Breakfast Tacos?

cover-lg2aThat’s right.  Breakfast tacos.  Also Huevos Rancheros Especial, enchiladas, Banana Dream Cake, and the Best Danged Buttermilk Pie you’ve ever tasted.  Also Chorizo, “THAT” BLT (sort of a BLT on steroids), and the mythical Double Trouble Dog, so dangerous it’s shortened to DTD.

What does this have to do with cookbooks?  These are just a few of the recipes in The Mossback Cafe Cookbook, a companion book to my Traces of Treasure novel series.

I first wrote about “The Mossback Cafe” in my novel, The Fever.  It’s a small cafe in the crossroads ranching town of Van Horn TX.  Van Horn is real.  The Mossback is not.

“Mossback” has a lot of meanings, including an old Elk or Moose, or an old “lunker” fish, or an ancient tortoise or turtle.  But there’s another “old-west” meaning … an old wild (and wily) Texas longhorn.  Hence the longhorn on the cover.  In the novel, owner Smidgeon Toll serves up good food with friendly banter.  It keeps her place popular with both locals and people passing through.  Although it was an invention, I fell in love with the place I created and based most of the sequel, A Curse That Bites Deep, in and around The Mossback.  The third book in the series will be based there too.

The cookbook is crafted to read as though owner Smidgeon Toll has put it together as a promotional piece for the cafe, and I’ve added a little more biographical info on her and her family and the restaurant.  Her homespun humor is a lot of fun and she gives insight into some of the workings of the cafe with the sections divided into practical restaurant divisions.  “Basics” starts off with items such as biscuits and chili and a few other things that are used as components in other recipes.  There are popular and unique “On The Side” dishes, recipes for dishes served up as specials are in “Y’all Wanted Something Special?”, a few of the standards are in “Standard Bearers”, a small helping of wonderful desserts are in “Just Desserts”, and it ends up with a couple of recipes for items she calls “Weekenders.”  Not to be outdone, be sure to read the afterword … there are a couple of more surprises there.

A lot of the recipes serve double duty (some even more) and she even gives some insight into innovations they use.  For instance, she mentions that the sauce for their version of Arroz con Pollo (a Mexican chicken and rice) can, with a few minor alterations, also serve as a base for Chicken Cacciatore.

In short, if The Mossback Cafe actually existed, these are a few of the offerings that might have made it famous. In reality, they are some of my favorite recipes.  So, here you go, your Crazy Cookbook Guy created his own cookbook.  How about that.

What I was going for was the “look” of a small self-produced cookbook of a type that a small-town cafe might make for themselves in the mid-1980s.  I think I hit the nail on the head.  Even better:  IT’S FREE.  Well, it’s a free ebook anyway.  It’s also a lot of fun.

The ebook is available in formats compatible with Kindle, Nook, Kobo, iPad and most other e-readers. There is also a PDF version, in case you just want to browse it at work. I won’t tell.
The link below will take you to Smashwords, the world’s largest distributor of ebooks.  They have help files if you need a hand, but generally, if you can browse there in your reader you should be able to download the ebook right into your reader or tablet.
In short, epub works with Nook-iBooks-Kobo, and mobi works with Kindle.

For your free download >>> — >> click here

I am hoping this little cookbook will get hungry readers interested in the books that inspired it.  So feel free to browse for my books too… they’re on Smashwords as well as on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and iBooks.  No paperback of the cookbook yet, but there are paperbacks of the novel.  There are links for everything are on my website, click my name below. Enjoy!

Thomas Fenske, writer and cookbook collector currently lives in central North Carolina.

Treasure!

This was book sale weekend at my favorite used bookstore.  Sadly, this weekend’s haul cost me about a buck more than in the past due to their huge price increase last month.  Just kidding … thirty-five cents a book on sale weekends is still an incredible deal, it’s just that Quarter Book Sale sounded so good — Thirty-Five-Cent Book Sale doesn’t roll off the tongue quite as nicely.

img_7474But I found treasure, literally.  The GOLDEN TREASURY OF COOKING, a Better Homes and Gardens publication from 1973.  The gleaming golden cover doesn’t photograph well, but, in a bit of irony, bad photography is why I love older BH&G books and this one does not disappoint in that respect.

You see, one common element of most 1950s-1960s-1970s cookbooks is the truly awful food photography.  img_7475I can not in any way, shape, or form imagine a book editor looking at some of these things and say “Yes, that’s exactly what I’m looking for.”  It isn’t just me.  James Lileks has created an industry out of making fun of these sorts of photos.  I just regret that he got there first.  Still, I can not resist picking up a BH&G book from that era. I probably have most of them. It’s like a horrible accident, you don’t want to see it but you can’t help but take a peek.  Then another. I’ll laugh out loud in the used bookstore aisle, even if I already have the book.

img_7486I mean, look at this Beef Wellington.
Just look at it!  Bleh.

Gordon Ramsay, if you’re by some accident reading my blog, I apologize.  It isn’t me … it’s in the book.  I’m just the messenger, please!
If I were served this in Hell’s Kitchen I would rush over to the window and yell out, “Shut it down!”

img_7478Here we have a marvelous example of truly bad food photography. I know what the top picture looks like. What it actually might be, really doesn’t matter, but what the heck?  I mean, remember what I said about photo editors?  Did they see this?  Why didn’t they say, “don’t give me a plate of crap, give me something that looks like food!”

