Old church magazines are peppered with menus and recipes. Relief Society lessons about nutrition offer sample recipes. Improvement Era articles about ward banquets include recipes for baked-beans-for-250. The Young Women’s Journal suggests party foods to suit various themes. Even the Children’s Friend describes ways for kids to play with their food and call it cooking.
And especially in the 1950s and 1960s, advertisements for this, that, and the other post-War packaged foods offer recipes incorporating their products, cheerily encouraging housewives to take advantage of the convenience while still enjoying the reputation of the fastidious home cook and party hostess. Many of those recipes incorporate cream-of-something-or-other-soup, and often have a topping of crushed potato chips.
The Fleischmann’s yeast advertisement for High-Hat Tuna Soufflé in the October 1957 Improvement Era, for instance, assures Madame Housewife that the dish has “a dressed-up ‘company’ look” while still being “a down-to-earth main dish, hearty, filling and easy … It’s a high scorer at bridge luncheons, a delicious dish for family suppers.”
Here’s the recipe for this miracle dish, slightly edited to suit standard cookbook format:
High Hat Tuna Soufflé
1/2 cup milk
2 tblsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1/4 cup shortening
1/4 cup warm water
1 pkg. dry active yeast
2 eggs, separated
1 cup sifted flour
1 can cream of celery soup
1 7-oz. can tuna, drained
1 tsp. grated union
1 tblsp. chopped pimiento
Scald milk; stir in sugar, salt, and shortening; cool to lukewarm. Sprinkle yeast in warm water; stir until dissolved. Add yeast to milk mixture. Add egg yolks and flour; beat until smooth, about 1 minute. Cover. Let rise in warm place until doubled in bulk, about 40 minutes. In 1-quart casserole, combine soup, tuna, onion and pimiento. Stir down batter. Beat egg whites until stiff; fold into batter. Spoon batter on top of creamed tuna. Bake in 400-deg. oven 40-45 minutes. Yield: 4 servings.
Now maybe YOU have enough sense and imagination to doubt the felicity of a mixture of tuna fish and cream of celery soup. I, on the other hand, have become somewhat dazed by reading even odder combinations in these magazines. I actually tried this recipe this weekend, in the interest of science, bridge luncheons, and Mormon history.
Oh, what I won’t do for you, dear reader.
Verdict: Disgusting. Slightly sweet bread on top of a gag-worthy blend of tuna and celery – and what IS the “cream” in cream-of-something soup, anyway? It was like a tuna fish upside-down cake.
Do not try this at home. Trust me.
On the other hand, the bread part was actually tasty, and there can’t be any easier way to have the delicious flavor of hot yeast bread with no kneading and a relatively short (40 minute) rising time. I can easily see me using that part of the recipe again, in dishes where I would ordinarily use a cornbread or biscuit topping. Next time I serve leftover chili, or leftover chicken stew, I may very well top it with High-Hat