Category Archives: Books

Let’s See How Far We’ve Come – Cheesy Meaty Goodness On a Stick – 1970’s vs 2010’s

My favorite thing to eat is finger food.  And it doesn’t have to be fancy – I’m just as happy with a mini-quiche or a party pie as with a teeny Peking duck pancake or a tempura prawn on a stick with a wasabi mayo.

If I was ever going to open a restaurant, all it would serve would be tiny bites.  And champagne.  Cocktails of course.  But the entire menu would be finger food.  It would be a cocktail party restaurant.  Anyone wishing to fund this establishment…you know where to find me.

Finger food has been on my mind recently as I have been drooling over the contents of Lydia France’s Party Bites which is like setting a child loose in a sweet shop – I want that one!  And that one!  And I REALLY want that one!

Party Bites

I was also not the only one who thought this book was looked delicious.  Oscar’s been suffering from a little bit of separation anxiety since I have gone back to work and I came home one day to find the book, which I had left on the couch was not exactly how I had left it….

No so much dog eared....

No so much dog eared….

I then had to go fess up to the library – the upside of which, after exchange of some financial compensation, the book, albeit slightly chewed now belongs to me!

There is a recipe in Party Bites which is a modern take on the old retro favourite of a cube of cheese on a stick with a bit of something.  This is often to be had with pineapple in the fabulously kitschy Cheese and Pineapple Hedgehog:

Pineapple and Cheese Hedgehog

Then there is the equally retro but less whimsical Aussie Staple of kabana and cheese….

Kabana and Cheese

Kabana And Cheese

No Australian barbeque of the 1970’s or 80’s would have been complete without a tray of this.  Often,  the kabana and cheese was topped with  chunk of pineapple, a gaudily coloured cocktail onion or, if you were really classy, a stuffed olive.

The idea is actually sound.  Who doesn’t love a meaty cheesy snack?  And if topped with something sweet or sour or salty…well, so much the better.  We here at Retro Food For Modern Times are not subscribers to the minimalist maxim that less is more.  We believe that more is more.  With a cherry on top!

The main problems with kabana and cheese is that kabana is kind of gross and although this combination might be tasty, it is drop dead boring. So, how do you give the ubiquitous kabana and cheese a modern twist whilst still retaining some of the kookiness of the cheese and pineapple hedgehog?  Hello Lydia France’s Spanish Men…or should that be Hola los hombres españoles!

Here’s Lydia’s Version:

Spanish Men - Lydia France

Spanish Men – Lydia France

And here are mine…my Spanish men look a little drunk and definitely more chunkier.  I think my Spanish men may have been hitting the Rioja a little too hard….

Spanish Men - olives, quince paste, serrano ham and manchego cheese

My Spanish Men

Spanish Men Recipe

For all their wonkiness, I loved them.  These were sooooo good!  Serrano ham, where have you been all my life?  If you weren’t so damn expensive I would be feasting on you non-stop.

The salty olive, the sweet quince paste, the meaty deliciousness of the serrano and the creaminess of the cheese combine to create a little piece of heaven on a stick!

Spanish Men I love you!

Mario Casas

And you’re not bad either Mario Casas…

I’m going to be spending my week checking out Spanish cinema.  Enjoy your week whatever you do!

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BOOK REVIEW: Dr. Linda Harper’s “Give”

Hi there, I am baking bread for the first time in my life today, and as I have a little break whilst waiting for my dough to rise, I thought I would share this.
A few weeks ago, the good folks at Book Hub put out a call for people wanting free books…who doesn’t was my response! Free books? That’s even better than free booze! You don’t get those nasty hangovers if you read a bit too much! The book I selected was Give by Linda R. Harper Ph.D. I really enjoyed the book and I wrote a little review for Book Hub which they posted on their blog the other day. Here is it, and if you read the book, I hope you find it as interesting and thought-provoking as I did!

Book Hub, Inc.

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Give: A Guide to Discovering the Joy of Everyday Giving
Linda R. Harper, Ph.D.

Review by Taryn Fryer

I wanted to read Give in order to learn how to give more authentically.  In many ways the book was what I expected in terms of learning to give according to your values and to give freely in every sense of the word.  Had that been all there was, I would have been satisfied with the book and then put it down and promptly forgotten about it. 

This book rose above my expectations for two main reasons.  The first of these was the importance of giving to oneself.   I think many people, myself included, tend to put self-nurturing last on their ever increasing to-do lists.  What Ms Harper does beautifully is to challenge this notion that “spoiling” ourselves is somehow wanton.  She reminds, or in some cases teaches, us that only when…

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Retro food For Modern Times – Yes, We Have No Bananas

Bananas are not my favourite fruit.  I put it down to an ill-advised visit to a…(please don’t let my mum be reading this)… “show” in Amsterdam when I was, younger and more prone to drunkenness peer pressure than I am now.  It took many a year before I could even look at a banana (or anyone dressed in a Batman costume) without an inward cringe and a slight sense of shame.

But, even a banana-phobe like me could not resist trying out the recipe for Rhubarb and Banana Pie in Good Cooking For Everyone.  Here is a sneak peek at how that turned out before we turn to some less appetising uses.

