May 23, 2005 9:48 PM   Subscribe

I need some suggestions for cookbooks with really odd recipes. Cookbooks that have colorful themes or contain recipes that always seem to list canned peaches or SPAM in their ingredients are good for starters but anything really bizarre, unique, or old-timey will do.
posted by rokabiri to Food & Drink (18 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Finally, my collection of disgusting recipes comes in handy!

A few in my collection:

"750 Dishes from Overseas," Priestnall-Holden, Ivie; The MacMillan Company, 1944.
Featured chapters include

Figs --- The Danish way
Dandelions --- The French Way
French Ways with Hare
Gooseberry Novelties from Brittany
Cucumber Cookery in India
Parsnips --- Some Italian Ways
Fish Salads from Norway
Treats with Toast
Rhubarb Novelties from Spain
[Must quit now, on page 2 of the 6-page table of contents; must make room for other books...]

"Meatless Meals and Excellent Coffee Alternatives," Prescott Adams, Jean; Albert Whitman & Co, 1943.
Intended for wives who had to war-ration, this one has some interesting pre-vegetarian vegetarian recipes.

To wit:

Succotash and Mushroom Thermidor
Creamed Butter Sandwiches
Prunes and Noodles
Main Dish Salad
And my personal favorite:

"The Cottage Cheese Cookbook," Kaufman, William I.; Doubleday & Co, 1967.

Too many offbeat recipes to cite from that book. The first sentence of the introduction ought to be good enough:
"Cottage cheese is one of the most popular of the hundreds of cheese now available to the housewife."
There's also a series of Jell-o cookbooks that feature too many savory recipes for comfort. They regularly pop up on Ebay, and you can find them for $1 in used bookstores.
posted by mudpuppie at 10:17 PM on May 23, 2005
posted by BoscosMom at 10:24 PM on May 23, 2005

I have this, the "Bad for You Cookbook". $1.60, what a deal.
A few prime picks, much of it is rather standard fare (albeit BFY):
Make your own Scrapple
Egg filled corned beef ring
Southern salt-pork--potato-onion-cracker-chicken-flour-paste-pie
Dughnut Pudding
Pork Cake
posted by Jack Karaoke at 11:13 PM on May 23, 2005

My 1975 Joy of Cooking (ISBN 002-604570-2) has recipes for possum, racoon and similar country delicacies. I think the latest edition has left these out, but maybe you can find the older version.
posted by anadem at 11:22 PM on May 23, 2005

Oh yeah! My collection is nowhere near as comprehensive...or mudpuppie's, which is truly impressive. But I do have a few cookbooks that I would never get rid of, but never EVER want to use.

For sheer visual WTF?!, I like the Better Homes and Gardens Meat Cookbook (1965). It contains a crapload of photos, printed in that not-quite-right, super-saturated color palette I associate with the 50's and 60's. I think I could have lived without seeing what Hocks n' Kraut with Apple looks like, though. Other winners: Surprise Veal Roll-Ups (with American cheese!), Tongue with Gingersnap Sauce, Wiener Winks, Rotisserie Bologna, and, of course, Hasenpfeffer.

Then there's a very low-rent cookbook called The Catering Kitchen: The Most Asked For Family Recipes (1993). It looks like it was compiled by an older couple who lives in Beatrice, Nebraska. Where to begin with this one? Party Liver Pate, Hamburger Goo, Pirate Steak, Coca-Cola Salad, Brownie Banana Split Pizza...the mind boggles. The bylines on each recipe ("So-o-o-o-o-o good!" "Fun and festive!") are cute, though, and it certainly fits the bill as far as books that use a lot of canned/prefab ingredients.

As far as books with odd themes, the standout in my collection is American Tastes and Tales, A Recipe Storybook (1983). This one pairs up anecdotes about a scattershot selection of American legends with quasi-relevant recipes. Myself, I'd stay away from Pocahontas' Powwow Corn Casserole and John Henry's Tuna Train Cars, but the Paul Bunyan (and Babe) Blueberry Pancakes would be hard to screw up, and the Clara Barton Ginger Crackle Cookies sound kind of...good. It's aimed at kids, so it's short--24 pages--but the illustrations are a hoot.

