As I continue with my theme of MLB postseason cooking, this week, I looked at cookbooks from the Junior Leagues of New York City, Philadelphia, and Orange County (of course, I’m saving Los Angeles for a later date). All three of the cookbooks I had access to had similar drawbacks. All were published in the 1970s, and presented recipes that were, at that time, considered quite upscale (i.e. not food you’d want to eat while watching a baseball game).
Additionally, both NYC and Philly presented the recipes in their book in menu format, which I don’t like, for two reasons.
First, the circumstances surrounding these menus, such as “A Theater or Benefit Supper for 12” or “A Derby Day Luncheon for 16” rarely come up in my life. I am simply not that influential, well-connected, or possessed of a living space that can graciously entertain more than 6 at a time.
Second, they tend to wind up presenting many variations on what is more or less the same recipe. One Junior League cookbook I’ve looked at, and which shall remain nameless, contains virtually nothing but recipes for cheese balls and meatballs (let’s just say that it comes from a certain Rust Belt city of which I am fond… and that they’ve gone on to produce better cookbooks).
Though the Junior League of the City of New York’s New York Entertains (1974) is guilty on both counts, it did represent a unique opportunity.
How do you cook a meal that is representative of a city’s cuisine when that city is New York? You could cook for a year and not get close. You might not even get out of Queens.
And that’s where New York Entertains comes in. I’m not saying that it’s not a good cookbook. In fact, it embodies one of my favorite things about older cookbooks: it’s a time capsule.
It takes us back to a time when the popular view in cooking was, “If it’s not French, it’s crap.” There is also little place for ideas like comfort food, fun food, or simple food. Here, food is a performance, and probably in many cases, a show of status.
There is an entire menu devoted to offering guests a selection of six different kinds of quiche and salad. Even some of the “earthier” menus are not entirely accessible, like the one for a tailgate party, which suggests cream of scallop soup, or a menu for “moving day,” which offers duckling and wild rice a l’Orange en Casserole. My personal favorite was the menu of “Hearty Fare After Touch Football in Central Park for Eight” which includes a salad of curly endive, sliced red onion, and tomatoes with vinaigrette and pumpkin souffle. While ethnic foods make a few appearances, they are very much relegated to novelty “theme night” dinners, and are not an integral part of the cuisine.
Reading this cookbook, I began to understand the joke in 80s movies where characters go to a fancy party, and are incessantly offered: “Pate?””
So, my challenge was clear: to go through this cookbook, and find at least three recipes appropriate for serving during the viewing of a contemporary sporting event.
It was not easy, but I found them.
Recipes to follow, but in the meantime, the Tiny Banquet Committee has made an insightful dip into this cookbook, with some great images, to boot.
View recipes and photos from the Junior League of the City of New York’s New York Entertains (Beef with Beer, Lemon Squares)