Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Book Review: Time Saver Cook Book from Pillsbury

Title: Time Saver Cookbook from Pillsbury

Author: "Ann Pillsbury" (one Amazon seller says the real author was Barbara Thornton)

Date: 1967

Publisher: Pillsbury Publications

ISBN: none

Length: 96 pages

Illustrations: vintage food photos, most in color

Quote: “Dear Homemaker: Every recipe, every tip, every idea in this book is designed…to save you time. Not just with hurry-up family meals, but with elegant company dinners too.”

Of course, in 1967 “homemaker” was still considered a full-time job, and these “hurry-up meals” still cut cooking time down to only…about an hour, if you worked fast. That “hasty” hot dish called for the oven to be preheated before the casserole was shoved in, but preheated to a higher temperature than was appropriate for the suggested baked dessert (“Amazing Oven Ambrosia”); the casserole baked in 25-30 minutes, the dessert in 30-35. While they were baking the cook was supposed to heat a “Hot Buttered Vegetable” and assemble a “Pantry Shelf Salad” of cold canned vegetables on greens. That was the homely family meal—but further simplification, as it might have been by omitting the beef casserole, adding a couple more cans of beans to the salad, and serving fruit for the dessert, would have been considered cheating, or at least slapdash and as-if-the-cook-didn’t-caaaare-about-the-family.

Pillsbury was still strictly a flour company, not yet a corporation with interests all over the supermarket, so despite the inclusion of a few fruit and vegetable suggestions this is basically a book about how to use bleached, bran-free, thoroughly denatured, white wheat-derived flour in as many different dishes, served at the same time, as possible. Ice cream? Dress it up with a crunchy flour-based topping. Broccoli? It had to have a sauce made with flour and cheese as well as butter. Baked meat? Slather a sauce made by mixing flour, and fruit and sugar, into the drippings, on top of the roast. Sukiyaki meat? Never mind the authentic arrowroot starch—thicken the sauce with flour. Canned fish or crabmeat? Cook it in a floury sauce and serve it in a ring of baked biscuit dough. Oh, yes, and be sure to use milk for the liquid, and throw in cheese, whenever possible, because milk’s the perfect food isn’t it?

These recipes document the point at which North Americans noticed that what had become our mainstream way of eating was making a lot of us ill. For about half the population, just using more fresh, raw fruit and veg in proportion to the meats, sweets, and floury pastries was the cure…

If you wanted something gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free, low-fat, or vegan (any of which would have barred you from “polite” company in 1967, because it was “polite” to choke down whatever your hosts told you was food) you might have been able to digest the salad. Maybe, maybe not. And if you cook for anyone who has any of these special requirements, frankly this is not the cookbook for you.

If, however, you can digest wheat in its most carb-intensive form, milk, animal fat, and sugar, and you’d like to stage a blast from the past with an elaborate meal and then reflect that this was considered fast cuisine, nearly all the ingredients suggested in this book are still available. What you’ll get should be classic North American food. Sometimes greasy, not super-nutritious, somewhat on the bland side, but satisfying. If you substitute fresh fruit and vegetables in the other dishes on the table, one serving of one of these recipes shouldn’t unbalance anyone’s diet beyond repair. 

This is not a Fair Trade Book but, despite its age, it's not terribly expensive (yet). To buy it here, send $5 per book + $5 per package (you could probably fit a dozen copies into a package) +$1 per online payment, for a total of $11 if paying online or $10 if sending a U.S. postal order, to the appropriate address at the very bottom of the screen (down below the gift cards). You can add other books to the package, including Fair Trade Books from which we send 10% royalties to living writers or their favorite charities, so please scroll down and browse. (You can even use the comment space to propose books you'd like to buy, if you'd like to buy them here! However, although we're happy to post links to new books, books have to be out for a while before they become Fair Trade Books.)