On preview: I've also got a 1943 copy of the Joy of Cooking, and it's got all of the game/variety meat stuff in it. Wartime recipes, too, which are fascinating (from a cultural standpoint, anyway).
posted by Vervain at 11:28 PM on May 23, 2005

Billi Gordon's You've Had Worse Things in Your Mouth Cookbook (ISBN 0-9614979-0-4), West Graphics Publications
White Trash Cooking by Ernest Matthew Mickler (ISBN 0-89815-189-9), Ten Speed Press, Berkeley
posted by obloquy at 11:46 PM on May 23, 2005

If you consider the tastes of decades past to be "odd," you can start with Jane and Michael Stern's "American Gourmet," (Harper-Collins, 1991) which explores the U.S.'s post-WWII "gourmania." Some of the more-quaint recipes include:

"Avocado, Yes Avocado Ice Cream"
"Meat Loaf Wellington"
"Helen Gurley Brown's Ghastly Eggs"
"Homemakers Exchange Checkerboard Sandwiches"

Also, I've found trips to Salvation Army or Goodwill useful in dragging up bizarro cookbooks. Books put out by food manufacturers or industry groups are a good place to look for recipes that challenge conventional notions of the featured ingredients' versatility. My 1945 copy of "The Cheese Cook Book" put out by Kraft includes:

"Peppermint Roll" made with crushed peppermint candies and cream cheese spread over a chocolate cake sheet, rolled, refrigerated and sliced to serve.

"Pineapple Mint Sandwich Spread:" Pineapple cream cheese mixed with mint leaves.

"Valentine Fruit Salad:" a blend of mayonnaise, lemon juice and cream cheese mixed with crushed pineapple, maraschino cherries, almonds, whipped heavy cream and bananas. Freeze until firm, serve on a platter garnished with watercress and cocktail cherries. (This is for lunch, btw)

Plus a bunch of things you'd never imagine could be done with Velveeta, and the obligatory savory gelatin molds.

Or you can look for fundraiser cookbooks put out by community groups -- I've found some doozies in those:

"Cornflake Pudding"
"Tastees" - Baked apples stuffed with breadcrumbs and raisins
"Macaroni and Ham Loaf"
"Pickle and Meat" - a sandwich spread made with cold "cooked meat," cooked egg, pickles and catsup (eesh...)
"Potato Candy"

The above are courtesy of the Trumbull, Connecticut Church of Christ Woman's Guild (sic) some time before ZIP codes and seven-digit phone numbers were in use.

Not that fundraiser cookbooks are for Gentiles only: 1947's "The Community Cookbook" published by the Woonsocket Hebrew Ladies' Aid and Sisterhood includes two varieties of "Stuffed Potato Chips" (delish, and kosher to boot!)

Well, you get the idea... Try the Sterns' book and hit the thrift shops -- they haven't failed me yet.

Email me if the Kraft or fundraiser recipes appeal to (or disgust?) you and I can hook you up with the recipes.
posted by Opposite George at 12:33 AM on May 24, 2005

A couple of my favorites, in the "historical" category: Lafcadio Hearn's Creole Cookbook (ca. 1885). and Monet's Table: the Cooking Journals of Claude Monet.

And, of course you have "The Alice B. Toklas Cook Book"? A sample chapter.

Perhaps also of interest, Kurt Vonnegut's novel "Deadeye Dick" that includes stray recipes (for Haitan Banana Soup, for example), and the wonderful Mexican recipes in "Like Water for Chocolate".

Actually, I'd really love to see a list of fictional novels or stories that include recipes.
posted by taz at 1:25 AM on May 24, 2005

If you're looking at Jane Stern and Michael Stern, be sure to find their Square Meals (ISBN 0867308206).

