This post is for anyone who has ever thought that I would be a fun friend to have.
A few months ago, several people sent me this Buzzfeed article. I’m sure you've seen it by now; It’s a roundup of the strangest, most offensive, mid-century recipes to ever assault your eyes.
I of course read it and then emailed Emily asking if she would like for me to make and eat a few of these monstrosities. She said that she would like that very much, and then I didn’t do it. Every time I started to work on it, I would get overwhelmed by the preparation. I was also discouraged by the amount of Jell-O required, as Jell-O is one of my most loathed foods.
Eventually I got it together, picked some recipes, and invited a couple of "friends" over to help me taste test. I put "friends" in quotation marks as these dishes are best reserved for your enemies, or at least frenemies. Sean wanted no part in these reindeer games, but David and Kristal were nice enough to be part of my panel. I'm so so sorry guys. So very sorry.
It would have been easy to just pick the three most offensive items from the article, but terrible vintage recipes can be found in places other than Buzzfeed, so I added one from my grandmother’s recipe box and one from the first edition of Betty Crocker's New Picture Cook Book.
1. My Grandmother’s 7-Up Salad
2. Tangy Tomato Aspic
3. Pear Salad
4. Ham and Bananas Hollandaise
5. Liver Sausage Pineapple
6. Wagon Wheel Pie
My Grandmother’s 7-Up Salad
I loved my grandmother’s cooking growing up. I still do, though she rarely cooks anymore. She used a lot of canned ingredients, but she also used entire sticks of butter as "seasoning" so everything was always enjoyable. Being a bona fide Church Lady means that she has a recipe box full of casseroles, salads, and punches, and she was nice enough to let me borrow it.
A combination of lime Jell-O, 7-Up, cream cheese, crushed pineapple, and pecans, this “salad” is meant to be served at the beginning of a meal. Due to my dislike of Jell-O, I don’t own a lot of molds, but I do own a Christmas tree-shaped cake pan. I poured the salad mixture in the tree and let it set.
When I turned it out, it looked like this.
Reactions were mostly positive:
David: This is so the opposite of what a salad is. Are these nuts?
Kristal: Oh, it’s nuts!
David: Honestly, as a dessert this would not be a bad dish. Is there something fibery in there? It’s got a weird aftertaste, but it’s….
David never finished that sentence, but I did tell him that the “fibery” stuff was crushed pineapple.
Tangy Tomato Aspic
I’ve never liked aspic. For those unfamiliar with the dish, it’s like a savory Jell-O mold that is usually tomato-based. It's for people who crave that tangy tomato soup flavor but want it in the least appealing texture imaginable. This particular recipe contained tomato sauce, lemon gelatin, onion juice, and various spices.
My grandmother always loved aspic, and my grandfather always hated it. He would also always get it confused with quiche, for some reason. He would see quiche on the menu and start grumbling about that "gross tomato thing" and I would be like "No Granddaddy, you like quiche; it's the egg pie with cheese," and then he would order the quiche. We went through this almost every time we had lunch at The Tea Room.
I couldn’t get it to completely hold its shape, so I scooped out individual portions into mason jars. I added shredded cheese and lettuce, because whenever I’ve seen aspic, it’s always had a vaguely nauseating garnish.
David: It’s definitely a “no.” I get what they were going for but it’s unpleasant to me.
Me: On a cracker, it’s not the worst thing.
David: But the thing is, a bare cracker would be even better.
Kristal: That’s vomity; that’s the taste in your mouth after you throw up.
David: I hope it doesn't get worse than that one.
It definitely got worse than that one.
Ah, pear salad. A thing that I have actually eaten at a church dinner. It looked innocuous enough. A canned pear half topped with cottage cheese and then cheddar cheese. Nothing amazing but cheese makes all things great, right?
Wrong. Because the first layer wasn't cottage cheese at all; it was mayonnaise. I have never felt more betrayed by food.
David: Oh. There’s stuff under the cheese.
Kristal: You look really sad.
David: You can taste the mayonnaise and you can taste the pear and you can taste the cheese. They all stay completely separate.
Kristal: The only horrible thing about it is that blob of mayonnaise you end up tasting all at once. Like that poorly constructed burrito.
David: The mayonnaise is so present.
