Mad Men Grilling: Vintage Cookbook Love, Part 1
As everyone moved out to the suburbs, the '50s and '60s were the dawn of the covered home barbecue (or kettle grill), and it was marketed to men. Man = fire. "Grill cookery is inventive -- definitely a man's approach to food preparation," The Master Chef's Outdoor Grill Cookbook asserts. Maybe Sterling Cooper came up with that one.
Here are some other favorite bits of advice from the book:
"Try this [frogs' legs feast] out on the boss. You may wreck the food budget, but you are sure to get that raise you are angling for."
"Asbestos gloves are one of the barbecuer's best friends -- wear them regularly."
"It's twice as simple to be an easygoing host when you're unhampered by confined areas and indoor formality."
The best kind of vintage cookbook has a tasty balance of kitsch and practical information.
The Master Chef's Outdoor Grill Cookbook has many recipes that are palatable today, especially with the trend in comfort and retro food.
Some of the most appealing recipes involve (surprise!) bacon: bacon-wrapped hot dogs, bacon-wrapped trout, and thick-cut bacon steaks with griddlecakes. I know that last one might sound ironic, but I'm a real bacon lover. There's also a recipe for barbecue lamb chops with curry sauce that looks particularly appealing.
Banana boats are a tried-and-true camping favorite, so this recipe is also useful. This book definitely inspires me to do more outdoor cooking and camping, now that the weather is getting cooler.
Other recipes are more dubious. The barbecue bologna roll is something I have yet to try, but I've passed it on in case you have a hankering (below). The combination soup is condensed cream of mushroom and condensed green pea soup with milk, warmed over the coals. Almost half the recipes call for that wonder of '50s umami: monosodium glutamate. It's in the spareribs, fish steaks, hash browns, potato salad, the bacon-wrapped trout, the country-fried
potatoes... so you have to be creative and substitute other spices or just more salt.
There's a slim but fun section about alcoholic beverages to serve at your outdoor gathering, including a brandy-spiked watermelon. Although if we're going by what we observe on Mad Men, the drink recipes are for before, during, and after the event. Hook up your IV to that watermelon when you go to bed.
True to the age, the mixers are minimal. A rum cobbler is rum mixed with Curaçao mixed with... ice. A bourbon cocktail is Benedictine, whiskey, Curaçao, Angostura bitters, and a couple of tablespoons of lemon juice. If your guest is a teetotaler, or if you want to avoid alcohol with your breakfast for whatever odd reason, the book has some malt, iced tea, and ade recipes. A clam-tomato cocktail with tomato juice, clam juice, onion juice, salt, and pepper should cure what ails you.
I can knock the stuff, but it's our history, so I kind of appreciate it even while I'm grateful I'm not there. I'm sure my grandkids will laugh as they leaf through my cookbooks -- or rather, as they scroll through the vintage blog, This Is Why You're Fat.
You can find this gem on Amazon, eBay, or at your local vintage bookseller.
The Master Chef's Outdoor Grill Cookbook
By the Staff Home Economists, Culinary Arts Institute (Melanie De Proft, Director)
Published by Spencer Press, Inc., Chicago, 1960
Distributed by Grosset & Dunlap
Previously published as The Hungry Man's Outdoor Grill Cookbook