Adventures in food: vintage Betty Crocker, fun with hot dogs

In last Sunday’s NYT Magazine, a hilarious piece by Tamar Adler, “Betty Crocker’s Absurd, Gorgeous Atomic-Age Creations: The iconic brand’s midcentury recipes evoke the era’s peculiar optimism, encased in gelatin and smothered in mayonnaise”, with eye-popping food photos by Maurizio Cattelan and Pierpaolo Ferrari. Adler begins:

It is a dish hard to make sense of: a shimmering vermilion ring of canned tomato sauce, held motionless by gelatin, concealing a coeur caché of canned asparagus and artichoke hearts, the hole at its middle filled to bulging with mayonnaise and sour cream. Called ‘‘Tangy Tomato Aspic,’’ the dish dates from the atomic age, the decades after the bomb was dropped, the war won and a clean, bright American outlook born. It was the age of technocratic make-believe and the early days of the anthropocene. Gastronomically, it was an age that today — from a perspective admiring of the natural and authentic — looks shockingly artificial.

Nowhere is the era’s ethos and aesthetic better represented than in the 1971 Betty Crocker Recipe Card Library. On 648 cards, everything I’ve ever found intriguing about this segment of American culinary life is on display. There is a card for Fonduloha (pineapple, turkey, mayonnaise, curry, peanuts, coconut and canned mandarins, put back into a pineapple shell) and another for Cherry Pineapple Bologna (instant mashed potatoes, bologna glazed with crushed pineapple and maraschino cherry, dyed extra red with food coloring). There is Chicken Caruso, Round Steak ’n Ravioli, Crusty Salmon Shortcakes. There is the enigmatic Party Sandwich Loaf and the even more enigmatic Green Bean Bunwiches.

and goes on to look at the temper of the times and its relationship to the food of the times. The photographs, in shimmering color, are jokey set-ups. Here’s one with (ridiculously phallic) hot dogs as the main focus: “Polka-Dotted Macaroni and Cheese”:

(#1)

(Yes, the guy is stirring his coffee with a frankfurter. I told you the photos are jokey.)

and one with a hot dog dish accompanying the main event, “Party Sandwich Loaf”:

(#2)

I very much doubt that the food in the pictures was prepared according to the 1971 recipes. Of #1, commenter Veda Zuponcic writes, perceptively, on the Facebook page for the photo:

I think when that was actually made, the hot dogs weren’t whole like this picture: they were just disks, hence the name, Polka-Dotted Macaroni and Cheese. And they didn’t use rigatoni — probably Creamettes. No one in the hinterland had good Italian pasta. Those green boxes of elbow macaroni Creamettes were staples in most kitchens.

the Betty Crocker folks have always been taken with hot dogs: they’re American, they’re easily available, they’re popular, they’re quick to prepare, and they’re cheap. The current Betty Crocker recipe site has four hot dog recipes:

Impossibly Easy Hot Dog and Cheese Pie (link)

Hot Dog Casserole (link)

Hot Dog and Potato Dinner (link)

Bisquick Hot Dog Rolls (link)

The last of these:

(#3)

It’s not just Betty Crocker. Other recipe sites revel in frankfurters too. Here’s Weight Watchers, with a remarkable Crown Roast of Frankfurters:

(#4)

The “roast” is stuffed with shredded cabbage, tossed with vinegar and poppy seeds.

Here’s a vintage recipe, from the Better Homes & Gardens Barbecue Book (1967), on this site:

(#5)

Cheese-Frankfurter Loaf. A complex creation, involving a loaf of French bread, cut into slices, with a sauce, lots of shredded cheese (American cheese, of course), and frankfurters cut in half crosswise, assembled into something resembling a centipede and then grilled. Like #1, it has phallic hot dog tips poking out of the food.

Bonus: other regrettable phallic food. People like to collect regrettable vintage food. BuzzFeed, for example, has a site “21 Truly Upsetting Vintage Recipes”, from which I posted, on 1/10/14, a photo of a banana candle, for the sake of its phallicity. And here’s #2 on that site, a truly appalling Ham and Bananas Hollandaise:

(#6)

Enough, enough!

2 Responses to “Adventures in food: vintage Betty Crocker, fun with hot dogs”

  1. chrishansenhome Says:

    James Lileks has the granddaddy of all regrettable food sites, far predating Buzzfeed or any of the others. The Gallery of Regrettable Food is a delightful place to waste a couple of hours.

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