Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A Taste of Fear

What a glorious evening and roller-coaster of a day.  I was flying high all morning but felt defeat was inevitable by six.  I left the grocery store somewhat frustrated by the amount of money I had spent on food that I was likely to spit out within hours.  I considered the possibility of bringing the leftover food to the salvation army but was concerned that they would mark me as a first class asshole (which, lets be honest, using food purely for entertainment purposes is kind of douchey, given all the hunger that remains worldwide) But conscience aside, fight or flight kicked in and by the time I got home company was just around the corner.  As I reviewed my cookbooks and unloaded my gelatin the other ingredients began to cluster on my kitchen counter in patterns that seemed so unholy I did not dare look directly at them, nor did I dare to look away.  Just to be clear, I was intimidated by GD Jello and a can of salmon.  This was also evident earlier in the check-out lane at Copps when product related shame got the best of me and I realized I was trying to hide the contents of my cart from all passers by (and the subsequent shame for that shame - "who the hell do I think I am... if it was good enough for my grandparents, etc...").  I am lame and talk to myself often, this is what we've established.

I somehow managed to break the eye lock I had going with the one inch of counter space that remained unfettered and with that the cooking commenced.  First up was a recipe called "Salmon Mold".  I felt the need to begin here because, I'll be honest, something dirty and buried deep inside of me really liked the idea of folding whipped cream into a can of salmon.  The recipe was selected for a multitude of reasons but first and foremost it was because gelatinous & savory won in the the poll I conducted and I knew that you sickies would not be ignored.  After mixing the initial ingredients (which, in the end amounted to a home-made thousand island dressing, dressed up with gelatin) it was a waiting game.  The dish needed to cool so I worked on the next recipe for a bit.  When the Jello/dressing was sufficiently chilled I darted around the room like a hyperactive child and probably let out a couple of high pitched squeals .  I should mention that by this time a few of my guests had arrived and were watching me with a combination of bewilderment and disgust that contorted all of their faces into a uniform grimace.  I cracked open the salmon, whipped the whipping cream and began to fold it all into the original mixture.  Well boy howdy!  That can of fish was rather pungent and not much in the looks department either.

It was only a moment before I had it "molded" and I returned it to the ice box, moving on to my next project.  The following item up for resurrection was a freak show titled "Lime-Tuna Ring".  It consisted of lime jello whipped into sour cream and (of course) molded, topped with tuna salad, dressed with vinegar and garnished with cucumbers.  I chose this because it had a picture along side that provided some kind of terrible guideline and also because it looked just awful.  

Preparing this one was shockingly simple, as was the salmon whip, and I started to understand why this disturbing trend held on for almost three decades, this shit show is quick!  If I could get away with serving something so easy to whip up back then, I just might, even without a house full of small children yanking at my apron strings.  I'd like to believe that some of the women who made these dishes popular did so with a little subversive voice speaking to them from within, whispering encouragement "Just pretend like it's not quivering that way, they'll never know the difference" or "You've got better things to do with your time than slave in the kitchen for these ungrateful pricks, go read a book Mabel!".  It reminds me of that line from "So I Married an Axe Murdered" where he speculates that the entirety of Scottish cuisine was based on a dare.  In any event I was done cooking far before I expected to be and it gave me a chance to catch up with my "testees" and drink a glass of wine.  After a brief respite I noticed that my youngest guests bedtime was  not getting any later and I wanted to make sure he got a crack at something revolting too.  I got to work on my last effort, a Hawaiian open faced sandwich that was born in the depths of hell.

Its ingredients can be seen in the first photo.  That's right, hamburger buns, peanut butter, pineapple rings, "Velveeta cheese product" and maraschino cherries served open-faced. Ooph! With everything done in a matter of minutes, we were ready to start...

These came out of the oven fairly true to the original which I was pleased with and although they certainly had the look of something indigestible, they turned out to be a complete let down.  I was shocked to watch more than one guest willingly take multiple bites.  They weren't nearly as offensive looking/smelling as the other two dishes and I think it gave them the benefit of perspective.  The best way I can describe them is "meh".  I'm not typically a fan of Velveeta but it was very mild and didn't impose much more than sodium and a bizarre texture to the first bite I took.  After a second go-round the "cheese" flavor became more prominent and I was done.  My friend Laura described it in the most glowing terms, praising it for "juiciness" and making an argument for it as a passable snack. I made three of these in total and only one small bite remains.  