Rhubarb and Banana Pie

Rhubarb and Banana Pie

OMG that pie was good!!!

I’m conquering my fears in more ways than one this week – bananas and homemade pastry!  If only Christian Bale would drop by we could go for the hat trick. Anyway, I had a little flick through Good Cooking for Everyone whilst I was waiting for my pastry to  chill and there seemed to be a lot fewer recipes containing bananas than I remembered.

Here is what was listed:

Listed Banana Recipes

The Listed Banana Recipes…

However, my eagle eye soon discovered out the recipes Mary Meredith tried to hide.  So, today, allow me to present the Banana File of Shame (and a really, really, good pie recipe)!

Mary Meredith seems to have had quite the predilection for bananas and bacon as they feature in three recipes.  I had no idea this was a thing but Niki Sengit gives the combination a stamp of approval in her Flavour Thesaurus (one of my favourite food books) so I guess it must be.  Like Mary, Niki also gives a recipe for Bacon Wrapped Bananas.  However it is the cheese sauce in Mary Meredith’s recipe that moves it from what Niki calls “fun”  to what I call “Ewww”!

Bacon and Banana Corkscrews

Then there are Bacon, Kidney and Banana Kebabs.  I have never cooked with, or even knowingly eaten, kidneys.  And after reading the second sentence in this recipe which made me gag, it will probably stay that way!  The faint of stomach may want to skip recipe.

Bacon, Banana and Kidney Kebabs 001

Bacon, Banana and Kidney Kebabs

Kidney, Bacon and Banana Kebabs

There is also a sneaky use of bananas in the Sunrise Breakfast.  I initially thought the things on the serving platter with the tomatoes were sausages.  But who ever heard of people eating sausages for breakfast?  Crumbed bananas make far more sense.  If you’re insane.

Sunrise Breakfast

Sunrise Breakfast

Mind you, I’m obviously a bit slow because I made the same mistake with the Sunday Chicken which also features bananas cunningly disguised as sausages.

Sunday Chicken

Sunday Chicken

Another combination I would never have thought of but Niki assures me that breaded chicken with banana was served on the Titanic  and features in F. Scott Fitzgerald‘s novel Tender is the Night!  Mary Meredith also features chicken and bananas in her recipe for Stuffed Boned Chicken.

I would have included the pages on how to bone a chicken.  Unfortunately, the 13-year-old boy whose sense of humour I stole was snickering so hard at the phrase “boning a chicken” that I had to let it go.

Stuffed Boned Chicken

Stuffed Boned Chicken

Mary is also not afraid to take food from other climes and destroy them with the inappropriate inclusion of the banana.

A recipe called Flamenco Rice should invoke Spain. It should bring up images  of a glamorous Spanish woman, holding the edge of her brightly coloured ruffled dress and twirling, or clicking her castanets to the tune of a classical guitar.  Or, at the very least,  Paella.

Fried eggs and fried bananas  on a bed of rice served with tomato sauce is not flamenco.  It’s not even the Macarena.

flamenco 001

France also does not fair well.  Bananas as an accompaniment to Fondue?  No thanks.

Fabulous copper fondue pot though!

Fondue Bourguignonne

Fondue Bourguignonne

Finally, the hidden gem in the shape of a Rhubarb and Banana Pie.  This was awesome!

I made a few small changes to the recipe as given.  I wanted a really short, almost a shortbread, crust so I used the Almond Sweetcrust Pastry in Alan Campion and Michelle Curtis’ In The Kitchen instead of that suggested by Mary. If you are scared of large quantities of butter look away now.

Pastry ingredients

Pastry ingredients

I mastered the pastry only to discover my pie dish had disappeared into the Bermuda Triangle that hovers over my house.  But, in the spirit of keep calm and carry on, I crossed my fingers and rolled the pastry into a soufflé dish.

Souffle Dish Pie!

Souffle Dish Pie!

Rhubarb and Banana Pie Ingredients

Rhubarb and Banana Pie Ingredients

I added 1 teaspoon of Orange Flower Water into the mix before I loaded it into the Pie Crust.  I love the mix of rhubarb and orange!

Banana and Rhubarb Pie ingredients loaded into crust

Banana and Rhubarb Pie ingredients loaded into crust

The pie was fabulous, the flavours worked beautifully together and the pastry was light and crisp. I kept my rhubarb and my banana relatively chunky which made for an interesting mix – one mouthful would be heavily rhubarb in flavour, the next would be almost entirely banana.  If you wanted less sharply defined flavours, you could cook the rhubarb to soften it, then mash be bananas in.

I may be biased but I think mine looks pretty good, despite the use of a soufflé dish!!!

Mary's Rhubarb and Banana Pie

Mary’s Rhubarb and Banana Pie

My Rhubarb and Banana Pie

My Rhubarb and Banana Pie

Rhubarb and Banana Pie Recipe

Almond Sweetcrust Pastry

Slice of Rhubarb and Banana Pie

Slice of Rhubarb and Banana Pie

They say the best way to get rid of your phobias it to face them.  So, this week I’m going to be spending a lot of time looking at pictures of Christian Bale on the internet.

