Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Ivory Laundry Starch and Its Relation to the Unconscious

You know you want to cook with corn oil. Do not deny yourself the pleasure of putting corn oil and corn syrup and corn starch into as many recipes as you possibly can. All three at once would be ideal.

May I present the St. Lawrence Starch Company of Port Credit, Ontario, and their promotional cookbook, circa 1955-60 (there is no date but it is a whopping 34th edition - which in itself is a tribute to corn products).

Doesn't the very name reek of dense white carbohydrates - the St. Lawrence Starch Company! This is the hard stuff, gentlemen - bready, pasty, potato-laden. Sauces thick as all three Stooges. Pie that takes a week to digest. Christmas puddings that double, in the New Year, as door stops.

As you can see from the picture (which is on the back cover) the St. Lawrence people (unwearied by corn) make laundry starch which "also works in the wash." I thought laundry was wash. Maybe you can wash dishes with it, is what they mean. Dishes sticky with corn oil and corn syrup, no doubt.

In one triumphant recipe entitled "Tangy Spanish Sauce" they have manage to press all three products into service. This is the sauce that has it all: tomatoes, green peppers, onion, celery...and corn oil, corn syrup and corn starch. That's tangy all right. Depending on your definition of tangy.

And we move through the oil-drenched salads and really heavy doughnuts until ending up on the last page with "Corn Starch Pudding" (blancmange, in other words: classic invalid fare for the fans of Mrs. Beeton and of Louisa May Alcott, who had Jo bring some to Laurie in Little Women when Laurie was not exactly sick, but cranky because of his cranky grandpa).

There's something Freudian about it all. Trying to sneak in the little references to corn-based products, which build and build through the book to culminate in the catharsis of: oh what the hell, let's just make it the main ingredient.

At least they never tried to put Ivory laundry starch in any of the recipes. Unless it was somewhere on a subconscious level, signified on the back cover where the bottles and boxes float on a white background, the stuff of dreams.

Or perhaps just the stuff of indigestion. Like when Scrooge thinks that Jacob Marley's ghost is "an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato." Actually, he was more like a heaping cup of Tangy Spanish Sauce, that's what.

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