A Political Party for Everyone
This year I decided to have an election day celebration using retro recipes from a 1960s vintage cookbook, the Republican Women’s Recipes. Any political party was invited to experience this recipe collection of traditional home-made meals from current and past GOP women, as well as a few plates contemporary to the swinging 60s. But I had to wonder, would the retro recipes last longer than their political predecessors?
The first thing that shouts out in this vintage cookbook is the groovy illustrations on the cover and in the category pages. The bright drawings in red, white, and blue give a playful tone to the political cartoons throughout, many of which involve elephants cleverly mocking the donkeys in feats of food mischief.
Retro Recipe: Modhouse Punch Drink
The first candidate from the retro recipes was a far-out, bright green modhouse punch. I could just see it being served on an orange table set up over an electric blue carpet that matched the bright green punch.
The original recipe seems to have come from a Sprite campaign in the mid-60s. Everything in the drink was green: lime Jello shining like neon palm leaves; limeade blushing in the background, and lemon-lime soda sparkling in a sea of green foam. Given the bright color and the incredible sweetness, a hive of bees would have swarmed to it, if it were not November. While the addition of the soda tamed this punch, it was not enough to overcome the shock. While it was fun to taste a 60s recipe, some drinks should stay in the modhouse.
Avocado-Cream Cheese Dip
Next, we moved on to the appetizer, yet again another green concoction. This retro recipe trended towards the 70s, the age of green goddess dips and cheese fondues. It was easy to make: simply combine the ingredients and mash until smooth. I recommend letting the cream cheese get to room temperature beforehand. Make sure you have fresh avocados too. Mine were a little overripe (the price you pay for having others fill your pickup grocery list). The ingredients say a dash of Tabasco, but I found it needed a couple more drops for flavor. I added the lime juice but think zest might make a brighter flavor next time. The tasted cool and smooth when dipped in tortilla chips. I might eat this vintage recipe again but prefer traditional guacamole instead.
Old-fashioned Recipe: Beef Stroganoff
The centerpiece of the meal came from an old beef strofanoff recipe submitted by Mrs. Romney, wife to the former governor of Michigan, George Romney, and grandmother to Senator and former presidential candidate Mitt Romney. I imagine young Mitt going to grandma’s house to sit down for a plate of her famous beef stroganoff.
Her homemade version of the classic comfort dish includes ground beef meatballs. This makes it more similar to Swedish meatballs than the traditional chopped beef. But the taste is really what matters.
I followed the usual method for making meatballs. After cooking them, I left the fat and oil in the pan; the fat is necessary for the roux that thickens the dish. Plus, it creates fond that imparts flavor as it softens the noodles. I found the consistency of the mixture a little thick and added some more beef stock and let the meatballs simmer in it, along with the bay leaf. The longer the meatballs simmer, the more they meld meat with the cream to create a velvety texture.
The homemade dish emerged as comforting and pleasant as it smelled. The sour cream and meat blended nicely with the savory meatballs. The nutmeg added a nice, warm dimension to the cream sauce. The recipe did not say what to serve it with; however, every time I’ve had beef stroganoff it was served with egg noodles. The final result was warm and comforting with a velvety sauce that melded well with the savory meatballs to create a memorable dish we voted to definitely make again.
Mamie Eisenhower’s Pumpkin Chiffon Pie
The final piece of the retro recipes political meal was Mamie Eisenhower’s pumpkin chiffon pie. Given her status as the first lady, I envisioned a showstopper of billowing, silky, pumpkin pie. That’s not quite what happened though. While the recipe partially followed a traditional pumpkin pie custard, this version added gelatin too, but did not specify the amount. Unfortunately, a 4 oz unflavored gelatin packet did not set firm enough, so I had to add some more. After I beat the egg whites to fold into the pumpkin pie mixture, I suddenly realized they were uncooked in the original recipe; I imagine at that time salmonella was not a concern. So, I just incorporated them into the pie. The result made a spongy pumpkin pie that tasted neither good nor bad, just somewhat plain. I guess you can’t win every political battle.
By the end of the night, we had eaten our way through political history with candidates for some retro recipes emerging as winners and losers. Although the election night gave no clear winner, at least we had a unique retro recipe dinner with at least one vintage victor.
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