Party Meatloaf

Exploring all that is wonderful and horrible about 50's pop culture. Come join the party!

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Just because you cancan doesn't mean you shouldshould

I know it's hard to read the fine print on these scans, but this time I'm doing you a favor.

Family Circle thought this "cancan Cassarole" (because you make it with canned foods--get it? Get it????) would be an ideal dish to "tote" (man they loved that word) along to a picnic. I'll just hit the highlights:

- a can of tomato soup
- a "can or jar" of tamales. I think you can still get canned tamales, but I shudder to think what a jar of them would look like.
- a can of tuna
- a can of creamed corn
- rice

This recipe makes an interesting brain teaser: which of the canned items most deserves to be excluded? I keep thinking, well, of you just took out the tuna . . . but then, no, creamed corn and tomato soup don't work either. Take out the creamed corn, and you're still left with tamales and tuna, which is also clearly not right. If you took out the corn and the tuna, and added a can of beans, maybe? Perhaps that was the original recipe they started with, and then they "fancied it up" with the tuna and corn?

A lot of 50's recipes feature wildly inappropriate food combinations--especially as packaged "convenience" foods start to take over--see Laura Shapiro's excellent Something from the Oven for the gory details. But this one has to be near the top of the list in terms of its glop factor.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

I'll have what the poodles are smoking

Old Gold cigarette ads regularly puzzle me. They resort to some of the most surreal associative images of all the 50s ads (LOOK! WE'RE NOT TALKING ABOUT NOT CANCER!). This has to be the strangest so far though:
The attempted sleight of hand is just so bad. The cigarettes come in two sizes; fine--put some cute dogs in there to illustrate the sizes!

And show the dogs smoking, because everyone loves dogs and they wouldn't do anything bad!

And make them French poodles because . . . well, because we know they come in different sizes!

And juxtapose the terms "treat" and "treatment" to make people mad at those other cigarettes that remind you smoking is bad for you!

And tell people they can "take comfort" in the fact that Old Gold has been selling tobacco for a long time. Clearly, since no one has ever died of cancer, this proves the product is safe.

Whatever the creators of this ad were smoking at the development meeting, it wasn't tobacco.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


Apologies for the hiatus--if you could see my sunburn you would understand.

My daughter and I made this Checkerboard Cake from the Betty Crocker Cake & Frosting Mix Cook [sic] Book a couple of weeks ago:

My suggestions:
1) Use 8-inch round pans. We used 9" rounds as recommended, and the sections didn't come out square, but rectangular. You'd have to do three rings of batter to get squares, I think. I'm not sure why this is. Do cake mixes rise less today than they did in the 60s?

2) When you put the batter into the inner ring, hold the ring in place with one hand (or one of your helper's hands). Otherwise it will slide around in the pan and your circle will be off-center. I filled the inside circles first, as the recipe directs.

3) Hold back a little white batter in case you can't get the batter levels to match inside and outside of the circles. You can add a little more food coloring to your reserve batter if you need to, and even things out.

4) We used pink gel food coloring because I had some (who doesn't? Don't you?). But other colors would look just as cool (or strange, take your pick). I didn't use almond extract because I forgot it, and I'm not sure a two-flavored cake would really be the kind of surprise my family would appreciate. Checkerboard colors, OK. Almond flavoring, I might be trying to kill them.

5) I used butter frosting because I always do, because it was good enough for my mother and who really likes that marshmallowy stuff anyway?

Monday, May 05, 2008

Frosting Nog!

I don't suppose there's anything wrong with making milkshakes out of frosting mix, really . . . it's mostly packaged sugar, after all. Still, there something not quite right about frosting mix plus corn syrup plus butter plus milk plus a raw egg.

Don't you think so?


Products and flavors no longer available from Betty Crocker

As found in the 1966 Cake and Frosting Mix Cookbook.

Cake mixes:
Tropical Mist
Honey Spice (you can still get plain Spice)
Butter Brickle (now Butter Pecan)
Lemon Velvet (now just Lemon)
Lemon Chiffon (I think Chiffon cake went out with Nixon)
Cherry Fudge
Chocolate Malt

Frosting mixes:
Golden Caramel
Coconut Pecan
Chocolate Fudge
Butter Brickle
Lemon Velvet
Cherry Fudge
Chocolate Malt

In fact, the only frosting mix you can still buy is Fluffy White. There are 21 flavors of canned frosting to choose from though.