Bale /Batman

Bale /Batman

And no, it’s not pervy.  It’s therapy!

Enjoy whatever catches your eye this week.

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Retro Food For Modern Times: Good Cooking for (Almost) Everyone (1981)

Hello there, time to take a look into a new book.

Welcome to Mary Meredith’s Good Cooking for Everyone.

Good Cooking For Everyone by Mary Meredith 002

Let me just start with a little quibble.  When i think of 1981, I think of this:

1981’s finest.

And not so much this:

Mary Meredith 001

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not having a go at Mary here.  This book was first published in 1970 and this was a probably a perfectly acceptable photo back then.  Eleven years later, you’d think that maybe the publishers could have forked out for a new publicity photo.  Maybe one using that new technology of  colour.

The 500 “specially selected recipes” in this book do address a wide audience, if not exactly everyone.

In keeping with the Livvie theme above, there are sandwiches that would suit people watching their weight:

Lettuce and Lemon Sandwiches 001

And recipes for those who are most definitely not.

Mary calls this  “California Stuffed Forehock.” I prefer to think of it as “The Reason Elvis (Permanently) Left the Building”. The prunes in the recipe could explain why he was found on the toilet.

Californian Stuffed Forehock 001

Enough for 4 people or one bacon lovin’ popstar!

From The King, to proper royalty, Mary Meredith also provides us with a dainty dish to set before a king. Four and twenty blackbirds anyone?

Cutlet Pie

In fairness to Mary, it’s not actually blackbirds but a mix of lamb kidneys and cutlets.  In fairness to modern sensibility, I was staring at this picture wondering how to describe the sheer awfulness of a pie with bones in little bootees sticking out of it.  Mark looked at it over my shoulder. “You’re not making that are you?” he asked, sounding a little shaky.  I assured him I was not.  “Good” he said. “Because it looks fucking horrible.”  Description problem solved.

Then, there are recipes for people who want their cakes to look like footwear.  (Why? WHY???)

Shoe cake - who doesn't want to eat an old boot on their birthday!

Shoe cake – who doesn’t want to eat an old boot on their birthday!

And recipes for people who want to traumatise their children.  Never mind the chocolate-roll cats at the front, what are those weird shiny pink things with faces ? Apart from the stuff of nightmares?

Children's Party Food

Children’s Party Food

I did however manage to find one group of people for who Mary was not catering for.  I was searching the index of this book when, in the B’s,  I came across:

  • Baked Lemon Potatoes
  • Batch of scones

It’s an odd way of listing these items but there were corresponding entries under L, P and S so whilst kooky, they weren’t entirely random. (But again, maybe something that should have been corrected in the 1981 edition.)

I also noticed under M:

  • Making a jug of cocoa

Using this logic surely every recipe should be listed under M?

  • Making Lettuce and lemon sandwiches
  • Making Elvis Has Left The Building, etc.

And just to be really irritating there is no corresponding entry under C listing:

  • Cocoa, Making a jug of

I’m sorry cocoa drinkers of the world, I guess if you were of a logical mind in 1981 and wanted to find out how to make a jug of your favourite drink (without having to scan through 499 other recipes), you were S.O.L.

I’m spending the weekend with a jug of margaritas… it was going to be cocoa but the recipe was too damn hard to find!

So much for an alcohol free April!

Whatever your tipple, have a great week.

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Retro Food For Modern Times – Party Tips from 1971

Every good hostess knows that there’s more to throwing a good party than just great food.

You also need loads of booze.

No, seriously…you do.

But you also need to set your scene and today we’re going to at some suggestions on how to do just that from the authors of The Party Cookbook.

Let’s start with some dubious advice for hosting a dinner party given to us by Ted Moloney.

Dinner Party a la Ted Moloney.

Dinner Party a la Ted Moloney

“Paid casual help has become very expensive and few people can afford to employ more than one person.  Which should it be?… a waiter is the answer…find the right man and use him always.  Have him come early.  He will be able to give your glasses a last minute polish and set out the drinks for you…any party will run more smoothly when a man serves the drinks and waits on the table”.

Does anyone else find the sentence “Find the right man and use him alway” just a little bit smutty?  Particularly when followed by a sentence suggesting that you get him to come early?

I’m a little disappointed that Ted didn’t suggest hiring a buxom serving wench who may have been up for a bit of slap and tickle between courses whilst Yakety Sax played in the background.  (In my mind, the whole of the ’70’s was just one long episode of  Benny Hill). I’m also gobsmacked that people found it necessary to hire staff for a party for eight people!

Ted’s admiration of the male at the dinner table doesn’t extend to the host whom he seems to assume is some sort of simpleton.

“Give the man of the house his share of the spotlight.  If your first course is soup, let him serve it from a tureen at the table”.

“Give him a chafing dish and encourage him to take up table cooking. It is easy and fun”

He also provides a menu called the Man Takes Over which:

“Is an easy dinner menu…which any man can cope with successfully.”

Awww….now kiddies, can we spell patronising?  Is anyone else imagining the host as Cousin Ruprecht from Dirty Rotten Scoundrels?

