Oh Betty! You FAILED Me!

I hadn’t seen my big sister for a couple of years so I was quite excited that she would be visiting So. California (she said it was to visit family and meet our new niece, but I know it was to escape the dreary upper Midwest March weather).  My sister and her husband also enjoy cooking so I was eager to try out a new recipe from the Betty Crocker Your Share wartime cookbook.  The other recipes in the book had been a success (and I’ll be sharing these with you), why wouldn’t this one  for the Six-Layer Dinner (serves 6) be a success, too?  With visions of war-time comfort food dancing in my head, I picked her up at the airport.

This recipe requires a two hour cooking time and I hadn’t prepped the ingredients (I was too busy trying to finish Baby Alice’s dress) so while my sister finished up the mei tai carrier she was making for Alice’s parents using denim and an adorable monkey print (it’s an Asian-style baby carrier), I prepared the ingredients using the food processor and popped it into the oven.  (Hey, I may be a modern retro woman, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t take advantage of some modern tools!)  I should have taken a photo before putting it into the oven.  That’s just how good it looked.  As it baked, the yummy fragrance filled the house and we were really looking forward to eating it.

Six-Layer Dinner (From Betty Crocker’s Your Share: How to Prepare Appetizing, Healthful Meals with Foods Available Today, (c) 1943)

Place in layers in greased shallow baking dish (8 x 12 in)…
2 cups sliced raw potatoes
2 cups chopped celery
2 cups ground beef
1 cup sliced raw onions (or less, if desired)
1 cup finely cut green pepper (or less, if desired)
2 cups cooked tomatoes (I used canned tomatoes)
Season layers with…
2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper

Garnish with green pepper slices.  Bake about 2 hours in moderate oven (350º F.)

The Mister arrived home just in time for dinner.  With great flourish, I opened the oven door and discovered a rather shriveled up looking dinner.  It went downhill from there.  Despite how good it smelled, the goodness didn’t translate to a yummy dinner.  In fact, it was rather bland tasting.

I should have prepared the Pinwheel Meat Roll.  Now that is a meat loaf worthy of company!

I’m not quite ready to write this recipe off, but it does need a little extra something.  What do you think could be added to make it work?  (Kathy, have you tried this recipe, yet?)

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    No, no, no. Come back from there, Dr. J. Betty didn’t fail you. Remember — this is a wartime dish, and your family experienced what it meant to do its share. The ingredients were fresh, and you all left the table nourished. AND — you didn’t know to pass the catsup. Seriously, the American penchant for catsup (ketchup) used to be the subject of jokes, and I wouldn’t be surprised but that catsup was the unspoken condiment. A-1 Sauce would also work. Or some Worcestershire Sauce. I found this same recipe in our base-line volume, Betty Crocker’s Picture Cook Book (1950), on page 275. I think this is a good basic recipe for a one-dish meal and you could “fix” it if you want to liven it up. You could use tomato soup, salsa, pre-seasoned tomato sauce, seasonings such as Italian or basil, and/or a layer of cheese over the top. Of course, another layer is problematic because now it’s a seven- (or more) layer dish instead of a six — LOL.

    I have a theory, corroborated by a friend, that the standard American diet prior to WWII was rather lackluster and bland. I am not an authority on the subject, but it just seems to me that Americans were meat and potatoes people rather unimaginative about our food prep until we began to travel after the war. Hence, flavor really did come from the ketchup bottle in the average American home, and those of refined taste cringed.

    You know, I take such inspiration from retro recipes, patterns, methods, etc. I even searched out heritage seeds for my garden. But occasionally my husband will say, “Why are you doing this? Improvements are made over time.” I guess we would answer, “Yes and no,” right?

    So, have you tried the Pinwheel Meat Roll?