Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >
May 4, 2008 12:01 PM

Forgotten foods.

I'm writing a paper on forgotten/overlooked/underappreciated foods (ingredients or dishes) - stuff you just don't see on many plates these days - and, frankly, I need ideas. So far, I'm stuck in the Brussels Sprouts/Rutabaga areas. I know there are many more. Any thoughts and/or suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. rutabaga perhaps, but brussel sprouts are quite common at my house and at restaurants around the bay area....

    1. Do people still do Tuna Casseroles? I remember when baked custard in little custard cups followed many meals. Do people make Ritz Cracker Mock Apple Pie anymore or was that a Great Depression dessert? Chipped beef in a jar (that we kept as a juice jar) made SOS (if you had a WWII vet in the house)) or Creamed Chipped Beef on Toast if you were Pinky Finger Poor. Welsh Rabbit was another day-before-payday meal. Rhubarb seems to be slowly fading out of "mainstream" kitchens. Bundles of blanched Cardoon (related to artichoke.. you eat the stems) used to be pretty common in Mediterranian neighbohood stores. Devilled Ham and liverwurst were common in the sandwiches of my long-ago youth. Tomato aspic in some form or other appeared at most buffet parties in the 40s and 50s.

      22 Replies
      1. re: fromagina

        "Tomato aspic in some form or other appeared at most buffet parties in the 40s and 50s."

        Savoury gelatin dishes have seriously fallen from favour in the Western diet. I love the gelatin layer on the top of pates, but not many people seem to share my appreciation for this part of pate (which is fine. They leave all of it on the serving plate, and I come and finish it off.) I had a great tongue-in-gelatin sausage the other day, another great item that isn't very popular in mainstream restaurants. I miss the jello salads from the 1950/1960s. And of course, gelatin is a key ingredient in my beloved soup dumplings. Anything jelly-like is good in my books.

        Now I have started seeing small flavourful cubes of jelly in fancy restaurant desserts, usually passion fruit flavoured. But in general, jelly-like substances are largely ignored in Western cuisine these days :(

        Fortunately, in Asian cuisine, gelatin/agar desserts are still very popular, and gelatin textures are still common, as evidenced by the continued popularity of items such as thousand year old eggs and Korean Mook.

        1. re: moh

          I've been collecting Scandinavian/Swedish cookbooks for about a year, and aspics of all types were seemingly necessary for any type of smorgasbord in the 1950's-1970's. The varied types are mind-blowing to me! They did many different seafood/herring aspics, meat ones...egg ones..I've got probably 30 different types in my varied cookbooks. I wonder, if they were more a product of their times, versus culture? I'd never, ever heard of an aspic till getting that first 1950's Swedish cookbook, and was puzzled. Had to ask a professional cook friend (much older than me!) that remembers making them along time ago. My Grandmother fessed up, and admitted making them alot in the 1960's, for her luncheon parties.

          1. re: Honeychan

            Herring aspic . Whew, sounds ... interesting. And yes, it seems you all are right about gelatins falling out of favor. However, my grandmother always seems to sneak a cranberry jell-o mold onto the table every year when I go back home for the hoidays. Thanks for the suggestions.

            1. re: Honeychan

              Mmmm, head cheese and gefilte fish like mom used to make.

              1. re: Honeychan

                I have an old cookbook from 1952 which has Aspic with frankfurters, hardboiled eggs, and diced celery. The photo looks pretty gross! It also has aspic with sliced veal, another with tongue mousse, and how about some jellied tuna? Glad these are forgotten.

                1. re: danhole

                  aspic with sliced veal and tongue mousse sound delicious!

                  1. re: cimui

                    Well I've got the recipes! LOL!

                    1. re: danhole

                      If it's not a lot of trouble, would you post them (I guess on Recipes and link from here)? I'm not kidding. They really do sound great!

                    2. re: cimui

                      Mmmm, pickled tongue on light rye with yellow mustard; a half-sour on the side.

                      1. re: cimui

                        Sounds incredibly delicious.
                        My grandmother used to frequently make 'kacsona', an aspic of pork...redolent with garlic. Incredibly delicious stuff.

                  2. re: moh

                    Recently in a book on the history of convenience foods I read that gelatin salads and desserts became fashionable, as for ladies' luncheons, in the early days of electric refrigerators. You had to have one in order to make gelatin set and they were expensive to buy so being able to serve jello items was actually a status thing. Now jello is passe' but it's very good for two things: 1) it's sometimes the only thing sick child will eat (especially if it's red) so it gets liquid and a few calories into the small feverish one; 2) if you have some grapefruit that's too sour to eat, put it in Black Cherry Jello and it ends up tasting sort of like black cherries, a nice change in midwinter.

                    1. re: Querencia

                      hmmmm... Be cautious with "history" books on just about anything, but in this particular case, I seriously doubt that refrigerators promoted the popularity of gelatin dishes. They are classic, and were popular long before refrigerators became a fantastic replacement for the iceman. For those with no clue as to what I'm talking about, "iceboxes" were important kitchen appliances before refrigerators replaced them. An icebox had one compartment reserved for a huge block of ice that was delivered daily by "the ice man." I remember ice trucks as late as the 1930s. Customers were supplied with a square card with a suction cup that was hung in the window, Each corner of the card had a number that when positioned at the top of the card, indicated how many pounds of ice the customer wanted. Ice men were geniuses at carving out just the right size. During the summer, every kid in the neighborhood would follow the ice truck (or cart) around the neighborhood begging and waiting for chips of ice. The block of ice went in one of the top compartments of an icebox because cold flows down and settles in the bottom compartments. Gelatins were put in the bottom compartment directly under the ice compartment to set.

                      In addition, many homes had cellars (basements were warmer than cellars) that were cold enough to set gelatin. In 1957, my grandmother and I flew from California to England, to visit family. Our first stop was at Cousin George's home in Manchester. He and his wife had recently purchased a two or three hundred year old home (I forget the actual age, but it was in the National Registry, or whatever it's called) that was drop dead gorgeous with incredible carved plaster work in all rooms, coffered ceilings in some, and a fire place in every room of the house. But the house had extremely limited "modern conveniences"! Lina's basement had a cellar in it in which she chilled foods. For our arrival dinner, she made an incredible pressed beef and several gelatin molds.

                      As for the "food history" of gelatins as I remember them in my lifetime (I was born in 1933), molded gelatin salads have been around all of my life, but they went from "standard occasional fare" to "rage" in the late 1940s and 1950s. The church of my childhood held potluck dinners every month, and I remember one time when the vast majority of the dishes people brought were gelatin salads. That's when a food coordinator was appointed, and church members were asked to contact her in advance to let her know what they were bringing. I remember tons of lime Jell-O set in layers that contained [pineapple rings and maraschino cherries on the top (unmolded) layer, grated carrots, cottage cheese, chopped cabbage and diced Delicious apples with red peel in successive layers, and the bottom layer contained mayonnaise. And then there were the raspberry or cherry Jell-O dishes with canned fruit salad and such suspended in them. Some quivered more than others because there was a tad too much water in the gelatin. And then there were gelatins with chicken and canned peas (blech). Overall, it made for some pretty yucky eating when all you got for dinner was a plate full of at least a dozen different kinds of Jell-O salads so you didn't hurt anyone's feelings. I also remember begging to stay home on pot luck supper night... '-)

                      1. re: Querencia

                        Querencia, your comment made me pull a book off my shelf of vintage cookbooks called "Electric Refrigerator Recipes and Menus - Specially Prepared for the General Electric Refrigerator", by Miss Alice Bradley, from 1927. I gotta say, there's a lot of recipes for jellies, aspics, and other things involving "gelatine", including the general suggestion that jellied dishes are a great way to use up leftovers.

                          1. re: weem

                            I once made a borscht aspic that was, well, actually Russe-Mex with the addition of jalapeno and cilantro and a dollop of creme fraiche. it was sort of back-to-the-future Betty Crocker storms the Iron Curtain.

                            I liked it.

                        1. re: moh

                          I was at an older ladies' luncheon a few years back and one of them had made tomato aspic. It was fabulous! I've been copying aspic recipes ever since but haven't made any yet.

                          1. re: moh

                            I don't know about "fortunately," but I did see aspic in a Shenzhen dinner buffet. It's contents were carrots and broccoli, but what threw me a loop was that they were cut into squares. I tried it, but the shape for some reason...

                          2. re: fromagina

                            I made a tuna casserole a couple weeks ago. I was just off the flu and that's what sounded good. And a few weeks before that I had some leftover cheese sauce (too much cheese, not enough mac), so I made some extra toast at breakfast, let it dry out, and made a Welsh Rarebit for lunch. Rhubarb isn't fading out of anything here in the Middle of Nowhere, Iowa, although I personally don't eat it. My neighbors have four or five rhubarb plants in their backyard.

                            1. re: revsharkie

                              rhubarb truly needs to be retained and remembered.

                            2. re: fromagina

                              I think the OP was asking about underappreciated foods... not just forgotten disasters! =()

                              1. re: weem

                                Excellent. Thanks for the link.