How I imagine the host

Here is the photo of the “Man Takes Over”.

The Man takes over 001

Yep, it’s a cheeseboard.

And by the look of that Edam, maybe the man shouldn’t have taken over.  Did he go at that with a shovel?  No wonder they need someone to help with the drinks!

Moving from the bumbling to the utterly awesome, meet Greta Anne Teplitzky and her Summer Buffet Party.

Summer Buffet Dinner Party

Summer Buffet Dinner Party

How utterly amazing is this photo?  When I grow up, I want to be Greta Anne Tepliztky.  I want to live in her house with that awesome copper hood for the fireplace.  I want the colours on my kaftan to exactly match the colours in the flowers, the candles and the napery.  That kind of co-ordination doesn’t happen by accident!  Greta has planned this party to the nth degree and yet she looks cool, calm and collected.  Greta exudes a kind of European sophistication where you know that she will shortly be lighting a pink Sobranie and having a glass of champagne.  She’s not hovering over her food, nervously worrying that you won’t like it. Greta is content to sit back and allow her summer buffet party to speak for itself.  Greta is chilled out.  She’s zen.  I think I love her.

Just as Greta’s buffet says all the right things, the open house party says all the wrong things…

Open House Party

Open House Party

This table has a distinct lack of serving implements.  Bad enough picking up the bread and meat with your hands, what are you meant to do with the mustards and condiments? Stick your finger into the jars? And whilst we’re on that don’t leave your pickles in the jar they were bought in.  Do you want people to think you’re common?   Oh wow…I just channelled my mother.  However, not having serving implements isn’t just lazy, it’s dirty.  We’ve all heard about the peanuts in the bar containing nine types of pee.  This table may as well be lit with a neon sign that says “Hi folks, welcome to dysentery.”

And speaking of signs…If you are planning any sort of buffet extravaganza DO NOT EVER put up a blackboard that tells people to help themselves.  If your guests do not have sufficient wits about them to know that the whole idea of a buffet is for people to help themselves, you probably need a new set of friends.  Moreover, do not do this in faux olde worlde phrasing.  It’s not cute, it’s obnoxious.  And yes, I am perfectly aware I just used the same old-fangled wording I’m complaining about.  If you haven’t figured out by now that obnoxious is my stock in trade, welcome to Retro Food for Modern Times, I hope you’re enjoying your first visit, do come again.

Decorating your house for a party is also important. It not only provides something interesting for your guests to look at, it reflects your personality.  If you have no personality, one way in which you can still make your house interesting to guests is to copy interpret ideas from your favourite books and magazines.  Take this picture from The Party Cookbook, which is a sans chafing dish view of Ted Moloney’s dinner party. Ted was holding out on us because, this picture gives rise to the second best bit of decor in the entire book.

Decor

Decor

I love that vase with the twigs and the birds.

So much so that I made one myself!

The birds are Christmas decorations, the twigs came from the park next door and I had the vase.  Too easy!

I think this is very cute and if I had more space I would probably leave it in place permanently.  Unfortunately, wherever I put it, it’s in danger of taking someone’s eye out so it will shortly have to be dismantled.

Bird and Twig Vase

Bird and Twig Vase

Bird and Twig Vase 2

Bird and Twig Vase 2

Blue Bird

Blue Bird

Red Bird

Red Bird

I’ll be spending my week working on my craft skills by hammering a sheet of copper into a hood.  Have a great week whatever you do!

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Retro Food For Modern Times – Let’s See How Far We’ve Come – 1971 vs 2013

I have spoken previously about my abhorrence of food made to look like animals. It’s one of the reasons why Easter isn’t my favourite holiday.

Chocolate?  Good.

Chocolate posing as rabbits and chickens? Not so much.

Not to mention the Easter Bilbies…

Easter Bilbies

I have nothing against bilbies, I think they’re kind of sweet when they are found in nature where they belong.  Where they do not belong is in my Easter Basket.

However, given the time of year and the predilection for animal shaped food items I thought I would have a quick look at two recipes, one from the Party Cookbook (1971), the other from a modern book to see how our tastes have changed.

Let’s start with the 1971 recipe for White Mice in Jelly.

White Mice in Jelly 001

I didn’t make this because

a) It’s food made to look like rodents, and

b) I’m not fond of pears.  I find them largely tasteless and a little gritty.

But imagine these sans lettuce leaf and cheese and drowned in a vat of Lucozade and you get the general idea of the White Mice in Jelly.

,

1971 verdict – I guess they’re kind of cute.  If you like eating facsimile vermin and gritty fruit, knock yourself out.

Moving to 2013, I found the following recipe in Luke Nguyen‘s Greater Mekong Cookbook. I assumed his Chargrilled Coconut Mice would be an Asian version of the above, maybe made from a tropical fruit dipped in coconut.  A cutesy way to end the book, like the puppy story at the end of the news.

Then I actually read the recipe and..oh….oh…OH!  For the love of hopscotching Jesus…no!

Chargrilled Coconut Mice 001

Don’t get me wrong Luke,  I like you.  I think you are charming television host and a great chef.  I follow you on social media.  But seriously?   REAL FUCKING MICE? Have you lost your mind?

