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This blog title could be an anthem for me and my life.

But, wouldn’t it sound better if delivered with an Alabama accent?  Or, since we’re in Canada, a Newfoundland or Cape Breton accent?

I think I’ll send this to Rick Mercer.  He could really make it into a thing.

You may already agree that I’m four graham crackers short.  I like to pretend that I take after my slightly scatter-brained but completely adored, Great Grandma Hildegard.   She inadvertently invented all kinds of food, including Leathers.   Leathers (as in Roast Beef and Leathers) are a delicious culinary mistake that have thrived through 3 generations of my family.  Signs have been created in homage to Leathers:

Leathers sign

Only in my family…

I should be so lucky with some of my kitchen experiments.

I’ve just finished making a vintage, no-bake dessert to take to Pippi’s dinner party tomorrow evening.   I’m not feeling tip-top, so I took some pain medication earlier which tends to make me even loopier than usual.

Loopy is not good, when combined with the treacherous recipes and general baking chaos that you may remember I tend towards.    The dinner party is among friends and I don’t feel too much pressure so of course, I try something new (which always makes Practical Man pull out what’s left of his hair).

And, after mostly successfully pulling off Scallops Carbonara for the two of us, a few short nights ago (my normally fainty, half-dead heart rate and pulse were through the roof as I “reduced” and “emulsified” and engaged in other scary cooking maneouvers that were way out of my league), I felt bold enough to bake while under the influence of ibuprofen.


My great grandma Hildegard and me

Me and Great Grandma Hildegard, circa 1970

In what I imagine to be true baking a la Great Grandma Hildegard fashion, I vaguely remembered the gist of the recipe for “No-Bake, Refrigerator Extravaganza” when I was in town today to pick up the ingredients.  I got home and realized that I didn’t have everything so I skimmed the recipe again and headed back out to the country store, feeling even less tip-top, to try and find instant pudding.

Vintage recipes often contain words like “No Bake” and ingredients with the word “instant” in front of them, have you noticed?

“Open can of X”

“Pour tin of Y”

“Blend instant Z”

“No baking required!”

These are the sorts of phrases one often finds in recipes from the 50s and 60s.  Mostly fake, uncooked food was the wave of the future.  When we were living on the moon and relying on our Jetsons-style solar easy-bake oven, these recipes and margarine (not butter) would be the stuff of life!

vintage light

This light I found last weekend is from roughly the atomic era and goes really well with no-bake extravaganzas

I am also reassured that in the 50s and 60s, many people seemed to be baking under the influence of alcohol and cigarettes (at least, if you watched MadMen), so a little ibuprofen-induced loopy-ness was barely being authentic to the vintage spirit.

This recipe originated with my aunt and is simple, but delicious and vintage kitschy.  Of course, I didn’t follow the recipe.


No-Bake Chocolate Eclair Cake

1 box graham wafer cookies
2 – 135g packages, instant vanilla pudding
3 cups cold milk
1 liter container Cool Whip topping (thawed) 

In a 9 x 13 pan, put a layer of graham wafer cookies.  Beat the 2 pudding mixes with the cold milk until thick.  Fold in the thawed Cool Whip.    Put half of this mixture on top of the layer of graham wafers.   Add another layer of graham wafers.   Pour on the remainder of the pudding mixture.  Then, add a final layer of graham wafers.   Ice the eclairs with chocolate frosting (from the can).

Refrigerate 24 hours before serving.


It reminds me of the decadence of pot luck parties where you can eat dessert first or have nothing but swedish meatballs for dinner.  But, because I had only skimmed the ingredients, when I got home the second time and started opening can of X and pouring tin of Y, I realized that I STILL didn’t have everything.

I had read the recipe slightly wrong.  Plus, I was sort of amalgamating it with another recipe I’d found online.  Because, I can always manage to talk myself into making things more complicated than they need to be.

Improving 50-year-old recipes, as it were.  Like the ones in this vintage book my friend Shades bought for me,

vintage party book

Your 1960s guide to a “keen” party!

So, the improvisation began.

And then, I ran out of graham crackers, because I had read the new, amalgamated, Frankenstein’d version of the recipe wrong and was actually using a similar but not requisite ingredient, so I had to improvise again.

Then, there was an emergency phone call to my aunt at the last, dramatic moment.

And now, I have to wait 24 hours to see the result.  To see if four graham crackers short really does wreck a vintage dessert.


(Hopefully) delicious-ness lurks within its mysterious depths

It’s like Grandma Hildegard all over again.

