I just picked up a copy of The Casserole Cookbook at an estate sale for $1.00. The Casserole Cookbook (which can be found used on Amazon) seems to be one in a series of cookbooks issued by the Culinary Arts Institute of Chicago. These were issued in the mid-50s, and had several different versions like French and Italian.
- The Casserole Cookbook
- 175 main dish and dessert casseroles
- published by: Culinary Arts Institute
- Chicago, IL
I love the fact that this was a book from the 50s. It’s perfect for the kitschy era.
Incidentally, The Casserole Cookbook was listed by Saveur magazine as one of their favorite casserole cookbooks, which made me even more eager to dig through it. Saveur said, “The standout aspect of this book is its detailed introduction, which gives instructions for sauces and other cooked ingredients called for in the recipes.”
I couldn’t agree more. While it’s still high on the kitsch meter, it also had solid explanations for sauces and even cooking veggies. It stresses accuracy in measuring (well… duh) but also gives really good mix and match tips for customizing casserole dishes with different ingredients and flavors.
Another helpful tip is defining what “very slow” and “moderate” mean when it comes to oven temperatures. Other books from this time period didn’t always do this, and if you’re actually going to try to make one of these recipes (and sometimes I do) you need to know what to put the oven at, baby!
But Is There Enough Kitsch?
How to truly tell whether a cookbook is filled with enough kitsch is the copy used in the introduction:
Every homemaker dreams – of creating memorable main dishes, even from leftovers; of cooking vegetables skillfully to produce subtly blended flavors; of serving distinctive dessert that take a minimum of time and effort. These dreams come true when she’s cooking in a casserole.
Okay wait, first, I don’t understand the use of the dash between “dreams” and “of.” Every homemaker dreams (pause) of creating…
No, it doesn’t work.
Besides that, there are too many semi-colons.
Despite the odd use of punctuation, is it really every homemaker’s dream to create memorable dishes?
I guess by this illustration it is. After all, how would the homemaker have time to watch TV with the rest of the family if not for the ability to pre-make a casserole?
As far as weird food ingredients (a must with any kitschy book) there weren’t that many. Tongue and Greens? Heart with Apple-Raisin Stuffing? Well yeah, those qualify.
Another must for books like this are mystery foods and sauces. For example, Deviled Ham Custard. Exactly where would you use a custard that tastes like deviled ham? I’m trying to think and coming up blank.
Oh, but the illustration they use is perfect:
Because why wouldn’t you want to make a food that represents a devil chasing your small children?
The Ground Lamb Scallop seems like a harmless enough recipe, but the illustration with two sheep standing (!) and facing each other while knitting is rather puzzling.
The Baked Frankfurter and Potato Salad sounds decent enough (come on, who hasn’t chopped up a few hot dogs and put them in a potato dish?) but why add celery seed and diced pimiento? What is it about pimiento???
I like the fact that there are recipes geared toward kids in here, too. Especially the fact that they added pictures like this:
to show you how kid-friendly these were, because no adult would have a small toy horse next to their plate! Must be kid foods only!
The Eggs on Noodle Casserole dish caught my eye, mainly because you use both undiluted evaporated milk and anchovy paste in the same dish! Tell me how many recipes can boast that twosome. The dish, as you can see:
is topped with hard-boiled eggs, because don’t breadcrumbs over hard-boiled eggs look delicious? They don’t look at all like big mysterious blobs that may explode when you poke them, or a small animal that somehow crawled onto the dish right before mom put it on the table. Oh no. Not at all.
The Casserole Cookbook also offers a variation to this dish entitled Stuffed Eggs With Olive Sauce. Mmmm…. olive sauce! I haven’t had olive sauce in sooooo long.
When I read aloud the title of this next recipe, my husband said, “That sounds disgusting.” It’s great when the title of a dish alone will make you go running for the hills. Ready? It’s called:
Lima Beans in Barbeque Sauce.
As if that wasn’t enough, it’s followed by Lima Bean Chille con Carne.
And apparently you eat it with a big wooden fork. It’s that good.
Later in the book there is Oyster-Macaroni Triumph which sounds good but has a name that screams kitschy cuisine. Or should I say KITSCHY CUISINE!!! Because any recipe name that includes triumph means it’s much, much better (and the cook probably spent more time on it) than your average oyster macaroni.
People may ask why some food is kitschy while others aren’t, and here’s a perfect example, the Deviled Sea Food With Pecan recipe probably wouldn’t be kitschy if not for the way they suggest you serve it:
In a clam shell. Cheesy while trying to be elegant. Now that’s kitsch.
I enjoyed The Casserole Cookbook a lot, because while there were a lot of silly recipes in there, there were one or two that I might just try. Also, it was everything you’d expect in a kitschy cookbook.
Finally, check out the technicolor goodness of the back cover: