Thursday, November 29, 2012

When A Meal Needs A Sparkle

Elegant eating that's easy and thrifty, too...Heap it high on ice cream...fold it into a pudding...top a cake or pie with it, or start a breakfast with it. Here's the most versatile treat of them all! Some say it's the most beautiful, too. Keep a few cans on hand, ready to open when a meal needs a sparkle.

When a meal needs a sparkle around here, I just wave my jewelry box over it. Or toss glitter around the kitchen. What I don't do is go open a can of soggy fruit.  Because when you think of canned fruit cocktail, you probably do not also think about words such as elegant and sparkling.

But Libby's wanted us to think of their canned fruit as a kind of dazzling garnish that, once thrown in the vicinity of a foodstuff, lent it instant glamour. Like a Little Black Dress for your pedestrian Wacky Cake. Or a string of cultured pearls in your corn flakes. Yeah, something like that.

So does this 1954 ad show us Libby's piled high in, say, a Waterford crystal dish? Does it scatter diamonds in with the limp little green grapes and the yellow chunks of what used to be a peach and the defeated-looking, slightly bleached maraschino cherries*? Why, no. They have simply dumped a few cans of fruit cocktail onto some unsuspecting lettuce sitting in a plain old wooden salad bowl. Those little wet chunks aren't in Sweet Cahoots (ugh) with anything, least of all with the lettuce.

Fruit cocktail was invented sometime in the 1930s and by the 1950s it was, according to Sylvia Lovegren in Fashionable Food: Seven Decades of Food Fads (which is a wonderful book, by the way), right up there with Spam as one of the most popular convenience foods around. Lovegren also reproduces a vintage recipe for a horrible mash-up of the two items - in some kind of Evil Cahoots - called Fruit Cocktail-Spam Party Buffet Loaf. You're very welcome.

*Those cherries were the only thing I ever liked in fruit cocktail, when I was a kid. And even they were disappointing. Took me in every time, though.

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