Tag Archives: retro

Candy is dandy, but crickets are bugs.

Today, I did a brave and stupid thing. I stopped in our friendly neighbourhood candy store (which was sadly all out of TimTams) and decided to have a bit of a spree for the sake of a good blog. This place carries all kinds of interesting sweets from over the border and across the pond, and their selection varies slightly from time to time. You never know what you’ll come across.

I made a beeline for the American imports right away and picked up the following:

  • assortedcandyPopeye “Tasty Candy Sticks
  • Jelly Belly Sours
  • Hoffman’s CupoGold
  • London Mint chocolates
  • Zero Bars (Dark and Milk)
  • Pop Rocks Wild Berry
  • Green & Black’s Dark Chocolate 70%
  • Kinder Surprise Chocolate Egg
  • Walkers Crispy Duck & Hoisin crisps
  • Scorpion Sucker Banana Flavor
  • Crick-ettes Bacon & Cheese

Crick-ettesWhen I decided to purchase the box of Crick-ettes, it was all I could do to hold them in my hand. At one point I forgot what I was carrying, and when I looked down and saw their dead buggy faces staring back at me from behind the cellophane, I nearly threw them down and ran screaming out the door. But, I didn’t want to make a scene in the candy shop, so I composed myself. “Stay strong . . . they’re just for pictures. You don’t have to eat them.” Or so I told myself at the moment.

cricketsReally, what kind of foodie would I be if I didn’t at least have a wee nibble? Just to educate my taste buds . . . clearly I had  lost my mind. Ginger Man pretty much agreed, but I got him to try a hind leg with me. Perhaps if I had just popped one in whole and crunched it up like a brave girl, the experience might have been more informative, but no, it wasn’t worth it to me. I had a cricket in my hand and a steak in my freezer; the choice was clear. Still, a taste test was in order.

There was sufficient fake bacony cheese dust to impart a flavour of some kind, but the texture completely turned me off. It was like I had just bitten into food and my tongue found an inedible particle, a thing that didn’t belong, and was trying in vain to evict it from my palate. Ptooey sums it up best. I must say, however, the crows were very pleased with the Crick-ettes.

scorpsuckaI was quite happy to move on to the badass banana scorpion sucker. There was a whole lotta sugar between me and that critter, so I was game for a lick or two. Examining the little scorpion, delicately preserved in the center of a golden confectionary window made me feel like a paleontologist. At the same time, whatever morbid human curiosity the goodie satisfied, I couldn’t help thinking how many of those little animals had gotten their stingers ripped off and died in a suffocating yellow goo so that geeks like me could throw down some money for a laugh. Curiosity satisfied, that’s the last one I’ll ever buy.

chipsThe duck and hoisin chips weren’t half bad. The taste reminded me of brown gravy. The Walkers Crisps company in the UK recently held a contest with 6 new flavours including Crispy Duck & Hoisin, Fish & Chips, Chili & Chocolate, Onion Bhaji, Builder’s Breakfast, and the one I really wish I could have tried: Cajun Squirrel. I don’t usually like weird flavours on chips, but Canadian dill pickle flavoured chips are rather addictive. Salty, vinegary, herby. Ketchup chips aren’t as interesting, but they are kinda tasty. What I really miss are authentic Moore’s Cheesies, which are no longer produced. There is no substitute. I’ve searched everywhere and have yet to find any cheesy poof that comes close. I’m sure they were made out of crap and plastic, but darnit they were yummy! I occasionally miss those phantom childhood tastes. Those things that I haven’t had in forever and I remember them being incredibly delicious beyond imagination, like HoHos and Moon Pies and those six packs of sugary doughunts and YooHoo! Then when I actually get one, it’s inevitably disappointing.  Sometimes the nostalgia factor is enough to make it alright, even if it’s stale and plasticky tasting and nothing like what I remember.

kinder apeI handed over all the jelly belly sours—Ginger Man’s reward for trying the cricket, and because I love him. He wants me to eat the orange ones, but I like the red ones, and I’m cute, so I get my way. He got the pop rocks, but we split the Kinder egg (he gets the chocolatey outside; I get the toy inside). This time it was a real cutie: a fuzzy green ape! So much better than a dumb robot with weird chicken arms.

popeyecigsThe dreamy London Mints are for after dinner for the next couple days, and the “candy sticks” are for whenever I feel like putting my feet up and having a fake smoke, cuz we all know those are candy cigarettes. In order not to start smoking rebelliously the last time I was home for a visit, me and my sisters stopped at every convenience store in the county looking for candy cigs. I went through about a pack of Round Ups a day.

