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:
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.
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!
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,
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.
It’s like Grandma Hildegard all over again.
At least, I hope.
Happy Canada Day! In spite of a full schedule of appearances, ceremonies, and red-and-white people parades, Canada was kind enough to pause briefly to speak this week with A Vintage Life. We’re excited to be able to ask the questions…the burning questions we’ve had since grade 11 Canadian History class. Now’s our chance.
CF for a Vintage Life: Happy Birthday! Bonne Fete! On behalf of all Canadians, let me congratulate you.
Canada: Thank you! I’m so excited to be the excuse that gives Canadians a long weekend to catch up on their relaxation and mosquito bites.
CF for a Vintage Life: Got any special plans for your big day?
Canada: Oh, you know…I’m rather fond of my national and provincial parks and Pierre Trudeau made it look so chic, so I think some canoeing might be on the menu. And speaking of menus, I’ll be indulging in a little poutine, smoked salmon, maple syrup with bannock, and Thai food, of course. It is my birthday, after all!
CF for a Vintage Life: Sounds great.
Canada: [smiles] I’m a little fuller around Ontario and Quebec than I was in my younger days, but I’m trying to age gracefully.
CF for a Vintage Life: I know that, like many of us, you’ve had periods of struggle with your mid-section over the years so that’s a great attitude. Listen, I’m thrilled to have this chance to chat because I wish I knew more about you. You’re a bit mysterious to me and many other Canadians.
CF for a Vintage Life: Haha. No, of course not! You have to admit that you’re a little quiet, y’know. Not really one to flash your stuff to the whole world.
Canada: [blushes and looks mysterious.]
CF for a Vintage Life: [chuckling] Don’t get me wrong, I mean, we love you, of course. People always tell us how funny and beautiful and friendly you are. I think you’re smart and thoughtful too, although not many people remember to mention that. But, still, sometimes I feel as if we don’t really know you. I’m not sure why. I mean, my mother insisted that I take Canadian History through high school because, “you’re already getting brainwashed by American TV, you need to learn about your own country!” but somehow, it didn’t help. Actually, it was my least favourite class.
Canada: Oh gosh, I’m sorry about that.
CF for a Vintage Life: Yeah, well, I guess it’s not really your fault. But, the point is, after all that Canadian History, I should know a lot about you.
Canada: And you don’t?
CF for a Vintage Life: Well, I learned a lot from Canadian literature–Margaret Lawrence, Farley Mowat, Robert Munsch, Armond Ruffo, Gabrielle Roy, Lucy Maud Montgomery and more–but in History, we seemed to spend a lot of time pondering something called, “The Canadian Identity”.
Canada: The Canadian Identity?
CF for a Vintage Life: Yeah. Apparently, you didn’t have one…except that you were a “mosiac”, rather than a “melting pot”.
Canada: Ah, but now there’s Republic of Doyle. That must help.
CF for a Vintage Life: True, but that’s really only giving me insight into a slice of Newfoundland (and a lot of Allan Hawco‘s six pack, not that I mind.)
Canada: [blushes and looks mysterious.]
CF for a Vintage Life: Maybe that’s part of the problem. You’re so large and diverse that it’s hard to see and know all of Canada. Plus, it costs as much to see our country by plane or train as it does to go to somewhere with really good chocolate, like Europe.
Canada: [sighs.] Yes, even with polar bears, whales and the West Edmonton Mall, it’s hard to compete with European chocolate.
CF for a Vintage Life: Or Disney World on March Break. Maybe people would travel around and find out more about you, if it was a little less expensive. Do you have any sway with those frequent flyer people?
Canada: Unfortunately not. Just like everyone else, I have to pay for my luggage now (and at 146 years old, I come with a lot of baggage).
CF for a Vintage Life: Wow, I can see how that would be expensive. But, do you feel like you have an identity?
Canada: I think that like everyone, I have some days when I’m all, “look at my gorgeous Rockies” and “all our packaging has two languages on it”. Then, there are the shaky days when it’s non-stop pipelines and rainforests at risk and conditions in northern communities and then…well, it’s Niagara Falls. It all just comes pouring out. But, whenever I doubt myself, I just watch a Rick Mercer rant. I’ve got him on TiVo.
CF for a Vintage Life: But, do you ever feel that maybe you should, y’know, be a little more bossy? Kind of tell the world what we’re made of?
Canada: Bossy? No. I’ve always thought of myself as the Betty to Archie’s Veronica; the Mary Ann to Gilligan’s Ginger. But, I think that I sort of came into my own in 1965 with the new flag. It was a huge honour for me to have that recognition (I mean, you work and work your whole life and overcome so many obstacles–like the influx of Europeans and wrangling droughts and tree roots in the prairies and our sacrifices to the mines and wars–and suddenly, years later, someone notices) and I never feel better about it than when I look at my flag. It’s a deceptively simple design but have you ever tried to draw that maple leaf free-hand? It’s not easy, let me tell you.
CF for A Vintage Life: No kidding! I heard even Marie-Louise Gay gave up. So, the flag represents you pretty well, you think?
Canada: Yes. It’s a lot like Canada with its vibrant colours and a unique look among other flags. And, it looks pretty darn good on a backpack.
CF for A Vintage Life: Kind of sums us up pretty well, doesn’t it? So, Canada: any wishes for your birthday?
Canada: Christine, I just want what everyone else in Canada wants: a Coffee Only line at the Tim Horton’s drive-thru.