Sunday, April 29, 2012

Cloven Footers

There are just so many things wrong with this recipe from the February 1970 issue of Weight Watchers Magazine. So many things...

  Cloven Footers
1 Pound All-Beef Frankfurters
1 Tablespoon Dry Mustard
1/4 Cup Whole Cloves
1 Cup Shredded Cabbage

Split each frankfurter lengthwise. Sprinkle mustard over cut side of frankfurters. Stick cloves (20-30) into each frankfurter in rows. Broil  for 15 minutes. Serve with cabbage. Makes 2 servings.

Now then. Where to begin?

OK, first - there is the utter foolishness of sticking cloves into 1 whole pound of sliced wieners. That's a total of 8 wieners and approximately 160 cloves.  It is soul crushingly boring. I only did two Cloven Footers before I lost my patience and had to stop. That was enough.

Next - there is the shocking revelation that this recipe makes only two servings. That is ONE WHOLE POUND of hot dogs split between two people. Horrifying. Am I right?

Next - do we even need to address the fact that this recipe assumes you will consume approximately 80 whole cloves at one sitting? Nowhere in the recipe instructions does it say ANYTHING about removing those cloves. What do we do? Are we to eat them and risk a guaranteed projectile vomiting incident? I think not.

Finally - the saddest part of this recipe has to be the moment when it is broiling away in the oven, and your loved one comes running into the kitchen and excitedly proclaims, "It smells like ham in here! Did you make a ham??" Then you reach into the oven and proudly present this:

You will never be forgiven.  Nor should you be.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Mimi's Book Club

My husband recently bought me a very cool gift. He found a collector's edition original copy of "The Story of Weight Watchers" (c. 1970) on Amazon. Oh - and it is autographed by the author. Who wrote this book, you ask?

None other than...Jean Nidetch!

That's right. I own a book that was touched, held, and signed by Jean Nidetch - the founder of Weight Watchers. The inscription reads, "To Shirley, Love and best wishes - Jean Nidetch"

Surely you can't be serious.  I am serious - and don't call me Shirley.

So it took me about 72 hours to devour this amazing memoir which contains a vivid history of Jean's life as an overweight child and adult, a review of the 1970 WW program rules from Jean's perspective, a detailed description of "what happens at a WW meeting", and a bazillion inspiring quotes from the brilliant mind of a F.F.H. (formerly fat housewife - Jean's self-proclaimed title)

Reading this book only strengthened my admiration and respect for Jean Nidetch and Weight Watchers. From the cover shot of Jean standing arms-crossed and confident in her white pant suit, to the powerful punch-in-the-gut final quote: "One thing's certain: You don't ever have to be fat again" - I was enraptured.

But there was something about this book that amazed me most of all.

It occurred to me that for the past two years, I have been focusing my blog on how different the 1970's Weight Watchers program is from the current plan. And it is - with all the crazy food, rules and whatnot. But the thing I never realized is that there are so many things that have stayed exactly the same. Close to 50 years later, the heart of Weight Watchers remains intact. Examples?
  • No one can work for WW unless they have been overweight themselves and have successfully worked the plan
  • Empathy, rapport and mutual understanding are the foundation
  • Its a lifestyle, not a "diet"
  • It's affordable
  • It works.
What else hasn't changed?  The battle we are fighting. Reading the success stories and struggles in this book is no different than reading a current issue of Weight Watchers magazine. We are still fighting the same "war" that Jean talks about in 1970:

Obesity is a war and we who are fighting it daily are well aware of the turmoil and strain of the battle. You win battles by developing a tremendous desire for something that's more important than cake - being thin. I used to eat my rewards. Now the reward is self-respect. It's worth it.

So yeah. I pretty much LOVE HER.

Near the end of the book, Jean tells a story about one of her members who did a great deal of traveling during her weight loss journey. She would always keep a few cans of mushrooms and a can opener in the glove compartment of her car. If she got hungry during her commute - she would pull off the road, open a can of mushrooms and eat them. One night, while she was pulled over happily eating her shrooms, a police officer approached her car to make sure she was alright. "Yes, officer, I'm just eating my mushrooms", she replied. About three months later - she was parked again, and the same officer suspiciously approached her car. Before she could utter a word, he said, "Oh my God, it's the nut with the mushrooms again!"

Here's the thing. If you have ever been a Weight Watchers member - past or present - that story sounds familiar. Doesn't it? We just "get it". Whether it's 1970 or 2012, we still need weight loss strategies that work. No matter how crazy they sound.

