Monday, June 30, 2014

Pieathlon! Is that an Upside-Down Chicken Pie or do we have a gas leak?

UPDATE July 9 2014- I finally got everyone else's pictures!

Guess what today is!

You know how people will sometimes joke that something's so bad you'd serve it to guests you really want to get rid of? Well, today I made something that bad and then deliberately invited some of my closest friends to eat it.
Better Homes and Gardens Prize-Tested Recipes, May 1952

This comes to us from RetroRuth at Mid-Century Menu. At first I was really excited because I really like reading her blog, have made a few things from it, and thought it was absolutely spiffy to make something out of her collection. Then as I was waiting to get my scan of the recipe, I started to dread that this would have lots of American "cheese" or an entire jar of mayonnaise in it. Then I got the scan and was relieved. As far as scary 50s recipes go, this one looked relatively benign. Yes, it's got canned chicken in it, but if that's the worst thing, this'll be just fine.
For this adventure, I invited over my cousin T, her girlfriend Kelly, and Austin who has been featured before. I would like to say that this lovely concoction will be the first time Kelly's had my cooking. T arrived early and we made this thing together, then later that night we all tried this thing.

I usually don't gather up all the ingredients and make them pose like this, but for this little escapade I just had to. Look at them! It's all in a can!
I didn't notice the percolator in the background looking like I randomly put a cremation urn in the picture, but I rather like it lurking behind the ingredients.
At first this seemed relatively benign- although I was surprised that it takes 12 olives to fill 2 tablespoons. Also, did you know how cohesive canned mushrooms are?

But wait- the only cans of mushrooms I could find were six ounces, and the recipe clearly says three!
I wanted to put the other half in the disposal so bad.
If you don't think about how it tastes, it looks kind of pretty.

I'm taking my time leading up to when I actually got out the canned chicken because canned chicken is evil. Even though I went all-out and got "premium chunk chicken," I can't stand the stuff. It is the unholy love child of expired canned tuna and cat food. Every time I see it, I think of those all-day Boy Scout hikes where midway we'd have to stop and eat canned chicken with crackers. And I don't mean chicken salad or something else to cut the taste, it was straight-out-of-the-can canned chicken. If you were vegetarian, you were allowed peanut butter instead. But if you were not, no peanut butter for you. Even after spending all day swatting spiders off your face and lugging the comically oversized backpacks, no one was hungry enough to choke that shit down without begging to have the vegetarian option despite not actually being vegetarian.
The thought of canned chicken makes me have flashbacks to the brief period of trying to be made into an outdoorsy person by means of choking down canned chicken straight out of the can and doing miserable group activities.

Please, imagine having to eat this straight out of the can.
I thought that maybe all the other stuff in this would somehow fix the flavor, but it all got worse. Pimiento, olives, and canned mushrooms taste bland but tolerable. When we dumped the chicken in, the bowl suddenly smelled exactly like that the stuff they add to gas so you can smell if you've got a leak in your house. Despite using an electric stove, I still wanted to check all the burners every few seconds.
That's not just canned chicken, that's premium chunk canned chicken.
When your pie makes you think your house is about to explode, there may be problems with the recipe. It was even worse after mixing it together. Flies were swarming in the kitchen.

It looks like it's a spoonful of mayo away from being a decent tuna sandwich, but that's only because my camera-phone doesn't record smells. I'm not going to try to describe what we in the kitchen felt at the sight and stink of this. Instead, here's T attempting to exorcize the pie-to-be with barbecue tongs and 100 Recipes Every Girl Should Know.
"The Power of Martha Stewart compels you!"
As the kitchen smelled more and more like a gas leak and the exorcism failed to produce any results, I smacked some flies out of the way and checked the recipe to see what the hell I'm supposed to do next. My exact words were "Oh shit, I'm supposed to do one of those white sauces!"

This picture of me trying to gradually add the water and canned mushroom pee to the flour represents how I felt.

I fail at white sauces.

So, like every other cook who didn't want to serve up lumpy gravy, I got out the blender. If you pinched your nose, it passed for mashed potatoes.
Cook until thick, eh?

