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February 24, 2010

Mid-Century Menu – Cocktail Prunes, Backwoods Sandwich and Cottage Cheese Pie

Welcome to this week’s Mid-Century Menu! This week are cooking out of a crazy cookbook called Ten P.M. Cookbook, published by Good Housekeeping in 1958. Now, I wasn’t aware of this, but Good Housekeeping Magazine actually started out as a “lab” of sorts, called the “Experiment Station” which  opened in 1900. In 1910 the name was changed to the Good Housekeeping Research Institute, and included the Model Kitchen, Testing Station for Household Devices and Domestic Science Laboratory. The purpose?  To test products and foodstuffs available to American housewives and decide which were the best for your household. The results of these tests were published in a magazine, which eventually evolved to a magazine filled with women’s interests, product testing by The Good Housekeeping Institute, recipes, diet, health and other literary articles.  And don’t forget about the creation of the famous “Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval”, which guarantees a two year limited warranty on approved product.

Which makes the recipes in this cookbook all that more baffling. I don’t know how Tuna Pineapple Dip, Crunchy Prune Cream, or Benedictish Frankwiches could have ever been approved in any laboratory, let alone be good for anyone.  Even the Prune Cream.

Anyway, it was with a morbid curiosity that Tom and I picked out the following menu:

Cocktail Prunes (!)

Backwoods Sandwich

Cottage Cheese Pie

Ohhhhhh….prunes. We are going to regret this.

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

Okay, okay.  Stop screaming, everyone. Calm down.


Who is crying?  I hear someone crying! If you don’t stop, I won’t be able to make this.

Oh wait…it’s me…

At least it isn’t as weird as the other ones.

And we are off.

The ingredients together on the counter.  Notice the nice, bright sunlight. I had to start early on the Menu this week, because the pie needed time to chill in the fridge.

The beginnings of the pie: a tasty graham cracker crust.


Okay, so the recipe called for sieved cream cheese.  Like a good little cook, I got out my sieve and got to work.  After a little bit of work, this is what I had for my efforts:

A tiny bit of sieved cheese. Since I didn’t have a lot of cottage cheese in the first place (I like it, okay?), I decided to cheat a little for the sake of saving ingredients and a great deal of time.

And use a blender.  I have proven that they had them in 1950 (see our Waring Blendor meal), so I figured it wouldn’t be that big of a deal if I took a shortcut.

Smooth and creamy, in much less time.

The blended cottage cheese and sour cream side-by-side in the bowl.  You can’t even tell which is which.

Blending all together!

Scooped in the pie shell, and ready for the oven!

While the pie was cooking, I cooked the prunes.  My package didn’t have directions on it for cooking prunes, but thankfully I had read Roxanne’s story of making Prune Pie for her Hubby and son, and it had the directions in it for cooking the prunes properly. Thanks, Roxanne!

By the way, the prunes look like turds.  I’m just saying.

Here is Tom, mixing up the deviled ham and cream cheese filling for the prunes. Wow.  I just…wow.

Tom stuffing the prunes with a tiny spoon.

Stuffing with peanut butter.  A little less weird.

I don’t even have words for what these look like. Rotten eyeballs?  Exploded organs?

Anyway, not very attractive.  I don’t think I would ever serve these to guests, even if they do taste good.  Which I guess is a good question, right? What the heck do these taste like?  Lucky for us, Tom is a great taste tester.

Down the hatch.

“How are they?”

He chewed for a while. “Not right.  Not right at all.”

I took a deviled prune and popped it in my mouth. After a couple of chews, it became obvious what he was talking about. It tasted like a prune stuffed with deviled ham and cream cheese. It wasn’t horrible, but it wasn’t right either.  The peanut butter was about the same.

So, while forcing down prunes, we got started on the sandwich.

Since the loaf of bread I bought wasn’t thick enough to cut into 6 slices, I cut it in half and stacked it. It was pretty tall.

As a side note, they didn’t have pimento cheese in my grocery store, so I had to make my own.  Pimento cheese is apparently a southern food, and I found a good recipe for it here in this NPR article.  It turned out to be really good, and I recommend it!

Spreading the pimento cheese on the first layer, which already has mayo on it.

Mayo on the next layer.



Egg salad

Deviled ham

And finally, peanut butter. On top of mayo.  Yeah, cause…that makes sense.

With the lid on top.  Finished!

Tom, contemplating where his life went wrong. And a giant, weird sandwich.

The attempted first bite.

“How is it?”

“Wait, I have to take a few more bites and get it all together.”

He took a few more bites.  “This is really unnatural.  They don’t taste bad separately, but just not right together.”