Jean says, "Losing weight is like basic training. It's finding out how to eat intelligently - it's learning how to fight the war." I like that. I like to think we are all soldiers in Jean's army.

And it is a pleasure to serve in this army with each and every one of you.

Now that I have read Jean's perspective, I am eagerly awaiting the release of
our current leader's book: "Weight Loss Boss" by David Kirchhoff - the CEO of Weight Watchers. It comes out in May, and I think its going to be great. I'm looking forward to hearing about how the world of weight loss has changed (or stayed the same) nearly 50 years later.

I sure hope I can get a signed copy. Inscribed lovingly to Shirley, of course.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Magical Muffins

Oh my gosh you guys. I have so much to tell you, but all I have time for right now is a really quick post about these crazy-good muffins I just made yesterday.

So here's the deal...

These muffins are by far THE BEST thing I have made so far on my Retro Weight Watchers adventure. You should totally make them. Here's how:

Spiced Apple "Muffins"

3 Apples
3 Eggs
3 Slices of Bread
3 tbsp Artificial Sweetener
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp orange extract
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg

Coarsely grate apples; set aside. In mixing bowl, beat eggs; add sweetener, extracts, and spices. Crumble bread into mixture: blend well. Blend in grated apples. Spoon mixture into 6 equal amounts in non-stick muffin pan. Bake at 375 for 45 minutes. Makes 3 servings.

NOTE: If you are like me, and you don't happen to have any orange extract on hand - just skip it. You won't miss it. Trust me.

Mine turned out perfect. And they tasted divine. My husband even ate one - and he liked it. I know, crazy - right?

So why on Earth did this recipe only place third in the 1971 Weight Watchers Magazine Gourmet Contest? I have no idea. But I would like to officially recognize Ms. Emma R. Fendler of Shorewood, WI for this delicious creation. She won a 5-year subscription to Weight Watchers magazine for her Third Place prize. Big whoop. In my opinion - she should have been awarded the Grand Prize and sent directly on an all-expense paid vacation to the destination of her choice. Take that Mrs. John E. Kelley and your soggy "egg rolls"!

Congratulations Ms. Fendler! You may have come in third place back in 1971 - but forty years later, your recipe is still a winner in my book!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Cucumber Confusion

Have I ever told you guys how much I love cucumbers? I love them so much that sometimes I have to stop myself from gobbling up two or three of them at a time. My love for cucumbers runs deep. It goes way back to the 1970's when my grandma would serve up a huge platter of sliced cucumbers for me during my visits with her. It was my favorite snack. I especially loved the way she would scallop the edges by running a fork around the length of the cucumber before slicing it. I felt all fancy with my fancy cucumber platter.

In my opinion, it would be impossible to ruin the cucumber. It is the perfect food, and there is nothing that could change that. The cucumber will always be faithful to me. At least that's what I thought.

But dammit if Mrs. Gerald S. King from Houston, TX didn't just go ahead and desecrate the one vegetable that I hold most dear.

You will recall from a few posts back, I promised another 1971 Weight Watchers Magazine Gourmet Recipe Contest Second Prize Winner. So here's what Mrs. King submitted. Was she serious? Was she just being ironic? We'll never know.

Cucumber Gel
1 Tbsp Knox Gelatin dissolved in 3/4 Cup hot water
1/4 Cup artificial sweetener
1/4 Cup lime juice
3-4 Drops green food coloring
1 Medium cucumber, grated
1 Tbsp horseradish
1/4 Cup buttermilk

I can't even begin to tell you the disgusting details of this recipe. So I will just allow the following pictures to illustrate for you how a cucumber goes from this:

To this:

To this:

To this:

My very first gelatin un-molding fail. Oh, the horror!

Let me just tell you. There are instructions that go along with this recipe. They involve words like "fluffy" and "frothy" and "consistency of unbeaten egg whites". I don't even like to think about those things, so we just won't go there.

It is suggested that we serve this gelatin mold atop a bed of spinach leaves and garnish it with pimentos and capers. But seriously why would we do that? Why??? Let's not waste any more perfectly good vegetables for the sake of this dish, OK?

Did I take a taste of your Cucumber gel, Mrs. Gerald S. King? Of course I did. It frightened and confused my taste buds. Gelatin that tastes like a cucumber? There is just no logical reason for it.