The CupOGold, that’s for a special afternoon with a big ol’ cuppa coffee. Marshmallow and chocolate. Save the best for last.


Old-Fashioned Peanut Butter Pinwheels

Creamy and Sweet

Creamy and Sweet

I’ve been on a sugar kick lately, and for whatever reason these nostalgic treats kept popping into my mind. They were extremely popular where I grew up and often graced the child’s-eye-level shelf at our local store bakeries. One version of the recipe uses cold mashed potatoes in the sugar dough, and at first, I was bent on making potato candy . . . then my sister talked some sense into me. You can indeed use plain leftover potatoes, but according to Sissy, the result can be unpleasantly grainy and not as tasty.

Half a batch provided plenty of candy for our house. If you’re having a bake sale or a party, simply double the ingredients for a super-size batch. The dough comes together very easily in a stand mixer, but a wooden spoon and a bowl will work just fine (be sure to knead the dough).

The dough is quite easy to handle. It also has plenty of sugar, so I reccommend using a fresh ground nut butter or a natural variety like Adams. The distinct lack of sugar in the nut butter provides a welcome contrast to the creamy, sweet dough. I initially used 1 cup of creamy cashew-peanut butter (so yummy) with no sugar added, but I think that wasn’t quite enough, so I suggest at least 1 1/2 cups in the recipe.

Sissy’s Peanut Butter Pinwheels

  • 1lb powdered sugar (3 3/4 cups)
  • 1 stick butter (1/2 cup) melted and cooled
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 tbs heavy cream
  • good quality peanut butter (about 1 1/2 cups) room temp

sugar doughMix sugar, butter, and vanilla. Add cream slowly (1 Tbs at a time) until a dough forms.

rolled out sugar doughKnead on board covered with powdered sugar at least 5 minutes. It should be nice and smooth. Divide in half. Roll out between two sheets of plastic wrap.

ready to rollRemove top sheet of plastic. Spread dough with Peanut Butter. Roll up jelly-roll style.

candy logCover with plastic wrap. Chill until firm.

Use a sharp, clean knife to cut 1/4″ slices.

Keep this candy refrigerated . . . I keep it wrapped and just cut off a slice when I want a fix. I don’t know how well it freezes because it never stays around that long.


Shelf Love: The Pocket Cook Book

I found this little treasure in the “free books” box outside a local used bookstore. It’s a paperback Pocket Book first published in 1942. My copy is a 10th printing from 1945. The back cover boasts 1300 recipes in “a complete and completely reliable cook book for a very little money” and highlights “sugar-sparing ideas” to address the wartime sugar-rationing situation. In some areas, sugar continued to be rationed up to 1947, two years after the end of the war. Could you imagine what would happen in North America today if we suddenly had to ration sugar? People would be stockpiling Oreos and soda pop like there was no tomorrow.

During WWII, the government determined certain food costs and ration books were issued for each family member. The homemaker had to plan meals around the total pool of ration stamps for her family. Rationed supplies included beef, sugar, cheese, butter, coffee, raisins, prunes, liquor, and non-food items such as shoes, tires, bicycles, and even typewriters, among other things. Families were encouraged to plant “victory gardens” to supply their own fruits, vegetables, and herbs while the nation concentrated on feeding its troops. The Victory Cookbook, published in the US, is typical of the effort to teach wartime homemakers to stretch their meals, make substitutions, reduce wastefulness, and economize as much as possible.

Because less perishible items (solid cuts of meat, hard cheeses, etc.) were preferred for shipping to troops worldwide, civilians were encouraged to use the more perishible foods (such as organ meats) for home cooking. The Pocket Cook Book ensures that liver is “a prize package of minerals and of all the vitamins” and suggests it be served at least once a week. There are less than a dozen liver recipes in the book, along with a handful more for delicacies such as sweetbreads, kidneys, tripe, and so forth. However, whole chapters are devoted to candies, cookies, cakes, and desserts. I know what I’d spend my ration stamps on.

