2008-01-24 / News

Flotsam and Jetsam

By Donna Drago

I'm having a dinner party. But this one has a bit of a twist. The menu is so bizarre that I'm guessing no one will want to come.

I've been reading old cookbooks- mostly for laughs- and came across some recipes that are astonishing, if for no other reason than the simple fact that they are revolting.

Among my classic cooking tomes is "The New American Cookbook," published by Books, Inc. in 1941. This meaty, 1,000 page book of basic cookery and homemaking is just the sort of gift you'd give to a newlywed. It once belonged to my grandmother, but I don't recognize a single recipe that ever became one of her standards.

While I'm imagining the new bride was the recipient of the book, it was the new husband that had to be the guinea pig for the more than 3,500 recipes. Poor guy!

At my dinner party, I will serve a balanced meal of several courses, which, of course, will include an array of desserts, all selected from this book.

For starters, I'm considering "Hearty Soup," a thick, aromatic concoction that combines sliced frankfurters with one can each of condensed bean with bacon soup and pea soup mixed with equal amounts of milk and water. I plan to serve this with a slice of "Lima Bean Bread," which uses lima bean flour as the primary grain.

After my guests politely excuse themselves to release some gas, I'll wow them with my chosen entrée: Mutton Pie. This dish requires the tough mutton to be boiled first for about 2 hours before it can be cut into small pieces, which are then layered in a pie shell with apples, seasoned with cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg, as if it were an apple pie. I'll serve it piping hot with a healthy serving of the colorful "Bologna Cups with Hot Potato Salad." This fanciful concoction of a dish has the cook frying bologna slices until they curl up at the edges making a nice "cup," into which many toothsome side dishes can be put. I have to admit that aside from the bologna part, the hot potato salad actually has some possibilities. An alternative filling for the cup might be "Spaghetti and Sauerkraut," but I think I'll save that for the next time I want to impress some guests. It's so important to serve vegetables as part of a healthy meal, that I'll add a side dish of "Boiled Celery."

I can picture my guests trying to come up with something nice to say to make me feel good about the party thus far. They'll be furrowing their brows and spinning the wheels of their brains for just the right comment. Words like "satisfying," "filling," and "hearty" will be spewed alongside "interesting," "unique," and "clever."

"But wait," I'll tell them as they attempt to put on their coats, "there's still dessert!"

The night of my party, I'm going to wait till everyone has left the table and is seated comfortably in the living room before I bring out my sweets. I'll make them some "Toast Water" by pouring a cup of boiling water over two slices of chopped toast in a bowl. After this tasty combination is allowed to stand for one hour, presumably to fully wring out every shred of deliciousness from the toast, it will be strained and served. What could be simpler?

Next, we will have "Sea Moss Pudding," which is a great seaside favorite, especially among the budget savvy who can get the main ingredient at the beach. To make this delicacy I will soak a cup of sea moss in cold water, taking care to pick out "discolored pieces," which may include beer tabs, periwinkles and old fishing line. This goes in a quart of scalded milk, blended with sugar, salt and vanilla. The moss has gelatinous properties so after it spends some time in a mold in the fridge, it becomes a solid, wiggly concoction that can be plated with a fruit or chocolate sauce. Because this pudding is so light and fluffy, I'll knock their socks off with a more substantial dessert: "Gumdrop Cake."

This white layer cake includes an entire pound of chopped gumdrops, but insists that the black ones be removed.

I imagine my guests will be so happy they will grin in a strange Stepford Wives sort of way and suggest that we do this again, and soon! "But no, you can't go yet," I will tell them. "It's time for an aprés dinner cordial. One that I made myself, just for you," I will yell as their red taillights speed furiously away from my door.

Well the night was a big success, so I will make my own cocktail and drink it to celebrate my curious and offbeat entertaining prowess.

My choice will be a "Currant Jelly Highball," which asks the chef to combine the jelly, sugar, juices and water with a rotary egg beater before adding the carbonated water and alcohol of choice. My guests won't know what they're missing.

Any R.S.V.P.s?

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