and covered with slime?  Perfecto!

True story: I was visiting some friends for a long weekend, with a (now-ex) boyfriend.  He was going out to the store and wanted to know if I wanted anything.  I asked him to get me some fruit, I wanted fresh fruit, I needed to at least try and counter some of the effects of a weekend house party with something healthy.  And something like this?  Was what he brought back, only that version had kiwifruit, too.  I’ve been laughing about it for years.

I hear the cries for mercy.  And there’s only so many of these I can look at at one sitting.  So we’ll call this quits for now.  Just remember, there’s more coming!

The Kitchen Magician Food Glamorizer

My mother’s neighbor recently moved, and thanks to circumstances beyond the neighbor’s control (advanced age, limited living space, a bossy daughter) much of her non-essential belongings ended up stacked four feet high and three feet deep on her curb in anticipation of their final ride in the garbage truck.  It would have been a shame to have let all her items go unappreciated.  It was a whole lifetime of stuff she’d acquired over the years–furniture, glassware, cookware, tchotchkes.  Of course I raided the stacks and quite frankly, I made out like a bandit.  I got a heavy, lidded roasting pan, a white vinyl step stool that I would say is retro only it’s been with the original owner for about fifty years so that’s…what?…ahh, vintage.  I took so much stuff my boyfriend had to pack the car like it was a giant 3-D puzzle.  Among my favorite things (it’s a toss-up with the step stool) is the Kitchen Magician Food Glamorizer.

Swoon.

Let me repeat that.  It is a FOOD.  GLAMORIZER.  Who doesn’t want glamorous food which would then, of course, make you all that much more glamorous by association?  Made by Feature Products of Chicago, Illinois in 1963, the Kitchen Magician Food Glamorizer is one glorious streamlined nugget of space-age technology, and ought to be a mandatory component in the tool belt of any domestic goddess.  Look at all it offers.

A masterpiece of culinary multitaskery!

A masterpiece of culinary multitaskery!

If only it sliced, diced, and julienned.

IMG_0016
View One: Strip Cutter, Vegetable Scraper/Shredder and Peeler

Would you like to peel strips of zest off your lemons with ease?  Create carrot curls?  Shred cabbage?  Let the Food Glamorizer help!  And note how the handle slides neatly over the end not in use, to protect wifely hands while making radishes look like rosettes.  Because who doesn’t want their radishes to look like rosettes?  Let’s try, shall we? Using the Strip Cutter, the notch right at the very end of the Glamorizer, you pull down the sides of your radishes and then…

Ehrm...uh...oooOOoooOoo!

Ehrm…uh…oooOOoooOoo!

OK, OK.  This one sort of looks like I’ve stuck an aorta onto the back end of my radish.  Maybe the results with the vegetable scraper will be better.

HAHAHA!  No.

HAHAHA! No.

Mmmm, beeee-yooo-teeeee-ful!

Or, actually, opposite.  I admit, this one sort of looks like I’ve retrieved it from an early journey into the garbage disposal.  Or that I’ve surrounded it in raw chopped meat.  I can’t decide which is less appealing.  They’re both innately wrong.

I won’t trifle with you all regarding the vegetable peeler.  I assume you all know how to peel things.  It’s time to flip the handle and see the other design elements incorporated into the Kitchen Magician Food Glamorizer.

Fancy Cutter: Notice the detail!

View Two: Fancy Cutter. Notice the detail!

Behold how the handle flips around and fits easily over either end!  When you have the peeler end covered, it makes for an incredibly comfortable grip for your Kitchen Magician Pocket Shiv.

Well, you tell me what you’re going to use that for.

No, I kid!  It’s not intended for use in stealthy prison murders.  It’s the Fancy Cutter. It’s for fancy cutting!  Let’s see what this baby can do.

Oh, OK, that looks kind of all right.

Oh, OK, that looks kind of all right.

Only…

No it doesn't.

No it doesn’t.

Do note: it’s surprisingly sharp and goes into vegetables like they were made of butter.  This poor, mutilated radish was the result of some only slightly too angled initial cuts.

Sigh.  I thought gadgetry was supposed to make the domestic goddess’s life easier.  I thought I’d be making radish rosettes and harlequined lemons in no time!  Instead, this Kitchen Magician Food Glamorizer is more like a Kitchen Barbarian Food Brutalizer.  No wonder it didn’t become standard household equipment.  I wonder how many housewives of 1963 felt bad about themselves because they were serving their families inadequately glammed-up food?  O, the many perils of womanhood!  Frankly, I’m going to be too busy making food that is beautiful of its own accord to devote my time and energies into mastering the Food Glamorizer, no matter how glamorous that may seem.  But you know what?

