July 21st, 2010

shiny happy food

where is the holy grail? where is the ark of the covenant? sometimes they fall into your lap when you stop looking.

sitting on the floor, grubbing through records at the goodwill i spied this treasure peeking from behind piles of video tapes:

well, sadly, there were no men in dresses with funny hats on but, still, the effect upon discovery was just as majestic. presenting the vintage and apparently complete Betty Crocker Recipe Card Library circa 1971( here pictured with the lady rambo who was quite taken with it's aura of power and deliciousness.):

the first thing i was struck by was that the plastic was the same color as many accessories to my hot wheel cars of the same time- and it was made in the USA. a plastic box not made in china. whoah. garish about covers it. the box was also offered in the dread avocado- the color of the 70s post modern kitchen- as well as in dull mustard. the exciting neon candy colored plastic 60s did lead eventually to a revolt back to ' naturalness' that is leather, heavy wood furnishings and of course wood paneling in the den because nothing says call of the wild like being surrounded by a thin panels of pressed cellulose fibers. the road to culinary hell is littered with old broke down avocado colored kitchen appliances.

having my first food memories based in the 70s, i can say with some authority that it was a woebegone time for eating. just flipping through the cards gives one an idea of the full horrors. everything is based on convenience and thrift not on taste and definitely not on appearance. the cakes are all mostly made with mixes, the 'salads' are all drenched in pounds of mayonnaise amid mounds of fancifully molded aspic (read: jello) and fruit seems to only come from a can. there's no sauce that can't be made with a can of soup, no casserole, and casseroles are legion, that isn't topped with crushed potato chips. nothing sets off a meal in a bowl , screaming "i am one elegant scrumptious motherfucker", like crushed potato chips except maybe those potato sticks that used to come in a can. welcome to the post-space age. tang, baby, tang. at least back then , we still looked to the heavens and the moon and wanted to go there.

international foods is the smallest section with an unusually large amount of ' swedish' dishes. at the time american takes on the smorgasbord - banquet foods and appetizers, party foods- were extremely popular. even my mother made "swedish" meatballs with- grape jelly. but the king of 'international foods' of the 70s was the fondue- which in the betty crocker collection breaks away and into it's own lush section.it is the only section that has its own break down of equipment you 'should have'. for some inexplicable reason one of the few examples of 'mexican' food the empanada appears in the fondue section.

and for the record i do have a fondue set. be pleased to enjoy- batter dipped wieners, a recipe of rare efficiency, economy and taste:

some time ago when i still had miss vicky the ford crown victory of niceness, i went with a friend up to northern vermont to visit their mom at her summer cabin. it involved disco music, getting hopelessly lost, white power militias, and spinning relish trays. and the realization that you have no idea how dark it gets at night when you live in the city for too long. upon finally finding the cabin, i ducked when i got out of the car because the stars were so bright and seemed so close as to smash me to bits.

there were stacks of menus and flyers from all the local restaurants in the cabin. one clearly superior establishment had as its main attraction the Revolving Relish Tray with 100 types of yummy relish from around the world.

one whole betty crocker category is 'gifts from your kitchen'. many of these gifts are homemade relish. time has proven that vegetables preserved with vinegar have not, regrettably, replace the fruitcake.

in the 70's, there were only 4 types of cheese available- individually wrapped american slices,port wine cheese spread colored bright pink in a tiny ceramic crock pot, 'cheese product'( re: velveeta), and cream cheese. lots of cream cheese. nothing says Happy Place like shiny happy cheese balls: