helpmeetly duties in the 21st century

When perusing recently the communal book swap/library at the office, I was thrilled to find this:

A vintage cookbook. I love these things. Never mind that this book swap was in great part set up because Jennifer and I felt we had to divest ourselves of out-of-control amounts of cookbooks at our respective pads… I just couldn’t resist!

No date on the book, alas. I’d put it at early 1950s. But I guess it really doesn’t need a date, because the information it contains is timeless, not to mention priceless.

I mean get a load of this:

Where on earth are these vegetables grown, anyway?! (Actually, it’s not on earth. Rather, you’ll find them in the The 49th Dimension, where the corn is puny and the shrimp are raw.)

But really, I shouldn’t jest. Maybe if I actually consult this book, I will acquire some gourmet hausfrau tips. Goddess knows I could work on some of those helpmeetly skills. I mean, I have the knitting and crochet down pat (although sewing does present a bit of a challenge), but as I near my 40th year I can’t help but think that some other essential skills are lacking. And if I start working on them now, I should be Queen of the Homemakers by 2010 when I turn 40!

And besides, the women all looked so happy back then!
Um… well, most of the time they did. Unfortunately, there is no caption for this picture. And check out the bottle!

I mean, I’ve never had kids, so I don’t really know… but it strikes me that it’s not appropriate to heat a baby bottle to boiling point. Am I wrong?

And… is that a fist I see hiding under the dishcloth?

Ah – it’s all crystal clear now (NB: I don’t really know what “crystal clear” means. I have no crystal in my house. I did have some but some wanker smashed it one night at a party when I was playing greek music. Plates, you moron, plates – not glassware!!!). Where was I? Oh yes.

This must be the missing caption:

“That’ll teach you for making me play ‘airplane’ for the 57th time today, kid… “ 

Would you just shut up and eat, already?!?!?!? If Mommy misses seeing Victor and Nikki’s wedding again on Y&R, you’re going to your room until you turn 18 and I kick your worthless @$$ onto the street…” 

As you can see, there are very good reasons why I’ve chosen not to have kids!

And now for a short break from our sponsor… the back of the Presto book!
I want to be a model for a Presto ad! 

Look how fun it is to do housework!!!

(where is that #$&*^$#&@*#$&^#* comb?! I bet JJ found it under the toilet tank and confiscated it lest I glue it to a table or something…)

Hmm… I might not be dressed quite the part, though…

Maybe they’d go for something like this instead?

Um… maybe not. Unless, of course, the product is called “Mommy’s Dirty Little Secrets”…

Sigh – I’m not really picking up this hausfrau thing too swiftly, am I?

Well, I’m not quite sure how to operate the iron, anyway. My mother gave it to me when visiting eight years ago or so. She was horrified when she went looking for my iron only to find that I didn’t have one. I had lived alone for five years at the time. To spare her feelings I lied and said that the ex got the iron in the split-up. She then reminded me that the split up had happened three years previously. I am a bad, bad daughter.

Oh well. I’d rather use the iron like this, anyway.

And now back to Law and Order SVU Season 2, which I’ve seen at least three times already…

Or, rather, back to the Presto Cookbook. I love these old cookbooks. The photography is so appetizing. Let’s see – I haven’t had breakfast yet (unless you count the nougat bar with jujubes…) so perhaps I can find something tasty here:

Then again, maybe not.  I can just picture this offering in the local greasy spoon: “Would Madame rather have the mucilage or the Elmer’s with a side of milk, then?”  Although I appreciate the cute bowl with the balloons, that just doesn’t cut it.

On that note, I’d better start planning dinner…how about some soup? It’s chilly today…

Hmm… blood and bile with swirls of pus? Nah…but let me see if I can find anything that appeals within the section…

– Oyster Chowder
– Southern Okra Gumbo
– Gumbo… maybe… but with oysters? Nope.

To top it off, the Soup and Chowder section is in that mysterious land where any spice save Salt and Pepper apparently fear to tread.

Next – meat. Well, there’s plenty of that in the deep freezer…

Hmm… all I can really say is that I’ve never seen a roast beef served on a bed of cucumber and whole radish before. Hmm. Well, I’ll turn the page (skipping the photographed selections, methinks…).

