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Sunday, March 23, 2008

Forgotten Foods -- A discussion with my wife over dinner Saturday night got me to thinking about foods that were common at my family's dinner table when I was growing up in the 1960s and '70s, and I came up with the following list. Most of them are foods my wife and I have never served our kids, a lot of them because they're gross, but others for other reasons, as you'll see...

Rack of Lamb with Mint Jelly -- I can remember enjoying this dish when my mom made it, which was probably three or four times a year, but I always passed on the mint jelly. I hate mint. That aside, the main reason I've not had this dish since childhood is that is just seems too close to game meat, too much of a reminder of exactly what it is you're eating. And it's probably fairly complicated, as well.

Harvey Wallbanger Cake -- Oh, man, I loved this when my mom would make it, and seeing the recipe, it's not hard to see why. We rarely bake anything in my home, but it's tempting to give this a shot (pardon the pun), because I remember it being incredibly moist and flavourful.

Liver and Onions -- I tried this exactly once as a child, because it looked like steak. Never again.

Chipped Beef on Toast -- This was probably a depression-era invention; my parents were both products of that era and the cuisine often was a reminder of how to make something out of virtually nothing. I'd probably never bother making this myself, but I remember it being creamy, salty and actually pretty tasty.

Codfish -- As a child I dreaded this dish being served up, but I think I ate it more often than not. It wasn't a favourite, but it was edible. I remember it being salty and having a strong, strong flavour that wasn't quite fishy, but reminiscent of something else altogether. Bonus memory: The fish came from the store in a wooden box. Anyone remember that?

Turkey Soup after Thanksgiving -- Again, as a product of The Depression, mom never let anything go to waste. In my modern-day home we use all the meat off the turkey for sandwiches and whatnot, but we don't go so far as to make stock from the carcass to make soup. I'll give mom credit on this one, it's probably pretty wasteful not to do this, but again, as pathetic creatures of 21st century America, it just seems like so much work. Oh, also: Turkey a la king was another dish that would be served after Thanksgiving -- turkey in a white sauce with peas, served over toast or with mashed potatoes. Which, amazingly, were always from the instant flakes that came in a huge can. This amazes me because when my wife makes mashed potatoes, she always makes them from real potatoes; there's one curious inversion of the pattern!

Spam -- I know we always had cans in the cupboard. Generally slices would be fried up in a pan and served on sandwiches. I have never purchased spam or eaten it in my adult life, although I assume they still make it, along with...

Vienna Sausages -- I can remember these being packed in my school lunches sometimes. Ears and assholes were no doubt the main ingredients, but of course pure beef ears and assholes. Or maybe pork, who the hell knows?

Beets -- Mom would make them, I wouldn't eat them. Sorry, Dwight, but beets have never passed my lips and never will. I think I heard once that they taste like dirt, and I for one believe it.

Mincemeat Pie -- Always served with Thanksgiving dinner. I might have taken a bite once, and that was more than enough for me.

Filet Mignon -- This was a once-a-week dinner in my childhood home, and probably my favourite meal that my family would eat. I would go to the butcher with my parents, who would buy individual filets wrapped in butcher paper. Each one came with a strip of bacon wrapped around it, for added flavour and moisture, I remember my mom telling me. And get this: Each filet cost a whole dollar, meaning four filets for my parents, me and my brother cost four dollars. Oh, did my parents complain about that cost! The last time I saw filet mignon in a supermarket I believe each filet cost around ten dollars. We've never made it in my home as an adult, but I often order it when eating out, as recently as last night, which is where this whole discussion began. Interestingly, other than the filets my parents would buy when I was a child, I have never seen it served with the bacon strip around it.

Raw Oysters and Frogs Legs -- No, I never ate either of these, but my parents often did when we went out to eat. The oysters were served raw on the half-shell and were accompanied with lemon to squirt on them before you slurped the snot-like raw animal out of its shell. No mealtime ritual ever grossed me out more.

