Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Of Rice and Hen

In 1958 a lady called Sadie LeSueur wrote a book called Recipes, Party Plans and Garnishes,which tells you all sorts of things such as how to make toast look like wheelbarrows, and cabbages look like Spook Heads - and rice look like a life size hen.

Yes, it is true! Your rice need not look like a dish of rice at all. And as for making a simple ring mold out of it - hah! That is too boring for Sadie. She thinks that your guests deserve more. She writes: 

I have found that having a variety of molds for the food adds a great deal to any party...but the mold that attracts the most attention is one in the shape of a life-size hen. A rice hen surrounded by turkey hash and a garnish of parsley is always attractive for the main course. When the hen is unmolded on a platter I attach a bright red comb, cut from a pimento, to the top of her head, make eyes of cloves and paint her bill with yellow fruit coloring.

Yes, a lifesize rice hen will attract attention all right. Your guests will fall about laughing. Just imagining this spectacle gave people a case of serious giggles when I read this passage aloud.

But why is the rice hen surrounded by turkey hash, and not chicken hash? Perhaps chicken hash would be too distressing. And what about the wattle? I checked to see of hens actually have combs (they do) because I am a city kid and know nothing of hens, real or molded. They have combs and they have wattles on their little necks. Maybe you could make a wattle out of Jell-O.

I tried to find a picture of a Lifesize Rice Hen, but alas, Sadie did not include pictures in her book; and other people did not make them - or if they did, they refused to leave photographic evidence.

What I do have is an advertisement for Jell-O, endorsed by a hen; and an ad for a fabulous 1962 career opportunity in which you make a fortune ("turn concrete into gold") making beautiful "ornamental concrete hens." (For additional profits, you may want to paint their bills with yellow food coloring and attach some pimento combs.)

The Jell-O loving hen seems to be reciting the old nursery rhyme about Higgledy Piggledy, except that this hen is called Hickety and is, er, a hepcat. Hephen. This reminded me of one of my favorite Dorothy Parker poems, which will conclude this hen post perfectly:

Higgledy Piggledy, my white hen
She lays eggs for gentlemen;
You cannot persuade her with gun or lariat
To come across for the proletariat.

[The cement hen ad is from Popular Mechanics, November 1962; the Jell-O ad is from Life, November 14, 1955. Title from the 1953 Looney Tunes cartoon, a play on Of Mice and Men.]

15 comments:

Barbara said...

$40 for a chicken mold? My lord, in those days, selling them for a buck or two each - you'd have to sell a lot of cement chickens to recoup your investment of cement and mold...

I'm not sure why a hen would like Jello, but that's another story altogether...

Check out my blog - I found an interesting ad of my own!!

Barbara
http://ifididnthaveasenseofhumor.blogspot.com/

Eric said...

Now, I say, isn't that the hen that Foghorn Leghorn(tm) was attracted to?

Needless To Say said...

If I were at a friend's house and she brought out ye olde rice hen, complete with pimento comb, clove eyes and painted bill (this part probably more difficult than it seems!), I'd probably ask for some of her wheelbarrow toast.

vanilla said...

Such hilarity for a cold winter's day! Of Rice and Hen, indeed.

Tori Lennox said...

I'm thinking Sadie needs some psychiatric help...

The Crazy Suburban Mom said...

There must have been some fine drugs available than because none of that made any sense at all although I'm sure it did to her? And did she have anything to do with those peas? LeSueur peas?

Lidian said...

Barbara - It does seem like a lot of money for a chicken mold. Will visit you as soon as I answer these comments! :)

Eric - Could be.

Needless To Say - Oh yes, wheelbarrow toast is delightful. Wait till you hear how to make it!

vanilla - Lucky I found that Looney Tunes title, huh? ;)

Tori - Sadie is a fascinating chef, this is just the beginning.

Tracy - Oh yeah, the peas. No idea. A lot of her book is so loopy that - well, it was the best $3 I ever spent, almost.

Richard @ The Bewildered Brit said...

Now at least I know what to feed my pet chicken when I get one! :D

Emily Veinglory: said...

I had a concrete hen that I used as a doorstop for years, I have no idea where itis now : /

DrJulieAnn said...

I'm...just...speechless. As my sister would say, "Huh..."

Bill said...

I think Eric is on the right track.
My guess is that Hickety Hen is Widow Hen's saucy cousin (sort of like Samantha Stevens & Serena).

I would love to see the wheelbarrow made out of toast. Do you load it up with creamed chipped beef?

Lidian said...

Richard - Yes, Jell-O, ideally in a hen mold!

Emily - That's too bad; I trust it did not run away...

DrJulieAnn - 'Huh' just about sums it up!

Bill - You're close - creamed chicken is the proper thing to put in a toast wheelbarrow. I might post about that tomorrow..

Phyl said...

This is just screamingly funny. It's hard to imagine anyone advocating stuff like this with a straight face!

Relax Max said...

Of course hens have wattles - they only have two legs. Don't be so critical of the way they walk.

I make rice hens often, and they are great conversation pieces, as the ad says. You have to use your imagination because I don't have a mold.

Evelyn said...

The late Sadie Lesueur was my dear departed Nashville grandmother's first cousin. Laugh at the hen, if you want, but her recipe for chicken tetrazini is one of the best I've ever had. I love that cookbook! Yum, y'all! :-)