Cooks' Books

Retro Food Fiascos

A COLLECTION of Curious Concoctions

By Kathy Casey (Collectors Press, $16.95) I have no beef with salmon loaf, but Kathy Casey does. In Retro Food Fiascos, Casey reveals her innermost thoughts on the molded fish dish. "Forget squirming," she writes. "It makes me scream (and not in delight)!" OK, so it's not M.F.K. Fisher. Still, it's hard to deny that Casey's outsize persona fits the subject to a T. The self-proclaimed "culinary diva" (and owner of Dish D'Lish in Pike Place Market and Kathy Casey Food Studios in Ballard) is just cornball enough to properly introduce what might be called Housewife Cuisine, a culinary hall of shame with '50s roots that includes sugarless gazpacho salad (which calls for Diet Dr. Pepper); tomato soup cake; peach-Spam loaf; and my nominee for worst recipe of all time, the Spam shake, whose ingredients read like a gastrointestinal nightmare: anchovies, beer, tomato juice, Dijon mustard, Tabasco sauce, Spam, and salt. In the picture that accompanies the recipe, the shake is a cloudy red-orange color, with a small head of foam at the top. With so many horrific culinary missteps on display, Casey's unwillingness to cite her sources is puzzling. Though the inside cover of Retro Food assures us that the recipes stem "from some of America's favorite magazines, cookbooks, and food companies," the originator of the Spam shake and all the other perps remain strangely anonymous, as though Casey were trying to protect the guilty. The creators of chocolate-sauerkraut cake may have gotten away scot-free this time, but they can't run forever. NEAL SCHINDLER

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