The other day we were retrieving an old family recipe from one of those old church cookbooks that proliferate in one’s cabinet like so many cockroaches, and we made the mistake of actually flipping through the thing.
You have never seen such a collection of canned foods, American cheese, Italian seasoning, and A-1 Sauce in your life. Most of the items were absolutely repellent—we could not imagine anyone preparing, serving, or eating any of them. (“Coney Island Quickie,” anyone? It’s split wieners with cheese covered with cans of something…)
We had a kind of socioarchaeological discussion about the artifact, reconstructing the why of these recipes. The easy answer is that it was the 1970s. These were our mothers, and these recipes were by and for women like them: cooking for a large family without a lot of time or money to do so. Throwing cans of stuff into a casserole dish and heating it for 20 minutes at 375° was the way it was done.
As for the ingredients—canned everything, you guys—it helps to remember that there were not a lot of options. Kroger didn’t carry kale and leeks and sea bass and tilapia and cilantro. Julia Child was just beginning to have an impact on American kitchens, while Madison Avenue was very solicitous in providing time-saving and delicious recipes on nearly every page of every magazine. It was a completely different world.
So our reality TV show is called Mimeograph Kitchen, and besides its host will feature three couples: 1) someone our parents’ age, 70-80, i.e., the generation that produced these things; 2) someone our age, 50-60, the generation that grew up eating this stuff; 3) someone our kids’ age, 20-30, who have never known what it’s like not to have fresh salmon with dill cream sauce and a side of roasted broccoli. The recipe is presented and discussed by all three couples (reminiscences, reactions, etc.) , and a sample is provided for a tasting.
Then, each couple updates the recipe so that it is more in line with the 21st century and brings the results back to the table for everyone’s comments. (It’s not a high pressure competition show; they just go do their thing and then come back.)
It’s got nostalgia—along with the implied “good god can you believe people used to cook like this?”—intergenerational mocking, and creative cooking. You could take the show on the road, doing a repeat in varying communities across the country. Or you could just sit in Newnan and have nine seasons of the show in the can in no time.
In other news, it came as a shock to me this morning that I haven’t blogged in a couple of days. Must have been busy. Or lazy. But I am orchestrating “I am alone,” so I’ll have a report on that soon enough—and the materials for the 3 Old Men labyrinth were delivered yesterday, so that will be a fun report as well.