I took a few bites myself.  He was right.   The pimento cheese, tuna and tomato tasted really good together, but then I took a bite of the top and got egg salad, deviled ham and peanut butter.  Not so good.  In the end, I just peeled the peanut butter layer off and ate the rest of the sandwich. Not too bad.

Oh! And here is the pie, straight from the fridge.  Looks pretty good!

First bite of pie.

Here, Tom is telling me that it tastes like cheesecake at first, but the aftertaste is not like cheesecake at all.  It was bizarre, but pretty good. We ended up putting canned cherries on, and Tom ate two pieces.

The Verdict:

Cocktail Prunes: Not disgusting, but soooooo weird.  Not something I would recommend anyone make ever, or ever serve to everyone.  Mostly because they were hideous looking.  Like exploded unmentionable things.

Backwoods Sandwich: Unnatural.  Even without the peanut butter layer it was scary.  Why couldn’t mid-century people just use cold cuts for sandwiches? But not everything was a loss.  The pimento cheese was good.

Cottage Cheese Pie:  Not fantastic, but good. Kind of a mock cheesecake, just not as rich. Tasty with cherry pie filling.


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12 Responses to Mid-Century Menu – Cocktail Prunes, Backwoods Sandwich and Cottage Cheese Pie

  1. Annie B. Reply

    February 24, 2010 at 1:19 pm

    I’m gasping at all the work involved in these recipes! Sieved cream cheese – holy moley! I think I have this cookbook, too, Ruth. It’s a real hoot. Guess it proves that after a night of martinis and old fashioneds, the MCM-ers would eat anything!!!

  2. Andrea Reply

    February 24, 2010 at 2:10 pm

    Tom is definitely a brave, brave man. I don’t think I could force myself to try prunes stuffed with ANYTHING! The sandwich wasn’t sounding that bad until you got to the peanut butter/mayo layer – acckkk!

    I am thinking that a not as rich cheesecake might not be a bad thing, though? I like cheesecake, but sometimes it’s too rich for dessert.

  3. RetroRuth Reply

    February 24, 2010 at 2:11 pm

    I know, Annie, pretty funny, huh?

  4. RetroRuth Reply

    February 24, 2010 at 2:12 pm

    Andrea – The peanut butter and mayo was pretty bad. Not a combo I am going to forget anytime soon!

  5. sablemable Reply

    February 24, 2010 at 5:25 pm

    Well, I guess I won’t make stuffed prunes as a cocktail appetizer, LOL!

    I’ve seen old sandwich recipes using PB and mayo and I won’t go there, either.

    Tom is just too-too with the faces!

  6. Barbara Reply

    February 24, 2010 at 6:59 pm

    Actually, we used to eat PB and mayo sammies when we were kids – it’s not as gross as it sounds…

    I was weighing the pimento (eck) cheese plus egg salad plus tuna plus tomatoes, but the PB/mayo did take it over the top.

    Just think, before blenders were cheap, standing in your kitchen sieving all that cottage cheese. Ya gotta wonder why.

    You should try the Prune stuffed with a water chestnut wrapped with bacon. A much more friendly 1950’s appetizer!

  7. Sara in AZ Reply

    February 24, 2010 at 7:44 pm

    I have stopped screaming now! Prunes scare me! I give you props for trying them stuffed with things. EEPS, that sandwich scares me too. Wow, what a meal!!!!

  8. Paulette Reply

    February 25, 2010 at 1:00 am

    Loaded prunes, so weird!

    I bet your pimento cheese was great. I wonder if they meant the stuff Kraft still sells, pimento cheese spread, in a 6-oz glass jar. It was really popular back in the 60’s (and probably before). My husband works at the plant that used to make that line, which they called “swank” for some reason. I never knew it might be a southern thing, because it was made here in the north and I saw a lot of it growing up.

  9. RetroRuth Reply

    February 25, 2010 at 11:15 am

    Hi Barb!

    Really?? PB and Mayo?? Eeeks. 🙂 I have heard of those prune/water chesnut/bacon appetizers. There is also a version that uses a chicken liver in place of the prune. My mom used to call the liver version ramaki (not sure if I am spelling that right), but I guess the real name is Devils on Horseback, or something like that. Fun!

    Sara – It was pretty scary until I peeled the peanut butter off mine. It was just too much for me. 🙂

    Paulette – I HAVE seen the Kraft version before, that is so cool that your husband used to make that. 🙂 I just couldn’t find it in my grocery store here. But secretly, I was kind of glad, because then I got to make it. It was actually fun!

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