Any of these bring back any memories for you? Feel free to share in the comments, or write it up on your blog, and let me know. I'm interested in whether anyone else remembers unusual foods that their family would have as a child that as an adult they don't eat anymore.


Blogger Roger Green said...

Damn - what a lame concept for a post. So why am I compelled to emulate it?

24 March, 2008 14:39  
Blogger Alan David Doane said...

Because it's AWESOME, that's why!

24 March, 2008 16:04  
Blogger Rhonda said...

Found this via your comment on the omnivore hundred list on the very good tase blog.

Interesting post, I guess I was fortunate that my mom never served liver & onions, cod fish or frogs legs!

My dislikes mostly included all the French cuisine she made, which I love now as an adult.

24 August, 2008 09:46  
Blogger Alan David Doane said...

Thanks for reading and commenting, Rhonda!

You were fortunate indeed. :-)

24 August, 2008 09:51  
Blogger Phoenix Wing said...

I too found you through Omnivore Hundred (I read slashfood)...

I grew up in the (shh) late 80s-early 90s and still had some of these foods - particularly liver-n-onions. We were WIC kids living in a community where more than the government would chip in. A bachelor neighbor loved to deer hunt, and my dad would pay for his lisence in return for any carcass that couldn't be finished by a single-stomach household. Needless to say, whatever prime cuts never made it to us, but we always had venison steaks and other ... parts ... on hand in a big chest freezer.
I've since gone veg, but still remember the distinct flavor and mouth feel of the liver (I was in a no-onion phase most of my childhood)...
I also remember plenty of salmon patties from the can, creamed corn (my mom's favorite - and she was the only one to eat it EVER) from the can, those reconstituted potato flakes, and lots of hot dogs and american cheese or hot dogs chopped up into pork-n-beans to make three dogs feed a family of 6! And hobo stew, which was not reserved for just Girl Scout camping trips -- hamburger and freezer veggies, sometimes even rice made it in!!
And everything tasted better when served family style at the table - that's the part I truly miss now, when my only dinnermates are the kitties begging for any milk I don't want to finish!!

What a nostalgic, fun post! Thanks!!

28 August, 2008 11:52  
Blogger Alan David Doane said...

Mashed potato flakes! I forgot all about those. My wife made them maybe the first year or two that we were together, but thankfully she mashes actual potatoes these days. :-)

Thanks for sharing your memories!

28 August, 2008 12:49  
Blogger FibroLady said...

I just found your blog as well. I remember most of those foods, and in fact still make and love most. I have never tried the Harvey Wallbanger cake, but I will now rectify that omission. My mother too used instant potatoes, I NEVER have, never will...except the potato flakes used as 'breading' on a few recipes...that's actually quite tasty. I did hate the 'SOS' (creamed chipped beef) as a child, but I love it now. I always loved liver and onions, as did my own kids. Lamb...YUM!!! Spam and Vienna sausages...ICK...then and now. Beets, I hated them as a child, but now that I raise my own organic, multi coloured beets, I do love them, especially roasted with a bit of olive oil, garlic and herbs. Steak...my parents didn't share that with us when we were children, rather they ate it in front of us, while feeding us that nasty hot dog thing where one splits the dog, stuffs in some cheese, then wraps it in bacon and then broiled. ICK!! Imagine watching your parents tuck into a beautiful rare steak, and you being forced to eat that nasty sausage and tinned peas. Talk about child abuse. I did learn a lot about parenting when I was young, specifically what NOT to do to one's children. EVER!! Thumbs up to the soup from the turkey carcass...I still do that. Mincemeat pie...yuck, especially English style where it's actually made with meat. Anyway, thanks for the tour down memory lane. (We also never got oysters nor frog legs as children, but I do love them now. I also love escargots. My children were much better fed than myself, at least from a quality standpoint. I never would make something for myself and not give it to them too, if I couldn't afford enough for all, then nobody got any. I also never made them sit at table until they had eaten all on their plates...I remember MANY nights being at table until past midnight, and then being served the same nasty plate for breakfast, when I wouldn't eat it either. It's really surprising, given our circumstance, that we grew up to be actual foodies. Again, thanks for the great read. (Sorry I blogged on your blog, too.)

