I turned up a copy of the “Carnation Cook Book” at a used-book shop in Santa Rosa the other day, and for a measly $2, I had to rescue it. Written by Mary Blake in 1935, this promo pamphlet is chock full of product placement, bound with staples, and just under 100 pages long. I believe this little cookbook was probably a giveaway, or perhaps cheap mail-order fodder, but I’m not totally certain about how it was originally distributed. As the author, Blake is credited as being Carnation’s “Director, Home Economics Department,” which fascinates me as a chef. Corporate recipe testing, and in that era — I wonder what the kitchen looked like, and how Mary Blake had become accomplished as a cook. Or did she cook anything, and only supervise a staff?
The photograph above is what sold me. I flipped past it and did a double-take. Wait, were those noodles? Mind: Blown. Of course, ring-molded food was common in the 30s and 40s — Jell-O was well on its way to reaching peak popularity with the Baby Boom, and the ringed form was becoming ubiquitous — but the noodle element was truly unique and weird. One step closer to unnatural looking food. Still, I wondered if this dish could somehow be delicious, perhaps if someone took extra steps to dress it up with good ingredients, such as fresh fettuccine and a proper sauce Allemande.
As part of the promotion, the “Carnation Cook Book” depicts a can of Carnation Irradiated Milk. The classic label seems quaintly ominous — the word “irradiated” would never be proudly promoted on a label today, since it seems to imply radio-active exposure. However, Carnation’s milk was only irradiated with UV-rays, from a simple carbon arc lamp, for increased vitamin D. Nothing heavy duty. And certainly not in the same category as the vegetable radiation that sometimes makes headlines today (that process, allegedly, is akin to passing through an airport metal detector, but who the hell really knows for sure).
Anyhow, do you think you have the nerve to bring a noodle ring to your next potluck? I sure hope so. I’ll scan the recipe onto my Facebook page later this week, along with a couple other good ones.