13 November 2008

Cold War Representations of China in Small Town America, Or How I Learned to Love the Community Cookbook


Little Johnny Roden comes running inside for dinner after a long afternoon of playing in the hot sun on the shores of Lake Ontario. The year is, let's say, 1964.

"Ma, I'm famished! What's for dinner?"

"How about Chinese?"

Johnny scrunches up his face, but the over-riding hunger in his belly tells him it's best not to fight with Mom's culinary experiments tonight.

"Ummm, okay..."

Minutes later, Diane Roden brings out a heaping plate of "Chinese Scramble."

"What do you think? Do you like Chinese?"

"It's good. Tastes sorta like green bean casserole."

Diane mutters under her breath, "Of course it does. Who wants to turn on the oven on a day like today?"

Johnny thinks to himself, "Don't complain. It's better than more leftover ham."


**********

Recipes from Home Cooking Secrets of Fair Haven, published by the First Presbyterian Church, Fair Haven, New York (n.d.).

9 comments:

rootlesscosmo said...

Possession of one pound of Crisco is prima facie evidence of intent to distribute.

kg said...

It's heartening to know that as early as the 1950s, authentic Chinese cuisine had already entered the conscience and stomachs of the good people of Anytown, USA.

lizzie b said...

Rootless, A pound is nothing. My grandmother, the aforementioned of the previous post, buys Crisco in 5-lb. canisters, then uses it to make the dozens of cookies sold in the Delhi Diner daily (or used to be, until my aunt sold the diner a couple of years ago). Come to think of it, that *is* intent to distribute!

rootlesscosmo said...

I rest my case... actually I buy Crisco (or some equivalent veggie shortening) and use it in pie crust--two parts butter to one of Crisco. The butter makes it taste good, the Crisco makes it flaky. Lard works just as well but I worry that I'll inadvertently serve apple tart to someone with a religious scruple about pork products, and supermarket lard, hydrogenated so it doesn't need refrigeration, is just as full of unwholesome trans fats as Crisco is. (Real lard, which I buy for making confit of duck, tastes too porky for a dessert pastry, though in a meat pie crust it would be fine.)

Drew said...

For those of us with Midwestern roots, the Chinese scramble is yet another one of seemingly endless variations on this tried and true culinary theme:

ground beef+canned cream of mushroom soup+vegetable+ X= dinner

(where X is equal to the namesake ingredient, decreed by some distant ancestor...in my family's case usually tater tots).

Here, I say the X= "soya sauce" + Chinese noodles, but since little Johnny confused Chinese scramble with green bean casserole, I'm guessing that Mom chose to exercise her right to leave the soya out.

Buster said...

Rootless, You know, after your first comment I was going to make a defense of Crisco on the pie crust grounds, but I thought that nobody would be interested. I see I was wrong.

Drew, When are we having the tater-tot casserole party? I'll make my mother's Midwest delight: 7-up salad!

lizzie b said...

Add in some of Mr. McFly's fried chicken, and there's a Midwest dinner I can get behind.

Buster said...

Not to mention a dinner your behind will get.

Drew said...

I talked to my mom on the phone last night. As it turns out, guess what's on the menu for thanksgiving?


green bean casserole!!!!