It looks kitschtastic when proudly and eye-catchingly displayed on my cookbook shelf.  What more could I possibly ask of it?

Travel Theme: Gaudy

Ailsa’s travel theme this week at Where’s My Backpack? is “gaudy”.  The good people of Merriam-Webster define gaudy as: ostentatiously or tastelessly ornamented, OR marked by extravagance or sometimes tasteless showiness.

OK.  Much as I thought.  I mean, I know what I consider to be gaudy but I struggled to define the concepts of “tastelessly showy” vs. “elaborate”.  So it’s subjective.  So be it.

Of course, there are those things that one would hope would cross the line for everyone.  Welcome to East Rutherford, NJ.  This is a few scant miles away from where my boyfriend’s family lives, and we go see this house every Christmas.

Hi there.

Hi there.

They must have taken pity on the neighbors…or been cited by the FAA for distracting lights and a disruption of flight patterns…but I am SO.  Not.  Kidding.  When I say: they’ve toned it down.  A LOT.

Bear in mind, the light strands hanging down the house all flicker, like they’re running water.  Yeah.

Next stop: The Vatican!

Whenever I go somewhere–and this is totally true–I always keep a half an eye open for decorating ideas.  Maybe someone will have some way of hanging sconces I never thought of before, or they’ll have interesting window treatments, or maybe they’ll have priceless artwork nailed to their ceiling.

The Map Room, Vatican City.

The Map Room, Vatican City.

Because you can never have enough paintings in gilded frames and top-of-the-wall statuary in a room.  I actually had to scoot to the end of this room and out the door because it was too much of a sensory overload for me.

Next stop: Chateau Chenonceau.  Chenonceau, in the Loire Valley in France, is the embodiment of elegance.  As a building, its lines are graceful and clean.  The decor is gorgeous, clearly extraordinary, all showing exquisite workmanship and refined taste.  Even the working 16th-century farm is tres charmant.  But there is this one thing.  It’s right there, in the corner of the drawing room.

Louis XIV

Louis XIV

Well, hellooo, Mr. Fancypants.  I don’t know what I find the most gaudy about this…the frame?  The hair?  The giant, kingly cuffs on his velvet jacket?  The look on his face like he smells something bad?  Though I suppose when one’s reign as the king of France lasts for 72 years, over-the-top becomes the new normal.

Really?  I think it’s the hair.  *killing me*

And finally, our last stop is very near to me, in beautiful downtown Williamsport, PA.  I was doing a little shopping, thought I’d drop by the shoe department and WHAM!  These purple beauties nearly leapt out of their box and right onto my feet.

Do we like the sexy-poo shoes?

Do we like the sexy-poo shoes?

They are, perhaps, one of the worst pairs of shoes I’ve ever seen.  Gaudy doesn’t quite begin to cover it; words fail, I think, which is why I had to try them on.  Could you really appreciate the horror of these shoes without seeing the grape-colored organdy snakes start to coil up my leg?  Holy pockets!  I can’t believe I survived.

Go check out the rest of the gaudy at Where’s My Backpack?  There’s some truly awful-yet-great stuff to be seen this week!

And remember, kids: if bad taste were outlawed then only outlaws would have bad taste, and that’s just no way to make the world go ’round.

Dinner is Served! Cooking with Campbell’s Soup (1970)

A dear, dear friend of mine, knowing my deep and abiding taste for kitsch, sent me a copy of the Campbell Soup Company’s Cooking With Soup: 608 Skillet Dishes, Casseroles, Stews, Sauces, Gravies, Dips, Soup Mates and Garnishes.  Once I picked myself up after having major swoonies, I thought…Good Lord, food photography has made tremendous strides in visual appeal over the intervening decades.

*blergh*

*blergh*

Feast your eyes (if not, surely, your taste buds) on the cover, which features a photo of the Penthouse Chicken.  I can only imagine that it’s deemed “penthouse” because it will make the diner feel as though they’re eating the swankiest of chickens in all the land and not because you want to put it up high, far out of reach of the unsuspecting who might get their hands on it.  Mmmm, where can I get mystery meat covered in congealed red glop, garnished with cross-sections of femur?  Let the noms begin!