I'll take my cucumbers the way nature intended them: crunchy and crispy. Not slimy and gelatinous. Thank you very much.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Chocolate Shmocolate

Young children who followed the Retro Weight Watchers program back in 1972 must have really hated Easter. After all, candy was on the list of "illegal" foods - so no chocolate bunnies, no peeps, no jelly beans and no creme eggs could be found in their Easter baskets. How sad. I wonder what the Easter Bunny brought for the Retro WW tots. Cans of tuna? Jars of pimentos? Boxes of Knox Gelatin?

To make up for the lack of sweet treats, Jean Nidetch suggests that the following Easter Sunday breakfast will "delight overweight children". You can even add a few drops of food coloring, as I did, to make it more "festive".

Eggs in Celery Nests

4 cups shredded celery, boiled
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 tsp dehydrated onion flakes (soaked in water)
1 tsp salt
4 eggs

Combine first 4 ingredients; mix well. Shape into 4 even nests on a non-stick baking sheet.
Break one egg into each nest. Bake at 350F for 20 minutes.

Who needs chocolate when you can have an egg cooked in some creepily-dyed pink celery? Seriously. Most kids I know would be thrilled to trade their candy-laden baskets for just one of these slimming treats. Kids always choose celery over candy. Right?

In the Twilight Zone, maybe.

Listen. A tiny little bit of Easter candy never hurt anyone. Furthermore, here is what can happen to you if you go without candy for too long:

My husband will never go to the mall with me again.

You end up angrily gnawing the ears off a 5-foot tall, sixty pound chocolate bunny. And that just ain't right.

Don't let this happen to you. Eat a Jelly Bean, for Pete's Sake. And have a Happy Easter.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Second Prize Is the First Loser

When you win Grand Prize in the 1971 Weight Watchers magazine Gourmet Recipe Contest, you get a free trip to Las Vegas.

When you come in second, you get a watch... A stunning Wittnauer "Minuet B" 17-jewel wrist-watch, that is! Awwww yeeahh. Snazzy.

Staying true to my word, after the Grand Prize Chinese "Egg Roll" debacle of last month, I am working my way through a few of the other entries to find out who really should have won the 1971 top prize.

You can thank Miss Claire Maier of Silver Spring, MD for this Second Prize snafu:

"Macaroni" and Cheese Casserole
1 16 oz. can bean sprouts, drained
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp imitation butter flavoring
1/2 tsp onion powder
2 slices dry bread
4 oz American or Cheddar cheese, cubed

In saucepan, combine sprouts, salt, butter flavoring, and onion powder. Cook over low heat until heated through. Crumble bread into blender; run at high speed to form crumbs. Add half bread crumbs and cheese to sprouts. Spoon into baking dish. Top with remaining crumbs. Bake at 375 for 20 minutes. Serves 2.

There was a moment during the assembly of this dish, somewhere between the draining of the bean sprouts and the blending of the bread, where I had a Retro WW existential dilemma. I was listening to the 70's station on my satellite radio and adding the annoyingly miniscule amount of cheese to my bean sprouts and bread crumbs. (I fought the urge to add more cheese. I really did.) When right there in my kitchen, with the sound of Englebert Humperdink crooning away to "After the Loving" in the background - I said to myself, "Why in the Hell are you still doing this? Are you nuts?"

I guess you had to be there. It was surreal. Also--that's a really, really horrible song. And then I thought, if I have to eat one more disgusting Retro WW meal, I may just have to throw in the towel. That's it. Finis.

And then I put the casserole in the oven, hoping for the best.

A new song came on the radio. The smell of cheese and bread filled the house. And suddenly we Got Right Back to Where We Started From. (that's Maxine Nightengale, by the way- a much better song.)

Twenty minutes later, the "Macaroni" and Cheese Casserole came out all warm and gooey and cheesy. It miraculously restored my faith in Retro WW. All hail Jean Nidetch! Hallelujah.

Thank you Claire Maier! Thank you Claire Maier! You are a Grand Prize winner in my book. Bless your sweet little 13-year-old heart. But wait...who is that peeking over your shoulder? Could it be Mrs. Gerald King, runner-up and submitter of yet another second prize winning recipe? Uh oh. I better make sure I have plenty of Knox Gelatin in the pantry.

Up next: "Cucumber Gel". Give me strength.

So I guess all's well that ends well. As for my beloved Retro WW program? After the lovin'... I'm still in love with you.