Monday, January 10, 2011

Three Course Monster in a Box

bookAnn Page Macaroni Life Mar 5 1965
This is the sort of thing you will find when you go hunting for retro gelatin recipes. Let me share the adventure with you! Unfortunately there are no pictures of this product-that-never-was, so I present you with a beautiful image of some Ann Page Elbow Macaroni. Macaroni does feature in my story, albeit in a tangential sense. But anyway:

Imagine, if you will, that it is 1955, and you want something quick to eat. How about a delightful TV Dinner? Well, maybe. But you will need an oven and a table and chair, at the very least, for this to work out. Suppose you want to eat on the run. But you don't just want a boring old sandwich! You want a complete meal. And Willy Wonka's chewing gum meal is not available. In fact, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory won't even be published for another ten years or so (nine years, to be exact).

One man, according to Billboard* (that noted culinary periodical), had the answer. How about a nice three-course meal in a small cardboard box that you could buy for 60 cents and eat with a spoon? Sound good? Here's how it was supposed to work: 

The food package, in a cardboard container, will measure about four by six inches and will include appetizer, main course and dessert, so arranged that the entire meal can be eaten with a spoon...Each course is separated by a thin layer of neutral edible food product which prevents intermingling of different courses. A neutral flavored gelatin or tapioca type ingredient is used as a separator.

Oh, yum. Neutral edible food product, my favorite. Surely it will form a perfect impermeable border between the appetizer, the main course and the dessert. And the clincher? The description of how you will eat your dinner-in-a-box:  

...The purchaser starts eating from the top of the package and works down.

Sort of like a mining operation, or digging a hole in the backyard. Bon app├ętit! And what are we going to find in this monstrous dinner-in-a-box? These were the test foods: 

Appetizers: tomato juice, shrimp, citrus fruit sections, antipasto
Main Courses: chicken macaroni salad, chicken potato salad, tuna salad, pineapple cottage cheese
Desserts: fruit cocktail, rice pudding, chocolate pudding, tapioca pudding

Try to imagine the possibilities. Antipasto versus chicken and macaroni, followed by an onslaught of, say, tapioca. Or tomato juice infiltrating pineapple cottage cheese, both being finally overwhelmed by chocolate pudding. All divided from each other only by a thin layer of  deliciously "neutral" gelatin. From a cardboard box. With a spoon. On the go.

It will not surprise you to learn that this was not a roaring success. In fact, this was the only mention of the Complete Meal that I could find.

*Billboard, "A Complete Meal," December 10, 1955, pp 84, 100. Title derived from this, which is a terrific book. Because fitting a three course meal into a little box is like trying to stuff a monster into a box, etc. Hey, this is the best I can do on a Monday. Better title next time. Possibly.


DFWgirliegirl Housewife said...

Oh how I wish there was a photo..LOL


Kath Lockett said...

Erk - I haven't had breakfast yet but even I can't fathom the joys of eating through a three course box ala 1955.

....and then, straight underneath this article is a picture on eczema!

Marcheline said...

I will never eat again.

Bill said...

...The purchaser starts eating from the top of the package and works down.

Yuck! Too late, Mr. Food Critic-Paid Enthusiast. I'd have started at rock bottom when I decided to give this a try.

I've missed my visits to Kitchen Retro. With luck, work will be a bit less demanding now that the new year is under way.

Sarsaparilla said...

Everyone is saying Yuck! - but I'm actually quite impressed. I think it's rather creative.