I got a gift from a relative today. It’s a spiral-bound book made from my paternal grandmother’s recipe collection. Venita died several years ago and had amassed many recipes over her homemaking years in Houston, TX. That the recipes have been compiled is very sweet and it was a kind gesture to send me a copy. There is a problem, however.
These recipes make me violently ill. I’ve been through this 200-page book twice and can’t find a thing I would even consider making in my kitchen. These are not mysterious and delicious knäckebröd recipes brought over from the old country; there are no inked-in notes from my grandmother’s grandmother, warning against too much salt or suggesting a helpful whisk technique. That would be a mazing. No, this is a compendium of recipes lifted straight from the pages of Better Homes & Gardens and similar magazines published between 1950-1979. Here’s what that means:
Apricot Cheese Salad — that’s gonna be cheddar
Fruit Cocktail Mold — contains hard-boiled egg and pimento
Hot Turkey Salad — includes crushed potato chips, grated onion, and “squirt of Tabasco”
Crunchy Veg Casserole — with frozen cauliflower and 2 cans cream of mushroom soup
An astonishing number of these recipes call for olives. Green, black, stuffed — just when you think an appetizer is going to escape the olive treatment, ohp! There it is! Also included in the book are menus. These are records of all the foods served at various luncheons and gatherings my grandma attended. It’s incredibly sweet that she kept such records. It’s also deeply depressing. I’m sorry, but I cannot read these menus without a tear rolling down my face for a generation of women who would’ve loved to be working on the Human Genome Project but instead were making sure they got tips for Loretta’s ham loaf before they left the living room. Why, here’s a menu now:
Menu #15 — Bridge Luncheon at Sandra’s
1. Chicken Salad
2. Potato Salad — large leaves around inside of bowl. Tomato peeled and opened like a large flower in center on top of salad
3. Avocado gelled salad in mold
4. Layrered Jello — in square pan. Layer of clear Jello on top, then diet cream cheese (pink color), then layer of clear gelatin
5. Fruit salad
6. Egg salad in Knox gelatin — in loaf — very good
7. Salted nuts
8. Coffee and punch
That’s three instances of Jello. I know: I live in a country so wealthy I can afford to make fun of food; my disdain for my dearly-departed grandmother’s recipe collection is (almost) as gross as the celery-and-macadamia nut “ring mold” on page 59. I have shame. I also have a moral dilemma. Do I keep this book? I do not want it. I loved my grandmother. But I do not want this. What do you do with a gift that doesn’t fit, is supposed to be imbued with sentimental value, and can’t be re-gifted?
Wait a minute… Do any of you want it?! I’m serious! It would be really cool to send it to someone who is into ’50s and ’60s food! There have to be people out there who like it, even in an ironic way. I’d be so happy to send it to you if you’ll use it. Please email me. First-come, first-served. So to speak.