Friday, December 14, 2007


The Book: Ceil Dyer, BEST RECIPES FROM THE BACKS OF BOXES, BOTTLES, CANS, AND JARS. Galahad Books, 1993 (reprint; originally published in three volumes, in 1979, 1981 and 1982). Fine condition.
First read: 1993 (approximately)
Owned since: 1997 (approximately)

For sheer reading entertainment, this is my favorite cookbook. My mother bought a couple of copies as Christmas presents for two of my sisters soon after it came out; I liked it so much, I asked for my own copy.

I don't think I've ever made anything out of it, but I love to read it. The book is exactly what the title says: recipes using prepared foods, copied from product labels. Some of it's a little ridiculous, but most of the recipes are perfectly straightforward: the lasagne recipe off the back of a Mueller's lasagne noodles package is easy and classic. The recipe for Chicken Cacciatore from a Progresso Olive Oil bottle sounds great -- if I liked Chicken Cacciatore, which I don't. (Bad associations -- Mom's one attempt at it caused a kitchen fire in our Fairfax home when I was six.)

Some of the recipes are shameful, though -- or shameless, depending on your perspective. "Summer Salad" (p. 263) calls for a can of peach halves, a can of pear halves, a can of sliced pineapple, and thinly sliced Armour Golden Star canned ham, mixed with sour cream and horseradish and served on a bed of iceberg lettuce. It might taste pretty good, but I couldn't serve it to anyone unless I pretended it was ironic. Oh, and you can make your own gourmet concoction by mixing Campbell's Green Pea soup with Campbell's Tomato Soup, a cup of milk and a dash of curry powder. If you try that at home, invite me for some other night...

What I Read This Week

Sue Grafton, T IS FOR TRESPASS. I had quit reading this series for a while, but picked this one up because someone told me it was Grafton's best in years. It's excellent, even if you haven't read books A-S. California private investigator Kinsey Millhone investigates a home health care provider who's looking after an aged neighbor, and winds up confronting a sociopathic identity thief. The book switches points of view between Kinsey's first-person narration and a third-person narrative from the health care worker's point of view, and it's genuinely suspenseful and chilling.


Anonymous said...

I just saw a recipe from (I think)Heinz that involved making meatballs using Heinz Chili sauce and cranberry sauce.

Someone will have to tell me what that tastes like, otherwise I will never find out.


Anonymous said...

That cookbook can be found in the bargain section of Barnes & Noble and I think the Cheescake Almandine recipe alone is worth the cover price. I've made it several times for family dinners and everyone likes it. That is, unless you've all been humoring me. If that's the case, I'm ok with that - just keep it to yourselves :)...

Peggy & Scott said...

Yes, Mom was a self taught cook. She relied heavily on the box recipes-the classics were good and sometimes she would get a hit that was unusal. I always loved the tuna roll up from the bisquick box! She revealed to me one time that she often got dinner ideas by lingering at the meat case and asking other shoppers what to do with certain cuts of meat. I do that too.
My cookbooks are getting a workout this week too. I just finished the Yule log from the "Cake Mix Doctor" (check our blog for a pic) and now I'm starting on Cheese Crusted Olive Balls from "America's Best Lost Recipes". They really do seem like they'll be good but at least I get to say "Cheese crusted olive balls" and crack myself up all night! Remind anyone of an SNL skit? .....Stay warm,Peggy ....Now that I think about it Yule Log is pretty funny too......

AnswerGirl said...

Mom used to make a Swedish meatballs recipe that used Welch's grape jelly -- I loved those meatballs. I wonder if that recipe is in this book.

JIM LAMB said...

I miss your mother's cooking, particularly now that I have to cook for myself. The amount of food that was one meal when you were children now lasts me up to six or eight nights and lunches, depending on how much leftovers I freeze for next week.

I am not cooking as much as I should and the number of restaurant meals is counted in the size of my waistline. This morning I tipped the scales at 100 pounds over my college competition weight.

I'll never be a lightweight again!

I'll see you at Christmas and we'll try for better weather than you have in Maine. The other day the temp was 80F(27C for our Canadian friends) and clear. I was on the beach walking the dog and almost called in sick to the B&N.