I didn’t make this one either because

a) It’s food made of rodents and

b) Telling me to not freak out and use quail doesn’t work.  The word mice has already been mentioned. Several times.  I don’t give a crap if they are naturally clean I’m not throwing a few mice on the barbie!

2013 Verdict – Is this really what we’ve come to?  We’ve had the foams and the bacon ice-cream and the molecular gastronomy, we’re now eating vermin? Bring back 1971!

Just in case the recipe wasn’t bad enough you can watch Luke cooking the mice here:

http://www.sbs.com.au/food/recipe/15919/Chargrilled_coconut_mouse_or_quail

Gross.

So…in deference to the ethos of 1971, bring out the bilbies and hand me the rabbits;  this Easter I’m eating vermin.  But only of the chocolate variety!

Chocolate Bunny red ribbon

Happy Easter everyone!

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Retro Food For Modern Times Invites You To The Worst Cocktail Party Ever

I have a bone to pick with Louis Ferguson who wrote the Cocktail Party Section of the The Party Cookbook.

Let’s get one thing clear Louis.  A cocktail party is called a cocktail party for one reason, and one reason only.  And that is the presence of cocktails.  So, by rights, given that your chapter contains absolutely no recipe for, or indeed barely a reference to, these alcoholic delights, it hardly warrants the title.

Whilst I’m on the subject  – for any workplaces that happen to be reading?  Wine and beer are not cocktails.  Stop calling events where these beverages are served cocktail parties.  It’s annoying and pretentious.  Alternatively, keep the name and actually serve cocktails.

That I am even bothering to talking about Louis is because I wanted another chance to use this delight of 1970’s food photography.

Pinapple Prawn and Parsley Pot

Pineapple, Prawn and Parsley Pot

Unfortunately, Louis lets us down here too.  In addition to not having any cocktail recipes he also does not offer any details on how to construct the Zig Zag Pineapple, Prawn and Parsley Pot.

What we are given, ad nauseam are Louis’ instructions for canapés – some of which you can see in the photo.

These include:

  • Spread a slice of toast with softened cream cheese.  Cover the entire surface with drained sweet corn kernels.  Press well onto the cheese.  Cut into diamond shapes and garnish with small diamonds of red capsicum.
  • Spread a slice of toast with softened cream cheese.  Cover with finely chopped red and green capsicum.  Cut into diamonds with a wet knife.
  • Cut buttered toast into rounds with a one inch cutter.  Cut thin slices of salami the same size.  Place onto croûtes and garnish with three peas held in place by a dab of French mustard.
  • Cut buttered toast into rounds with a one inch cutter.  Cut thin slices of beetroot the same size.  Place onto croutes and garnish with halved cocktail onions

I’m sensing some trends here.. Oh, ok, here we go, something different…

  • Cut buttered bread into small crescents.  Cut crescents from slices of mortadella sausage and place them on the croûtes.  Garnish with “zig zags” of creamed butter.

Crescents and zig zags.  Just when you thought the canapé could not get any better Louis gives us crescents and zig zags.  Genius.

However this genius was short-lived.  I suspect that by the bottom of the second page of canapé suggestions, Louis was pretty much phoning it in vis a vis:

  • Spread a slice of toast with mustard butter.  Cut into rectangles and cover with several thin slices of cooked frankfurter sausage,

There’s no love in that suggestion. Cold frankfurters on cold toast is not the offering of a man passionate about his craft.  It’s the offering of a man who has lost the will to live.

Louis also suggests that once you have assembled your bread-in-a-shape + protein + garnish that you then coat the entire combination in either aspic or a mixture of gelatine and chicken stock.  He doesn’t actually explain why.  I suspect it has something to do with making his readers and their cocktail party guests as miserable and life-loathing as himself.

Apparently, no booze, cold frankfurters, peas cemented to salami with mustard and a beetroot and pickled onion combo weren’t bad enough. Chicken-flavoured gelatine also needed be added into the mix. Yecchh!

The lack of cocktails has given me a thirst, I’m off to hunt down a tipple (or two) and work on the party food for next week’s post.

Hint…it contains bacon.  Lots and lots of lovely bacon.

Have a great week!

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Retro Food For Modern Times – The Party Cookbook (1971) – Part 1

We are suffering from a mini heatwave at the moment.  You know it’s hot when your candles melt before you even light them!

Bathroom Candles

It’s far too hot to turn on the stove, the oven, the toaster or even to move to the phone to order a pizza.  So, instead of cooking this week, I thought I might take a little stroll through Anne Marshall and Elizabeth Sewell’s  1971 work “The Party Cookbook.”  And why not?   If there is a hell, I’m already well on my way there, so what’s the harm in setting my dial to mock and taking a few steps closer to the flames….

I don’t even know where to start in this feast of rich pickings.  So I’m just going to let this picture speak for itself…because nothing screams party like this good time gal!

Elah Lowe's Luncheon Party

Elah Lowe’s Luncheon Party

This is Elah Lowe who wrote the Luncheon Party section of the book.  Elah’s menu for lunch consists of Chicken Cacciatore, Noodles, Pears Vinaigrette, Cheese and something called Malakoff which sounds a bit like a tiramisu.

