May it Please the Palate: Recipes gone bad . . . How bad? Think 'Fish Balls' with 'Soy Pulp Cookies' for dessert

The past couple of weeks have found me going over my old recipe collections, and my mind drifted to a website that features Weight Watcher recipe cards from the 70s (http://www.candyboots.com/wwcards.html).

Warning: do not open this site in the office, unless you want your co-workers to come rushing in to see why you're writhing on the floor making gagging noises.

Try recipes like "Cabbage Casserole Czarina," "Fish Balls," "Snappy Mackerel Casserole," and "Slender Quenchers." Or better yet - don't try them.

What really makes this site are the pictures - dishes posed bizarrely with ceramic animals and other random knickknacks - and the snide commentary, such as this one for "Caucasian Shashlik": "I have no idea what ''shashlik'' is. All I know about this dish is that it's meat. And that the meat's, uh... caucasian."

Or "Jellied Tomato Refresher": "Yes, let's have these in brandy snifters. Let's just tip our heads back and let the chunks slide in."

And these words with "Fluffy Mackerel Pudding": "Once upon a time the world was young and the words ''mackerel'' and ''pudding'' existed far, far away from one another. One day, that all changed. And then, whoever was responsible somehow thought the word fluffy would help."

Where can you find bad recipes in your own home? Try the oldest cookbooks you have, preferably the ones from the church ladies who try helplessly to translate their family favorites into something orderly.

Or the ones that evoke an earlier era when people ate things that today would make your jaw drop (e.g., my version of the Joy of Cooking includes recipes for squirrel and muskrat).

My own cookbook collection has a few gems.

I have "The Farm Vegetarian Cookbook" that features someone's Uncle Bill, a former New York delicatessen manager who was apparently forced by hippies in a commune to cook vegetarian recipes.

He got his retribution by giving them "Uncle Bill's Turnip Appetizer," "Uncle Bill's Sauerkraut Soup," and pickled "lox" made with eggplant, which reminds us to "serve on bagels with soy cream cheese."

Don't miss the "Marinated Kohlrabi" recipe, which closes with the advice, "Proceed with canning instructions or eat in one hour." Why do I have to wait an hour? Is it like swimming?

That same cookbook has an entire section on cooking with gluten, including "Gluten Roast," "Oven Fried Gluten," and "Janice's Barbeque Gluten Ribs."

Unfortunately, I didn't notice any gluten-free versions.

I also own "Home Drying Vegetables Fruits & Herbs" which still features the $.50 cent sticker from the Wayne State University bookstore.

The premise of the book doesn't sound so bad until you get to the actual recipes, like the one for carrot pudding featuring dried carrots, chopped suet, dried raisins, sugar, flour, and cinnamon. Not sure if that's for people, or birds.

Speaking of which, the "Groaning Board" cookbook from 1977 has something called "Bird's Nest" that goes like this: "On a bed of bean sprouts, spread grated cheese. Broil or bake briefly, lade on hot tomato sauce and top with a clump of cottage cheese." Yes, a "clump!" Boy, does that make it sound good!

"Fast and Fabulous Appetizers" almost appears normal in spots, but then veers dangerously into the Weight Watcher Recipe Card territory, with "Wonderful Onion Puffies," "Things in Blankets" ("watch your guests' faces when they see a platter of these dough-wrapped morsels"), and "Peanut Prunes" with prunes, peanut butter, and bacon.

How about the politically incorrect name "Bombay Babies?" which explains: "This time the prunes are stuffed with chutney. Delicious."

And I love the trend that has dishes named after their creator: "Karen's Tuna Balls," "Ellen's Broiled Oysters," and "Daniel's Roquefort Endive." Now we all know why Daniel is leaving tonight on a plane.

I must have picked up "Potluck Potato Recipes from Ireland" in the UK, judging from the price tag in pounds. Every dish, from soup to dessert, includes potatoes. Don't you just want to try "Pineapple Potato Delight" tonight? Who ever thought up putting "Delight" at the end of an incongruous matching of food items to somehow tie them together into a delicious whole?

If you're not yet convinced, the recipe description says "This one adds drama to a dinner menu." That's supposed to be an inducement?!

The recipe for "Friendly Potatoes" made me sad. Why would I want to eat my friends?

After all this, I'm sure you want some dessert:

Soy Pulp Cookies

From "The Farm Vegetarian Cookbook"

Ingredients

2 cups flour

1/2 tsp. salt

4 tsp. baking powder

2 cups soy pulp ...

... Yes, 2 whole cups. You want to be sure to taste that soy pulp.

On second thought, you probably don't.

Nick Roumel is a principal with Nacht, Roumel, Salvatore, Blanchard and Walker, P.C., a litigation firm in Ann Arbor specializing in employment litigation.

He also has many years of varied restaurant and catering experience, has taught Greek cooking classes, and writes a food/restaurant column for "Current" magazine.

He can be reached at: nroumel@nachtlaw.com

Published: Thu, Nov 24, 2011

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