05 September, 2008 04:55  
Blogger FibroLady said...

OOH!! I just remember another icky 'old time' food. Meat, usually beef, sprinkled liberally with Lipton's onion soup mix, wrapped in foil then left to cook all day, it wasn't 'tender', rather stringy and dry. I hated that so badly. Luckily, we had grandmothers, both of whom were fantastic cooks, and I did learn the 'right' way to cook almost everything. I watched both sets of grandparents suffer through my mother's versions of 'home cookery'. Normally, they would 'insist' on bringing food with them for these family dinners. Another 'grossery'...shredded cheese, mixed with salad dressing and tinned pimentoes. My mother would mix that up by the bowlful, then send us off to school with sandwiches on spongy white bread filled with that mixture for an entire week at a time. It was SOOOO bad.

05 September, 2008 05:04  
Blogger Alan David Doane said...


Great comments, thanks! I'm intrigued by your beets comments, I have to admit...they actually might not be bad prepared that way!

Thanks a lot for reading and commenting!


05 September, 2008 07:46  
Blogger Sasha said...

This post brought back so many memories! However, I don't need a memory of Spam- I have a permanent reminder in the form of a scar on my finger. I was about 11, having a sleep-over, and my friends and I were trying to open a can when the "key" got stuck, so who was the stupid one who tried wrapping her hand around and pulling? That would be me. Cut a nice hole in my finger, all the way to the bone... lesson learned! Spam is bad for you!
And yes, beets do taste like dirt. And yes, I still hate them to this day, much as I still hate green peppers (stuffed... ugh...).

My other favorite from that time (I think they still make these) were hot dogs with little pockets of cheese in them... That was more of a late-70's/early-80's item, but man-oh-man were they good...

Thanks for the post- brought back a lot of good memories!

09 September, 2008 16:34  
Blogger Paul DeLuca said...

Turkey Soup/Stock: Just do it; it's worth every minute.

19 September, 2008 13:00  
Blogger Fallibility said...

"Mincemeat pie...yuck, especially English style where it's actually made with meat"

Um, that's 17th century English style; we don't put meat in mincemeat now. And we generally just call them mince pies now.

Bemused Brit, trying to work out what's 'yuck' about dried fruit, fruit juice and sugar :)

29 September, 2008 12:11  
Blogger Qetesh said...

I remember being fed liver and onions, and tripe and onions, and tripe in white sauce, absolutely hated them then, and I still do. Another was sweetbread fritters. Boy did I gag when I found out what sweetbreads were (some kind of gland or something). I have been completely put off all offal by it's hideous taste.
Love beetroot (not sure if that's what you're talking about when you say beets), we have it pickled a lot. Its one of my favourite veges. Only tastes like dirt if you try to boil or steam it. Roast it or pickle it is better.
Curried Sausages were big when I was growing up. Don't like it at all anymore, the sauce was always like curry flavoured jelly. Ick.
I do remember my Mum making this divine spaghetti dish which I have never been able to reproduce. Lots of onion and carrot and minced beef, various herbs. She's given me the ingredients, but I think it's something in they way she does it that I just can't recreate :-)
Another one we used to have a lot was shepherd's pie. Was great for using up leftover roast meat and gravy. And we'd always have a layer of mashed pumpkin below the mashed potatoes.
Fish Delight was a regular offering also. We could get these 'boil in the bag' packets of fish in parsley sauce for really cheap. Mum would boil a couple of those and then mash it up into the bottom of a casserole dish. Then she'd cover it with slices of tomato then mashed potato and a sprinkle of cheese. There never seemed enough of it :-)

01 November, 2008 18:32  

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