Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Mockery: Economically Speaking...

Then the Queen left off, quite out of breath, and said to Alice,
`Have you seen the Mock Turtle yet?'
`No,' said Alice. `I don't even know what a Mock Turtle is.'
`It's the thing Mock Turtle Soup is made from,'said the Queen.
`I never saw one, or heard of one,' said Alice.
`Come on, then,' said the Queen, `and he shall tell you his history,'
Lewis Carroll: Alice's Adventure's in Wonderland

I'm okay. It would be foolish of me to try and skirt the issues at hand. After all, this blog is an online calendar, of sorts. Granted, the intention is to focus on food and how it has affected our daily lives throughout history in a fun and sometimes obscure path of venue. I'll admit, I hesitate...I digress...

1. A false, derisive, or impudent imitation: The trial was a mockery of justice.
2. Something ludicrously futile or unsuitable: The few packages of food seemed a mockery in the face of such enormous destitution.


On the anniversary day of "Black Tuesday," which in the culture of financial mythology, was the single most devastating financial day in the history of the New York Stock Exchange and the day recognized as the beginning of the Great Depression, as your servant, I request we examine imitation as pertaining to food. I mean no pernicious behavior nor do I intend to undermine the fundamental democratic principles of prosperity. I simply want to ask, "How long has deception been hiding in my kitchen? Or, has it?

Food impersonators are lurking in my pantries, my refrigerators and yes, even on my bookshelves. For instance, I know for sure I have imitation vanilla in my baking cabinet here in NY. Now, don't get all huffy about it, I also have home made vanilla extract fermenting in PA. It's really quite easy to concoct, and way less expensive. You should try it. I usually buy a few extra vanilla beans and use a similar dry method to enhance the flavor of sugar. Although, I don't like it in my coffee, it is great to use in pancake batter, french toast or baking in general. What other food clones come to mind? Tang and Cool Whip may be considered by some to be orange and cream camouflage fabrications. I don't have either of those anywhere. I do, however, have many  cookbooks. And, in many of those cookbooks, especially those from the 20s, 30's and well into the 50s, appear imitations in the form of mock recipes. Well let's see, if the essence of the phrase to deceive is to mock, what then is a mock recipe? Is it evil, harmful? Should I feel betrayed? By purchasing these books was I purposely mislead or misinformed? In the case of non-fiction cookery books, the answer is undeniable no. Mock recipes are simply, dishes incognito. 

Mock Recipes

When it comes to mock cooking, there are numerous reasons for its popularity as well as its disapproval. Some purists disagree with the notion of making something appear real when indeed it is not. Realistically, when it comes to food, there are a variety of ingredients which contribute to the appearance of mock recipes in books which record recipes. Thankfully, and I do mean thankfully, they are explored online. The author of the Old Foodie admits to being "moderately intrigued by the whole, old concept of Mock Food." And, a recent issue of Art Culinaire Magazine offers this introduction to Mock Food.

...One of humanity’s most admirable characteristics is its ability to adapt to new situations. Evolution is born of adaptation and it is one of the most fundamental markers of progress. In the kitchen, the circumstances that inspire evolution are too often than not born of times of adversity, poverty, war, and oppression. While the dire predicaments that have plagued humanity throughout history might in themselves be horrifying, the results they have inspired in the kitchen frequently find their way into the culinary repertoire of a culture’s most beloved recipes...

Yes, the wacky world of fake food, encompasses everything from revitalization to whimsy. But, today I would like to probe into the indulgence of mock recipe dishes during economic setbacks. Let's begin with waste.

Christine Terhune Herrick described a problem that still sounds familiar. Into the refrigerator, she wrote, "are too often thrust odds and ends and scraps that are suffered to remain there long enough to become malodorous, and thus taint other food." Herrick told the story of a mistress returning to her refrigerator after a two-week illness, during which she had left kitchen affairs in the hands of the cook. A "nauseating" smell emanated from "a plate of refuse fish ....A couple of chops on another dish were white with mould, while a handful of vegetables rotted in the corner. And in the midst of all stood a plate of butter-balls and a pitcher containing the baby's supply of milk."

