Thursday, January 22, 2015


Here is another Betty Crocker vintage recipe card from a 1971 collection I found at a yard sale (and please check out my other entries under Vintage Recipe Cards if you're interested in America's culinary skeletons in the closet). Today's recipe is titled "Adventure in Space" and belongs to the category of "Children's Parties". From its appearance I can only imagine this is aimed at elementary-school children whose parents understood they love science fiction and can't wait to humiliate them in front of their schoolmates.

Betty Crocker 1971 recipe cards: Kids party ideas, alien-shaped pastry
Interplanetary communication: YOU'RE A DORK!
Let's talk about the image here. We see a handful of pâte-à-choux "aliens" (Betty calls them "Space Visitors" in the back of the card) with currants for eyes. Toothpicks are used for their little antennae, which I suspect are indispensable, otherwise who would recognize these round baked beings as extraterrestrials, as opposed to, I don't know, anthropomorphic profiteroles? The leader of the group is clearly recognizable by the two jelly beans on the antennae, which I bet endow him/her to communicate in all the languages of the galaxy. The star base (or starship, or throne) is made of Jell-o and requires the use of a star-shaped pudding mold.

It's hard to look at this photo and not realize how much kids food has evolved to suit modern mothers with a crushing sense of guilt and crafting time on their hands. We live in the century of cake pops, FFS. And have you seen these Star Trek Valentine cookies, these Star Wars macaroons, this Battlestar Galactica cake, or this cake with teeth?? This space-inspired fun kid food from the 1970s looks completely amateurish. But I can't be too sarcastic, since I suspect even these misshapen pastry turds may be beyond my very pathetic manual skills. So I'll laugh just a little bit, and stick to my usual simple cakes for my kids' parties. And I'm really, really strapped for ideas, I'll get inspiration from my usual guy: Dead Chef calling Orson. Come in, Orson.

Thursday, January 8, 2015


Farfalle pasta with canned tuna in oil

I don't know how many self-professed "bachelors" are among the readers of this blog, but I'll dedicate this post to them nonetheless. Any of you reading this might know one and send him this recipe to help him through his day. The recipe is for Tuna Pasta, a dish that is mostly, if not exclusively, consumed by Italian bachelors. You might wonder, "Is this pasta going to turn me into one of those suave Italian hunks the whole world cannot take its eyes from?" No, sorry. Those suave Italians à la Marcello Mastroianni, with their impossibly well-fitting suits, their smart and distant gaze, their pitch-perfect flirting skills, and their irresistibly magnetic charm do not cook. They only eat at nice restaurants or cozy trattorie, or they pay a visit to their loving mothers for some exceptional traditional fare. The bachelor I'm talking about is of the familiar dork variety: the one that buys monochrome socks in bulk (I'm not judging, I do the same) and are more than happy to spend their evenings in front of the TV eating the easiest/comfiest meal possible.

The original recipe is very simple. You overcook half a box of short pasta (short pasta requires less water, hence a smaller pan, hence easier dishwashing) and then you plop the contents of a whole can of tuna on top of it. Stir hastily and serve eat.

I have consumed the original tuna pasta in biblical quantities in my life, especially in the years during which my sister and I were living with our divorced dad, who did all the cooking. I remember one glorious 2-week streak of interrupted tuna pasta that finally broke me and helped me decide that I should really learn to cook. So I guess without tuna pasta, there would be no Dead Chef, and what a sad, cold world would that be.

The recipe I want to give you today is an improvement on the basic recipe. It's still simple, but demands the use of a pan to give the tuna some extra flavor. It's comfort food, but with a little more self-respect (let's not kid ourselves, it's delicious!). And sometimes, that's all it takes. Enjoy.

Detail of farfalle pasta with canned tuna and oregano


Makes 2 hefty portions *wink*

1 tbsp EVOO
1–2 anchovies
1 crushed garlic clove
A can of canned tuna in olive oil (like Genova)
1 tbsp dried oregano
Half a box of pasta (spaghetti are best, but short pasta will do)

  • In a large pan, heat the EVOO and then add the anchovies and garlic. Stir the anchovies until they've melted completely. Discard the garlic when it starts to brown.
  • Drain the tuna and then plop it in the pan. Break it with a wooden spoon, trying to keep some larger chunks intact. The oil may splatter at this point; cover with a splatter screen for a few minutes.
  • Cook, stirring occasionally for a few minutes, or until the tuna bits get a little crispy. Add the oregano.
  • Once the pasta is cooked, stir it in the pan with the tuna, add a splash of EVOO and serve.

And since we're making pasta, let's refresh our basic pasta skills: