Weird Recipes from The Memphis Cookbook

Categories: Recipes

In preparation for an upcoming visit to my hometown, I decided to crack open The Memphis Cookbook -- yes, that's really the name -- published by The Junior League of Memphis (naturally) in 1952 and "updated" in 1980. Reading this cookbook was both horrifying and hilarious. We discovered some gems that just had to be shared with Eating Our Words readers.

We think the following turtle soup may give Brennan's famous version a run for its money. But probably it will just make people run...away.

Jellied Clear Green Turtle Soup

  • 1 can turtle soup

  • 2 whole cloves

  • Strip of lemon peel (1-inch)

  • Salt to taste

  • ½ cup of Madeira or sherry wine
  • Pour strained contents of can of turtle soup in a saucepan. Put turtle meat aside. Add cloves, lemon peel and a little salt. Boil two minutes, remove from fire; add ½ cup Madeira or sherry wine, and strain. Cool and place in ice-box. Serve cold with quartered pieces of lemon and garnish with thin slices of turtle meat. Serves two.

    Gelatin in its various forms are sprinkled throughout the cookbook, giving you the opportunity to bust out Grandma's jello molds and use them to make an entire meal. For your appetizer course, how about "Shrimp with Cucumber Jelly?" It plays out just as you feared it would: a cucumber-flavored jello mold filled with cooked shrimp and drizzled with parsley sauce. For your gelatinous main course, try the "Meaty Salad Ring," with its deadly combo of horseradish, celery, mayonnaise, mustard onion, and--wait for it!--diced beef tongue--all mixed together with gelatin and chilled in the "icebox." And for dessert? Why, a cornflake ring with ice cream balls, of course.

    Slightly more disconcerting are the plethora of "ethnic" recipes, most of which are so far off-base, they become snort-worthy. Given that this cookbook was revised in 1980, an older version probably featured closer-to-racist recipe titles that were subsequently cleaned up.

    Still, the "Indian Curry" would make you cringe. And "Suki-Aki" that should be Sukayaki does not replicate the actual hot pot dish; instead, it's just cubed beef tenderloin simmered with soy sauce. There's a recipe for "Spiced Tongue" that Mrs. M. Ames Saunders, Jr. claims has been in her family for more than 200 years, as well as an "Egyptian Salad" that turns out to be chicken salad made with one pint (!) of mayonnaise and chopped sweetbreads. "East India Sauce" is anything but, and "Jezebel's Sauce" consists of pineapple preserves(?), yellow mustard, apple jelly and horseradish. A sauce fit for a hussy, indeed.

    As we move towards the 4th of July weekend, we leave you with this amazing "Mexican" appetizer, sure to wow your friends and family with its not-even-coming-close-to-resembling-Mexican-cuisine-ness. Enjoy!

    Mexican Appetizer

  • 1 pkg. cream cheese

  • ½ stick butter

  • 1 T. onion, grated

  • 1 T. chopped capers

  • 1 T. caraway seed

  • 1 T. prepared mustard

  • 1 T. paprika

  • 1 T. anchovy paste
  • Mix above ingredients well, and serve on crackers or shape into mold and let your guests serve themselves. Serves 4 to 6.


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    Damned Good Cook
    Damned Good Cook

    Any cookbook is a snapshot of its era, youngster -- and if you want to cringe, jump forward thirty years from today and then look at the trendy crap that's being served now.  (We call it "elf food," with wierd little bits of stuff artfully placed on these HUGE platters, which are then artistically drizzled with God knows what, for some odd reason.)  Better yet, just look back at the slop that was cuisine nouvelle's initial burst of -- of glory, for lack of a better word.  I have a cookbook that I have informally re-titled: Wierd Food Made From Peculiar Ingredients.  It's not anything one actually wishes to eat, but it sure is entertaining. In other words, Nishti, honey, grow up.  Your grandchildren will point and jeer at your eating habits, but it is to be hoped that they will have the grace and good manners not to do so in public.

    Charles Fortner
    Charles Fortner

    OH!  Jezebel Sauce is just magnificent!  It's a delta thing in origin but is universally admitted to be just fantastic.  Traditionally used to anoint a block of cream cheese and spread on crackers but also a good foil to simple, grilled or baked or roast or boiled or steamed chicken.  Don't know if I would go as far as to use it with fried, which is it's own best friend.

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