I’ve never been a fan of cooking with soup, unless the thing I was eating was actually soup.  I mean, I’m not a big eater of processed foods to begin with, though I do confess to a weakness for chipotle chicken Lean Pockets and do indeed keep a few canned soups on hand.  Hey, I must eat in order not to die and like everyone else, can be lazy in my hunter-gathering.  I’m no stranger in looking for things that adequately meet my needs.  Canned soup provides a heaping dose of adequacy; it adequately keeps me alive, it provides adequate flavor so I don’t want to kill myself out of boredom, it keeps me adequately full until my next meal.  It also provides–and I say this looking at a can of Healthy Request tomato soup–sodium (normally, in relatively high amounts), high fructose corn syrup, potassium chloride and monopotassium phosphate (both of which are also used as fertilizers).

What it doesn’t provide is excellence.  Granted, there can only be so much excellence one can expect from food flavored with fertilizers.  The kitschmonger in me has gone berserk over this book.  It’s got the space-age sensibility that one truly CAN open up a bunch of packages and make things easy for Mom in the kitchen; it gives the feeling that we’re only a few short steps away from a food-o-matic a la The Jetsons.

Image from smcbydesign.com

Image from smcbydesign.com

I love the pithy word play, the recipes for “Souper Saucy Meat Loaf” and “Spread-a-Burgers”.  I can’t look at the section called “Soup on the Rocks” without flinching.  I rejoice over the inclusion of a recipe for THAT tuna casserole…you know the one, with the frozen peas and the cream of celery soup and the crumbled potato chips on top?  In this book they call it “PERFECT TUNA“.  *killing me*  Conversely, the foodie in me weeps as I page through the Great Big Book of Adequate. with all 608 recipes chock-full of nothing special.

Though “special” is a word that can mean many things.  And I think I am wrong.  I think I need to redefine what I consider to be “special”.

There were a few recipes that were particularly notable in their horror.  In all fairness, I just got this book yesterday so there are probably more than a few recipes that should strike terror into the hearts of readers, but two really stood out in their ability to churn the stomach and ruin the appetite.

Meat Shell Pie!

Meat Shell Pie!

Bonus!  You get three recipes here for the price of one.  But yes.  Meat shell pie, so lurid it inspired my boyfriend to write a song about it.  What you do, see, is you press out the ground beef to make a shell, and then you press halved hot dogs into said shell so it looks like a clock.  Then you top it with soup and sauteed onions, bake, and then top with Velveeta and bake again.  It upset me that the good people of Campbell’s didn’t include a picture of said meat shell pie and so, I drew a diagram.  So you could visualize the majestic nature of…the Pie.

Mmmmm...MMMM!

Mmmmm…MMMM!

Hot dog eaters take note: the color I used for the frankfurters (since I lack a light pink marker) is called “greyed lavender” and really, it’s not far off from a hot dog’s natural color.  I’m not judging, I’m just stating the facts.

Who wants seconds???

I was floored when I was thumbing through this book and realized they had included a desserts section.  I will grant that one may use canned soup for many things–casseroles, sauces, apparently cocktails–but the concept of using soup in dessert had eluded me.

You can only have this once you finish your meat shell pie!

You can only have this once you finish your meat shell pie!

Look, it’s lovely, isn’t it?  Looks all moist and delish.  Walnuts.  Candied plums for garnish.  What could go wrong?

Oh, right.  It’s made with tomato soup.

Nothing is ever as simple as it seems.

Nothing is ever as simple as it seems.

I can’t decide whether to be strangely comforted or plain-old revolted by the option to add raisins.

I appreciate cooking short cuts.  I’m no stranger to making food and freezing it for another time or another use entirely.  Opening a can of soup is a viable lazy-night alternative for sure but it’s no substitute for a real meal.  I blame cooking like this for our mental distance from the reality of our food, and where it comes from, and how it’s prepared, and what’s in it, and what it does to us.  When we cook like this, we cede control over what goes in to ourselves and the bodies of the people we love.  Take back control.  Understand your food.  Cook fresh, when feasible.

Let me put it this way: Were I to host a dinner party in Hell, this would be on the menu.  And if you think this book was written in 1970 and so, is outdated and nobody cooks like this anymore, let me remind you, just for starters…

http://busycooks.about.com/od/startwithseries/a/cannedsoup.htm

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