At least, I hope.

Copyright Christine Fader, 2013.  Did you enjoy this post from A Vintage Life?    Share on Facebook       Tweet         You might also like my latest book.


I always think of home veggie gardening as a vintage activity.

Maybe it’s because I am known to wear a giant-brimmed hat and women always used to wear hats, back in the day.

me in my red cowboy hat (1973).

Me, in my red cowboy hat (1973).
The string is presumably so I don’t fling the hat off with my exuberant tra-la-la.

Or, maybe gardening feels vintage because of the rubber boots.  They make me invincible to The Nature from the knees down.  And, you can jump in puddles with impulsive tra-la-la.

My rubber boots

Black (for the real country jobs); red (for mild gardening); checkered (for always); flowered (my ‘zippidy-doo-dah ones’ for special occasions or when Practical Man is out of town)

Maybe it feels vintage because gardening is all about growing your own food and eating local.   That whole recent trend?  Vintage, actually!

Or, perhaps veggie gardening feels vintage because Apple hasn’t yet invented some kind of iMiracle to help with

  • the weeding,
  • the more weeding,
  • the even more weeding (even though you thought you got them all yesterday)
  • the never-ending weeding.

I would sleep outside the Apple store if they came out with an iWeeder.  Instead, I feel that I am channeling my ancestors as we behold the resilience and fortitude that are weeds.

Very vintage.

But now, boys and girls, it is officially scape season.  There’s just no escaping it.  The scapes, I mean.

Hee hee.

A scape is the edible curly-cue that grows out of the centre of hard-necked garlic varieties.  They’re like a cowlick in an otherwise beautiful garlic coiffure (I feel a kinship).  In our part of the world, we harvest garlic scapes in June, a month or two before the actual garlic bulbs in the ground are ready.  Scapes are very mild and taste like garlicky asparagus.

garlic scapes

Some of our beautiful scapes. Also (ahem), some weeds.

Confession:  When I was 16 and billeted for a week into a German family in West Berlin, they served gigantic, tree-trunk spears of white asparagus for dinner (with pickled eel).   I ate it because I was a polite Canadian girl (and I didn’t yet know how to say “Oh, I’m terribly sorry, I’m allergic to this whole dinner” in German so I was linguistically prevented from telling a colossal, cross-cultural fib).  After that dinner, I never thought I would say that I loved something that tasted like asparagus.

If you hate asparagus, you must try it tossed with olive oil, salt and pepper, then grilled.  Parmesan shaved over the top once they’re cooked to nutty, caramelized perfection (about 10 minutes) only makes it even more irresistible.  Soooo Yum!  Use the same recipe for the scapes (or saute on the stovetop with some white wine, hot pepper flakes and the rest of the above).  As for the pickled eel, well, you’ll have to make decisions for yourself.  I prefer my eels…ugh…no I’m afraid, I don’t prefer eels.

But, garlic scapes are great.  That is, of course, unless you’re one of those modern-day-abundant, immortal creatures who roams the night and is in love with some girl called Bella.  Then, forget about the grilling and you might also want to avoid our property even if it’s safely after dark in the light of a beautiful moonscape (I’m on kind of a scape roll) and you look all sparkly.

We are not vampire people.  We are not sparkly, but rather, possibly smelly, because we loooove the garlic.  We watch and wait until suddenly, almost overnight, it happens:  scapes!  Right now, our garden landscape (sorry, I’ll try to stop soon) is resplendent with the curly little gems.

Practical Man planted three kinds of hard-necked garlic last fall:

  • Music (isn’t that a lovely name for a garlic?)
  • German Red (makes me think of Snoopy as the Red Baron.  Also, slightly of eel.)
  • Georgia Fire (loved the name and spicy connotations).

Garlic grows really well in our terrible soil.  It’s as if we have a glittering city of skyscapers in our garden (okay, that one  was reaching).  This year, we are eagerly awaiting the arrival of 80 bulbs.  Looking at the patch, over the garden fence, it’s a veritable seascape (I can’t help myself) of garlic, as far as the eye can see.

So, gardening:  yes, it’s vintage.  Sure, it’s weedy.  There can be great hats and boots.  And, somewhere in all the weeding, you get goodies, fresh from the earth.

Or, at least garlic, which, in our house, is a major food group.  If you haven’t had scapes, look for them at your local farm stands, farm gates and markets.

And, I’m sorry for all the bad puns.

I’m looking around for a scapegoat, but I can’t find one.


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