December 15, 2005
Food: The taste of retro
Comfort food is back — time to break out the cheese balls
I grew up in age of no
taste, design-wise ,and sometimes food-wise— the 1970s.
seems that the 1970s are back, again. The decade that style forgot,
that brought us David Cassidy, avocado-colored kitchen appliances, space
sticks, Revlon’s “Charlie,” Sizzlean, the Donny & Marie Show and TAB is
Cooks are looking for ways to use their crock pots, those countertop
musthaves from 30 years ago. Ditto fondue pots. And we just came off
Thanksgiving, the holiday that year after year, without fail, brings
back the retro green bean casserole, made from frozen green beans, cream
of mushroom soup and fried OC onions. It is safe to say that this
casserole is likely an American culinary icon.
can be thankful that some foodstuff from the decade is gone, like
McDonald’s Shamrock Shake and pull-tabs on soda cans that would slice
your foot at the beach. Everything else — Hamburger Helper, Jiffy Pop,
Cheese Whiz and Sizzlean — is still sold in stores. But retro food was
not only about quick, simply-add-water types of cooking. Dishes such as
Chicken a La King on toast, deviled eggs, meatloaf and American chop
suey all hold a special place in our food memories.
What keeps retro food popular? Is it familiarity? It certainly isn’t
the health factor, as a lot of retro foods are not low fat.
When I think of retro foods, I think of dishes made by my aunt Cathy.
She was quintessentially ’70s, complete with the frosted Carol Brady
wigs, baby blue eye shadow, short flared dresses and chunky heels and
she smelled of Coppertone. While the fashions and car are gone, her
cooking remains popular. To this day no gathering is complete at my
aunt’s house without her cheese ball, still served on a rustic 1970s
hand-painted flower plate with Ritz crackers, or her porcupine meatballs
with frill-topped toothpicks. And once set out, both dishes are the
first to go.
Some of our best childhood memories may be when family is all together
and inevitably there is food involved.
the Puritan Backroom, on D.W. Highway in Manchester, the kitchen staff
estimates that 60 to 80 plates a day of menu specials such as meatloaf,
quiche Lorraine, American chop suey, liver and onions or macaroni and
cheese are served.
Starfish Grill, 33 S. Commercial St. in Manchester, scrod baked with a
Ritz cracker topping is served with a Maine lobster and macaroni and
cheese casserole ($16.99). CR Sparks, 15 Kilton Rd. in Bedford, serves
“The Wedge” ($5.95) where bleu cheese chive buttermilk dressing, bacon
and cherry tomatoes replace Thousand Island dressing.
can make a few of these retro delights yourself. The Barefoot Contessa
has updated onion dip, a remake of the retro Lipton onion soup mix dip
of the past. And the cheesiest of mac and cheeses is only 15 minutes at
the stovetop (roux plus milk plus shredded cheese) away. While it easy
to see why some of the dishes of the past, like the Jello molds with
miniature marshmallows and soup-based casseroles, have taken a back
seat, the eating public is still happy to see dishes like meatloaf,
Quiche Lorraine and American chop suey.
Have a retro party of your own
Here are some of my
Aunt Cathy’s finest:
Aunt Cathy’s Cheese Ball
Makes two balls
1 stick margarine
1 block of cream
1 5-oz. jar Kraft
ROKA (found in the dairy section of the supermarket)
1 8-oz. cup Kaukauna
port wine cheese spread
ingredients and combine well. Chill. Serve with crackers.
Aunt Cathy’s porcupine meatballs
1˝ lbs. ground beef
˝ cup uncooked long
grain white rice
1 teaspoon salt
˝ teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon dried
Can of tomato soup
˝ cup of water
Combine ground beef,
rice, salt, pepper and onion in a bowl. Shape mixture into bite-size
meatballs. Warm tomato soup and water in pressure cooker. Drop
meatballs carefully into soup mixture. Close cover. Set regulator to
high. Once pressure cooker starts to react by wiggling, reduce heat
to low and cook for 10 minutes.
Eat in or take out
Don’t want to cook?
Here are a few places to get the favorites:
• Meatloaf with
mashed potatoes and gravy: Strange Brew, 88 Market St., Manchester,
666-4292; Cotton, 75 Arms St., Manchester, 622-5488; Blake’s,
locations all over southern New Hampshire; Red Arrow Diner, 61
Lowell St., Manchester, 626-1118; Poor Boy’s Diner, 136 Rockingham
Rd., Londonderry 432-8990; The Black Forest Café, 212 Route 101,
Amherst, 672-0500; The Puritan Backroom, 245 Hooksett Rd.,
• Steak Diane:
Patrick’s Country Restaurant, 9 High St., Goffstown, 497-4800;
Spatt’s, 2264 Candia Rd., Manchester, 627-9959; The Puritan
Backroom, 245 Hooksett Rd., Manchester 623-3182.
• Liver and onions:
Putnam’s Waterview, 40 Main St., Goffstown 497-4106; Red Arrow
Diner, 61 Lowell St., Manchester, 626-1118; MaryAnn’s Diner, 29 East
Broadway, Derry, 434-5785; The Puritan Backroom, 245 Hooksett Rd.,
• Baked macaroni and
cheese: Jerome’s Deli, Bridge St., Manchester; The Puritan Backroom,
245 Hooksett Rd., Manchester 623-3182
• American chop suey:
Bunny’s Superette 75 Webster St., Manchester 622-5080; The Puritan
Backroom, 245 Hooksett Rd., Manchester 623-3182; Palace Pizza 300
Main St., Nashua 883-3231.
• Quiche Lorraine:
Village Gourmet & Deli, Rte 101, Bedford, 472-4030.
• Grapenut custard:
Poor Boy’s Diner, 136 Rockingham Rd., Londonderry, 432-8990.
• Platters of retro
food for parties: Milly’s Tavern, 500 N. Commercial St.,
Manchester, 625-4444, platters of deviled eggs, franks in pastry,
Swedish meatballs and mini quiche; Milton’s Mill-yard Grill, 90 Dow
St., Manchester, 641-1862, trays of beef Stroganoff, American chop
suey, baked macaroni and cheese, chicken Divan and meatloaf;
Angela’s Pasta and Cheese, 815 Chestnut St., Manchester, 625-9544,
Know of other
purveyors of stick-to-your-ribs retro fare? Write us at firstname.lastname@example.org
and we’ll spread the news.