Thursday, November 29, 2012

Okay, Maybe Just One More....

With Thanksgiving in mind, I took a detour into a quick nonfiction read about the foods of our childhood, Better Than Homemade: Amazing Foods That Changed The Way We Eat by Carolyn Wyman. This book is easily read in an afternoon, colorful, glossy, lots of pictures, and a ton of fun, trivial history about products we all remember from back in the day. We're talking Kool-Aid, Tang, Pillsbury, Jello, Green Giant, and a slew of other ones you'd recognize in an instant.

author Carolyn Wyman

It's hard not to get nutty for nostalgia during the holiday season, when so much time is spent around friends and family you either can't see during the rest of the year, or you're avoiding (hey, we all have those people in our lives lol). But what better time to indulge in a fun book like this. Check out all the cool stuff Wyman teaches you that you didn't really need to know, but now that you do, you can have something to throw into those awkward pauses when someone else says something mind-blowingly inappropriate and fight-inducing:

  • The story behind why Dinty Moore stew cans used to have a thumbprint on the lid
  • How sci-fi writer Gene Wolfe helped design the machine that makes Pringles (thank you!!)
  • How the Pringles shape helped inspire the shape of the Sydney Olympic Stadium
  • Jolly Green Giant, Tony The Tiger, Pillsbury Doughboy, Charlie The Tuna and the Keebler Elves were all designed by the same ad agency, Leo Burnett
  • Philadelphia Cream Cheese is not made in Philly, but do try their 3 Step Cheesecake anyway --- like you'd want to turn away cheesecake either way, right!
  • Who knew the inventor of Jell-O was a wee bit of a hottie back in his day!

And here's a little something not mentioned in the book, just my own observation, is it just me or does the 1936 incarnation of the Jolly Green Giant bear a bit of a resemblence to Jerry O'Connell?!

A really entertaining part of this book are the "Unauthorized Uses" sidebars, relating the not-endorsed-by-the-manufacturers uses for the products. Some of my favorites:

Coffemate Non Dairy Creamer :  clothes whitener (mixed with water makes a soaking solution), dry erase board cleaner, OR mixed with 2 parts hot water can be turned into liquid creamer

Tang: can be used to shampoo greasy hair, clean toilet bowls or dishwashers, wart treatment (Tang & water paste with a Band-Aid over it)

Kool-Aid: recreate your favorite discontinued flavors! Sharkleberry is 1/2 tsp each of Lemonade, Orange, Strawberry with 1 cup sugar and 1/2 gal of water. Sunshine Punch = 1 pack Orange + 1 pack Lemonade with the sugar and water. Wyman says you can find other flavor formulas at KoolAid Usernet Group.

Carnation Instant Breakfast: Did you know you can make ice cream from this stuff? Yep, mix 1 packet with 1 cup milk, put in a plastic container, stick in freezer until it's about half-frozen, still a little soft. Take out, throw into your blender, hit pulse until it looks like ice cream. This is just for a single serving so if you have friends around, you'll either have to do the math on that one or send them on their way before trying this ;-)

There's a good amount of quick and easy recipes in this book but the one I must say all of us need to try at least once (honey, I think I see another baked goods testing day in your future ;-P) is the Better Than Sex Cake (Better Than Sex?? You know we have to test that!!)  featuring one of my faves, Cool Whip! Or as we , thanks to Family Guy, like to say in our house, "Coo WHHip". Recipe link below pic. Enjoy!! 

Better Than Sex recipe