Elah has this to say about her luncheon menu

“The following menu is suitable for a special person one has invited to lunch, for any group with a guest speaker or for a party of friends 1.  The luncheon suggested is light2 and interesting and can be prepared in advance, which is essential for the hostess who can then be with her guests.  She can be relaxed and entertaining, rather than hot and flustered, in the kitchen.3

  1.  So….pretty much any reason to hold a lunch then.
  2. Quiche and salad are light.  Chicken cacciatore and noodles?  Not so much.
  3. Elah might be good on lunches.  She’s not so good on grammar.  My understanding is that if you remove the clause separated by commas the sentence should stand.  So, that last sentence would read,  “She can be relaxed and entertaining in the kitchen”.  Hmm…presumably getting stuck into the cooking sherry and cracking a few gags for the benefit of the vegetables.  Meanwhile the guests in the dining room are trying not to reel from the shock of that wallpaper.  No wonder Elah’s holding out a chair, she’s probably used to people staggering and feeling faint as they walk into the room.  The curtains and matching table-cloth?  Are just putting out the fire with gasoline.

Moving on to another party girl, let’s have a look at the Morning Coffee Party.  This über babe is Enid Wells.

Enid Wells Morning Tea Party

Enid Wells Morning Coffee Party

Enid tells us that the hostess of the Morning Coffee Party needs to:

 “Make sure the coffee is piping hot.  Percolated coffee is preferred by most people.  Instant coffee is preferred by some people because of the short preparation time1.  For a Morning Coffee Party, the hostess should be prepared to serve percolated coffee.”

  1.  The shrunken head of the last person who served me instant coffee is now hanging on my wall along with my bow, my arrows and my machete.  Be afraid.

Enid also advises that:

“The food should be simple, varied in flavour, attractively presented but never elaborately decorated”

You got it there, sister.  Rarely have I seen two more atrociously decorated cakes than the ones in this picture.  What is going on with the cinnamon nut bun in the front?  Did Enid just throw the icing at it?  Also, it’s lopsided to say the least.  The icing on the gingerbread in the mid-ground also leaves a lot to be desired….that’s one wobbly line….I dread to think what the other 3 sides look like if that’s the one they chose to show to the camera.

Wow!  No sooner than the words “atrociously decorated cake” come out of my mouth than I turn the page and….oh boy….

Kangaroo Cake for a Children's Party

Kangaroo Cake for a Children’s Party

I have never really understood the penchant for cakes shaped like animals.

“Here you are Grandma, have a bit of Skippy’s arse on a plate. We saved it specially for you….now, who wants an eyeball?”

Why would anyone choose to do that?  It’s weird and gross.

That’s enough for today, there will be more, I’m only about a third of the way through the book.

I’m going to practice my newly discovered skill of making things happen just by saying them.

Must go, Ryan Gosling’s at the door… and bless him, he’s brought pizza.

Enjoy your week!

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Retro Food For Modern Times: Singers and Swingers In The Kitchen – Roberta Ashley (1967) – Franks, Mince and A Saucer of Milk!

Whilst I love all old cookbooks, there is a special place in my heart for the celebrity cookbook and finding Roberta Ashley’s “Singers and Swingers In The Kitchen” was like finding the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. 

Subtitled

“The Scene Makers Cookbook Dozens of Nutty Turned On Easy-To-Prepare Recipes From The Grooviest Gourmets Happening” 

Singers and Swingers is a collection of recipes from The Rolling Stones, The Byrds, Leonard Nimoy, Barbra Streisand, Liza Minelli and other icons of the ’60’s  “that will keep you grooving with the greatest.”

Life really does not get much better than this!

Front Cover - Singers and Swingers in the Kitchen

Front Cover – Singers and Swingers in the Kitchen

Back Cover - Singers and Swingers In The Kitchen

Back Cover – Singers and Swingers In The Kitchen

As teenage columnist for This Week Magazine, Ms Ashley often asked bright young things of the day what their favourite foods were.  She advises that many of these dishes were:

“Worked out while they were quietly starving or working in a “pass-the-basket” coffee-house.  That means that most of these dishes can be cooked on allowance type money…or very little bread as they say”

Which just makes me love it more…star studded AND thrifty is one of my favourite combinations!

And for those readers who may be new to the kitchen, or hesitant cooks, Ms Ashley offers the following words of encouragement.

“Give it a try, the recipes are mostly easy ones and remember a year ago, Barbra Streisand couldn’t cook at all”

Adorable!

The recipes in the book are mostly solid, with only the occasional piece of  WTFery  thrown in.  If there is a real problem with the book it is that there is a certain degree of repetition in the recipes.  Of the 68 main recipes in the book, minced meat features in 11.  These include:

3 recipes for Chilli:

  • Chili by Paul Revere
  • Chili Esperanza by The Mamas and The Papas.  They liked to eat this with scrambled eggs…the thought of that makes me gag a little. (Then again, maybe they should have stuck to softer types of foods like chili and scrambled eggs and avoided the types of food that can get stuck in your throat like sandwiches.)
  • Chili for Chums.  This is not name checked but to my mind is actually the best of the lot.

