Last month, I was out of cooking inspiration so I subjected my family to a month of meals from Real Simple. The magazine had an issue where they published recipes for 20 meals (five weeknights for four weeks). The result was mostly terrifying and slightly starving for my loved ones. But, oddly enough, it revived my creative cooking juices. And, when I’m feeling fearless, I go back to my beloved old timey cookbooks for a little wickedness.
Lo and behold, I dug up What Shall I Serve by Letta W. Hesse. In this gem from 1945, I found weeks of menus all planned out! Four sections (one for each season) with a week’s worth of meals (breakfast, lunch, and dinner). What could be better? Real Simple from the past. Would it be better or worse?-
I chose autumn, because well… it’s autumn. Also, unlike my previous challenge, these were full blown menus. I’m talking appetizers, main courses, desserts, handmade juices. The 1940s works. So, rather than going through the entire week in one post, I’m breaking it up so that you’ll get a taste of my personal hell every day this week. I’m just that kind of nice.
As a final note, I limited it to the dinner menu and then chose just a few of the dishes. If I had done the entire menu, I would have had to start cooking dinner at noon. I work so that wasn’t going to happen.
Monday Night Dinner Menu
Chop suey, stewed squash, plain boiled rice, cheese stuffed pear salad, fresh fruit or berry pie, coffee
- 1 lb white meat of chicken or veal (I went with chicken breasts)
- ½ lb lean pork
- 4 T butter or shortening
- 1 C shredded celery (I diced as I have no idea how to shred celery… and that just sounded horrid.)
- 1 large onion, diced
- 1 C mushrooms, peeled and sliced (peeled?? Hmmm….)
- ½ C Chinese water chestnuts, peeled and sliced (optional)
- 1 C bean sprouts (canned sprouts? Couldn’t find them, and wouldn’t want to if I could. So, I went with fresh from my store.)
- 1 T soy sauce
- 2 C chicken or veal stock
- Salt and pepper
Cut meat in thin shreds. Melt butter, add meat and cook for 2 minutes. (You read that correctly, folks. Cook your meat in butter.) Add celery, onion and mushrooms and cook for 5 minutes. Add remaining ingredients, cover closely and simmer for 30 minutes. Serve with rice. Serves six.
Purchase Chinese water chestnuts and bean sprouts from store dealing in Chinese commodities. (How quaint. Modern people can just find it in the Asian aisle at the grocery store.)
Well, when cooking it didn’t look like any sort of Chinese dish I’d ever seen.
And, even my bad photography skills aren’t at fault here. It really was just this gray. In case you have any doubts, it also tasted pretty gray. Take note: Lack of spices wasn’t invented by Real Simple, but has been around for years.
I made rice as recommended, but I didn’t make the recipe in the book. Mostly because I didn’t have two hours to spare. I include Letta’s recipe for rice just so you know I’m not lying.
Here it is put together. Yup, didn’t taste any better when I put it on top of the rice. At this point, Paul was ready to do me bodily harm. This is the first time in a very long time where I threw the leftovers away. As in, I didn’t even feed them to my dog.
Before you judge, it was Monday night and I hate squash so that was pretty much a no-go. I bought the ingredients for cheese stuffed pears, but ended up not making it because Monday is an exhausting sort of day to make and then eat pears stuffed with cream cheese and nuts.