I have a page-a-day calendar at work called “The Quick Cook.” It advertises itself as containing a variety of recipes with low prep time and uncomplicated ingredients. After five months of it, I think I know what their sourcebooks were:
- Desserts Kids Will Hate
- The Dijon Mustard Council Cookbook
- Imitation International Cooking
- Midwestern Weirdos’ Aid Society Cookbook, 1967 edition
- I Can’t Believe They’re Vegetables
- White Trash Family Favorites
- The Precooked Seafood Association Cookbook
- Quick Country French Cooking
There are a few gems of the actually good kind, like an actual workable recipe for avgolemono soup and one for panzanella, but otherwise it’s less hit than miss. Most of the meat entrees call for “scallops” of the meat, which are usually cooked the same way whether they’re veal, turkey, or salmon; only the sauce is much different from recipe to recipe. A lot of the items say how short a time you can prepare the food in, but there’s no way they can mean that unless you start counting from the time you finish chopping, peeling, and boiling the ingredients to the condition they’re listed in. And next to nothing that could be vegetarian is left alone. The calendar seems to feel it necessary to bulk up a perfectly good Italian pasta salad with ham (!?), or a salad with showers of bacon, or the above-mentioned panzanella with prosciutto.
Some of the recipes don’t really qualify to be called “recipes” at all. I mean, how much instruction do you need to stir up two cartons of yogurt, plop it into bowls, and put tangerine sections on top? (They label this a dessert.) Or to make lemonade? (No shit, they really include a recipe for it.) The capstone on this malarkey is the entry for March 17: “Lucky Pudding,” consisting of vanilla pudding and green food coloring.
Then there are the mistakes. They’ll do things that other cookbooks occasionally do, like omitting the oven temperature or mislisting the required amount of an ingredient. They’ll also do things like forgetting to say what to do with the olives in the recipe for “Chicken with Tomatoes and Olives.” My favorite so far is a recipe calling for 1 1/2 tablespoons of garlic powder in an egg roll filling, then instructing that 1/2 teaspoon of the mixture be used in each.
But what’s really great are the well-meaning recipes that just make you go “Yecchh.” A broccoli casserole that mixes a bag of previously frozen broccoli with a brick of Velveeta and half a stick of butter, then tops it with the other half stick mixed with crumbled crackers. A recipe called “Creamy Corn,” classified as a vegetable, consisting of a package of Lipton noodles with creamed corn and Velveeta in. “Crazy Salad,” with mango, shrimp, walnuts, and fried chicken livers over lettuce. Liver paté that doesn’t get put through a food processor.
And my all-time favorite, copied for you in all its nonsensical glory (with italics added for extra jaw-droppin’ goodness):
1/4 lb (2 c) broccoli florets
2 t olive oil
1/4 c sesame seeds
salt and pepper to taste
Place broccoli in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave for 5 minutes on high. In the meantime, bring a pan of water to a boil and then add the broccoli. Boil for 2 minutes and then drain. Heat the olive oil in a nonstick skillet on medium high. Sauté the broccoli together with the sesame seeds for 3-4 minutes, or until the sesame seeds are golden brown and the broccoli is bright green, but still crisp. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serves: 2