Sunday, 17 November 2013

The Southwestern Cookbook

A grainy, high-contrast overhead of a cluttered plate on the front cover. A gushing foreword, from an uncredited author, waxes lyrical about the romance of the Wild West. Cowboys cooking biscuits on skillets, tucking into bowls of Cowboy Stew, served from the chuck wagon. Dusty trails, steers, cornbread and friendly natives. The foreword concludes with a taste of what to expect in this selection of recipes, submitted by the good wives of the southwest, who have diligently submitted, in careful cursive, these ‘recipes for the man's fare of the Southwest.’
The ‘Salads and Appetizers’ section begins on a dubious note. ‘Long tall Texans probably scowled when their women first served them salads and appetizers. Their idea of right eating meant more substantial man-sized fare. If they could please skeptical six-footers, they’re sure to win you over, too!’ The fresh molded mandarin salad, for instance, submitted by Mrs. Joe Henery Nickols, of Dumas, Arkansas, is bound to please, with its winsome combination of lemon gelatin, canned orange juice, canned mandarin, canned pineapple and mayonnaise.
Niceties dispensed with, it’s time to get down to business. Meats. ‘When a Southwesterner thinks food, he thinks meat,’ says the unnamed author, being paid per line by the Favorite Recipes Press. ‘Southwesterners naturally prefer thick, juicy beef steaks and roasts, but they’ll admit that pork and lamb taste mighty good to a hungry man. Whatever the meat, whatever the method, every recipe in the following pages is guaranteed to fill up a man!’ Recipes follow hard upon, from Mrs. Ronald L. Hudson, of Dublin, Texas; from Mrs. Charles Redfield, Riverdale, Georgia; from Mrs. Sidney G. Ingram, of Statesville, North Carolina. Terse prose. Brown meat. Combine remaining ingredients. Add monosodium glutamate. Serve immediately. Eat the whole thing, now, y'hear. Tucked away in the bottom corner of a text-only page, the only man to appear between the covers of the book reveals, shamefacedly, his clumsy, ham-handed, oafish recipe. Mr. Paul Beeson, of Cacht, Oklahoma. The women giggle behind their sheets of coupons, lean toward each other conspiratorially, brushing crumbs from their aprons. ‘An Oklahoma man, in the kitchen? Well, I’ll be.’ Mrs. Warren Blass triumphantly submits her famous Antelope in Cream recipe, to general astonishment. Antelope. Why, that does sound exotic, don’t you think, Mabel. Nobody is quite sure what to make of Mrs. Adrienne King, of Dallas, Texas, whose intimidating offering of ‘Brains A La King’ sets mascaraed lids fluttering.
Soups and stews. ‘Soup’s on! This insistent call causes Southwesterners to perk up their ears and come a runnin’. Beef, beans, and corn, you’ll discover in these pages, are typical makin’s for soup and stews.’ The unnamed writer, in a dingy office in a New York skyscraper, is getting into his stride. Mrs. Helen Gossmann, of Arapaho, Oklahoma, takes no prisoners. Her recipe came in scrawled on the back of a receipt for hay bales, heavy pencil marks threatening to break through the page. A smear of something suspiciously like blood on the bottom corner. Cowboy Soup: 1 No. 2 can pork and beans, 1 No. 2 can tomatoes, 2 cans Vienna sausage, 1c. water, 3 slices of bacon. No Cowboy. She hurls the victuals into a cast-iron pot and stirs, furiously, with brawny arms, roaring at errant children as she boots chickens out of the way. The method: ‘Mix all ingredients in saucepan and cook. Serve with crackers.’
The disapproval is palpable in the desserts section. Nina Scanland’s recipe for Peppermint Pie appears, to general consternation, on page 181. Oh honestly, Mrs. Nix, says Mrs. J. R. Camp, at the Moultrie sewing circle, why that woman’s recipe appeared instead of Mrs. Evans’ famous Prahze Ahce Cream, ah will never know. Peppermint Pah. That’s right! Nina flashes a toothy smile. There is a little smear of scarlet lipstick on her front teeth. Why, I just whip it right up, she says, patting her bob. Easy as pie! A melodious titter. That’s what ah always say to Errol. Easy as pie, I say. In’t that right honey. That’s right, sugar. 1 package dessert topping mix, 2 sticks peppermint candy (crushed), 1 pt vanilla ice cream, 1 tsp peppermint flavoring, and 1 10-inch premade graham cracker crust. And that’s just all there is to it. Prepare topping mix according to package instructions. Mix the other ingredients and fold in the topping mix. Turn into the crust. Ay vwolla, as they say in Paris, France!
Mrs. J. R. Camp stabs her needlework with unnecessary force, muttering under her breath.


  1. Saw your piece in the Irish Times today, followed through to your blog... the QA pieces are hilarious, and I really enjoy your writing.

  2. Thanks very much, Ray. Glad you enjoyed.