Have you ever thought of setting noodles in a ring mould? Turning chicken into mousse? Putting potato chips atop a fish casserole?
No, nor have I. But some adventurous women did, and we have them to thank for the national treasure that is The New Zealand Radio and Television Cookbook, 1974.
This delightful cookbook contains family favourites, sent in to Dame Alison Holst by “farmers wives and city women” from all over the country. It’s an eclectic collection to say the least. The Asian and Polynesian section is quite ahead of it’s time (think soy and pineapple-based dishes with names like “Ming Ling”), and then there’s lots of practical, child-friendly stuff like this:
It’s a clever guise, see? Trick the kids into eating tinned fish swimming in powdered chicken soup layered with corn, peas and tomatoes by hiding it all under potato chips. It’s genius! We had to make it!
I don’t need to really describe the cooking process (layered, baked), so instead let’s talk about food styling in this book. It is amazing. I especially like the photographs at the beginning of each section, which illustrate very clearly what lies ahead:
I refrained from posting the “Poultry” photo on here, which is just hunks of raw chicken on a chopping board.
With the recipes pictures they really went to town, often creating themed still lifes with candles, velvet backdrops and again, the raw ingredients. Me and Olivia were short on casserole-related props, but we did our best to emulate the style:
I’ll be honest and admit I was quite looking forward to eating this. It was dinnertime, I was hungry, and potato chips scattered in melted cheese is my idea of a good time. Besides, none of the ingredients were overly offensive by themselves… How bad could they be combined?
Pretty bad, it turned out. Here are the verdicts:
Alice: Wow. Much, much worse than I was anticipating. The fish is so fishy, like cat food, and instead of the creamy white sauce that this needs, there’s just this limp chicken soup liquid that does nothing except make the chips soggy. I was expecting a poor man’s fish pie, but it was more like a very depressed man’s fish pie. Only someone who wears trackpants outside the house and has completely given up on life would enjoy this. That said, it’s better than the cucumber soup.
Olivia: *gagging noises* I can’t. I can’t eat this. *spits*
Even Finn,who once ate an entire bag of chrysalises, could not have more than a mouthful. “There’s no point”, he said. “There’s just nothing of value in there.”