Paul Revere was the lead singer of a band called Paul Revere and the Raiders who liked to dress up in period costume and presumably precede all of their gigs by repeatedly shouting “The British are coming, the British are coming”.

Paul Revere 1967

Paul Revere 1967

Ah, those crazy days of the ’60’s.  I bet he feels a little silly about wearing that costume now….

Then again, maybe not.

Paul Revere 2007

Paul Revere 2007

Returning to the prevalence of ground mince, there are also 3 recipes for Sloppy Joe Type Creations:

  • Sloppy Joe A La Sam The Sham
  • A Jones Delight by Jack Jones
  • Snick Snack Hamburgers by Lesly Gore. Lesly Gore was famous for her song “It’s My Party and I’ll Cry If I Want To”. She must have self catered because these sound repulsive.
Lesly Gore's Snick Snack Hamburgers

Lesly Gore’s Snick Snack Hamburgers

There is an equally revolting concoction called Robb Stew made by one of the three Robb brothers from the band called….you guessed it…The Robbs…They appeared to operate on the principle that if you can’t be original, be consistently unoriginal.   Surprisingly, all members of this band were not wiped out by food poisoning in 1968 but 3 of them went on to have illustrious careers in the music industry by founding Robb…I mean…Cherokee Studios in Los Angeles.  This studio has produced artists such as The Gogo’s, Aerosmith, Lenny Kravitz, Devo, Public Enemy and Jane’s Addiction to name but a few!  Quite possibly this is truly a case of what doesn’t kill you making you stronger.

Robb Stew

Robb Stew

There are also 4 instances of minced meat with pasta:

  • Carol Lawrence’s Lasagne
  • Noel Harrison’s Bolognese Sauce
  • Paul Anka’s Party Spaghetti
  • The Buckinghams‘ Spaghetti and Meatballs

Whilst their recipe does sound delicious, some of those Buckinghams look a little druggy around the eyes if you ask me!

The Buckinghams

The Buckinghams

Not like these clean living young men from groovy London town!

Rolling Stones 1967

Rolling Stones 1967

Wow! Look at the young Keith Richards in 1967 (middle row on the right).  And look at him now:

Keith Richards 2012

Keith Richards 2012

If you ever needed a reason not to take a bucket load of drugs look no further!

 The Stone’s recipe is one of the six that contain frankfurters as one of the key ingredients.

  • Chili Dog Chili by the aforementioned Paul Revere.  That man sure did love his chilli!
  • Golden Joys
  • Hurry up Casserole
  • Frankfurter Casserole
  • Hot Dogs on The Rocks by the Rolling Stones
  • Frank Pops by The Cyrkle.  I have no idea who The Cyrkle were.  And  if this recipe is anything to go by, I’m not surprised that they have faded into obscurity. Placing battered franks on a stick doesn’t make them more fun, it only adds insult to injury!
The Cyrkle's Frank Pops

The Cyrkle’s Frank Pops

Mind you, the recipe from The Rolling Stones is not up to much either…although…with the right sausage, a proper gourmet one, and proper mash, this could be a perfectly acceptable meal!  It can, can’t it?  Or have I just been married to an Englishman for too many years?

Hot Dogs on The Rocks

Hot Dogs on The Rocks

I love a recipe that comes with its own warning! In case you were wondering

“Mick Jagger invented the potatoes and franks; Charlie Watts added the beans”

There is a tone to some of the entries that suggests there may not have been much love lost between Ms Ashley and some of the celebrities. Here is Ashley’s introduction to Liza Minelli’s recipe for Crepes Suzette:

“Liza Minelli is a little girl who’s come a long way despite a terrible handicap”

The part of me that craves gossip and scandal read on with an overly avid “Wow, really?  What’s she got?”

The so-called terrible handicap?

Famous parents.

Unless they had different meanings for both the word “terrible” and the word “handicap” back in the late ‘60’s that is a nasty thing to say about someone! Poor old Liza doesn’t even get a proper photo, just a teeny thing on the cover!

Carol Lawrence also gets short shrift (even if she does get a very glamorous photo).

Carol Lawrence 001

We are told that Carol is:

“Making a rather nice name for herself in Hollywood; not as a star but as a lasagne-maker”

Ouch! 

Not really how a Tony Award Winning Actor would want to be known!  Mind you, she did go on to write a best-selling cookbook about Italian Cooking so maybe Ashley’s comment is more prescient than catty. 

 You may have noticed whilst reading this that there have been no pictures of food.  That’s because the book doesn’t contain any. This, as with most celebrity cookbooks, is long on celebrity, short on food.  That some of the recipes sound super is a bonus.  That some of them sound absolutely vile will be the subject of the next post.

In the meantime, put some flowers in your hair, light some incense and groove out to some fabulous sounds of the sixties. It’s what I’ll be doing!