Many mock recipes were devised as a solution to cut down on wasted food, particularly during times of limited spending. Admit it, leftovers are not always as appetizing the next day, week or heaven forbid, month. How many times have you purchased an ingredient called for in a recipe, tucked it back into the cupboard never to be utilized again? Take for instance rice flakes. This mock recipe for Mock Escalloped Oysters is disclosed in the White House Cereals die-cut recipe booklet pictured.

Mock Escalloped Oysters
1/2 lb. American cheese grated
1 med. sized eggplant
3 c. rice flakes
salt & pepper to taste
pinch of baking soda
3 tbs. butter
1 c. whole milk
1 tbs. buttered bread crumbs
To sufficient boiling water to cover the eggplant, add very small pinch of baking soda, and the whole eggplant; let cook about 15 minutes; remove eggplant and wash in cold water thoroughly. Butter casserole, chop up eggplant, putting in a layer of eggplant, and a generous sprinkling of White House Rice Flakes; dotting with butter, grated cheese, salt and pepper and proceed until dish is filled; putting buttered bread crumbs on top of dish, pour cup of whole milk over all and bake in moderate oven about 30 minutes. Serve hot.

 Mock Apricot Tarts were a result of one vegetable in "plentiful supply" in Britain. Can you guess what it was? Here's a recipe for Mock Anchovies which wouldn't be one we would want to try in this day in age but still a curious recipe from The Belgian Cookbook.

All kinds of cereals can be substituted in mock recipes. Oatmeal was used as an ingredient in Mock Pecan Pie. Fannie Farmer included a recipe for Mock Indian Pudding in The Boston Cooking School Cook Book in 1918 which didn't include cereal but other versions such as this one uses corn flakes and I have seen some which call for Wheaties.

There's fun associated with mock food. Many people prepare mock recipes for April Fools Day celebrations. For a more frugal indulgence in candy bars, there's Mock Baby Ruth Bars. This recipe collection blog not only includes a recipe for Mock Baby Ruth Bars but also Mock Hollandaise Sauce and Mock Sour Cream. (I've provided a link for Mock Devonshire Cream and Mock Mayonnaise below) Not pie in your face fun but, pretty close. Speaking of pie, if you happen to desire Apple Pie, try Cakespy's recipe for Mock Apple Pie as only Cakespy can offer it.

I've grown tired of all this mockery. I have noted mock recipes within my cookbook notes and collected their links on the Internet since the inception of Months of Edible Celebrations. To my loooooong list of someday tasks, I will now add list mock recipes on their very own page but, not today. If you desire to see the incredible possibilities exploring mock recipes can create, then, I suggest you take a hop over to Culinary Types where T.W. has prepared a Cake in Imitation of a Haunch of Lamb from 1895. 

Mock Pumpkin Pie
1/4 c. boiling water
1/2 cup Grape-Nuts cereal
2 c. milk, scalded
1/4 c. sugar
4 tbs. flour
1/8 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. cloves
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
2 eggs, well beaten
1 baked 9 inch pie shell
Pour water over Grape-Nuts. Allow to stand 10 minutes, then add milk. Mix sugar, flour, and spices. Add to milk and Grape-Nuts mixture and cook in double boiler until thickened. Pour over eggs, stirring vigorously. Return to double boiler and cook 2 to 3 minutes longer. Cool, Pour into pie shell. May be served with whipped cream. Makes 1 pie or 12 tarts. 75 Ways to Enjoy Famous Food (1929)

Which Would You Choose?

