In preparation for our apartment building’s annual Christmas party, I spent last evening rifling through my recipes hoping to find just the right thing to tempt my fellow denizens and win top prize for Best Sweets. While I was grabbing a cookie recipe that won me the Blue Ribbon at an office holiday party of yore, I spotted an old box I had snagged from my grandmother's house a couple years ago. Never one to leave well enough alone, I opened it up figuring I might find an unusual dish that I could offer up for the Best Savory category.
The tin box is cream with red lettering on front that reads Abbott’s, a dairy local to Philadelphia. Consequently, the focus of the recipes is any product originating from a cow’s udder. Between the state of the card stock and my grandmother’s adolescent scrawl on the back of some of the cards, I'm pegging the recipe tin to date to the late ‘30s or early ‘40s. Put these predominant factors together – recipes of a certain age + extreme lacto – and you can only imagine what delights I found inside.
Now I like milk. I like cheese immensely. Ice cream: come on. Buttermilk even has its place in my palette, and cottage cheese is a lovely source of protein. But the recipes that the chefs de cuisine at Abbott were offering up during the early third of the 20th century were so god-awfully disgusting, I felt the need to don an adult diaper as a precaution.
Intriguingly, the recipes are prefaced by a couple cards with quotes from various “authorities”, just in case you needed a little encouragement before heading down the dairy vortex. Here's one, an endorsement of moo juice and argument for its contribution to the creation of a perfect race:
“The people who have made liberal use of milk as a food have, in contrast, attained greater size, greater longevity, and have been much more successful in rearing their young. They have been much more aggressive than the non-milk using people, and have achieved much greater advancement in literature, science and art.”
Say, Dr. E.V. McCollum, is that right? I don’t know if there’s empirical evidence to support this, but I’m guessing there are a number of math geniuses out there who were raised on Lactaid. Just sayin’.
“The white race cannot survive without dairy products.”
How now, Herbert Hoover. Just the white race? Although I got a couple hits on Google, it's unlikely we’re going to find that one in Bartlett’s. Still...
“Drink buttermilk and live to be 100 years old. It's an old saying, carrying an important truth. Drink lots of it, especially in the summer.”
Agenda-pushing much, U.S. Department of Agriculture? Nothing says refreshing like buttermilk on a 100 degree day, especially back when ice came to your house via a delivery truck and there was no such thing as central air. Imagine if Coors sold buttermilk instead of the horsepiss they call beer? Picture the Silver Bullet as a rancid-tasting heavy cream beverage downed by cheerleaders and aspirational douchebags in one of their ubiquitous TV spots. Ahhh...refreshing!
“A high place in the diet should be given to ice cream, iced puddings and frozen custards. Their combination of sugar and fat gives them high nutritive value.”
Now, that's research I can get behind, Dr. Woods Hutchinson!
And now for the recipes themselves, there were far too many to catalog for one blog post, so I pulled some of the highlights.
Buttermilk stew: doesn't that just say “home cooked meal” to you? When I first read this I mis-read ‘invalid’ as ‘not valid’, which is much more apropos.
Chicken baked in milk. Did anyone see last night’s episode of ‘The League’, when Ruxin creates a stink bomb from milk and raw chicken? If you did, my issues with this recipe need no further explanation. However, I did like this line: “A tough fowl is made tender and tasty if baked in milk.” Well, this tough fowl is made tender and tasty if baked in bourbon.
Molded cheese salad: Did you ever see one of those jokey books that catalog Fifties housewives and the Jello mold dishes they used to slaved over for holiday boozefests? Take that conceit, blow it up 1,000 times and addict it to crack. The mere mention of whipping the gelatine to the consistency of whipped cream is gross; folding cottage cheese and mayonnaise into that chiffon makes Buttermilk Stew sound like Filet Mignon.
And finally: A Surprise Salad. Did your husband bring home the boss for dinner again without giving you the heads up? Well, delight your guest with this cornucopia of whatever you can find in the liquor cabinet, such as olives, cornichons, maraschino cherries – hell, throw in some beer nuts while you’re at it. Then cover with cottage cheese to obscure the ingredients. As long as everyone’s so drunk they have trouble reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, no one will notice that they’re slowly being poisoned. Serve on a bed of lettuce for an instant sheen of class.
Now I know where my grandmother got her wild idea for the déclassé Cream Cheese Balls she used to offer up during the holiday season (for the record, it’s cream cheese and horseradish rolled into balls, and dipped into chopped Lebanon bologna, a lunch meat popular in the Harrisburg to Philadelphia quarter).
As a self-professed dairy freak, the recipes in this box are a one-way ticket to veganism.