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Nothing new under the sun

POSTED January 10, 2012 11:16 p.m.

Out with the old, in with the new. That is the rallying cry for many come January. I’m not quite sure about the “out with the old” part, but in 2012 the Journal is bringing in new — and hopefully exciting — features for our readers.

One of the most interactive projects the Journal is undertaking this year is our Readers Recipe Book. Throughout the year, the Journal will be collecting recipes from our readers and publishing them in the Arts & Leisure section of the paper on Wednesdays. At the end of the year, we will be selecting the best recipes submitted to be part of the Journal Readers Recipe Book.

When the editorial staff brainstormed this idea back in November, it seemed like a new and interesting way for readers to get involved with the paper. We were soon schooled when reporter Alex Cantatore returned from a Turlock Planning Commission meeting with a present from alternate commissioner Aben Williams. His gift: The 1st Annual Turlock Journal Favorite Recipe Contest Cook Book, published Feb. 29, 1972.

It appears our new and exciting recipe book idea is actually the recycling of a decades-old Journal project. The 1972 Journal staff did it up right, too.

The original cook book was actually a contest — as is stated in its title — with five grand prize winners and 30 first through third place finishers in each of the contest’s 10 categories. The top prize? A brand new Westinghouse refrigerator.

According to the 1972 Journal cook book, more than 1,400 recipes were submitted and judged by 10 community organizations. The 30 dishes that made it to the winners’ circle were then prepared and taste-tested by a distinguished panel of judges that included Lois Wood, a home adviser for the University of California Agricultural Extension; Marian Palmer, home economics teacher, president of the Women’s Society of Christian Service at the First United Methodist Church and Emanuel Hospital Auxiliary chairperson, just to name a few of her accomplishments as of 1972; Judelle Jones, chairperson of the homemaking department at Turlock High School and formerly employed in the taste testing kitchens for Better Homes and Gardens Magazine; Frank Balbo, a business manager at Stanislaus State who taught gourmet cooking in his spare time; and Charles Latif, retired restaurant owner.

I was thoroughly impressed with this community-wide effort to judge the best of the best recipes submitted by Journal readers in 1972. I couldn’t wait to try out the grand prize winning recipe — until I read it. The winner: Spiced Beet Mold, submitted by Anna Ellis.

I’m sure Mrs. Ellis was a superb cook, but really, spiced beet mold? This wonderful dish includes the following ingredients: 1 small package of cherry Jell-O, ½ cup of beet liquid, ½ cup sweet pickle liquid, 1 cup shoestring beets, 1 cup crushed pineapple, 1 cup sour cream and ½ cup chives. I would never have imagined putting these individual ingredients together in one dish.

Despite my trepidation, I’m sure the distinguished panel of aforementioned judges would not have picked this beet mold as the best recipe if it wasn’t. My skepticism probably has to do with the whole mold thing as a food medium. My entire experience with Jell-O molds leans to the sweet side. Basic Jell-O, plus fruit, equals easy dessert. I never thought about putting vegetables and sour cream and chives into a Jell-O mold.

I’m sure the cooks of the 1970s would have the same reaction to some of today’s most popular food fads. Miniature-sized gluten-free meals would probably baffle Mrs. Ellis and the other grand prize winners in 1972.

Instead of passing judgment on the ingredients and medium alone, I will instead try out Mrs. Ellis’ Spiced Beet Mold recipe and then report back. In the meantime, I hope all you foodies and backyard gourmets are preparing your favorite recipes for submission to the Journal’s back-by-popular-demand cook book.

To contact Kristina Hacker, or submit a recipe, e-mail khacker@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2004.

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