Welcome to this week’s Mid-Century Menu, the “fun” feature on the blog in which I get to pick a recipe from my collection of vintage cookbooks, make it, and then feed it to my husband for dinner. Poor Tom!
And this week it really is poor Tom, because I am cooking out of a Spry cookbook. This particular Spry book was published in 1949, and I think is one of their earlier cookbooks. Now, I am not sure if you guys are familar with Spry cookbooks, but Spry was a vegtable shortening product, similar to Crisco, and the spokeswoman for Spry was “Aunt Jenny“, the universal older aunt who looked like your grandma and had never had any children of her own, so she could spend time baking you 15 kinds of cookies and cakes. I had one of those aunts. Everyone has one of those aunts, which makes Aunt Jenny believable and comforting.
To a point.
Now, Aunt Jenny hosted a radio show and had her own line of cookbooks promoting Spry to housewives everywhere, and was a memorable and successful spokeswoman. She is also incredibly scary. She is really excited about Spry, and not afraid to show it. Even if we are afraid to look. She also is famous for lines like, “With Spry, we can afford to have cake oftener!” and “Start enjoying fried foods today!”
For example, here is Aunt Jenny showing “Bride” (who apparently doesn’t deserve a name, even though her husband gets one) the secret to “Cake Success” using the Spry method.
Scary, isn’t it? At least Jack’s boss is impressed with Nameless-Wife’s cake. Whew. What a relief.
Aaaanyway, there are also other recipes in the Spry book that aren’t cake but still have a ton of Spry in them. Fried chicken seems to be #1 in the cookbook, but didn’t seem crazy enough for the Menu. Then I stumbled upon this little beauty:
It looks like a version of tuna noodle casserole, except instead of noodles you just use potato chips.
And did you know that three cups of crushed potato chips is almost an entire large bag of chips?
You had better believe I found a winner!
Oh, and I also made one of those crazy Spry cakes to round out the menu. I mean, I had to, right?
The assembled ingredients. Check out the bowl of crushed chips. Yipe!
Four tablespoons of vegetable shortening, melting in the pan. I have never made a white sauce with shortening before, and I had no idea how it was going to taste.
The flour, added to the pan. As a side note, the flour immediately started frying as soon as I added it. Yum.
Adding the milk/mushroom liquid mixture. As a side note, this is the second time I have used the liquid from canned mushrooms in the Mid-Century Menu, which is strange because before that, I don’t think I had EVER used it!
Here is the nice, smooth white sauce without a single lump. Huzzah! Also, the parsley and grated onion.
Now, the layering begins. A cup of crushed potato chips is spread on the bottom of a dish. So many, many chips.
The tuna and the canned mushrooms go down. Yes, there are some fresh mushrooms in there. I had them in the fridge and I wanted to use them up, so I thought I would throw them in there.
Pouring white sauce over the whole thing. Oh Lord.
The casserole, all layered ending with the potato chips. I tried to get a shot of the layered look, but I don’t think it was distinct enough for the camera to capture it.
And here it is! Fresh from its 35 minute stay in the oven. I took the cover off for the last 5 minutes so the chips on top could brown a little. I am not sure if it made a difference, but I tried!
Here is the table, ready for dining. Tuna-Mushroom Scallop, fresh beans, rolls, milk and a Chocolate-Mallow Cake!
Taking the first bite…and….
“Really?” I asked, “Is it really good?”
“Well, it tastes like a pile of potato chips with tuna on it. I love potato chips!”
I took a bite. Ugh. It was so, so, so salty. He was right, it tasted like potato chips with tuna on it. The white sauce made everything kinda gooey, and didn’t really add much flavor. It mostly tasted like canned mushrooms.
But when we were almost done, I noticed a change in how Tom was eating.
“I can’t eat any more of this. Blah.”
The chips had finally gotten to him. Finally.
Tuna-Mushroom Scallop: Strangely good, but not by any means healthy. Like eating a giant pile of potato chips with sauce slathered over them.
Mallow-Nut Fudge Cake: A little dry, but still pretty good. The fudge frosting was interesting, but just ended up tasting like fudge. The cake could have used some real icing. The whole thing was very, very sweet!