My mother has a rather morbid habit of asking me, whenever I return to the US for a visit, to specify which of her belongings I will want for myself 'when the time comes'. I prefer not to think about it, but if pressed I'd really only have one request: Mother, please set aside for me your entire Time Life 'Foods of the World' series.
I've spent alot of time on visits home poring over these fascinating recipe books, even more so since I began writing about food. (This time around much of what I'm reading in the American Cooking volumes from the series dovetails with a book that's on my bedside table: The Food of a Younger Land by Mark Kurlansky, which I highly recommend.)
Every year I find a recipe or ten that resonate(s) -- a relatively little known dish that I discovered in Italy, a favorite childhood dish that I'd completely forgotten about, a recipe for an obscure Asian specialty that's surprising both for the fact that it appears in a cookbook published 38 years ago and for its apparent authenticity.
And then there's the head scratchers -- like Oriental Salad and Chop Suey Dessert Sauce, from the American Cooking: Northwest volume.
There has been for over a century, of course, a large Asian population in the American Northwest. But I wonder about the origin of the 'Oriental' salad, whose only possibly 'Oriental' ingredient is rice. And what of Chop Suey dessert sauce? Here I can only guess that it's so named for its mishmash of ingredients.
At any rate -- here are the recipes. If anyone out there recognizes these dishes or has some information regarding their origin(s), I'd love to hear from you.
From American Cooking: The Northwest, published 1970 by Time Life Inc.
1/2 c long grain rice, boiled, drained, and cooled
A 6-oz can flat anchovy fillets, drained, rinsed under cold water, and coarsely chopped
1/2 cup finely chopped scallions
1/2 cup finely chopped pimiento
1 firm ripe tomato, sliced 1/4 inch thick and cut into 1/4 inch dice
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1 tsp salt
Freshly ground black pepper
6 Tbsp olive oil
Chilled crisp lettuce leaves
Place rice, anchoves, scallions, pimiento and tomato in a serving bowl and toss together.
With a wire whisk, beat vinegar, mustard, salt, and a few grindings of pepper in a small bowl until the mustard has dissolved. Add the oil gradually and continue to beat until the dressing is smooth and thick. Taste for seasoning, pour over rice mixture, and stir with a fork till the ingredients are well combined.
For each serving, arrange several lettuce leaves to form a cup on a chilled plate and spoon the salad into the lettuce cup.
Chop Suey Dessert Sauce
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups water
1/4 tsp red food coloring
1/2 cup coarsely chopped pitted dates
1/2 cup coarsely chopped dried figs
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
Combine the sugar and water in a 1 to 2-quart enamel or stainless steel saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Cook briskly, uncovered, until the syrup reaches a temperature of 220 degrees on a candy thermometer. Stir in the food coloring.
Combine the dates, figs, and walnuts in a bowl, pour in the hot syrup, and stir until all the pieces are evenly moistened. Spoon the sauce into a jar equipped with a tight-fitting lid. Cover and store at room temperature. The sauce will keep up to 3 weeks. Serve it with ice cream.