It has a recipe for Flaming Cabbagehead Weenies with Pu Pu Sauce, and handy cakes you can bake without using any of your WWII ration coupons.

Which you probably shouldn't use; they're stale and won't taste right.
posted by Sallyfur at 2:30 AM on May 24, 2005

How to Cut Your Food Bill By Half or More by Kurt Saxon
Published by Atlan Formularies Eureka, California (no date)

Includes handy tips for dealing with meddlesome landladies:
"Most landladies will look the other way when they find you are cooking in your room. If yours doesn't, I have found loud threats of physical violence makes most landladies go off and bother someone else."

"I taught a wino house painter a lot of this material. He has a sleeping room and he's to the thermos-hot-plate-steamer stage.
He says he eats better now than he ever did before. Also, he has risen from cheap sweet wine to peach brandy because he can afford it now. Thanks to me he has graduated from a wino to an alcoholic."
posted by Pigpen at 3:55 AM on May 24, 2005

While it's not a book, the collection of old Weight Watchers recipes on this site is always good for a laugh. Mmmm....fluffy mackerel pudding.
posted by banjo_and_the_pork at 4:11 AM on May 24, 2005

You should read Something From the Oven by Laura Shapiro. It is full of the sort of recipies you are looking for along with really interesting insight into post-war cooking in the 50's. There is one recipe in there that calls for both canned peaches AND SPAM!
posted by necessitas at 5:47 AM on May 24, 2005

Carolyn Wyman's Kitchen Sink Cookbook (subtitle 'Offbeat Recipes from Unusual Ingredients') is pretty fun. Some of the recipes are familiar, or have become popularized in recent years (kitty litter cake, jello aquarium, etc.) but it also has a lot of really oddball stuff that I haven't seen elsewhere. She has also written books on SPAM, Jell-O, and she's the 'junk food' half of the fun syndicated newspaper column 'Supermarket Sampler'.
posted by chr1sb0y at 6:01 AM on May 24, 2005

Opposite George's suggestion about "community cookbooks" put out by churches is a good one- they're a gold mine. They always turn up at flea markets.

White Trash Cooking is a great cookbook for this kind of stuff. It's presented completely without irony. Some of the recipes are predictably awful, some are actually decent.

Equally odd, but at the complete opposite end of the spectrum, is The Whole Beast, by London chef Feargus Henderson (his restaurant, St. John, is amazing). The recipes are somewhat difficult, but are an attempt to return to an older style of cooking, where you use every part of the animal.
posted by mkultra at 6:50 AM on May 24, 2005

I don't think it's really what you're looking for, but I need to point out that Jacques Pepin's Fast Food My Way does indeed include a recipe where the main ingredient is canned peaches!

My review. Direct link.
posted by Caviar at 7:03 AM on May 24, 2005

Off the Eaten Path: Inspired Recipes for Adventurous Cooks.

Includes poaching salmon in a dishwasher and making eggs with a clothing iron.
posted by esch at 5:13 PM on May 24, 2005

Cooking Out of This World is back in print. I can't remember if the recipes are any good, however.

In 1976, Faygo published an "award winning diet recipes" pamphlet: cook beef stew with diet Faygo Root Beer! Savor some Fillet of Sole au Faygo (with diet Faygo Lemon-Lime soda!) Enjoy Faygo Corn Crisps (with diet ginger ale, Tabasco sauce, margarine, and cornmeal!)

Once I saw a pamphlet called "Cookies Have Vitamins," but did not buy it when I should have . . . but I am always comforted by a "Marshmallows: A Household Necessity" pamphlet:

"Marshmallows, because of their deliciousness and wholesomeness have come to be a necessity in every larder. The modern housewife thinks of them as a staple -- just as she does sugar, flour, butter, etc.
. . .
Keep several boxes of marshmallows in your cupboard all the time. Use them every day. Your family will appreciate them."
posted by oldtimey at 9:02 PM on May 25, 2005

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