The fumes had gotten to my head by now and I realized I'd forgotten to dissolve the bouillon cubes in water. And what the hell was I supposed to do with them, anyway? Oh shit, I was supposed to have added them to the sauce!
Also, these people think I should be using two bouillon cubes for this sucker. I didn't think about how much bouillon this was for one pie. Here's Austin holding up an 8" pan (the size the recipe says to use) just so you can all take in what a tiny little pie I'm putting that much bouillon into.
Yes, two. Two cubes of bouillon in one tiny cup. They make the water look and smell like pee.

You know what? I'm not going to list off the scatological things being said as we added the pee to the c---- overthickened white sauce. I had a big rant about 1950s food manufacturers making all manner of unspeakable bad recipes thinking it'd make their canned, processed things appealing despite wartime rationing being over. Which is true, apparently. But this... this was submitted to Better Homes and Gardens (I always wondered, better than what?) by a someone who, um, made this at home. Probably repeatedly. Do her children still instinctively look for the nearest three exits when they hear a can opener?
Smelling this as I stirred to thicken was painful.

Furthermore, who at BH & G tested this? Some execs or some young naïve home ec majors? Did they somehow not get swarms of flies like the ones that took over my kitchen? Did they actually taste this? At least they were really nice and didn't put Mrs. JE Hopkins' headshot right next to the recipe.
Because with fresh vegetables and meat, you just can't make lovely creations like this.
Does this make you want to make all your dinners come from cans as much as it does me? Oh wait, I haven't put the sauce on top.

Y'know what? Let's shake the pan around so the sauce really gets in there.

All right, the kitchen smells like a gas leak mixed with pee and I'm somewhat dizzy from the fumes. Let's just make the biscuit mix to package directions and cover this up.
The package directions lied about how much milk I needed.
It looks like an innocent pie, but you can see some of the goop oozing out.
I put it in the oven, hoping the bread dough would trap the smells as it baked. At this point I reheated the minestrone I'd made so I could serve something I knew would be good to make up for this. My mom came in, smelled the tomatoes and stuff on the stove, and said "It smells good in here!" Despite T and I shouting "No, no, no!!" she opened the oven to get a big nose-ful. I wish I could have gotten a picture of what she did, but imagine someone staggering back from the oven while politely trying not to look like this:

Anyway, T had to go get Kelly from work and Austin hadn't arrived yet, leaving me all alone with the oven full of pie, and the flies. While I waited, I put on this recording of Moonlight Serenade on guitar to calm myself while I did the dishes.

All right, this sucker's been baked long enough, time to drag it out into public! It looks innocent enough, does it not? Sure, you can see some of the ooze that awaits, but let's ignore that and look at the bread which baked up really nicely.

Or not. After all, this is an upside-down pie. Behold!

We've got pictures of all of us choking this thing down, but unfortunately, due to a mixup of whose pictures are on whose camera, I'm only just now posting them 10 days later. But first, here's what everyone thought upon learning that this was a reader-submitted recipe!

T: "Cruel and unusual punishment."
Austin: "She could almost cook?"
Kelly: "Reader recipe wasn't very inventive. Seems to be born out of necessity rather than creativity."

And, for your viewing pleasure, here we all are!
I volunteered to go first.

Imagine being told "Wait! Hoooold it!" with mouthful of upside-down chicken pie.

This thing gave me some serious shivers after I choked it down.

After seeing how this thing hit me, Austin nevertheless volunteered to go second.
"Doesn't smell that bad, what is it, casserole of death?"

Amused that the pie fell off his fork.

Overwhelmed by the chicken upside down pie.

It only gets worse from here, folks!

Then, the unspeakable happened. He got a second forkload.

T: "He's gotta contemplate the conception of flavors."

Looking concerned...

"Eh, it's not that bad. I think he's [that's me] overdoing it."
 So I'd barely choked this down and Austin had deemed it not all that bad. On these mixed reviews, T and Kelly went last.
Kelly carefully sniffing this.

I think T's asking Kelly why she'd actually want to smell it first.

I think T's face says so much.

I think they're plotting revenge on me for serving this.

Preparing to take the plunge!

Let's take a moment to appreciate what my friends just did for me.