The bottom picture doesn’t fare much better in the imagination.  Well, in my imagination it is a group of people in life jackets trying to survive the Titanic and failing.

img_7479Oh, one thing this book does is arrange itself chronologically.  To that end, as a first in modern (ala’ 1973) cookbooks, is include what amounts to a few centerfolds chronicling the various decades.
CENTERFOLDS!
I don’t know about you but the last thing I want in a cookbook is an extra-long page slipping out all over my countertop.  What were they thinking? Oddly, they are still pretty interesting, like a series of Sgt. Pepper montages. I love the propeller hat in this one … ah, those were the days.

img_7480I guess, for me, the most disturbing thing about their food photography is the abusive use of color.
Well, the fanciful pineapple on the ham is pretty bizarre too, but this entire scene is like some strange nightmare.
They often seemed to want to overuse the same colors “Let’s see … we’ve got reddish and brownish food, by golly I guess we need a reddish and brownish background.”

 

This is so common I’ve included two more examples. ugh.

img_7484img_7483

Then, there are some things that are just bizarre.

img_7481What is this … a mound of something?  … reminds me of the Blancmange from Monty Python, you know, when they came from the Andromeda Galaxy and sought to take over the world by winning at Wimbledon?
img_7482And what on earth are those things sitting in a skillet? Obviously, they are intended to be served in individual skillets.
Do I have to go out and buy four identical skillets now?   Is that a thing?

I guess, just maybe, possibly, that is a lemon cake?

Question: do I really want actual lemons on my cake? Inquiring minds want to know!

img_7477I’m convinced that these  last two food pictures inspired Dr. Suess in Grinch.
This simply HAS to be roast beast … two ways!

Well, the ham is okay, I guess, but I’m not sure what the garnish is.  Raw apple with lemon jello?

On top?  That has to be the foulest piece of fowl I’ve ever seen.  I’m surprised they gave it an honor guard.  Or did they?  I have no idea whatsoever what those little flowery things between the pseudo tomatoes are.

 

img_7485I’ll close with the classic 1970’s kitchen.  They included kitchen shots for each era. I don’t know, maybe we all were on drugs or something.  This sort of image comes up from time to time … listen, I lived in the 1970s and even look back on those years with some nostalgia.  If my kitchen had looked like this, well … hey, maybe it did and I’ve just blocked it out or something.  Although I do kinda like that light fixture …

So, it’s a good sized book, 302 pages with the index.  It is much bigger than the themed books BH&G put out in the era, but it is folio sized like them.  Lots of laughs all around.  Surprisingly, despite the unintended humor of the photography, the recipes in BH&G book aren’t that bad.  Most are simple and down to earth, easily approachable.  So, this is a double-sided treasure I guess.  Well worth the thirty-five cents I paid for it, don’t you think?

======================

In real life, That Crazy Cookbook Guy is writer Thomas Fenske.  You can find out more about him and his books at http://thefensk.com

 

 

A Question of Convenience


I don’t even know where I got this book. I was shifting some boxes and it just fell out. That’s the problem with being a Crazy Cookbook Guy … I’ll pick these things up and forget about them sometimes. It is not even the sort of collectible cookbook I usually buy, I mean, it is too new (2005). It might have been a gift, but frankly I just don’t remember where I got it. The “$1” sticker is a strong indicator that I might have found it at a yard sale, but sometimes the twenty-five cent sale books have old yard sale stickers, so it is hard to tell. Most of those books end up clumped together though … in one of the growing number of tubs I have.  Anyway, fate put it back in my hands and now I feel compelled to share it with you, my dear and loyal readers.

Mini-Mart à la Carte by Christopher Rouser & Victoria Traig is actually an interesting little book. As the title implies, it presents a number of recipes based upon things you could buy in your neighborhood convenience store. I have to admit, a lot of thought went into this book. Years ago I envisioned something along these lines for fanciful recipes, like using so many packets of sugar or salt, or my favorites, or making a quiche with x number of small half and half creamers. That’s about as far as I got.  These guys take that idea and moved it to an entirely new level. They should go on Chopped.

Now some of the ideas are just silly, like The Kevin Bacon where the chef is instructed at one point to sculpt a brick of cream cheese into a likeness of Kevin Bacon. I mean, it doesn’t even have bacon in it, just Bac-O’s. Other “recipes” are decidedly simple, like their version of franks & beans, something they call Weiner Bean Bucket. Poop on a Pringle is very simple, and awful sounding … bean dip on a Pringle topped with a piece of Vienna Sausage. Mmmmmm.

imageA couple did catch my eye, though. The Trojan Horse is very interesting indeed. If I ever go on Hell’s Kitchen I will serve a variation of this to Chef Ramsay as my signature dish! Basically, you trim and hollow out a brick of Spam and sculpt pieces to resemble a … Trojan horse. image

There are no Greek warriors inside, you stuff it with Cheese Whiz. Pure Genius. And look at it … a veritable piece of art.

 

 

 

imageAnother dish that I thought was cute, albeit simple, was the Corn Dog Kabobs. image

You cut away sections of the corn dog and using the stick as a skewer you separate sections with tater tots. I mean, what a great idea! And Kids would love these!

 

This book runs the gamut … 100+ pages of this stuff, including Pigs in a Poncho (hot dogs in a tortilla), New England Spam Chowder, Sardines Rockefeller, Fish Sticks Amandine … it goes on and on. Drinks include The Pink of Health (Smirnoff Ice and Pepto-Bismol) and The Mickey Rourke (Mickey’s Malt Liquor and Strawberry Soda). Desserts are not left to chance with Ho Cakes (made with any Hostess product, whipped cream and almonds) and Creamed Candy Corn (candy corn and butterscotch topping). I’m just scraping the tip of the iceberg off my shoe here folks. This blog would be as long as the book itself if I continued.

It’s a fun read … and even has some fun convenience store trivia. For instance, it claims that 1 in 9 people in the US will eat at least one hot dog in a convenience store every year. That’s a scary thought. Some of those people can vote too … and serve on juries. Think about THAT while you’re pumping your gas.