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The Gallery of Regrettable Food by James…

The Gallery of Regrettable Food (2001)

by James Lileks

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Humorous commentary on dated cookbooks from the 50's and 60's. I rarely encounter laugh out loud funny in writing but this has tons of it. ( )
1 vote bensdad00 | Jan 10, 2017 |
As I was giggling my way through this book, I was struck by the unpleasant feeling that I had seen some of the cookbooks before. A quick look at my mother's collection of cookbooks confirmed that some of these noxious titles were in my own home! My entire childhood was spent in dangerous proximity to the recipes for these terrifying dishes! ( )
3 vote amanda4242 | Jul 1, 2015 |
One of the funniest books I've read in a while. I was literally cackling out loud at every page. It consists of original copy from several American cookbooks from the 1950s-70s, augmented with the author's observations. The original photos, slogans, and drawings are already hilarious - more so because it's hard to believe they're real - and Lileks's commentary just pushes it all right over the top. Highly recommended. ( )
  benjamin.duffy | Jul 28, 2013 |
This book was amusing, but after first reading Interior Desecrations, I found this one to be a little disappointing. ( )
  jegka | Oct 3, 2011 |
I laughed so hard, my sides hurt! This is an absolutely SNL-like expose of all that 'interesting' food those of us growing up during the Ozzie and Harriet days experienced in our youth. It is actually difficult to describe or review because it's really the pictures that make the book. The author has an absolutely smart-ass take on the descriptions, ingredients, and attitudes that can be found tucked into all those food pamphlets our mothers, grandmothers and aunties collected after 'the war.' I actually have several of these in my personal 'collection' --they were the building blocks of a cookbook collection for the proper 1960's bride.

Lileks' book makes for great weekend browsing although I'd never want to cook anything I saw in there. And with the exception of the jello items, I don't think my mom ever cooked any of them either.

My personal favorites include Balls on Picks from the booklet "500 Snacks - Bright Ideas for Entertaining"; the chapter about Aunt Jenny explaining the miracle of a product called "Spry" (I think something like Crisco?); and the pictures and comments on "Victory Meat Extenders" - a pamphlet published during WWII featuring "Creamed Brains on Toast", "Tongue Rolls Florentine" and "Ham Shanks and Cabbabe" (described by Lileks as "Pig Ass with the Bones Still in It. Or, perhaps Chunker Cheeks"

The very best is a picture of some sort of pie type casserole from the Good Housekeeping Casserole Book called Monday Pie. Lileks comments: "The recipe calls for lamb, gravy, and MSG. What an excellent start to the week eh? Fried Strips of albino flesh cunningly blended with Scottish terrier testicles. " ( )
2 vote tututhefirst | Dec 26, 2010 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0609607820, Hardcover)


This is not a cookbook. You'll find no tongue-tempting treats within -- unless, of course, you consider Boiled Cow Elbow with Plaid Sauce to be your idea of a tasty meal. No, The Gallery of Regrettable Food is a public service. Learn to identify these dishes. Learn to regard shivering liver molds with suspicion. Learn why curries are a Communist plot to undermine decent, honest American spices. Learn to heed the advice of stern, fictional nutritionists. If you see any of these dishes, please alert the authorities.

Now, the good news: laboratory tests prove that The Gallery of Regrettable Food AMUSES as well as informs. Four out of five doctors recommend this book for its GENEROUS PORTIONS OF HILARITY and ghastly pictures from RETRO COOKBOOKS. You too will look at these products of post-war cuisine and ask: "WHAT WERE THEY THINKING?" It's an affectionate look at the days when starch ruled, pepper was a dangerous spice, and Stuffed Meat with Meat Sauce was considered health food.

Bon appetit!

The Gallery of Regrettable Food is a simple introduction to poorly photographed foodstuffs and horrid recipes from the Golden Age of Salt and Starch. It's a wonder anyone in the 1940s, '50s, and '60s gained any weight. It isn't that the food was inedible; it was merely dull. Everything was geared toward a timid palate fearful of spice. It wasn't nonnutritious -- no, between the limp boiled vegetables, fat-choked meat cylinders, and pink whipped Jell-O desserts, you were bound to find a few calories that would drag you into the next day. It's just that the pictures are so hideously unappealing.

Author James Lileks has made it his life's work to unearth the worst recipes and food photography from that bygone era and assemble them with hilarious, acerbic commentary: "This is not meat. This is something they scraped out of the air filter from the engines of the Exxon Valdez." It all started when he went home to Fargo and found an ancient recipe book in his mom's cupboard: Specialties of the House, from the North Dakota State Wheat Commission. He never looked back. Now, they're not really recipe books. They're ads for food companies, with every recipe using the company's products, often in unexpected and horrifying ways. There's not a single appetizing dish in the entire collection.

The pictures in the book are ghastly -- the Italian dishes look like a surgeon had a sneezing fit during an operation, and the queasy casseroles look like something on which the janitor dumps sawdust. But you have to enjoy the spirit behind the books -- cheerful postwar perfect housewifery, and folks with the guts to undertake such culinary experiments as stuffing cabbage with hamburger, creating the perfect tongue mousse when you have the fellas over for a pregame nosh, or, best of all, baking peppers with a creamy marshmallow sauce. Alas, too many of these dishes bring back scary childhood memories.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:46 -0400)

A collection of photographs, illustrations, food ads, recipes, and culinary miscellany from classic American cookbooks of the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s presents an array of the "best of the worst" dishes from the period.

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