Sunday, August 18, 2013

"Poppy Cannon's Bride's Cookbook" by Poppy Cannon - Iowa Pork Chop Casserole

Date I made this recipe:  August 4, 2013

Poppy Cannon’s Bride’s Cookbook by Poppy Cannon (originally published in 1954 as The Bride’s Cookbook.  Revised edition published in 1961 as The ABC’s of Quick and Glamorous Cooking.)
Published by: Paperback Library
© 1954; Paperback Library Edition First Printing: May, 1970
Recipe:  Iowa Pork Chop Casserole – p. 202

“We’ve only just begun to live…white lace and promises…a kiss for luck and we’re on our way….”

I cannot get this song out of my head!  This is We’ve Only Just Begun, written in 1970 by Roger Nichols and Paul Williams, and made famous by The Carpenters (brother and sister Richard and Karen Carpenter).  This had to have been the most played wedding songs of the 1970’s.  I certainly heard it over and over and over again at weddings I attended back in the day.  It does not have a beat and you cannot dance to it but it’s catchy, right?

Seems to me that when it comes to wedding invites, it either rains or it pours.  This year, it’s pouring.  (Disclaimer:  the older we get, the fewer the weddings so to us more than one is a deluge).  We started off our wedding season with a family wedding at the end of July, another wedding locally last Sunday, August 11th, and have another one scheduled for September 28th.  And in between, we received a notice that one of our male friends, someone who we thought was a confirmed bachelor, got married in June – congratulations, Mike and Rhonda! So weddings abound!

The first wedding of the summer was of a cousin’s daughter, held in New Jersey at a lovely church and then later a lovely country club.  The bride and groom are in their late 20’s but showed great sophistication and attention to detail in their arrangements.  The entire thing was a blast and let me just say that the dance floor was never empty.  Not once.  The DJ played a fabulous mix of music and impressively, a lot of men were up there dancing (and dancing well, I might add).  Hats off to them, I say!

The second wedding this past weekend, was of a completely different nature.  The bride and groom were older (50’s and 60’s) and the focus was on inclusiveness.  Both are active members of their church and the bride also sings with the choir.  While she sat out her own ceremony, some 50-odd choir members sang for her and if that wasn’t impressive enough, they also had an organist, vocal soloists and two violinists to round out the musical portion of our program.  And that was just at the church.  At the reception, table cards notified us that family and friends would perform in an “open mike” setting.  We had no idea what to expect and so were pleasantly surprised at the song selections (The Beatles – unplugged) and caliber of the musicians – there was not a clunker in the room which is to say that this was most assuredly not Karaoke Night at the local bar!

Weddings though, were not always this unique or that personalized.  Back when my parents got married (1957), you typically had your cake and your punch and maybe you had a dinner or a brunch but maybe not. It was noted in newspaper articles if the ceremony was double-ring, meaning both the bride and the groom wore wedding bands – again, not common for both like they are today.  Bands and most certainly not DJ’s were not often found at the reception.  Favors were not de rigueur.  And brides and bridesmaids were certainly not of the “zilla” (i.e. “bridezilla”) nature.  You had your personalized matchbooks and napkins, you had certain friends designated to do various tasks (pour coffee, cut cake, unwrap gifts) and that was about that.  No bells, no whistles, just a focus on the ceremony and most importantly, the marriage.  Easy peasey.

If 50’s weddings were streamlined and easy, so was cooking preparation.  Although the cover of Poppy Cannon’s Bride’s Cookbook shows a 70’s bride (the paperback was published in 1970), the book was published originally in 1954 and let me tell you, it confirms everything that I know about cooking in the 50’s – canned food was king!  Many of the recipes in this book call upon you to use canned macaroni and cheese or canned spaghetti or basically canned [fill in the blank].  If it was in a can, you were cooking with Crisco.  Women in the 50’s wanted food in a hurry and what better way to make that happen then to open a can, Stan.

And so along came Poppy Cannon and she gave you everything you needed in 343 pages to make sure that the new bride was going to make her man happy by getting dinner on the table as soon as he came home.  Entertaining also increased during this period but our Poppy was ready for it --there’s a chapter titled “Meat for Your Man to Eat” as well as “Secrets to Make You a Star Hostess.”  There’s even a chapter called “Cater Your Own Wedding,” something many brides-to-be employed when the budget was an issue.  (It should go without saying that budget-busting weddings were not a happenin’ thing back then.) 

Okay, so…after reviewing the cookbook a couple of times, I started the elimination process, taking out my “absolutely not” recipes, beginning with recipes like Dressed-Up Chip Beef with Almonds to which I say “You can’t put lipstick on that pig” then adding a recipe for “Bile Fish” (Boiled Halibut) Virgin Island Style.  Right.  The way to make a new husband happy is to say “How was your day, dear?  I thought I’d serve “bile fish” tonight.”  And while I love chicken, I am so not ever using canned chicken, especially for something so easy at Roast Chicken with Stuffing.  I mean – really?  Canned chicken for that???

My list kept whittling and whittling until finally, in near desperation, I settled on today’s recipe:  Iowa Pork Chop Casserole.  And okay, yes, this recipe includes a can of soup but that’s to be expected – soup and casseroles go together like peanut butter and jelly.  If it had called for canned pork chops however, all bets would have been off.

I’ve mentioned before in this blog that my mother had to ease into cooking but I can see her making this recipe for dad.  It contains meat (very important), is easy and she could have made up a bowl of mashed potatoes for an instant full meal.  My mom likely would have set the table with a tablecloth of some sort and maybe candles whereas Andy and I go the total casual route and eat our food in front of the TV set as we have always done since the day we got married 22 years ago.  Bad bride!  Bad!

Although I have several cookbooks by Poppy Cannon in my collection, the cover (and the bride dressed in what I consider to be a hideous 1970’s wedding dress) is the sole reason I bought this book on Etsy.  The recipes were rather disappointing, most of them calling for what I call “rude food” (like canned chicken) and nothing really stood out but that’s okay – sometimes you just have to have a cookbook for reasons other than the food. If all else fails, be sure to peruse the “Beverages ‘Round the Clock” chapter, pour yourself a glass of said beverage and call it a day.

Iowa Pork Chop Casserole – 4 servings
1 can condensed Cream of Chicken soup
2 cups canned peas
4 pork chops
2 bay leaves, halved

Put the can of cream of chicken soup (undiluted) in a baking dish with 2 cups drained canned peas.  Season the pork chops with salt and pepper and arrange on top of baking dish, placing ½ bay leaf under each.  Bake in a low oven, 325F, about 45 minutes.  Uncover and continue to bake about 15 minutes until chops brown.

Make or buy mashed potatoes to accompany your meal.

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