Vegetable Rice Pilaf for Two
In the mid-1980s, with a SAIT journalism diploma in my hot little hands and a first job in northern Alberta, I packed my 1979-ish Mazda 808 and prepared for the move to Fort McMurray.
As a 20-year-old, my cooking abilities didn’t extend much past fried eggs or peanut butter sandwiches. My mom was convinced that I would starve, or end up with scurvy, or maybe both.
So before I hit the highway, she threw me a “moving out” party in which I was presented with a box of assorted kitchen items. As I recall, these included a cheese grater, scissors, rolling pin, dish towels, and a 1968 copy of the Better Homes and Gardens “Cooking for Two” cookbook.
Some of those things are still kicking around, including the rolling pin and the cookbook. I only ever made two recipes from it (Vegetable Rice Pilaf and Oven Meatballs with Barbecue Sauce) and I swear that until tonight I’d never given it a closer look.
If I had, I might have to question exactly why I held onto it for this long.
Take a minute and think about 1968. Apollo 8 and I Love Lucy. The assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy. Black Power at the summer Olympics. And on the tables of America, Snapperoni Franks, Chicken Salad Elegante, Mashed Potato Marvel and Slim-Jim Salad Molds.
This is a vintage cookbook with retro recipes and Mad Men-esque menu plans, minus all the cigarettes. I honestly went into this blog post determined to make the cookbook the castoff. Just chuck the thing. But, dammit. This is gold.
A photo accompanying the recipe for Antipasto shows an entire can of tuna upended on a piece of lettuce. A giant burger-for-two “boasts real pizza flavour.” There are six different recipes involving frankfurters.
A blog called MidCenturyMenu.com did a kitchen test of one of the latter dishes, a sandwich called the Bacon Big Boy — to wit, two hot dogs with mustard inside a bun, which is wrapped in a lot of raw bacon and then baked. You really need to read it yourself — the review is hilarious — but it concludes thusly:
“I was going to make a joke about how watching you eat it was going to give me a heart attack, but for some reason it just isn’t funny anymore. That’s because this just got real. This is the kind of sandwich you eat when you are ashamed of how you live your life.”
Comparatively, the Vegetable Rice Pilaf is so inoffensive it is almost boring. It is one of the first things I ever cooked on my own and has been a go-to side-dish ever since. It’s really just plain white rice gussied up with a little butter, onions and vegetables, but it’s cheap, it’s fast and it is a perfect accompaniment to something more interesting on the plate. (Like today, for example, as a side to Dan’s smoked chicken thighs.)
So I’m not casting off this silly book, but I will cast out this offer: if you are of a mind to test one of these kitchen classics, drop a note in the comments and I will happily — happily I say — scan and share some recipes.
C’mon. Who’s up for a Mint Patty Baked Alaska?
Kitchen Castoff Used
The Better Homes and Gardens Cooking for Two cookbook, published 1968, which I now simply cannot get rid of.
This is how we did it
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1/3 cup rice (for best results try a plain converted rice, like Uncle Ben’s)
- 3 tbsp minced onion
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 1/3 cup diced carrot
- 1/3 cup each frozen peas and frozen corn
- Optional: a small handful sautéed sliced mushrooms
Melt the butter in a saucepan, then add the onion and rice. Cook, stirring, for about five minutes until the onion is tender and the rice is starting to get golden.
Add the chicken stock and the carrots. Bring to a boil, then cover, reduce the heat and cook for about 20 minutes. Add the frozen peas and corn in the final few minutes, stir thoroughly and keep cooking until they are heated through. If you’ve sautéed mushrooms, stir them in right at the very end.
Curious about my “Kitchen Castoffs” concept? Here’s the explainer describing my 100-day project.
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