You may have noticed my friend MO & I are kinda cranky (e.g. here, here). We’re also loquacious. It’s a classic combination. For instance, I might wax apoplectic about Spicy Pickle’s audacious ignorance of &/or disrespect toward Italian culture as illustrated by its signage—
pizza being a feminine, not masculine, noun; therefore, in the diminutive, it’s pizzetta; therefore, in the diminutive plural, it’s pizzette; & as if that weren’t annoying enough to a logophile (never mind Italophile) who believes that no less than the nightmare of doublespeak begins in linguistic irresponsibility, said pizzetti are collectively described as being “Neapolitan-style” in gross contradiction to the description of each pizzetto (to deduce the singular from the Italian masculine plural): there’s the Sicilian with sopressata—a salame that originates in the Veneto, a northernmost region, hence as far as it could be from Sicilia, an island off the southern coast of Italy, where Campagna, home to Napoli (as in Neapolitan), is actually located; the Sonoma with mozzarella, the most famous type of which actually does hail from Campagna, which is not California; the Aztec, which at least boasts chipotles, though they’re blended into a pesto—the claim to fame of a region well north of Campagna called Liguria; & so on through the shadows of a corporate world wherein the only recognized birthplace of anything is the boardroom—while I might natter on about that, MO might be recounting the nightmares she apparently actually has about her beloved Frasca jumping the shark upon its upcoming move, from which she wakes up to go to work in “Saudi Aurora,” a routine she compares to getting a barium enema.
Or, for instance, she might be thumbing through cookbooks in preparation for the holidays only to conclude she’d best prepare for the apocalypse instead. The sort of rant that results follows:
The Holy Trinity of Frightening Cookbooks
1. Tastes for All Seasons is prepared by a small-town church in Oklahoma. The main reason I know it’s completely devoid of any artistic merit is that the church is my parents’ church, & it includes a “recipe” from my DAD—who claims to hate any kind of pasta dish even though he has mainly eaten boxed spaghetti with Ragù & pseudo-parm from a green shaker can, believes his ashen-gray chewy slabs of steak are delicious & describes sushi as “bait.”
His recipe is called “Tater Stuff” & calls for bacon, potatoes, onions & eggs fried together with a whole stick of butter (since the bacon fat apparently doesn’t grease the skillet sufficiently). This tricky combination was screaming out for print, no? I further find it amusing that this concoction is listed under the “Vegetables” section (which includes other healthy fare that will impress your vegetarian dream date all the way from Tater Tot Casserole chock full o’ ground beef to Cabbage Rolls laden with ground beef to Old Settlers Baked Beans filled with ground beef and canned pork & beans). One of the non-beef vegetable recipes is Fresh Frozen Country Creamed Style Corn, which calls for a box of frozen corn & a cup of coffee creamer. ACK.
Denveditor’s note: Um, actually, I’d eat some tater stuff. Just saying.
Other delights include Mexican Salad (which includes the authentic, ancient Mayan twin favorites of Doritos & Catalina dressing), Oriental Slaw (which consists of throwing some almonds & sunflower seeds into a package of ramen), Sausage Balls (Bisquick, Jimmy Dean sausage & grated cheese), a chicken enchilada preparation where every ingredient is canned or processed & topped off with a river of melted Cheez Whiz), a Butterfinger Banana Cake with purchased frosting and crumbled Butterfingers “sprinkled” on top, & Quick & Easy Rubber Cake (which is disappointingly not decorated with prophylactics).
MO’s grocery list so far:
There is also a bevy of dreadful salad recipes, including one called Pink Party Salad which is straight from my culinary nightmares. Perhaps it is an Okie thing, but my hubby and I both marvel at how every family gathering we attended with our respective families (weddings, funerals, reunions, holidays, tractor pulls) included a bowl of pink shit & another of green, reportedly salads that included marshmallows, Jello, cottage cheese, Cool Whip, mandarin oranges, pecans, mayonnaise, celery & other items that should never, ever be mixed together lest they set off a fatal nuclear chain reaction.
2. Taste of Home: Mom’s Best Meals. I swear you would string up even the most beloved mother and leave her for dead if she ever fed you anything from this book.
Taste of Home craps out recipes submitted by country cooks (accompanied by color pictures of the kitchen mavens showing off their 70s-era glasses frames & stylish Midwestern ‘dos). In this collection, one lady curiously presents an “Italian-style” dinner with a centerpiece of sweet & sour BBQ ribs with ketchup. Just like mama made in Old Sicily, I’m sure.
The book is full of fun and engaging facts. For instance, did you know that you can buy a loaf of bread, top it with melted butter & minced garlic, & present it to your guests as Garlic Bread? Did you know that after frying potatoes, you can drain them on paper towels? & when buying lettuce, it would behoove you to try to find some that is still crisp? Did you know that A Thanksgiving to Remember always includes a gelatin ring & that processed food is more appetizing when layered?*** Or that “timeless” & “special” recipes always include breaded meat? Who knew?
Several recipes attempt to be exotic, enabling the Kansan housewife to feel like she’s taking a walk on the wild side by using words such as “Bavarian” and “kabob” and “Brunswick” (although the latter could just be trying to capture the hearts of bowling league aficionados).
An Olive Lover’s Salad is creative in that it calls for not only canned olives, but jarred olives as well.
The most heartbreaking recipe is from a woman who is not from Poop Chute, Arkansas, but Boulder, reportedly the most educated city in America. She shares her recipes for an “Authentic Austrian Dinner” consisting of a “Colorful Veggie Bake” replete with cubed Velveeta and butter-flavored crackers. I guess if you served a Gruner-Veltliner with it & ate it while watching Terminator 2, that would make the meal sort of Austrian.
It is fitting that the final recipe in the tome is for a Prune Bundt Cake, as it will allow you to easily expel all the other masterpieces from the book.
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3. I wrote about this last one on the “internets” once upon a time. The 4 Ingredients cookbook is written by a couple of home-ec hicks in Kerrville, Texas. Incidentally, I once unfortunately found myself at a dance club called Neighbors in Kerrville where the bouncers wore shirts emblazoned with confederate flags & a cowboy drawled at me, “Well, your husband ain’t here, is he darlin’?” after I declined a dance with his Skoal-encrusted ass.
This book does have its fans on Amazon, including one lady who declares that she normally ruins even the easiest things in the kitchen such as instant pudding (WTF?!) but this book apparently makes her look like Brillat-Savarin.
Perversely, I’m inspired. I say we throw a bad-recipe cooking party. We’ll wear housecoats & swig lots of cream sherry as we go. I’ll bring this:
There’s a fruit salad of prunes, cream cheese watercress & French dressing with my name on it. In congealed blood, perhaps, but on it nonetheless. Who’s with me?