This weekend was spent in a low-key sort of way – The Girl was sick on Saturday morning, poor chum, but everyone was well enough by the evening to have Grandpa over for supper. We tried the chicken-artichoke casserole that I wrote about earlier last week and it was good! But other than that, I didn’t do too much cooking over the weekend – we were busy and right on the edge of sick and so I don’t have my usual baking adventures to write about.
Veronica Mitchell suggested a while back that I should write about my favorite old cookbooks, which I have mulled over ever since. Most of my favorite old cookbooks are CHILDREN’S cookbooks, and my very favorite children’s cookbook in the whole world is this one:
Fun To Cook WITH CARNATION, that is! Yep, a whole book for children on cooking with evaporated condensed milk, complete with fantastic illustrations from some unnamed 50’s illustrator. It’s little more than a booklet and it was put out by the Carnation company in the 1950s (my mom had it then), and then again in the 1970s, just in time for my childhood. That is Margie Blake on the cover, apparently, and the perspective has gone all wonky in her kitchen but she’s still managing to have pupil-less good times making cupcakes.
I dreamed I was in dessert land!
This picture still has not lost its power to enchant – The Girl (who is feeling all better, thanks) caught sight of that picture walking by and immediately demanded to read the cookbook before school. I think the big selling point of "fluffy whipped Carnation" was that it was cheaper than whipped cream at the time. The idea doesn’t appeal NOW, but as a kid I used to STARE at that picture, yearning mightily for Chewy Brownies and Tropical Freeze. My mom and I have had big plans to make all four desserts some balmy summer night, even though I have really l have really lost my appetite for pies made out of evaporated condensed milk. I’m still going to do it one of these days, though.
This is Margie’s teen-aged sister and her sister’s teen-aged boyfriend. I wish teenagers still looked like this – like they’re going to a hardware store convention – instead of being all sorts of filthy and skanky. And where are these wholesome and somewhat disturbingly middle-aged teenagers going? Why, they’re having dinner with Margie! Dinner made out of Carnation evaporated milk!
I love the illustrations in this book. The unnamed illustrator was a genius and I hope he or she had a very long and profitable career illustrating many booklets. And doesn’t running in out of the cold after a brisk excursion in snowman-making to have some cream of tomato soup sound NICE? It does.
I had always thought that little red-haired Margie was real – it had never occured to me otherwise – and pictured her as a solid, middle-aged woman, still fond of cooking and good-humoured and sensible. But a quick google search revealed that a) my little cookbook is "highly collectible" (you’ll pry it out of my COLD, DEAD hands, cookbook collectors!) and that b) Margie Blake was just fictional. Well. That’s a bit of a pang. The nice thing about being fictional, though, is that she gets to be 10 years old and set in some perfect 1950s childhood forever, always just about to have a cup of the very best hot cocoa I have ever had in my whole life.
Supper Cocoa (from the Fun To Cook Book)
1/4 cup cocoa powder (the plain stuff)
1/4 cup sugar
1 2/3 cups water
1 large can evaporated milk
Put the cocoa and sugar into a medium-sized saucepan. Mix.
In a large measuring cup, measure out 1 2/3 cups of water. Add the can of evaporated milk and stir. Pour 1/2 cup of the milk and water mixture to the cocoa in the saucepan. Stir until smooth and then add the rest of the milk mixture to the saucepan. Mix and heat over low heat for 5-6 minutes.
Put a marshmallow in each cup. Pour cocoa over the marshmallow. Call your kids in from the cold, snowy yard and watch them run, the dog happy at their heels.