My first real job out of college was as a layout designer at a magazine dedicated to log homes. As it was a small office, I quickly worked my way up to Art Director. Which, in the world of magazines, means that I was in charge of how the magazine looked. I touched every page in the book either because I was the layout artist or because I was approving/critiquing the ads or layouts of my employees. It was a great job. There is nothing like walking into a random store across the country from where you work and seeing your work on the newsstand. That experience began a love of magazines that lasts until today.
Today though, I am much more interested in old magazines. Especially old lifestyle magazines. I love seeing the old layouts they did before computers took over a lot of the heavy lifting. I especially love studying the old ads and seeing how they change over time as color options widen and photography becomes more prominent. And sometimes, I am so intrigued by an old ad that it actually works on me. I end up on eBay searching old glassware or books. The book we are looking at tonight is one instance of that. I was reading an old magazine from the early 1960s when I came across an ad for Angostura Bitters that featured this promotional cookbook. Of course, eBay was my friend. I found a copy for fairly cheap and bought it.
Promotional cookbooks are always interesting. The goal wasn’t really to put in recipes that were good, instead the goal was to just cram in enough recipes that you’d probably keep it around the house. And of course the recipes all contain the the product they are promoting as an ingredient. Ever thought about cooking with 7-Up or Dr. Pepper? There were cookbooks for that. How about using Malt Extract in your Macaroni and Cheese? Yep. There was one for that too. And if you ever thought about using Angostura Bitters in your next salad or pie? Well that’s when you’d probably reach for The Secret of Better Taste: The Angostura Cook Book.
Published in 1961, this book is full of delightful illustrations, fun typography and black and white photos of some of the most horrendous looking foods available. I’m not going to lie. A lot of these look like vomit. And I’m not sure if color would help alleviate or reinforce the vomit-like look of the dishes. Even so upon receiving the book, I felt I owed it to myself to find a few of the less vomit-like recipes and give them a try.
Ham Glaze Angostura, page 11
1/2 cup of honey
3 tablespoons of lemon juice
2 tablespoons Angostura Bitters
Well the instructions tell you how to bake a ham. I didn’t make a ham. I made a ham steak. Not being sure of these recipes, I wasn’t going to ruin an entire ham if it wasn’t good. So the rest of the instructions can be summarized as follows: mix it up, put it on the ham. And the result?
You can certainly taste the bitters. They are subtle, not strong or overpowering. They complement the ham well. Overall, I make a better ham glaze, but this 1961 recipe holds up and is easy to make if you don’t keep a lot of spices in the ol’ spice cupboard. And heck, take a spoonful of that extra glaze (the stuff that wasn’t on the ham) and put it in a glass of bourbon. It made a very tasty old fashioned to sip on while the food cooked.
Certainly Cheese Puffs, page 31
1/4 cup butter or margarine
1 cup flour, sifted
1/4 cheddar cheese, grated
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons cold water
1 teaspoon Angostura Bitters
Cut the butter into the flour, stir in cheese and salt, stir in liquids. Form into balls and bake at 375° F.
I love cheese so much. I honestly didn’t think there was a cheese based dish that I wouldn’t like. Until the second one of these I popped into my mouth. The first was interesting. More than a bit dry, but interesting. With the second one though, all that cheese flavor hit me at once. It was so rich that I couldn’t stand to eat a third. If you are brave enough to try these, don’t use good cheddar. Use the blandest, most mild cheddar you can find. Even then I don’t think I’d recommend it.
Oh and the Angostura? Pretty sure that was only included so they could put it in the book. I couldn’t taste it.
Swedish Applecake, page 37
2 cups applesauce
2 cups zweiback crumbs
4 tablespoons butter
few drops of lemon juice
1 tablespoon Angostura
Melt butter in a skillet, add zweiback crumbs, stir until crumbs are lightly browned. Add lemon juice and Angostura to crumbs. Starting and ending with crumbs, layer crumbs and applesauce in alternating layers. Bake about a half hour at 375° F.
Even though I had no idea what zweiback was (apparently it is a twice baked toast that is super hard and dried out that was used for teething babies, you can buy a similar product under the name of rusk, which I did) and no Swedish Apple Cake I’d seen used applesauce instead of apple slices, I decided to give this one a try. I wouldn’t recommend you follow suit. It is very bland. The layering is a pain and at the end, the crumbs and the applesauce combine to make this weird pudding-like substance anyway so I might as well have just mixed them together. The Angostura doesn’t provide much flavor. Honestly just go to allrecipes.com to find a recipe on this one.
As a piece of mid-twentieth century memorabilia, this is a fun addition to the collection. As an actual cookbook? No. Just…don’t. I had three more recipes I had thought I would try but I just couldn’t bring myself to try again. The one was fine, the rest were so bad that I just…no.
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