Friday, September 5, 2014

"Cooking to a Degree;" "The College Cookbook;" "Hungry (about cooking for a fraternity)" - Back to School: College Edition

Date I made these recipes:  Labor Day 2014 – Back to School: College Edition

Cooking to a Degree by Mario N. Glasserow and Lois A. Brook
Published by:  Hearthside Press Inc.
© 1972
Purchased at Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks, NYC
Recipe:  Super Meat Loaf – p. 156

The College Cookbook (Updated Version) by Geri Harrington
Published by:  Storey Books
ISBN:  0-88266-497-2' copyright 1988
Purchased at Arc's Value Village Thrift Stores, Richfield, MN
Recipe:  Spinach Pudding submitted by Vassar College – p. 96

Hungry:  What Eighty Ravenous Guys Taught Me About Life, Love & The Power of Good Food by Darlene Barnes
Published by:  Hyperion
ISBN:  978-1-4013-2477-3
Purchased at Strand Bookstore, NYC
Recipe:  Orange Balsamic Dressing - p. 66

And so...just like that, summer was over and kids were headed back to school, and as per usual, I had no idea how that happened. This year, we have friends with kids starting college as well as friends with kids looking at colleges and so of course, I felt the need to have a "Back-to-School, College Edition" blog posting.  And while it's heartening to know that college cafeterias are improving their offerings, more and more students are living off-campus and that means they should learn how to cook something beyond "Open package, add boiling water."  I reference, of course, the (now) college staple, Ramen Noodles; back in my day, we ordered pizza.  Actually, back in my day "Mystery Meat" was a staple for at least one dinner offering during the week.  I may not have been the quasi-foodie that I am now, but still, I had standards.

Still, I do not kid myself in the least that any college student will be making these in a dorm or in an apartment but that's okay.  When it comes to meatloaf, you either love it or hate it (I love it), I am pretty sure most people will run away from spinach, particularly a recipe titled "Spinach Pudding," but the salad dressing may actually make it into the lightning round so there's hope for that.  And while each cookbook (I found three!) had some recipes that I might have enjoyed making, I was looking to put together a meal and so there it is.

The first book, Cooking to a Degree, was published in 1972 when I was in 8th grade but by then, my dad had mapped out exactly what high school classes I needed to take in order to get ready for college. There was no "fiddle fooling around" where my dad was concerned.  ("Fiddle fooling around" was a Lou Verme classic.)  After a fashion, when it was obvious that I was never going to follow in my dad's footsteps to become a scientist, he erased all the chemistry and math courses he penciled in previously and replaced them with English and history.  As it is, and this should not be a surprise, I ended up with a B.A. in English and double minors in Spanish and History.  This, children, is called "foreshadowing!"

This cook book is intended to be broad-reaching as evidenced by the tag line that says "Food that tastes great, costs little, & prepares fast!  If you're hungry & helpless in your own first kitchen off campus or off-on-your-own."  I could have used this book during my junior year when I shared an apartment off campus with three other women, but then again, we had our own arsenal of cookbooks, provided to us by our mothers and so were pretty much set and ready to go. (By the by, please notice the correct use of "you are" [you're] and "your."  This Grammar Nazi about goes into orbit every time I see people use "your" instead of "you are.")  

The second book, The College Cookbook, was first published in 1982 and I graduated from college in 1980 so, as they say in horseshoes "close enough."  This version was updated in 1988 and I'd love to know what changed but alas, I do not yet own the original version.

This cookbook is a compilation of recipes submitted by college students and/or colleges themselves but what is more interesting is the list in the Acknowledgment section of the schools that sent recipes that didn't make it into the book, including Harvard and Yale.  Had to chuckle—I bet not making it into the book had to be a first for Harvard and Yale, or as I like to say [of them] the "also ran(s)...."  If you're familiar with horse racing (and who isn't?), "also ran" is the term given to horses who did not win, place or show in a particular horse race, or even come close.  Anyway...moving on....

