Saturday, July 5, 2008

Gimme some kitch!

You know what I'm all obsessed with lately?  casseroles.  Like those 50's and 60's era casseroles that always called for a jar of pimentos and had corn flakes crumbled on top.  i LOVE those old cookbooks that make everything look so impossibly unattractive - all brown and fatty and crazy looking - how did they make perfectly good food look like that?  Oh but it's all so wonderfully kitchy with the potholders and the melamine dishes and those casserole dishes - man, I love it!  I was looking through my mom's old Betty Crocker cookbook, which I believe my grandma gave her, probably when she moved out or got married or something, and found all kinds of great recipes - I especially love the ones that are obviously America's first attempts at "ethnic" food - like the chop suey, which just spaghetti with a can of waterchestnuts and maybe some peas.  It's hilarious.  I guess the 60's were really the heyday of convenience foods, or rather the beginning of them - I don't think the convenience food heyday ever ended, did it?  It's hard to find recipes with fresh vegetables in that book - everything is canned.  I guess that gave the busy homemaker more time to do laundry and pop her doctor prescribed amphetamines (ah, weren't those the days!?  doctors don't care about our lady like figures anymore!)  

So anyway, while perusing the casserole section, I found a handwritten recipe from my grandma for spaghetti casserole.  It has ground beef (which I swapped out with veggie crumbles, of course - I kind of have to stick with ground beef based casseroles, because there just isn't much of a replacement for ham or seafood, etc.  I guess seitan can stand if for chicken sometimes, but ground soy is pretty convincingly beef-ish) and onion, one can of tomato soup, one can of cream of mushroom soup and spaghetti - not a seasoning in sight, unless you count the onion!  I decided to make it last night, so I put on a apron (as one must do when making a casserole from the 60's) and went to it.  I had the fortune of having some fresh basil, oregano, and parsley (thanks co-worker Dave!), so I obviously added that - that's another thing that's about as rare as a head of fresh broccoli in those cookbooks - spices!  Oh, of course, my grandma said she also used buttered corn flakes crumbles on top (for which there was another handwritten recipe card, in case my mom wanted to premake them and keep them in the fridge!)  Let me tell ya folks, I'm thinking those cookbook pictures aren't just unattractive due to bad photography back then, or fading ink, that food probably really looked like that!  I was elated to pull out my nice brown casserole:  This is why I'll probably never wear a size 12 again! As bad as it looks, it was really fantastic!  Neither of us were too impressed with the corn flakes on top - they were a little chewy and sort of made a cohesive crust instead of just being crunchy - maybe it was the butter.  Also TBF found it all to be a little oily - which I think is probably from the cream of mushroom soup.  But he loved it.  If you turn on the food network these days, you can't go 2 minutes without hearing someone say "bright flavors!" and this food is certainly not bright - but I don't think comfort food is meant to be.  This will not be my last casserole, and believe me, if I accidentally walk into the used bookstore, and accidentally walk out with an armload of kitchy old cookbooks, I will not be upset!  


LisaDuvall said...

Hey! Nice casserole :)

I have a couple of those old weird cookbooks lying around. Maybe I'll bring them for you tonight to peruse. I can't give them away though. I love 'em too!

Emily said...

Time to hit up some thrift stores! I look forward to your future kitschy cooking adventures!

Catherine said...

Yum! Gotta love the casserole; queen of comfort foods!
I love the old crazy looking cookbooks too!