                                1. re: reedcoss

                                  My pleasure. I'm not much of a cook (though I'm getting better, thank you), but I love reading old cookbooks and books about culinary history. They can be revelatory. We in the US grow up with supermarkets where there's a set group of products year-round. So imagine my surprise reading Edna Lewis and discovering that meat was traditionally considered as seasonal as plants. Or imagine ancient Italian sauces without tomatoes, since they're native to the New World (I've read that eggplant was used where tomatoes would now be used). Similarly, read some "quick and easy" cookbooks from the 1960s or so, and you'll find ingredients you don't see today, like canned Spanish rice or canned German-style potato salad or a stick (stick?) of pie crust mix. It's all so fascinating.

                                  1. re: weem

                                    Wow, and I thought I was alone in my addiction/love of old cookbooks and culinary history! I cannot get enough of these types of books, and re-read them many times. I find some of these in odd places, for mere pennies. (it seems, but i've also paid ALOT more for others) Used bookstores can be treasure-troves for them, but so can Goodwill shops.

                                    Food history- why we have eaten, or do eat things things are utterly fascinating to me. The ritual involving foods is really interesting as well.

                                    1. re: Honeychan

                                      I love them too. I actually love old Home Economics books, when I can find them - it's like a window on the past. Not just the recipes, but the whole outlook on food and its preparation are different!

                                      1. re: Catskillgirl

                                        I inherited a bunch of old cookbooks from my husband's grandmother, and they are a hoot! A lot of them are little paperback type books, that she must have sent for, because they feature a certain flour or other product. Some of them have do's and don't's that are so funny to see now. How different things were back then. And talk about using everything you could! No waste in these books.

                                        1. re: Catskillgirl

                                          How true, sugar and fat back in the 60's were not sinful, the current recipes have really cut back on these two items.

                                          1. re: Ruthie789

                                            right...they cut back on them, more often than not to the detriment of the dish. :-(

                                            1. re: The Professor

                                              yeah I found my Grandma's handwritten recipe book, mostly desserts that start with a dozen eggs, a pound of butter and 6 cups of sugar...

                                              I scanned it page by page at a high dpi.

                                      2. re: weem

                                        My mom used those Betty Crocker pie crust sticks. Her pies were so good, really!
                                        Thanks for the memory!

                                        1. re: weem

                                          They still sell canned German-style potato salad here. They even have it at Walmart. I tried it once out of curiosity. It tasted like diced potatoes in Italian dressing with extra sugar. It was absolutely horrendous. I get the heebie jeebies just thinking about it.

                                      3. re: weem

                                        I'm told squab used to appear on most restaurant menus right alongside chicken. But it's too late to bring back the passenger pigeon.

                                        1. re: eclecticsynergy

                                          You never hear of people cooking capon anymore. My grandmother would occasionally cook them, many years ago. I've seen them (frozen) in the grocery store but never got up the nerve to buy one. I've only ever seen one or two recipes for it.

                                          1. re: AmyH

                                            You hardly see them anymore and they are expensive. Same cooking as chicken.

                                            1. re: Ruthie789

                                              Many, MANY years ago in England, when my sister was still learning the food terms used there after moving to the UK, she wanted an intact rooster with head+comb and clawed feet etc - i.e. the whole and complete bird, to cook for a Chinese New Year meal - where the intact bird has symbolic significance. Up till then, all she had seen were the typical feet-less, headless capons, which were the larger chickens widely available all over the place then. So...she went to the local butcher and asked for a MALE CAPON. The butcher gave her a long look and slowly recited, "You...want...a...male...capon..." as she related to me afterwards. Heh. Long story short, after she explained and described what it was she wanted the butcher obliged (I like to think with a smile) although it became a special order that she could pick up only the next day. :-D

                                              1. re: huiray


                                                For those who don't know (from
                                                A capon is a castrated rooster. Capons are considered by many people to be a boutique and old fashioned sort of food, and they tend to have more tender, flavorful flesh as well as a higher fat content. The markedly different flavor profile of a capon is distinctive to consumers once they taste it, especially when the capon has been conscientiously raised.

                                              2. re: Ruthie789

                                                I've heard they're a bit greasier and more like cooking goose. It's the price that keeps me from trying one. Maybe this year I'll be brave.

                                                1. re: AmyH

                                                  There is more meat on a capon. I do not remember it being greasy at all. A goose is another story grease laden for sure.

                                                  1. re: Ruthie789

                                                    I think I may just have to get one when the weather gets cooler!

                                                    1. re: AmyH

                                                      Capon isn't greasy, it just tastes much more chickeny than chicken. I'd have one in a minute if I could find one (apologies to Little Guy and Hef, 2 intact roosters of my acquaintance).
                                                      Goose meat itself isn't greasy either -- a lot of fat renders as you cook it (and should be poured off to cook other things in, such as the most sublime fried potatoes you'll ever have). The meat itself is more like beef brisket than like dark meat chicken or turkey. Awfully good, and awfully expensive in these parts.

