When I used to ask my dad for a story, one of his favorites was the story of eating blood pudding (a sausage made with blood and pork) in his German-American town in the 1950’s. I’d be grossed out, and ask what it was like, what was in it, who made it, where he ate it. Ever since then, I’ve mentally collected strange recipes—strange, at least to my upbringing. The following recipes are real American recipes, not fabricated for your reading pleasure. Please note that I have not attempted to make any of the following dishes; if you decide to, it is at your own risk. (Let me know how the process goes if you do try, though.)
I’m sure the willing workers of Oskaloosa Christian School had no idea their cookbook (Recipes from the Willing Workers of Oskaloosa Christian School) would provide so much entertainment to me, my three roommates, and the entire student body of a women’s studies program I attended several years ago. In the evening, after a day of serious story telling and studying French theorists, my roommates and I would gather to read aloud poetry and recipe entries from the above cookbook that was part of the furnishings of our cabin. One of my roommates read the recipe for “Pork Cake” (yes, you did read that correctly—“Pork Cake,” as in “cake-made-with-pig-meat,”) so poetically; she began performing it at public events. I am devastated that I did not copy that recipe down. Since then, I’ve searched the Internet for similar recipes with the same instructions and precise ingredients. The following is the closest I could find; I have adapted it to match as close as possible my memory of that amazing performance recipe. (Since I wrote this essay, I’ve gotten my hands on the actual original recipe. I posted it back in January.)
1 lb. fat pork, NO lean
1 1/2 pints boiling water
1 tbsp. baking soda dissolved in water
4 c. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
6 c. flour
1 tbsp. cloves
2 tbsp. cinnamon
2 lbs. raisins
1 c. nuts
1 lb. dates
Grind salt pork and stir into boiling water and soda for 5 minutes. Add sugar and dates, stirring until cool. Add remaining ingredients. Bake in a tube pan according to the manufacturer’s instructions for fruitcake that came with your oven.
If the concept of “Pork Cake” has caused you gastronomical disturbance, you are a perfect candidate for the following “Food for Invalids” from my grandmama’s 1938 edition of The American Woman’s Cookbook.
Boiling Water, 2 soda or graham crackers
Place the crackers in a bowl, and add just enough boiling water to soak them well. Set the bowl in a vessel of boiling water, and let it remain twenty or thirty minutes, until the crackers are quite clear, but not broken. Lift them out carefully without breaking and lay them on a hot saucer. Salt if necessary. Serve very hot with sugar and cream.
I asked my grandmama if she had ever made this recipe when her children were sick and she said (think thick Georgian accent), “Honey, I don’t think that would never make anyone well.” She never remembered hearing of panada, and neither had I, even though it is in the Oxford English Reference Dictionary as, “a thick paste of flour etc; bread boiled to a pulp and flavored.”
The pièce de résistance of my odd collection, however, is “Chatham Artillery Punch,” a recipe from The Pirates’ House Cookbook, a restaurant in Savannah, Georgia, that opened in 1753, reprinted in The Best of the Best from Georgia. Both the list of ingredients and instructions are somewhat mind-boggling. It is reprinted word-for-word below:
Chatham Artillery Punch
8 liters white rum; 4 liters gin; 4 liters rye; 4 liters brandy; 3 gallons rosé or Catawba wine; 1 pound green tea, steeped overnight in 2 gallons cold water and strained; 2 quarts maraschino cherries, drained; 2 pounds pineapple chunks—fresh is best; 5 pounds light brown sugar; juice of 3 dozen lemons; champagne
Mix all ingredients except champagne in a large, clean plastic trash can with lid. Cover and store in a cool place for a minimum of 2 months—it only improves with age. Serve in a punch bowl with a large block of ice. Add champagne to taste; 1-2 bottles per punch bowl. Also good mixed with orange juice and/or club soda for a lighter drink, or sipped straight as a liqueur. Make sure each cup contains some fruit, but by no means feed it to your children. This is the most subtly lethal punch you will ever drink. Three glasses and you’re out!
(Note: this makes 10 gallons, about 40 liters.)
(Disclaimer: Please be aware that by including this I am not advocating intemperate drinking.)
Do you have a bizarre recipe you’re highly entertained by, but have never actually tried? Please post it below!