The Worst Recipe I’ve Ever Met

The 1953 Better Homes and Gardens New CookbookAmong my collection of vintage cookbooks is a 1953 Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook, which contains some nifty mid-century graphics, and this – possibly the least appealing recipe I’ve ever encountered – liver sausage pineapple. First off, the only circumstances under which those three words should ever appear in that particular order is if it’s the mid 90′s and a particularly naughty game of Chinese Whispers got kicked off in a church basement with the phrase “I listen to Fiona Apple.” But in the early 1950′s, those words came together as encouragement for a piece of food craftwork that was not only supposed to be eaten, but to fill our pre-Betty Friedan hostess with such pride of home that she would eagerly use it as the centerpiece of her non-key-exchanging cocktail party.

The recipe calls for mixing together liver sausage, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice and mayonnaise, forming this around a jelly jar and then frosting it with a concoction of mayonnaise and gelatin, or “gelatine” as it was in 1953. The resulting atrocity should look something like this:

A Liver Sausage Pineapple from Better Homes and Gardens

If you can’t resist the temptation to make one for yourself, here’s the recipe, verbatim:

Liver Sausage Pineapple

  • Mix 1 pound liver sausage with 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce, 1/4 cup mayonaise. Shape around a jelly glass. Soften 2 teaspoons unflavored gelatine in 2 tablespoons cold water, dissolve over hot water; add 1 cup mayonnaise; chill. Frost “pineapple,” score; stud with sliced stuffed olives. Top with real pineapple top.

To me, the insult on top of the injury in this recipe is probably the “top with real pineapple top,” not just because this is absolutely the only instance in this entire book where the word “pineapple” isn’t preceded by the words “can of”, but because it implies that an actual pineapple was sacrificed to make this thing.  An entire pineapple would have to be thrown away just for the sake of its least edible part decorating a meat-frosted jelly jar, as there is absolutely no way you could ever serve this and an actual pineapple at the same party. A fruit that caused riots when it was first brought to London sitting beside a pile of liverwurst and stiff mayonnaise — would you really want to invite that flavor comparison?

There’s a conspiracy theory that’s been floating around for a while that posits that one of the reasons packaged foods took off so wildly in the Fifties was that the Eisenhower administration was promoting their production and consumption to prepare Americans to live on military-style rations in case we ever got into a nuclear tiff with the Soviets. If Americans were used to chomping away at Frosted Flakes, Jell-O, and Ovaltine, it was thought they would’t mind as much that this was all that was left to eat as Charlton Heston was keeping them safe from bands of robed mutants in the smoldering remains of Levittown. Which, come to think of it, if I was ever hosting a cocktail party for a gang of mutants and Charlton Heston in a smoldering Levittown, I might actually consider serving this.

 

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