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Bring on The Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer – The Hot Weather Cookbook – Kim MacDonald (1971)

Summer has arrived in the Southern Hemisphere.  As I write this it is nudging 40° outside. So, as it is too damn hot to do anything else, I thought I would seek some cooking inspiration from the Hot Weather Cookbook. The book promises:

“Cool easy to prepare meals, featuring luscious fruits, crisp salads, refreshing appetisers, barbecues, light desserts and long, icy drinks”

 Bring it on.  As I sit here sweltering, I could do with some of those, particularly the long icy drinks!  The back blurb further advises that the author Kim MacDonald

“fully understands the problems and potentials of summer food preparation”

As she should, given she has written a book about it.  I would expect nothing less.  However, the blurb significantly does not claim that Ms MacDonald fully understands the problems and potentials of attention to detail or the problems and potential of colour coordination because there are some shockers in here.

Cover - Hot Weather Cookbook 001

It starts off really well with this lovely artwork.  This is not only very pretty but it also has a “Where’s Wally” / hidden object game feel to it. I’ve amused myself for a considerable amount of time locating a garlic crusher, a trident style fork, the ever-present pineapple, a cocktail with an olive in it etc.  I’m easily amused.  Or possibly  delirious.  Did I mention how hot it is? 

Hot Weather Cookbook 001

Sadly, the pleasure brought on by that picture doesn’t last long – 14 pages to be exact because that’s when this photo appears. 

Florida Cocktail 001

Did no one involved in this think to take those oranges out of their plastic netting?  At first I thought that maybe they couldn’t fully understand the problems of how to photograph a round object without it rolling all over the place.   However, other pictures in the book demonstrate that some bright spark realised that oranges can be prevented from rolling by being stacked on top of each other:

Tomato Salad with Orange Segments

Tomato Salad with Orange Segments

Or by being placed in a more appropriate receptacle:

Orange souffle 001

I can only conclude that someone from the art department thought that leaving the oranges in their netting was a creative, citrussy version of fish nets hanging from the ceilings in seafood restaurants.  It’s not.  It just looks like someone left their shopping on the table. 

The styling in this book is BONKERS.

I’ll start with one of the milder examples.  I don’t understand why anyone thought this table-cloth would look good with this collection of icy drinks.  It clashes with everything else on the page, particularly that purple drink.  Although, there’s probably not many places where that drink would fit in.  Maybe a circus. One where the clowns kill people. 

Cocktails 001a

The next one scares me. There is a distinct “beware of what’s lurking in the dark” vibe.  That ivy has a very creepy Evil Dead / Day of The Triffids aura, not to mention the menacing looming shadows.  I honestly believe that if you  tried to help yourself to some of the Banana Rum Mousse that ivy would wrap itself around your wrist and drag you up the wall kicking and screaming before you could even wonder why the mousse is being served in such inappropriate  glasses.   And, surely, the only reason for the existence of that tablecloth must be that those colours and swirls do a really good job of hiding the bloodstains left behind by the victims of the evil ivy. 

Banana Rum Mousse 001

The next photo has an equally hideous tablecloth but there is some  internal logic to it.  Curry is tropical.  Batik is tropical.  (But then, to paraphrase  my man Martin Lampen, so is dengue fever).  You can have too much of a good thing.  Which could explain why they chose jonquils for the vase instead of a tropical flower.  Personally, I would have gone with a frangipani and a less leery table-cloth but I probably don’t fully understand the problems and potential of theming  table coverings and floral arrangements. It’s a good thing Ms MacDonald and team do.

beef curry 001

I recently listened to a very entertaining and informative podcast on Stuff To Blow Your Mind about Stendahl Syndrome which is a reaction some people have to great works of art.  They can faint, become intensely anxious, or even hallucinate – in short they are utterly overcome by the sheer beauty and magnificence of the works around them.  If you want to know more about this fascinating disorder, you can link through to that podcast here:

http://blogs.howstuffworks.com/2012/03/15/stendhal-syndrome-kicked-in-the-brain-by-art/

The reason I mention this is because I had a similar reaction, for the absolute opposite reason, with these next two pictures.  Similar in that I started to feel dizzy, headachey and slightly nauseous.  Opposite because my reactions were in response to sheer unadulterated ugliness.  I honestly felt like these pictures were screaming at me. They not only made my eyes hurt, they made my ears hurt!

I haven’t been able to find existing references to an Anti-Stendahl Syndrome.  So, I may have just invented a disorder.  Fryer’s Syndrome – what happens when people have an intense physical reaction to something really ugly.

Gazpacho 001

I can’t tell you what appalls me most about this picture of gazpacho.  The hideous green tablecloth? The sieved egg yolks that look like maggots? The the ice-cube sitting on the egg?  I suspect all of the above.  I can tell you it inspired an acute attack of Fryer’s Syndrome.  It was however, nothing to the bout of Fryer’s syndrome caused by this:

Greek Salad 001

Oh boy, I don’t even know where to start with this one.  I don’t think I can.  Being rendered entirely gobsmacked in the face of the fugly must be a symptom of Fryer’s Syndrome.

Ok, I’m now going to try to convince my family that having their previously good name associated with people wanting to throw up in the sight of really ugly stuff is actually a good thing.

As soon as the cool change comes.

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