Recipes from our past….

I had a hard time trying to title this post.

“Recipes from a Can” came to mind as did “Supreme Fandango” (more about that later).

Let me get to the inspiration for this post that ended up blandly entitled “Recipes from our past.”


The Hubs and I have been searching for an Elvis whiskey decanter and Fred Flinstone jelly jars which has led us to tag sales and flea markets.  (If you’re a George Jones fan you will get the allusion.)  Needless to say, we have been haunting a few antique stores trying to come up with these items.  On a most recent search, we were unsuccessful in the aforementioned quest, but I did nab a McCoy pottery piece, some vintage glass beads, and a copy of the Houston Junior League Cook Book (1968).

I have a number (over thirty) of Junior League books from around the country from many different decades.  It never occurred to me what a microcosm of culture they are.   As I delved into my Harvest Gold book filled with retro drawings, I traveled into another dimension of cocktail parties, buffets, and teas.

Just a few of my collection.

Just a few of the collection.

To create most of the recipes included in the Houston Junior League Cook Book one would definitely need a can opener.  From desserts to beverages, most recipes included a can or bottle or jar of a pre-made something or other.  (This is not a comment on Houstonian housewives of this bygone era—Cream of Everything cans of soup were staples from the late 60s onward.)

Need a quick shrimp dip?  Open a bottle of Thousand Island dressing (Brockles Special Dressing, to be exact).  What about a swanky buffet item for a chaffing dish?  Get that can opener going and crack some tins of consomme and peas.

Some of the titles were humorous (if less than inventive):

  • Orange Fandango (2 oz. gin, 3 T. orange juice, 1-2 t. sugar)
  • Simply the “Fandango,” a delicious concoction of ground beef, frozen spinach, cream of celery soup and mozzarella.   Tasty?  Not sure on this one.  No offense to Mrs. Richard R. Nelson, Jr. (née Marjorie Shepherd).
  • “Yummy Yankee Pecan Pie” which only varied slightly from the “Southern Pecan Pie” on the same page, with the Yankee version including a bit of maple syrup.
  • That old standby, the “Crowning Glory Salad” with obligatory lime Jello, mayo, and cottage cheese.  (Most all of the salads were either jelled or had inordinate amounts of mayonnaise—or both.)
  • There were quite a few “supreme” dishes as well.

Not surprising, the seafood section was probably the most straight forward with simple, fresh ingredients.

The book boasts an entire section on Mexican food but I question it’s authenticity.  For instance, there’s the “Re-Refritos” recipe—two cans Rosarita refried beans, 1/2 cup butter and salt and pepper.

My favorite section was “Sauces” with recipes for BBQ sauces, mustards, remoulades, relishes, pickles, and jellies (sealed with paraffin).  The “Breads” and “Cookies” sections were also quite good.

I had an entertaining afternoon perusing through these musty pages of vintage recipes .  I will leave you with my favorite and most ingenious recipe from the collection:

Instant Martini

Mrs. Frank J. McGurl (Mary Martin) from Houston Junior League Cook Book, 1968

“This recipe was given to me by an inspired friend–and is a very dangerous thing to have on hand.”


  • 18 oz. gin
  • 3 oz. dry vermouth
  • 5 oz. water


  • Combine all ingredients and store in freezer. Serve without ice, but add onion or olive if desired.

Yield: 8-10

Yes, Mrs. McGurl, a dangerous thing indeed!

I have an original edition but according to the HJL website:

The Houston Junior League Cookbook(HJL) is The Junior League of Houston, Inc.’s first cookbook, celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2017 – 2018. Due to its popularity, the book has been through several reprints with the most recent reprint in 2011, and more than 122,000 copies have been sold.

Here’s to the 50th anniversary of this golden classic.


I am also linking up with Simona’s Novel Food #31….



and September’s Foodie Reads.

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