Wealth? It is a transient thing that brings its own cares.
Happiness? It's an elusive thing which we keep by giving away.
Health? That's the best gift. Health is riches that gold cannot buy, and surely health is cause enough for happiness. ~Lydia E. Pinkham~ Picnic Time

1. Food in the 1930s
2. Waste and Want: A Social History of Trash
3. Depression era recipes
4. Vegetarian Mock Foods
5. "Mock" Garlic Mashed Potatoes
6. Mock Cherry Pie Recipe 
7. Mock Devonshire Cream Recipes:
8. Mock Turtle Soup
9. Mock Mayonnaise
10. Mock Salmon Loaf


  1. If you define "mock food" as "a food that pretends to be another food," I think it's been around since Roman times.

    I'm fond of the story of how the meatballs in mock turtle soup came about - apparently one Victorian chef had a sense of humor (very rare in those days) and decided that the soup could use some mock turtle eggs. :)

  2. All the money in the world doesnt mean a thing if we dont have our health.
    I always wondered about that Ritz cracker mock apple pie. Tough times call for creative cooking.

  3. Why would one make mock pumpkin pie with grape nuts? Isn't pumpkin a less expensive ingredient?

  4. Hi Adele,
    I think there is a book waiting to be published about Mock recipes. They appear to have a long history and probably many anecdotes associated wit them. I for one find them quite fascinating. Thanks for dropping by...

    Hey glamah,
    I agree whole heartily:) You really should give the ritz pie a try. It does get some rave reviews, some. I'm sure you can come up with a Ritzy Glamah Pie!

    Hi "Grammy"
    You really got me to thinking so I did a fast check, and it appears that farm prices were very unstable when the economic events of 1929 hit. Although there were farm products which needed harvesting, most farmers were losing their farms for taxes and payments. Much of the produce "rotted on the vines." I would imagine this was reflected in the world of business as price and demand because by 1933, food prices had soared 76%. Perhaps, the makers of Grapenuts and other cereal brands had a way of keeping prices down a bit. Infaltion ran rampant...Mind you, I wasn't around then but I did find a website which is easy to navigate and maybe can give you a better idea of prices and wages in 1930. Here's the link.

  5. This is fascinating - as usual! :)

    I am not sure that anyone would be fooled into thinking that the Grape Nuts tasted much like pumpkin - but it would be an interesting pie.

  6. I do love to read about others who believe a dining room table is a perfectly natural place to store cookbooks "for everyday use". I once ate some mock apple pie made with only green tomatoes. The texture and the flavoring from the seasonings made it a pretty good substitute. I'm wondering now if I'd be able to pass off cauliflower as garlic mashed potatoes. Since I don't normally prepare those it just might work.

  7. Hi Louise,
    Thank you for the info and the link.

    I checked it out, and saw that it was very interesting that gas prices didn't change from 1930 to 1939. I know this was during the Great Depression, I'm hoping we will see our gas prices fall even more, then stay steady for awhile during this time of economic instability.

    Was it the grapes of wrath that showed a family migrating to California during the great depression? Sad times...but it does make sense that a large company, even then (possibly especially then) would be able to keep their costs down lower than small farmers.

    Thank-you again for a wonderful and informative site(s).

  8. I LOVE garlicy cauliflower--but I think it will depend on your crowd. Mine don't all like them. I would mix cauliflower with potatoes to fool someone.

    I remember reading a little house on the prairie book where Ma makes an "apple pie" with green tomatoes. Fooled Pa! ;)

    My daughter makes a green tomato cake, but it's not a mockery of anything that I can tell. If it is it is a poor imitiation. But it's good in it's own right.

  9. Hi Lidian,
    Thanks for dropping by...
    I'm thinking mock recipes would be great as a trick or treat dish or an April Fool's Party!

  10. I do have this perverse love of mock food. Have you checked out my "legendary" watermelon cake?

  11. Book material don't you think, T.W?

    I couldn't find your "legendary watermelon cake" It didin't reveal itself in a quick search. Link please...


Through this wide opened gate,
none came too early,
none returned too late.

Thanks for dropping in...Louise