Me: I don’t know who looked at a can of pears and said ‘I know what these need!’ and then added mayonnaise and shredded cheddar cheese.
Kristal: That 7 up is salad is just starting to look really delicious.
Ham and Bananas Hollandaise
Oh you know, just ham wrapped around bananas, topped with hollandaise sauce, and then baked. I cannot, for the love of god, figure out why someone would do this to ham, bananas, or hollandaise. All three ingredients are equally abused in this dish.
I don’t know if you guys remember that episode of Full House where Michelle was getting into cooking; she kept combining two things she liked in the hopes that a couple of great things would equal a new great thing. This led to creations such as “tunacream” (ice cream and tuna) and a whole lot of hilarity.
I feel like Michelle Tanner created Ham and Bananas Hollandaise.
Oh, and did I mention there is mustard spread on the ham before it I wrapped around the banana? The result is a truly revolting, sour yet sweet hot banana mess.
Me: They smell bad!
Kristal: Do you think these were recipes in a secret recipe book called “how to not get invited to a dinner party ever again”?
David: Some of these [recipes] seem like they’re almost okay, but then an awful idea is thrown in like “BANANAS.”
David: [terrible displeased sounds] This is probably the worst one yet.
Me: NOPE. This is so bad. [gagging] The texture is really upsetting.
Kristal: It’s actually not that bad. It is off-putting, but it kind of reminds me of something.
Me: Like eggs Benedict but instead of eggs, it's bananas.
David: The banana comes in a little later and it keeps swelling.
Liver Sausage Pineapple
The piece de resistance! You're probably not quite sure what you're looking at, but it's just your basic liver sausage/mayo paste molded around a jar and then frosted and decorated to look like a pineapple. Real basic stuff.
This is probably the most perverse thing I have ever made. Originating from the 1953 Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook, this should only be prepared while wearing a shroud, so as to hide oneself from the creator.
I’m a big fan of making one type of food look like another type of food, but this goes too far for a couple of reasons. Firstly: a whole pineapple is sacrificed for the top. Nothing is ever said about what you’re supposed to do with the actual fruit part. I ended up eating mine, but it bothers me that it isn’t even given a polite “serve pineapple chunks as a refreshing dessert course!” Second: SO MUCH MAYONNAISE.
Not only is the liver sausage mixed with mayonnaise and then molded around a glass jar, the whole thing is then "frosted" with more mayonnaise that has been mixed with gelatin. No serving instructions are give, so I guess you're supposed to just scrape the mayo-encrusted meat paste off the jar and eat it on a cracker.
Oh and the liver sausage was sutured into its casing. That was very unsettling.
Kristal: This would explain why some kids don’t like fruit.
Me: It’s so grotesque.
Kristal: I like how you just scrape it off the glass jar. I still taste the mayo at the back of my throat, I don’t know if it’s from the pear or smelling this.
Me: I love that we don’t know if the lingering mayo is from the pear or not.
Kristal: Oh shit. I forgot to put it on a cracker. Oh that was a bad idea.
David: It’s okay. But just have the liverwurst! Why put gelatin mayo on it?
Me: Nope. [gagging] It was fine until the Jell-O-mayo.
Wagon Wheel Pie
This was a huge disappointment for me, because I thought it was going to be delicious, in a terrible kind of way. It's just a pie containing SPAM, cheese, vegetables, butter, eggs, and evaporated milk! How could this be bad? But it was. It was so bad. I blame the Veg-All.
Apparently, it was part of the Pillsbury Bake Off competition, but I can't imagine this winning anything besides "Most Likely to Turn You Against Vegetables for The Rest of Your Existence."
David: I don’t taste much of the spam; I taste salty.
Me: It has like a microwave dinner taste.
David: I just had a Lima bean and I didn't like it and I LIKE Lima beans.
Me: The vegetables are pretty terrible.
Kristal: Ooh no. I don’t like this at all. The vegetables make this horrible. This is worse than the pineapple.
David: They have the worst canned veg flavor I’ve ever had in my entire life. I’m just going to eat the spam.
Well, that happened. Out of all of the strange things I've chewed and swallowed, these were the most upsetting.
So next time you find yourself thinking "Man, I bet it would be fun to be friends with Claire," read this post and know that it's not all Pizza Cakes and ethanol.
Sometimes being friends with Claire is just eating a lot of mayonnaise.