Last week’s post looked at a cookbook by the famous Trader Vic, a sort of Phil Harris of the Pacific Atoll, who robustly urged America’s midcentury suburban homebodies to gulp down sushi and curry without fear, build roasting pits in their back yards for whole suckling pig, drink three fifths of hard alcohol out of a punchbowl carved from a monkey skull, and knock macadamia nuts out of trees with their manly rum-fortified penises.
As we know from history and Mad Men, Americans responded enthusiastically only to the part about drinking until cerebrovascular accidents and spontaneous pants-wetting become an expected part of one’s working day. The prospect of eating spicy, slippery, or imaginatively-colored food was considerably less appealing, and forget about roasting pigs or cleaning fish to bake in ti leaves. If God had wanted Americans to deal with fresh fish, He would not in his infinite wisdom have created landlocked Midwestern states, or cans. And forget about anything that might put an innocent lover of Polynesian exotica in contact with anything suggestive of actual Polynesians.
The noble white people of our nation wanted to enjoy all the thrills of untamed, sun-drenched tropical islands. But, they begged, could those thrills come in a can?
Why, yes, they could!
I got this pamphlet at the huge monthly Alameda Antique Fair. It cost a little more than I usually like to pay for such a small item, but upon reading it I realized it was the best three dollars I would ever spend. What we have here is a guide to Polynesian pleasures published by Dole and written by Dole Home Economist Patricia Collier. Just try to tell me that this woman doesn’t know her way around a 100% authentic luau:
I mean, she’s wearing a lei. What more do you want? And yes, it appears this pamphlet was originally owned by a Mrs. Victor L. Shudlick. If you’re reading, Mrs. Shudlick, thank you.
Anyone under age 60 who’s seen the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode with “The Home Economics Story” has got to have wondered if there really were a) college degrees in home economics, and b) jobs for women with college degrees in home economics. Apparently the answer to both is “yes,” and this was one of the things you could do with a home ec degree: devise new ways to use food companies’ products, then try to sell your wacky ideas to housewives who were still trying to figure out why they had fondue forks and had vowed that if this stuff got any sillier they were going to give up and invent feminism.
Much of How You Can Give Hawaiian Parties is dedicated to suggested tiki-themed menus for various events, with recipes in the back. Here, for example, are two luncheon menus:
Rice Ring, Mushroom-Creamed Chicken or Tuna, Hot Corn Sticks, Hot Cheese Biscuits… are you feeling the island vibrations yet? No? Well, look closer, and you’ll note that, in addition to olives and nuts, the Jello salad also includes pineapple chunks. The chocolate cake has coconut frosting–thick coconut frosting–and there’s even a pineapple chiffon cake if you want to go totally pupule. So there! It’s exotic, but not so exotic that your husband or bridge club is going to keel over from the shock of tasting flavor.
I adore the marginal illustrations throughout the pamphlet, by the way. Sadly, the artist is uncredited, unless Patricia Collier whipped these up herself. Which is possible, because she’s pretty handy, as these craft ideas demonstrate:
And yes, that’s another event menu where the sole hint of Polynesian cuisine is the presence of canned Dole pineapple. Well, that and ham. There are a lot of ham recipes in How You Can Give Hawaiian Parties, including a recipe for something called “ham loaf,” which my mother attests that her own mother sometimes prepared when she was feeling daring and had put away a little too much of the Julia Child-approved cooking wine. No one was ever happy to see ham loaf.
The following is pretty typical of the recipe section, especially the appetizing black-and-white photo of a vast, pale, rectangular mold, replete with radishes and pineapple chunks and less identifiable things:
How You Can Give Hawaiian Parties offers far more joy than I can include in a single post. I learned how to throw a tiki baby shower, how to make tiki oven mitts for a craft fair, and whether a meal is complete without Dole canned pineapple (SPOILERS: No). But the slim pamphlet conceals dangers as well, and I’ll leave you with an image carefully engineered by Patricia Collier and her dark minions to haunt your dreams forevermore:
This is a pineapple made of liverwurst.
This is a pineapple made of liverwurst.
THIS IS A PINEAPPLE MADE OF LIVERWURST.