When James Lileks' family moved to Fargo in 1962, they were greeted by a Welcome Wagon representative bearing a questionable cookbook from the North Dakota State Durum Wheat Commission entitled Specialties of the House. Inside, captured in garish full-color photos, were such dishes as Macaroni Meat Loaf Bar and Ironed Chicken with Tomato Fragments. When Lileks uncovered this terrifying volume years later, his obsession with the cookbooks of the 1950s and 1960s began. Through hundreds of lurid photos and cookbook excerpts, The Gallery of Regrettable Food offers a stomach-turning glimpse into one of the darkest periods in American culinary history. Relive the era when ketchup and 7-Up were considered staple ingredients, when dishes like Jellied Calves' Liver and Liver Sausage Balls added kick to any dinner party, and when just about anything could be (and was) added to a Jello-O mold.
Lileks, a columnist for the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune, has created an utterly hilarious book. The pictures alone are bizarre enough, but it's the author's mercilessly witty commentary that makes the book a riot. Required reading for anyone who has ever wondered why the family matriarch insists that onions and Jello-O are a winning combination.
Reviewed by clw, 11/01. Other reviews by clw.