The recipe I selected, Spinach Pudding was submitted by Vassar College, located in Poughkeepsie, NY.  For as long as I can remember, Vassar was always pronounced in a clenched-jaw, yet breathy kind of manner – "Vaaaah-saaaah."  Nobody but a rube would pronounce it Vas-SAR with a hard "ar" on the end.  So unseemly. (And by the way, and it's too late now, and not that there's anything wrong with Poughkeepsie, but I just don't associate Vassar with that city.  It just doesn't work.  Now Boston?  Sure.) 

And while Vassar has been co-ed since the late 60's, I still think of it as a women's college.  I don't know why.  Perhaps because we take note of the famous women who attended Vassar more than we do the men.  Actress Meryl Streep was a Vassar graduate (in Drama, naturally) as was Lisa Kudrow (best known for the TV show, Friends), who earned a degree in Biology in 1993. First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis spent two years at Vassar before transferring, and Jane Fonda briefly attended before dropping out to go live in Paris, coincidentally one of Jacqueline Kennedy's favorite stomping grounds. 

As to the recipe, it seemed to me that only a Vassar girl would call your basic creamed spinach something like Spinach "Pudding" as it certainly wasn't a pudding and even if it was – ew.  I just don't like the image. Chocolate? Fine.  Butterscotch?  Fine.  But spinach?  Noooo. But despite the name,  I did love the spinach and it went perfectly with the meat loaf from the Cooking to a Degree cookbook.  But I can almost guarantee you that most college students would rather die than eat this which is fine because that means all the more for me!  Spinach, creamed or otherwise, can be an acquired taste. (But it's good for you kids, so eat it anyway!)

The third book in this college cooking extravaganza, Hungry, is the memoir of Darlene Barnes who, upon moving with her husband to Seattle, found a job as a cook at the Alpha Sigma Phi Fraternity at the University of Washington.  I found her description of frat life to be everything I remembered about fraternities and more, which is to say, and I know you'll be amazed – tame! (But whoa—frats in the 90's and early 2000's were something else again).  Sure, frats were known for great keggers but I think all of us non-fraternity or sorority college students threw pretty good parties on our own, thankyouverymuch.

What distinguished sororities and fraternities from all of the rest of us lowly college students was the amount of foofing and poofing that went on when sororities and fraternities held their formal parties.  O.M.G.  The sorority members who lived in my dorm were just a-twitter about these dances and spent days getting ready.  Days-as opposed to the mere hours the rest of us put into throwing together an outfit.  (We do not have time to discuss what constituted a "going out" outfit back in the day except it was sad, people, sad.  But sensible:  after all, I went to school at Northern Michigan University where it snowed.  A lot.  You either dressed for the snow, or you didn't. Period.)

Now here's what I want you to picture because it's a far cry from where frats and sororities are now:  the men had long hair, wore aviator glasses (large glasses, wire-rimmed), shirts with huge bow ties and sometimes ruffled tux shirts...or not.  Plaid pants were still all the rage for the guys, something nobody would likely be caught dead in anymore.  The women also had long hair, also wore aviator glasses (because they were cool) and wore gowns that make me shudder (Granny dresses, anyone?) but hey, "time it was, what a time it was, a time of innocence..." (from Bookends by Simon and Garfunkel).  If the hair was long, it spent hours in hot rollers and curling irons and when released, was sprayed with Aqua Net within an inch of its life.  If it was short, it still got a bit of a fluff before going out.  In my opinion, it was all a bit much but then again, I'm more like the character, Enid, in the movie Legally Blonde who scoffed at sororities than Elle Woods who adored them.

Interesting note:  the very cool store – Specs Optical – on 22nd and Hennepin, where I get my very cool glasses, just emailed me about a trunk show they're having featuring a designer who makes wire-rimmed aviators.  They're back! We were all so ahead of the curve...

