Liberation Cakes from 1972

As I was decluttering, I found a wonderful stash of cookbooks with recipes I doubt you’d see today. I thought I’d share two of them and a touch of history.

They are both based on using boxed cake mixes. These handy mixes were invented in 1948 by Charlotte Cramer Sachs. (She was a prolific inventor.) With the introduction of cake mixes, cakes went from celebratory to common place. Food companies touted the release of women from the drudgery of cooking–freeing them to think and question and be full human beings. Push back made women feel guilty about doing anything but housework.

There is some feminist theory about this that’s pretty interesting.  We could talk all day about the guilt that’s heaped upon women. I know that I spent much of my early life trying to be a scientist and keep up with the housework and all of the duties expected of me had I been a traditional woman. Once I had kids, that began to fall apart as it was impossible. But let’s move on to the recipes.

Root Beer Angel Cake:

Prepare 1 package of angel food cake mix as directed except substitute root beer for water.

Prepare a frosting from 1/3 cup butter or margarine, melted, 2 cups confectioners sugar, 1/4 cup crushed root beer candies. Add root beer a tablespoon at a time  and stir until the proper consistency.

Mock Pistachio Cake:

1/2 cup slivered or diced almonds

4 drops green food coloring

1 package of angel food cake mix

Shake almonds and food coloring together in a plastic bag

Prepare cake according to package directions. Fold in the green almonds before baking.

If desired, add a glaze of confectioners sugar and 1-2 tablespoons of water to cooled cake.

***

We may look at these today and be appalled at how lazy or unhealthy they seem. However, put them into perspective: they allowed women to be both free and creative. They let women appear busy, as society demands, and yet maybe have time to read a book or even take a class at a local college or work and get their own credit card. (Although women couldn’t have their own credit cards until 1974.) You might even call them a stab at the freedom that still eludes most homemakers. And yet, as some have pointed out, for many women they simply filled time with meaningless and even unhealthy female busywork. 

Women have more choices today. Let’s keep it that way. Make the cake or go to the bakery or give up sugar altogether. It all depends on what you want to do on the road to your freedom.

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Vintage 1972. Freedom without the guilt, maybe.

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Alpine Chicken & An Easy Variation

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Foolish or daring? Mom–without a helmet– jumps a horse for a publicity photo (for the horse).

Certainly there is a story behind the Alpine name but I don’t know it. This was a favorite of my mom and a dish I make once a year to remember her. Topped with cashews and crushed potato chips and making use of the ubiquitous canned mushroom soup, this is most definitely a mid-century dish.

Alpine Chicken

4 cups cooked cut up chicken

2 cups chicken broth

2 cups celery

1 cup mayonnaise

2 cups cheddar seasoned croutons

1 onion, chopped

2 tsp chopped pimento

4 tsp chopped green pepper

2 cans cream of mushroom soup, undiluted

1/2 lb sharp cheddar cheese in small cubes

2 cans sliced water chestnuts, drained

1 tsp salt

1/4 tsp pepper

1 tsp thyme

1 tsp sage

Mix all ingredients well in a large bowl. Put into an 11 x 15 pan. Top with crushed potato chips and 1 cup cashews.

Bake at 350 degrees for one hour. Serves 12.

***

A variation of the above is simply called “Brunch dish.” It’s easy and features Velveeta cheese which is cheese with extra whey, maltodextrin (sugar/food starch),  some preservatives, and natural coloring.

Brunch Dish

1 can 10 1/2 ounces cream of chicken soup

2 cups cooked chicken breasts cubed

1 cup Velveeta cheese cubed

1 1/2 tbsp onion chopped

5 slices of bread cubed-crusts too!

1/2 cup mayonnaise

3 eggs–slightly beaten

1 small can of mushroom pieces

1 tbsp chopped pimento or green pepper

1/8 tsp each garlic salt, celery salt, and poultry seasoning

Combine all ingredients but the eggs. Gently fold in eggs. Pour into a 9 x9 greased pan.Refrigerate over night. Bake at 325 for 45 minutes.

Recipe can easily be doubled and put into a 9 x 13 pan–increase baking time to one hour.

Note: I made the “brunch dish” yesterday and realized that I had never in my memory purchased Velveeta and had no idea where it was in the store. I had to ask and it was with the pizza ingredients. I served it to some of the grandsons and one loved it, one found it unsettling that the ingredients were stuck together with “weird cheese,” and the one who never eats tried a small portion of it and ran off to play on the swing set. It was easy for the toddler to eat as he  practiced using utensils and I’ll consider serving it when I have my dad– who has Parkinson’s– over for dinner.

 

1950s high blood pressure meat loaf

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Gladys Fedelia Kendrick Hinga and children around 1930 in Holland, Michigan

My grandma Gladys was a well-educated woman and lovely hostess.I have to give credit to her for instilling me with an appreciation of new scientific advances. She wove such horror tales of life without technology and antibiotics and the difficultly of being a wife and mother during those times. See that cute little girl? That’s my Aunt Connie who was born before antibiotics. She’d get ear infections and puss would drip from her ear! No wonder I rushed to board the lifeboat that was scientific progress.

Grandma was a wonderful cook. But when pre-packaged foods came about she had no qualms about using them — freeing up time to go dancing or take her grandchildren on educational outings. I still remember when she took me to a museum and I saw a whole display of shrunken heads.

Here’s her meatloaf recipe. Easy, tasty, and loaded with sodium chloride!

3 lbs ground beef

2/3 cup oatmeal

1 1/4 cup V-8

3 eggs

1 pkg Lipton onion soup mix

2 tablespoons mustard

1/4 tsp pepper

3 tsp salt

Worcester sauce

Bake at 350 for 1 1/2 hours.

***

Salt is both good and bad. It can help retain fluids in the body but too much will cause kidneys and arteries to overwork and thus create hypertension and damage to kidneys and arteries. In fact, my grandmother suffered from artery damage later in life. Biologist Dr. Ellen Dupree explains it this way “Salt is essential for normal functioning of our cells.  Too much or too little salt affects water balance in our cells, affects our blood pressure, the ability of our nervous system to function properly and can affect kidney function.  Salt levels are so important that we have multiple hormones designed to maintain proper salt concentrations in blood (and around cells).”

I can’t sleep when I’ve eaten too much salt and I’m not the only one. Endocrine Abstracts published a study that found that salty foods will keep people awake and give them restless sleep. In graduate school I used to eat a hot dog the morning of an exam to wake me up after a night of cramming–especially for organic chemistry, oh what a killer.That was in the 80s when people said things like “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” Would I pull an all nighter today? Na.