Y’all, I’ve got dinner tonight. Put your feet up, surf your Tumblr dashboard, and relax with a cold beverage while I pop into the kitchen and whip something up. I have a small, quirky collection of church and service club cookbooks, the kind that have the soft covers and titles like Serve It With Love or Feeding The Faithful. They represent the culinary passion and fundraising prowess of senior activity groups, Junior Leagues, and auxiliary clubs, and I have a particular fondness for ones published in the 1970s. These cookbooks are very handy because it takes all the pressure off everyone to remember stuff like if it’s okay to make chicken topped with chipped beef (it IS), how many casserole recipes have the word ‘supreme’ in the title (eleventy-hundred), and what should be on the shopping list for Coca-Cola salad (hint: lemon jello). It’s Library-Of-Congress important as a source of reference material. You can think of this meal as an historical education, like when you eat a turkey leg at the Renaissance Festival.
I’ve already hard-boiled and sliced three dozen eggs and purchased several hundred packets of saccharine, so I am prepared with 74% of the base ingredients of anything you want to make from the 1970s (the other 26% is Green Goddess dressing). Let’s get cookbookin’!
Me: Need a salad
Cookbook: Here’s some whipped cream
Me: No, I need salad
Cookbook: Duh that is why I gave you whipped cream
If you suspect something has nutritional benefits in it, do NOT put it in your salad. Health will just ruin the taste. A good strategy is to substitute mayonnaise for anything in your recipe that is not already mayonnaise. My favorite salad in my collection is from a Methodist church cookbook that lists lettuce as an optional ingredient. Finally, someone brave enough to take on the powerful Leafy Greens lobby.
Me: Why is this shrimp in Jello?!?
Cookbook: It’s aspic
Me: Ugh that is not better
Cookbook: IT’S SO SHINY
Gelatin recipes are judged on three criteria: creative flavoring, sour cream to gelatin ratio, and interview. Do not be afraid to add Parmesan cheese, julienned ham, and miniature marshmallows. Also, freeze that shit up. Nobody wants to chew room-temperature fish-shaped layered gelatin towers. My Hall Of Fame entry in this category is in a cookbook from a Junior League in Florida. The recipe calls for raspberry gelatin, a can of stewed tomatoes, and hot sauce. On the side, I suggest serving anything edible.
Me: Why do I need all these hot dog buns?
Cookbook: You like garlic bread right?
Me: Aw hell no
Cookbook: Get the margarine
You are not going to win fans with your cooking if you’re not willing to take culinary chances with your side dishes. That’s right, bitches—time to souffle. Everybody loves souffle. Also, everyone loves vegetables covered with butter crackers. And chow mein noodles. And potato sticks. The point here is you should be making mushy stuff so you can top it with crunchy stuff. I am going with a delightful dish from a Baptist church cookbook for spinach with peanut butter.
Me: I have a question
Cookbook: put Velveeta on it
Me: It’s a cake though
Cookbook: Put Velveeta on all the things
Future generations might look at the 70s as the Golden Age Of Processed Cheese. I’m not a hater here—heat that block up with some jalapenos, put out some chips, and I am going to fight you for it. A case can be made for macaroni and cheese, too. But I am telling you, if I bring you a dessert made with Velveeta, I am mad at you. Or I am mad at fudge. Either way I was hate-baking.
Soup’s on! And by that, I mean the delivery guy is here with the pizza I ordered. Let me sprinkle on the crushed cornflakes and it’s chow time.
Buy some Tums