We were ready to move on but had to wait for a while, those molds take time to set and I wasn't about to jump the gun on such refined and delicate cuisine.  When the time finally came to dislodge these odd jellies from their pans I started to get nervous.  What if they brake?  I threw caution to the wind and flipped those babies right over.  The lime-tuna-suicide ring came out with no fanfare, just a hot wet towel over the back and it was good to go (*thatswhatshesaid*).  The salmon pan gave me considerably more trouble but I managed to coax it out after sharing a couple of beers and a Rohypnol.  These two incredible structures (I'm not boasting, they just shimmied and wiggled like nothing I've ever seen) were presented side by side and were met with considerable but warranted trepidation.

The lime-tuna bite was a hard one to swallow and by far the least appetizing.  Both dishes had the benefit of cucumber decorative touches that masked their odor somewhat but when the cucumber became the vehicle for mouth delivery it lost any favorable impression it had going for it.  My friend Matt was up first and was expecting to like everything.  Throughout the night he had offered fervent defenses for each dish claiming "I'm gonna like it, no really, I'm gonna like all of it"  After his first swallow of lime-death surprise I knew that I had struck a blow against flavor and overconfidence.  His face went from neutral to disturbed in an instant and success was mine!

Jenny was not a fan either and could barely bring herself to try it:

I was as grossed out as I could hope to be by it.  To say that the textures were off is a crude understatement. What I thought was most interesting was the way the individual flavors remained separate in your mouth. This was at once a blessing and a curse.  While you might not want to taste sweet lime jello and tuna together, trust me when I tell you that you do not want to taste them separately at the same time either.  Here I am giving it a second go... Bad idea Palm.

But I believe that this picture of Maggie will leave you with the most succinct description:

The salmon mold was the most controversial dish in that we were deeply divided as a group regarding just how bad it would be.  I was caught somewhere in the middle.  Despite the fact that I like salmon generally, what I saw come out of that can was traumatic.  On the other hand, the whole thing smelled like a big mac, and while certainly not the highest compliment you could give a dish it was at least familiar.  Once again Matt was the first to try it and of course loved the damn thing.  Jenny was entirely sickened by his appreciation and I think may have tasted it out of spite.  I fell into the take it or leave it category and Mags (who was decidedly anti-salmon mold) overcame her prejudice and was pleasantly surprised.  Deric held out, refusing to try anything and thus gave each dish the somewhat redundant "no thumbs" rating:

It ended up being a really fun evening and my only concern at this point is getting people to show up for this kind of thing regularly.  Subjecting oneself to disgusting meals repeatedly requires a special kind of trait (i.e. masochism).  I'm hoping that the lure of theme nights and the occasional meal without gelatin might be enough to bring people back.  I'm not opposed to adventuring alone but it's so much more fun when you can drag your friends along for the ride.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Disaster Strikes Early

I'm usually a careful optimist, but it stands to reason that on the one day I allowed my optimism to completely replace preparedness and calm determination I was going to run into some problems.  As some of you know, I am hosting a casual little shindig at my place tonight to taste a few scary recipes, something informal that I figured would fall into place easily. Oh how very wrong I was.  It seems that my dogs sensed this overconfidence and decided to mess with me.  I had just stopped home to pick up my recipes for a trip to the market when lo and behold... urine puddle on the couch!
In any event, I need to be shopping (RIGHT NOW!!!), not typing.  My loose and breezy approach to tonight's festivities has gone by the wayside and has been replaced with extreme anxiety.  I guess what I'm saying is that I would really appreciate if you could lower your expectations a bit.  You may be saying to yourself, "Adrienne, my expectations are already quite low, you realize we've met, right?"  Well, not good enough!  Get yourself to the point where you are basically expecting to either come over and get kicked in the shin (with the faint odor of urine massaging your nostrils) or see pictures of people rocking back and forth holding their shins and attempting to thinly veil their misery.   Alright,I must get back to work, it's almost party time.  
Cheers you bastards!

Hey kids, it's Jello week!

Okay, okay, it's not really Jello week but it is sneaking up on us quickly... the second week of February to be precise.  I just couldn't hold out on sharing this.  There is an entire catalog of bizarre Jello ads from the 50's and 60's, all of which offer different varieties of derangement (i.e. overt racism, amphetamines, you name it... we will get to them all eventually) but this seemed most apt to give you nightmares and an accurate vision of what is to come.  You can run but you can't hide.  Sleep tight friendo.

