Thursday, January 21, 2010

Vintage Veg: Cronin for Congress Casserole (1972)

I like to visit my grandmother every week, and sometimes she likes to cook me dinner.  A traditional cook, she was initially perplexed by my decision to become a vegetarian, however she delved into her numerous cookbooks and found this old standby in The Constituents’ Cookbook:  Paul W. Cronin for Congress, 2nd Edition (1972). 

Election cookbooks are a forgotten footnote of history now, effectively murdered by Lee Atwater, who thought that campaign money would be better spent on the far more effective robocalling and negative advertising that are such a plague on elections today.  However, in the Fifties, Sixties, and Seventies, election cookbooks were considered a cute little gimme prize for loyal constituents, and their recipes provide an absolutely fascinating look at middle class life in that era.*

The historical recipe was contributed to the cookbook by Mrs. David (Gloria) Williams of Concord, Massachusetts.  Nana and I have modified its overwhelming eggy-cheesyness through the addition of numerous ingredients, so I will give you the historical ingredients first, and then the modern variation.  It assembles and cooks up in much the same manner, either way you would like to make it.

Cheddar Casserole: The Historical Ingredients 

1/4 cup butter or margarine
6 slices bread
6 slices Havarti or Edam
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/4 tsps salt
a pinch of nut meg

Cheddar Casserole: The Nana and Marybeth LaRivee Versions

1/4 cup butter
6 slices Wonder Bread (Nana's version) or multigrain loaf (mine)
6 slices American cheese (Nana's version) or cheddar (mine)
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/4 tsps pepper
pinch of cilantro
chopped tomato, or broccoli, or peas

Combine milk, spices, and eggs. Grease corningware dish. Dip the bread in egg mixture, and put one layer of the bread in the dish.  Add a layer of vegetables. Add a layer of cheese. Alternate until about half an inch away from the top of the dish.  Bake at 350 (US ovens) for about 30 minutes.

*My information on Lee Atwater was taken from the book Bad Boy: The Life and Politics of Lee Atwater by John Brady (1996).  When I'm not reading about cooking, my choice of reading material tends to run to either crime or politics.

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