A bit more exotic than the Soup section, at any rate:

Norwegian Meatballs (which appear to be meatballs boiled in milk and cream. Next…)
Swiss Steak No. 1
Swiss Steak No. 2 (which appears to be the same as Swiss Steak No. 1 except that it also features a cup of tomato soup and “2 T. cornstarch”. 2 tablespoons?!?!? Must be a hangover from the Cereal page…)

Another exoticism: Porcupine Meatballs – oh, those racy 50s housewives! What were they doing, hanging out at the side of the highway looking for roadkill??

Moving on…some items that no 50s cookbook would be complete without:

Savory (sic) Beef Neck
Economy Pork Steak
Beef Liver
Devilled Lamb Neck Slices (have you ever had lamb neck? I make it quite often as I love lamb and it’s a cheap homestyle greek dish. However, if you don’t do it in the crockpot or, failing that, in the oven for about five hours, you might as well buy a pack of chewing gum and save yourself the trouble. This recipe calls for 15 minutes cooking time. I’m sceptical…)
Stuffed Beef Heart (the minute I left home, I vowed that never again would organ meat pass my lips. It is perhaps the one vow I have never broken).
Fresh Tongue (nah, although I’m sure it’s far better than that stale tongue in all the other cookbooks…)

and finally (drumroll, please…)

Pigs in a Blanket. That time honoured favourite. However, paradoxically, this recipe calls for round steak wrapped in bacon. So, shouldn’t it be “Cow in a Blanket”?

The next section, luckily, looks intriguing:

“Combination” of what? you may well ask? I certainly did, looking at the above photo. Vegetables and vegetables? Meat and blobs of unknown origin? Meatballs and blood?

Let’s peek within to try to shed some light on this mystery:

More international exoticism!!!
Belgian Stew (with beef neck and carrots)
Sauerbraten (German beef stew)
3 – count ’em – 3 versions of Chop Suey!!!!! (American, Fancy and Plain. The only difference I can see is that the Fancy has three types of meat instead of one. All share copious amounts of canned vegetables in common. And, isn’t chop suey all American anyway?)

And some more stuff I’ve never heard of before (with good reason, in my opinion):
Corn Cabbage
Squash with Pineapple

Chicken is starting to look pretty good right about now…

Check out the cooking time table!!

Let’s zoom in, shall we?

Qu’est-ce que c’est “gosling”? I have no idea. Where is JJ when I need him – he’s up on all this weird anglo food. I would call him at work but undoubtedly I’d either interrupt the Spider Solitaire Security Guard Classic Championship Finals, or wake him up. This will have to wait…

Well, that’s one way to get them onto the plate, I guess. I can just hear JJ now: “Puir wee pheasant, smothered before its time. Are ye planning to make a mosaic effigy with the bones, then, lassie?”

Shiskabugs!!! Where’s my Hasen Pfeffer?!?!?!

Puir wee Bugs Bunny. I don’t want any harm coming to him. He did have the guts to go around in
drag in the 1940s
, after all. You might call him a role model of mine…


I’ve got some frozen shrimp I scored at Loblaws a while back …

Frozen shrimp, blood and Ritz crackers – all hauled in by a serf. No thanks.

I don’t really like vegetables, but I’m getting desperate here:
The flowers look nice anyway.

There are recipes for 28 vegetables. The recipes are all identical except for the main ingredient. Here’s a sample:

Potatoes (small)

small whole new potatoes
1 cup water

I kid you not. Oh wait, I lie to you. Some of the recipes are a bit different:

Peas (green)

Fresh peas
1/2 cup water

I guess it’s dessert for dinner again…

What the hell is “steamed bread”??? Is it that stuff that weighs about a pound for a small slice and sits in your stomach for days afterward? Not in this house…give me a Viennetta or some Cadbury’s any old day.

And finally…

Maybe I’m out of it, but isn’t a “fruit recipe” a dessert? (by the look of the photo, maybe not – especially when served swimming in Vaseline and food colouring).

Damn it all.


One thought on “helpmeetly duties in the 21st century

  1. Jennefer Laidley says:

    Oh my god. I have a HUGE collection of these cookbooks. HUGE. Massive. I love them. I will have to bring some in to show you.

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