Monday, November 15, 2010

A Shiver Down the Spine

Hello vintage enthusiasts, 
I spent the afternoon sifting through cookbooks just for you!  One thing I unexpectedly came across while digging through my forgotten stacks of books was a personal recipe collection that I picked up at an estate or garage sale a couple of years ago, thinking it might come in handy

It is essentially a notebook filled with envelopes and blank pages so that the user can stash all of their personal and found recipes in one place. It's fairly old as you can see in the picture below (1942!) but unfortunately it was not employed by its former owner as much as I was hoping (I get the distinct feeling that this belonged to a woman who cooked for her family out of necessity, not because she had a passion for food, which would be far from unusual, but what do I know).  

As far as I'm concerned it's still a delightful find and a few of the recipes I found stashed in its envelopes are truly worthy of a trip to the vomitorium.  I've been debating whether or not the "recipe" I have pictured below is up to snuff, it seems too simple, however, just reading it gave me the willies, which I think signals an implicit, if ungodly, potential.  I mean seriously, peanut butter, onion & milk, that's it?!  Oh the humanity!


New toys!

Here are a few molds I rounded up from Goodwill, I still haven't found the much coveted fish variety but all in due time my dears... 

How sweet is this set?!  I found it at a used book store ( for $25, but here's the thrifty part, I signed up for their email list or some such and I got 50% off one item!  I think it was a pretty sweet score.  The other book in this picture is one I found on my own bookshelf, it's called American Hostess Library and it holds within it some truly morbid recipes.  I'm not sure how it got here (I like to think it was left on my porch in a basket by some world weary housewife who made one too many batches of prune fluff, ended up strung out on dexies and was unable to care for it anymore).  I'm going to read through and try to have a list of potential recipes up later this afternoon.  

Work in Progress...

Hello baby-dolls, sorry for the wait but these kitchen atrocities take far more time to plan than you would naturally suspect.  I've been shopping Goodwill, Craigslist and St. Vinnies all weekend and have made some progress of note.  I managed to pick up an adorable old set of cookbooks from 1968 and a few molds that fit the bill too. I'll be sure to post pics tomorrow after I've had some coffee and an ibuprofen or six (and in all honesty, if that is the only price I pay for ladies night once a week, I say giddy-up).  I've made a commitment to have the first dish posted by Tuesday evening so please stop back to gawk in horror or merely disparage my hard work, both of which would be greatly appreciated.  If I can figure out how this newfangled blogging works by morning I would like to attempt a poll to determine what you think my first dish should be.  If you have any ideas at all please feel free to post them in the comments.  Until tomorrow my pets... stay jazzy! -xo

Friday, November 12, 2010

The beginning of something... grotesque.

Well, well, well, here I am. . . starting something new again with the intention of follow through weighing heavily on my shoulders. You should know as a reader (who likely stumbled across this page accidentally) that consistency is far from my strong suit (at least as it relates to reading, writing and completing self-imposed, not-for-profit projects) and I am likely to let us both down, but I will (maybe) not be deterred.

My inspiration for this blog comes from many places, not least of which is another blog ( written by a young woman with more pizazz in her pinkie finger than I can muster in my entire body. I have received encouragement from a very successful and far away friend who insists that I have it in me, an ex-boyfriend who is over-the-top supportive, deluded parents who believe in me to a fault and a circle of friends around me whom I am constantly in awe of... And they shall be my victims!

Perhaps it is time for me to explain my maniacal intentions. What I want to do here is a Julie Powell/Julia Childs type experiment gone deranged. I am not looking to improve my cooking skills (though they could use improvement), nor am I attempting a soulful awakening of any sort. No, my objective is far from noble, in fact, I just want to make you squirm. On that note, I would also be encouraged by dry-heaving and pleas for pardon. My mission is to create dishes on a weekly basis whose recipes can be found in cookbooks dating back to the mid-century... Yes, that's right, bring me your aspics, your canned garnishes, your mayonnaise, we're going to have some fun 'round here. I shall brave sculpted meats, suspended meats, canned meats. I will show no mercy. May your ideas of comfort food be forever challenged. A few short decades ago people (even children) ate these atrocities, often served up to them with a heaping helping of pride and so shall my unsuspecting friends.

If you think you can handle pastel sandwich loafs and horseradish with your fruit, hop on board and then get down on your knees in gratitude for how far home cooking has come in the last 30-60 years. Now if you'll excuse me, I've got to be getting to the market!