Back before Southern Living started doing their annual recipe books they had another series that they published in the early 1970s. Part of the Southern Living Cookbook Library, as the series was called, each book was simply titled “The (insert-type-of-food-here) Cookbook”.
This particular book’s mission is evidently to tell us about the “fine art of casserole cookery”. Now, I like casseroles as much as the next person (I mean, heck a good portion of the recipes I try on this blog are casseroles, after all) but I think they may be overselling the dish a bit too much here. Perhaps people just thought of casseroles differently during the mid-century era, but I’ve never thought of it as a “fine art”. Aren’t the appeals of casseroles the comfort-food qualities, the simplicity, and the ease in putting them together?
Despite this odd wording, Southern Living does seem to take an active step in telling the audience all about Casseroles before getting into the nitty-gritty of the actual recipes themselves. At the beginning of the book, after that snooty little “fine art” preface, there are several pages of cooking tips, including several pages on herbs and spices, in-depth instructions for freezing casseroles, and the differences between various casserole dishes (ceramic, metal, etc.). You learn something everyday day, it seems. I never knew that there was such a thing as copper casseroles.
Visually, these books are a little unusual, in that the title of the book is only found on the spine. Well, I mean it’s on the inside page, but it’s not found anywhere else on the cover. They could have come with a dust jacket at some point, but I’ve never come across a copy that had one, so I’m assuming that’s not the case.
The titles in this series were written across the white spine, each book using a different color that was also found on the plain back cover. I suppose, if you have them all lined up together, it would help in being able to pull out one particular title. That makes sense. I just haven’t run into many cookbooks that don’t have the title on the cover as well, instead blowing up one giant image of a dish found in the book (Herbed Beef Rolls in this case).
It’s not actually what I’m call a colorful cookbook, but it is pretty picture heavy, with one smallish picture every 3-4 pages or so, some being color and some being black and white.
I never realized how odd a black and white image of a casserole could be. Sometimes the results were okay, and sometimes just… blah. And in a few cases that’s putting things nicely. There’s many comparisons you can make when you see a picture of meat sauce and olives, and none of them are complementary.
The recipes in this book, like many during Southern Living’s earlier selections, were submitted from cooks around the United States. They had, by this point, made a change in their selection, so there’s only selections from people in the south rather than being taken from all over the country. The recipes are fairly well organized as well, being split off into chapters based on the main ingredient, so you don’t have to go flipping through the whole thing if you just really want to find a veal casserole.
Yes, I said veal. Because evidently Southern Living really wasn’t joking around with that whole “fine art” thing. In addition to the standard vegetable and beef and chicken casseroles you also have such appearances as veal and lamb and lobster.
Overall, the recipes seem pretty normal and the sort of thing I would expect to see on any work-day dinner table. There were, however, some stand-out recipes I came across.
- Potato Puff Meat Pie
- Jiffy Beef Stroganoff
- Shortcut Lasagna
- Autumn Casserole
- Frankfurters with Cabbage Wedges
- Turkey and Noodle Casserole
- Beef Francaise
- Pork Chops Cremora
- Chicken Souffle
- Baked Whitefish on Celery Leaves
- Crepes with Crab Meat
- Angostura Duckling Casserole
- Dove in Sour Cream
- Mock Chicken (using hamburger, sausage, and chicken noodle soup mix
- Noodle Layer Pudding
- Stuffed T-Bone Steaks
- Broccoli-Deviled Egg Casserole
- Cucumbers Au Grautin
I’m actually rather curious about a few of those (Mock Chicken, I’m looking at you), so who knows, I may keep this cookbook out for a while. What recipe sounds interesting to you?