At any rate, although this book is mostly a memoir, she still included a few recipes and so I decided to make a salad to go with my meatloaf and spinach pudding and it turned out great.  Since the dressing had orange juice and orange peel, I made a salad of mixed lettuce, fresh raspberries and diced apple and it was yummy.  Be warned: I cut the dressing recipe in half and still ended up with too much dressing so feel free to cut it down even more.

All of this talk of college has certainly brought up a ton of memories and I could certainly bore you with hours and hours of stories but I won't.  I will say though, that college life then was pretty tame and uneventful.  The Vietnam War had ended and with it the protests on college campuses all across the U.S. We were still living with dial phones, TV antennas (with the requisite tin foil) and vinyl records (which, of course, are back in popularity now that I've given all mine away.)  The other day, a Facebook page that I belong to posted an old ad for Boone's Farm wine and almost every posting, including mine, talked about how horrible that stuff was and how the hangovers were unbelievable.  Also included in the conversation was Annie Green Spring swill...I mean wine, and MD (Mad Dog) 20/20. The very thought of Boone's Farm Strawberry Hill and any flavor of Annie Green Springs makes me ill.  But it was cheap stuff and so we drank it.  Our off-campus dining choices were pizza, more pizza, sub sandwiches and our choice of McDonalds, Burger Chef or Sandy's (local chain).  Our favorite winter activity was to steal trays from the cafeteria and go "traying" (sliding) on local hills.  At the end of the year, our university held an "Amnesty Week" during which students could return all items kleptoed from the cafeteria  like silverware, dishware, and trays, no questions asked. 

And since it was the age of disco, I'll mention that our number one activity was to go dancing at the Alibi Rock Theater.  To this day, I can picture the entire layout – the bar, the disco floor that lit up in different colors, the pinball games, the disco ball, and how everyone lined up along the walls until asked to dance.  The place is still there and it cracks me up to no end to think about how going there was the highlight of our week.  Well, when you're in school in the middle of no where and today's technology is still decades away, you do what you have to do.  "Do bi do bi do. " (A joke about Frank Sinatra for all you youngsters out there).

Now, trust me when I say that the meatloaf is really good, the spinach is something you should acquaint yourself with and you can't beat a good salad dressing.  And most importantly, best of luck, students!

Super Meat Loaf – serves 5-6.  Involvement:  8 min; non-involved:  1 hour
1 ½ lbs ground meat (2 parts beef to 1 part veal and 1 part pork is best)
3 sprigs fresh parsley, chopped
½ c. Flavored Bread Crumbs (Ann's Note;  I used Progresso's Italian bread crumbs)
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 T. catsup
¼ c. milk
Salt, pepper
1 egg
1 white onion, grated

Preheat oven to 350F.  Mix all ingredients with your hands.  (It's the easiest way).  Thorough mixing is essential to make the loaf firm enough to slice; overhandling it makes it too hard.

Shape and place into a shallow 1 qt baking dish.  Bake 1 hour at 350.  Baste once, after 40 minutes, with its own juices.  This will give it a nice crust.

Spinach Pudding – serves: 6
2 10-ounce packages frozen chopped spinach
2 tablespoons butter
 ¼ cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon pepper
¼-1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
3 eggs, beaten

Preheat the oven to 350F.  Cook spinach as directed on package but without adding water.  Drain thoroughly.  Melt butter in a heavy pan; add flour, stirring constantly.  Stir in milk gradually; add seasonings and spinach.  Stir in beaten egg.  Spinach should be well-mixed and well-coated with everything.  Turn into a greased 1 ½ quart casserole.  Place in pan of hot water and bake for 30 minutes.  Serve right from casserole or unmold and serve on warm plate with hot heavy cream (optional).

Orange Balsamic Dressing (serving size not given but likely 2 cups)
½ cup balsamic vinegar
Zest of 1 orange
½ cup fresh orange juice
2 T. Dijon mustard
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and black pepper

Combine the vinegar, orange zest, orange juice, and mustard in a food processor.  Drizzle in the olive oil.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

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