Attempting to rationalize what just happened.

HOLY CRAP THIS THING IS SALTY! We could smell the salt!
But you know what? Austin discovered that for some reason, it was... if not good, passable dropped into the soup.
The only way to eat this is after drowning it.

And after having some of it in the soup, it was so salty that eating the soup without it tasted like nothing. Also, in a wierd way, once you'd put it in soup to cut the salt, it kind of grew on you- even though the chicken was really stringy and it still tasted really off. Believe it or not, this is all that was left:

Then we had minestrone and war cake to make up for it.

I hope you liked this adventure! Be sure to see what everyone else made! If there's an asterisk next to someone's name, I haven't got the link to their post yet, but they've probably got their pies up too. 

Brian of Caker Cooking – Chess Pie    This one's my recipe!
Ruth of Mid Century Menu – Avocado Lime Pie
Mimi of The Retro WW Experiment – Nesselrode Pie
Erica of Retro Recipe Attempts – Curried Egg Pie
Jenny of Silver Screen Suppers --Mile-High Lemon Chiffon Pie
Sarah of Directionally Challenged Cooking --Simone's Pet Strawberry Pie
Kelli of Kelli's Kitchen --Butterscotch Pie
Ashley of A Pinch of Vintage --Schoolteacher Pie
Poppy of Granny Pantries --Black Bottom Pie
Carrie of Ginger Lemon Girl --Chocolate "Pie"
Emily of Dinner is Served 1972 --Seafoam Cantaloupe Pie


  1. I think I am really glad I did not get your recipe - thankfully, mine was fantastic! Maybe next year Yinzerella will give you a really good one! :)

    1. Maybe, but this was a real adventure. Although I now owe my unfortunate friends something really good to make up for it.

  2. You win the Pieathalon. Seriously. OMG.

    1. Thank you! And you definitely win a prize for most dishes involved in one pie!

  3. You can say what you like about British cooking, but we don't even HAVE chicken in a can. At least to my knowledge, I have never seen it. And I certainly don't plan to go looking for it after this! I laughed out loud many times at your account of your adventure with this pie. I have huge respect for your dinner guests having the gumption to try it too. Love to all who experiment with retro recipes, people in the past really did eat this stuff!

    1. I'm sure they sell canned chicken. It's lurking on the shelves, probably near the tuna, waiting for those who don't know any better.

    2. And my guests are definitely owed a tremendous favor for this one! :D

    3. You have pilchards over there, so don't be boasting...

  4. I am dying laughing. While at work, so it's stifled giggles and snorts. My coworkers probably think I'm having a heart attack. Great writeup :-) I can't believe this got flipped over at the end/ just because all the preceding steps weren't bad enough.

    1. Thank you! It was a hell of a trip. There was a brief silence in the kitchen when I flipped that thing over and peeled back the foil.

  5. By the sounds of it, serving it right-side-up wouldn't have helped, either. Thanks for the Chess Pie recipe. Just glad I didn't give you this recipe in return!

    1. Yeah, even the dog wasn't in the kitchen begging for this one. The pie you sent in looks really good, though!

  6. I like the realization that the pie can be kind of saved by adding it to the soup! Quick thinking saves the day...

    1. "Kind of saved" is the best way to put it.

  7. This is what I expected when I signed up for this challenge--things in cans and boxes is what I usually think of vintage recipes! I'm glad you took one for the team in making this creation!

    1. You know what? In a weird way, so am I. I think I'd have been kind of bummed out with a normal recipe.

  8. Blame Ruth.


    Good job. I must say that there is a part of me that prefers getting the grosser recipes.

    You are a better person for going through this. Believe me.

    I'm glad you had fun and thanks for joining in!!!

  9. Wow. That is really all I can think to say. Ok - and good job making something so nasty so fun!

    1. Thank you! Although I think my friends get most of the credit for making this fun- like watching Plan 9 From Outer Space, you need other people going for the ride with you when you're deliberately making food like this.

  10. I forgot how bad your pie was.
    Fingers crossed you get a yummy recipe this time!!!

    1. You know, I distinctly remember feeling like I'd been given a test and passed it. It was actually a lot of fun deliberately making something this bad.