                                                      1. re: buttertart

                                                        You are correct,goose flesh is very lean.The fat layer however is formidable.

                                                        Pricey yes,without a great meat to bone ratio.The Mrs. raises one brood a year and we have to husband them year round.My big Toulouse Greys aren't noted for niceties.

                                                        My #1,favorite method is 13# goose on a spit dripping into a pan of 2" cubed potatoes and halved onions.

                                              3. re: AmyH

                                                one sad thanksgiving eve in DC some guy hadn't ordered a bird ahead of time at the poulterer and all they had left was capon and I had to explain what the heck it was (English was not the vendor's first language) "yeah it's a chicken, it's a male chicken with his balls chopped off, that's why it's fat, y'know like castrati (lost him there) or a harem eunuch (still lost)" "yeah you cook it like a regular chicken it's just bigger"

                                                and at 5 PM on that November Wednesday it was "il quest o gatz d'it l'papagalle". (sp?)

                                          2. How about Parsnips? I was shopping in my local grocery last weekend and a young woman was on the phone talking to her mother. Her mom had sent her to the store for fresh horseradish root. I overheard the conversation, daughter nearly bought a parsnip until I shook my head and told her what she had in her hand was a parsnip and in scanning the produce dept. told her there was no fresh horseradish. So I guess both veg apply.

                                            5 Replies
                                            1. re: Candy

                                              I dearly love my parsnip (and related root vegetables). I actually think I see a lot of it on restaurant menus around where I live (NYC) -- in roasted or pureed form. I serve it mashed with potatoes, butter, salt and pepper at dinners for friends fairly frequently.

                                              1. re: Candy

                                                That's funny - a couple of weeks ago I was moved to buy and grind some fresh horseradish. So there I stood in the produce department confronted with several different roots (including parsnips and turnips) and was totally unable to tell which was which. No produce clerks there, of course, so I bought the jarred horseradish sauce. Which is fine, but I felt like a doofus!

                                                1. re: Catskillgirl

                                                  Horseradish is the biggest, ugliest root in the market. It's brown and dirty-looking, kind of like a carrot that decided to become The Incredible Hulk and turned brown instead of green, with a big gnarly knob at the top.

                                                  Definitely worth making your own, though. Just carve off all the brown exterior, cut the white interior into chunks, and throw it in your food processor. Puree it to the desired texture, then add some white vinegar to get the consistency you want, you don't even need to add salt. And be careful when you open the bowl, the fumes are POWERFUL.

                                                  1. re: BobB

                                                    Thank you so much! Perfect description - now I know which one it was. I heart horseradish in any form - I'm betting the homemade will be so, so good. And how nice to get my sinuses clear - it's spring allergy season here! Just another benefit of horseradish. *G*

                                                2. re: Candy

                                                  I was eating at the German Restaurant at Epcot and they had a great parsnip and carrot slaw in a vinegar dressing. I tried to find a good copy of the recipe after I got back but couldn't. I had never had parsnips before but I really liked it!

                                                  1. re: DockPotato

                                                    I still make ham salad on a regular basis. But now Ham Loaf is another story. There was also Chicken loaf. Didn't like either one.

                                                    I have missed the procupine balls, but my mom used a brown gravy instead of tomato. Also Salmon croquettes. I thought I didn't like salmon, but then I remembered tose croquettes. Gosh they were good. My mom didn't make them, but I worked at a day care at 13, and the cooks would save some for me so I had something to eat after school, which is when I went to work. Wish I knew how they made them.

                                                    1. re: danhole

                                                      my mom, and now i, make sauerkraut and porcupine meatballs. it is always a feast. and served with boiled potatoes, and mayo! (i don't know where she got the recipe, but it is so delicious.)

                                                      1. re: alkapal

                                                        Could you post that recipe please for the sauerkraut porcupines? We're doing low carb, and altho I love, love, love porcupine balls, the rice is heavy carbs. And if I make a whole pan of them, I will have NO willpower over them. This is a childhood memory/comfort food. Thank you.

                                                        1. re: Nanzi

                                                          i have it here on chowhound!

                                                          re low-carb, there is not that much rice in the meatballs, so i wouldn't worry about it, but i don't know how much you can eat, of course.

                                                          the KEY is not letting the meatballs get a crust. mom was always a hawk watching when i made them. ;-).

                                                      2. re: danhole

                                                        My boyfriend makes salmon cakes from just canned salmon and an egg.
                                                        I couldn't bring myself to eat them.

                                                        1. re: melpy

                                                          Why not? Are you adverse to the salmon, or the egg?