Thursday, May 01, 2008


Can you even imagine, in this day and age, having an election returns party with both Democrats and Republicans attending? This is what Karl Rove and his ilk have done to our country--we can't even eat cake together anymore. Which I guess is a minor point compared to our lost moral standing, economic implosion, and decaying infrastructure and health. But it's still sad. If cake can't bring us together, we're screwed.

I didn't realize until I posted this that I cropped off the title; it's for an "Election Returns Party Cake." There are lots of recipes like this in the cake mix cookbook; you make a shaped cake by baking a square or round cake and then carving it elaborately into the shape you want. Simpler times.

What I like best about the instructions for this recipe is that they stipulate you should construct the marshmallow-and-gumdrop eyes so that the elephant and donkey are looking at each other.

If you want to try this on your own, you can click on the image for the larger version.


Wednesday, April 30, 2008

When the back of the box isn't enough

From 1966, I give you Betty Crocker's Cake and Frosting Mix Book:

Notice that's cake AND frosting mix. They tell you all kindsa stuff you can do with frosting mixes too, like making meringues or fudge or fondant out of frosting mix, or "Children's Surprises" such as Cheerios-Peanut Butter Fudge Balls, Cheerios-Fudge Confections, or Frozen Cheerios Squares. (Yes, Betty Crocker is the official imaginary spokeslady of General Mills, which makes Cheerios. But GM makes other cereals too, don't they?
Not as far as this book is concerned.)

Anyway. I'm fascinated by cookbooks which purport to tell one how to cook when really they aren't telling you to do anything of the sort. These days, we have the Cake Mix Doctor, a presumably very nice lady who advises readers to do unspeakable things with cake mixes, often to the point of adding enough extra ingredients to them that you could have made a perfectly good dessert without using the cake mix in the first place. And then there is the More is Better school of cake-mix doctoring, where inconceivable amounts of sugar and artificial flavor are combined into a sinkhole of cloying sweetness, like this "Strawberry Creme Cake" which I actually saw some crazy lady making on TV--strawberry cake mix (ever tried that? If you're not diabetic, probably not), a can of strawberry nectar instead of water (that's another 200 calories), strawberry jam between the layers, and a can of that glycerin-rich, gluey strawberry frosting to top it off.

And speaking of TV cooking shows, can I just say that I saw a lady making cinnamon toast on one a few months ago, and she actually told people you didn't have to use cinnamon if you didn't want to. That some people liked the way it spices up the toast, but that plain sugar was good too. I submit to you that when cinnamon toast without cinnamon is the topic of a TV cooking show, we have too many cooking shows on TV.

Anyway. None of that here. This book has some dumb ideas, sure, but it also spends a lot of time suggesting harmless ways to decorate cakes (dig the Tootsie Rolls on the chocolate cowboy cake!), and has extensive sections on frosting techniques. It also contains what strikes me as a completely superfluous section on "basics." If you can't follow the three steps on the box, I fail to see how two chapters of additional reading are going to help you. Still, we are treated to the Q&A "Why Isn't My Cake Perfect?" (NINE different categories of failure are possible--and you used a CAKE MIX!!! Who's the real failure here?). We also get the 911 call "I Have a Frosting Problem!" Two potential problems for "creamy-type" frostings (too thick and too thin), four for "fluffy-type" (not "beating up," stickiness (?), rubberiness, and "disintegration," an alarming concept to say the least).

More as the week progresses and my meds kick in.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Apropos of nothing

Half a year away from Halloween, yet I still feel compelled to post this image. I just love the bag. Also, you have to admit the tagline is ominously funny. It wouldn't have had such a sinister ring in 1954, of course.

I suppose this post does at least continue the theme of my craptacular image scanning. I think I've apologized enough for that over the years, so I won't do it here. You can get your lovingly-photographed, Photoshopped and touched-up images just about anywhere on the Web these days. And that's great. It's just not what I do.