This little book is chock full of useful tidbits. Chapter 6 “Hints for Successful Cake Baking” has the same kind of advice I’ve heard time and again from skilled bakers like Martha Stewart and Alton Brown and the Cook’s Illustrated folks. There’s even a chapter on leftovers (something few cookbooks talk about these days) that lists specific recipes to help you use up leftover turkey, bread, veggies, and even those extra egg whites.

Chapter 9 is handy for “those dark moments when the kitchen cash box is almost empty and inspiration for appetizing economy dishes seems to have fled forever” offering a recipe list to help your “food-buying pennies stretch further than ever they stretched before.” Wouldn’t it be nice to go to the grocery store and be able to pay for something with pennies?

One of numerous budget-friendly dishes, the “Thrift Special” recipe actually sounds rather tasty and adoreable. Little nests of mashed potatoes are baked in a hot oven until browned, then filled with a creamy cheese sauce containing chopped ham, diced cooked carrots, and cooked peas. How sweet is that? I also stumbled upon a recipe called Eggs-In-A-Frame which is the twin sister for my own Egg in a Basket. And of course there are a few recipes using the humble hot dog, one disgused as Luncheon Salad combining potato balls, carrot balls, sliced weenies, and a combo of French Dressing and mayo, served on a bed of chicory. Why specifically chicory, I don’t know, and I’m not sure how one balls a carrot, either. Of course, if this recipe fails, there’s always the Vienna Sausage Shortcake. The very idea gives me heartburn.

There isn’t anything terribly exotic about the book’s contents, and many of the recipes are quite traditional (Steamed Brown Bread, Refrigerator Rolls, Divinity Fudge). I think what I like about the recipes most is their utter simplicity. Many require only a few ingredients and not a lot of fuss, and there is plenty of room for tweaking flavours and textures. What’s more, the book is refreshing and inspiring, despite being nearly 65 years old. And there aren’t even any pictures! Everything old seems new again. Cheese Fondue wasn’t invented in the ’70s, and Martha Stewart wasn’t the first to come up with the idea of baking her bacon. I think I’m going to have fun with this cookbook.

A run of bad potluck.

Hidden between the pages of every cookbook are recipes that result in spectacular food failures. Sometimes it’s the cook’s fault for deviating from instructions or cutting corners or making unauthorized substitutions. Sometimes, it’s the recipe itself. Perhaps the instructions are unclear or incomplete, or maybe some ingredients should just never come together under any circumstances.

I’ve been scouring through my cookbooks lately looking for tasty treats, and particularly in my older books, I’ve come across some recipes that border on the truly bizarre. Most of them are full of weiners (Corn and Weiner Casserole is sure to be a gastronomic abomination). Maybe someday I’ll compile them all into a grand volume and call it 101 Ways With Weenies. Maybe I can find something better to do.

Thanks to the intertoobs, other curious people have preserved evidence of numerous culinary nightmares perfect for your next sideshow potluck.

  • Weight Watcher Recipe Cards: a wretched liver paté, scary Carrie chicken, and cult-quality Inspiration Soup, to name but a few. There’s even a Flickr group documenting actual attempts at recreating some of these inspiring frankenfoods. The crown roast of weiners is quite a centerpiece. This is clear evidence that dieting is very bad for your brain. P.S. There’s also a book available.
  • Gallery of Regrettable Food: James Lileks presents excerpts from a vast collection of peculiar old recipe booklets accompanied by witty commentary to offset the depressing torture of  decent food. There’s also a selection of quaint marketing ephemera. P.S. He has a book available, too.
  • Cate’s Garage Sale Finds: Cate says, “I love to cook. But I love cookbooks even more, especially if they’re old and filled with recipes for things I’d never want to eat.” That pretty much sums it up. She has an excellent section of gender-specific eating for men. From her main site, you have access to arcane knowledge, ugly crafts, and trashy romance in addition to her blog.