edible adventures from the centre of the universe

09 April 2006

Canned Love

A few weeks ago, I came across this beauty in the Niagara Falls Value Village. At first glance, it seemed much less interesting than the stack of New Kids on the Block videotapes a few shelves over. Then the white gelatin mold in the lower right corner caught my eye - "Are those cucumbers on top?" I thought. "And what the hell is with the shiny meat curls on the side?"

Flipping to the recipe in question, I find that this monstrosity is called "Cottage Cheese-Cucumber Salad" and is composed of lemon-flavoured gelatin, grated onion, cottage cheese, and chopped cucumber. That does it. I have to buy this book.

One dollar and a strange look from the cashier later, I have some new reading material for our trip back to Toronto. It quickly becomes apparent that "fast" was a synonym for "canned" in 1974, as nearly every recipe calls for a can of this or that. Case in point:

"Shrimp-Macaroni Casserole." This "pantry-shelf special" contains Kraft Dinner, 2 cans of shrimp, one can of condensed cream of chicken soup, and a handful of demolished Chex cereal. Delish!

If you have ever wondered what a meatball volcano would look like, your prayers have been answered:

Titled simply "Confetti Meatball Supper," this dish is another canned wonder, containing cans of meatballs, cheddar cheese soup, mixed vegetables, and chopped pimento. The sub-head for this recipe warns "Keep canned meatballs on hand for this dish" - in case of what, exactly? Unexpected guests that you secretly hate?

When I showed the following picture to Dave, he summed it up nicely with "Oh, God."

While the recipe itself is rather innocuous - basic tuna salad with some curry powder, stuffed into tomatoes - the final product bears an uncanny resemblance to the egg pods in Alien. Perhaps H.R Giger was inspired by his After Work Cookbook. After all, these tomato cups' structural perfection is matched only by their hostility.

I love the "Frank-Kraut Dinner"

Who knew hot dogs (er, "franks," as they were called in the '70s) could look so appetizing laying on a delicious bed of saurkraut and condensed cheddar cheese soup (both canned, of course)? There are no less than 8 "time-saving" recipes in this cookbook that have hot dogs as the main ingredient. Oscar Mayer - Helping sisters do it for themselves since 1883.

By far, the most stomach-turning photo in this book is for this "Entertaining Special"

I'm not sure what the photographer was going for with the "futuristic" setting, but the S.S. Discovery vibe does nothing to disguise the vomit-coloured abomination that is the "Sweet-Sour Chicken Mold." Containing powdered sour cream sauce, lemon gelatin, dill, green pepper, cucumber, carrot, and canned chicken, I cannot even begin to imagine what this thing tastes like. The book describes it as having "distinctive flavours," which I'd wager is a polite way of saying that it tastes like ass.

I told Dave that I should exclusively make recipes from the After Work Cookbook next time that we have guests over for dinner. So, who's free next weekend?



Blogger Chris! said...

I'm astounded that someone created a recipe that contains both canned shrimp and Chex. God bless them and whatever heating grate they may be sleeping on tonight.

Also, awesome blog, dude! I demand more cookbook reviews.

1:57 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I predict a dinner party in your future, circa 1974! I'll bring the devilled egg parfait and polyester ruffled shirt.

10:41 AM

Blogger Alana said...

Sounds like a plan, Christie! I'll break out the can opener.

Thanks, Chris! I've got a stack of old cookcbooks, so there shall be more forays into the land of meat molds.

12:38 PM

Anonymous iain said...

I swear, as a person of half-Slavic descent, I grew up on the sauerkraut and hot dog concoction pictured above. Seriously. My dad would prepare his own sauerkraut from a jar (adding some apple and potato, I believe), then would toss a bunch of hot dogs into the pot. He even scored the sides, as pictured. Memory lane... Thanks, Alana!

12:10 AM

Blogger enthrall said...

This blog will shortly become my own personal hell, and I'm looking forward to it!

I wonder if I could thief the idea entirely for Vue... Retro-cookbook reviews!


6:08 PM

Blogger Alana said...

Vue is welcome to it. James Lilek has some hilarious "reviews" in the "gallery of regrettable food" (see my links in the sidebar).

8:35 PM

Blogger enthrall said...

I followed the link, Alana.

People were wandering by my cubicle, asking why tears of laughter were streaming down my face... It was awesome.

But there should be a big "NSFW" label on it... Warning: laughter!

10:58 AM

Blogger Superdude said...

Well, I guess this is where all the readers of the old someclods.noreads.com blog have gone.
Sadly, I understand. Funny, informative, and bordering on gross more than often enough. Can I write a post where I illustrate all my former poverty and feigned-poverty dishes with MS paint?

2:47 PM

Blogger Alana said...

Neal, I would love that. Seriously.

3:09 PM

Blogger Superdude said...

The Creation process will begin immediately. No-name brazilian spam cooked in chicken noodle soup, $10 worth of groceries per week, all these things will come tolight. Or toilet.

4:15 PM

Anonymous vanessa said...

mmmm, just feel those preservatives running through them veins! i dig the retro books, too. wow, food has quite evolved. thank god!

6:17 PM


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