Archive for October, 2004

There comes a time in everyone’s life when you are faced with the a bizarre food item. This can be something homemade (Coffee Jello), mass-produced (Pizza Flavored goldfish crackers), even a beverage (beer and tomato juice) There is the lure of a food that you like combined with something iffy. Not something horrible – if it was horrible, you wouldn’t even consider tasting it but by combining it with something not entirely objectionable, it just leaves on unsure as to what to do about it all.

And that’s where the Soup Lady comes in. As a public service, I have undertaken to put these unusual foods to a taste test. We begin with this: Snyder’s Of Hanover Coney Island Hot Dog with Mustard Flavored Potato chips.

Hotdog Now I’ve tried Salt & Vinegar flavored, Sour Cream & chive flavored – heck, I’ve even had the ketchup flavored ones (that one was a definate miss), but this is something hard to imagine. Take a minute to think about it: potato chips that taste like a hot dog with mustard. That’s what they want you to believe anyway. From the back of the chip package:"Welcome to Coney Island. Take a stroll and enjoy the most mouth watering taste of hot dogs with mustard flavor in this premium potato chip. It’s a taste so authentic , you’ll almost be able to feel the ocean breeze and hear the sounds of the boardwalk. " Let’s just see.

The newest member of the Panel of Judges in our test kitchen’s Pennsylvania annex was first to try these. She is something of a fussy eater in that anything with dairy or raspberries is an automatic out, but other than that, she’s a go. In fact, she’s fond of junk food and is always on the lookout for a good mid-afternoon pick-me-up. She prudently started with a gentle sniffing of the open package and pronounced the aroma to be "strange". In appearance, it looks like the standard ruffled chip – veru unremarkable. One cautious bite and the judge went running for water. She pronounced them to be a very strong mustard flavor but overall "bad" and declared she would not put another in her mouth.

Well, what kind of taste test is just one bite? So the Soup Lady herself stepped up to the plate. I found the first chip to be a very good imitation of a hot dog but couldn’t taste the mustard at all. The second chip had visible yellow patches on it and was indeed quite mustardy. Apparently, the chips themselves are hot dog flavored and mustard flavored powder is sprayed onto them. The flavor combination varied widely from one chip to the next.

Just as the taste test was concluding, an impartial passerby strolled near the Test Kitchen Annex and was quickly cast in the role of a tie-breaker. He tasted, mulled it over, tasted again and said: "They’re good. I feel like I’m at a cook-out." Very much in the same vein as the blurb on the package back."

The reviews
The Fussy Taste-Tester: "I would never eat another one. They were disgusting."
The Soup Lady: "This tastes like a hot dog, but not a very good hot dog."
A Passerby: "I feel like I’m at a cookout."

So – a split decision. You’ll just have to try them for yourself.

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Queen Victoria Soup

Without any explanation but this: “A modern adaptation of a rich and famous English soup”, the Fannie Farmer Boston Cooking School Cookbook (1951 edition) gives us this recipe for Queen Victoria Soup. How famous could it be, really? I couldn’t find a single reference to it anywhere else. This must have come from the era of Frech Toast and Belgain Waffles – the time when stay-at-home Americans, perhaps influenced by the returned soldier boys of WWII, fancied themselves to be sophisticated familiars with all things European. Thus, not just English soup, but historical English soup.

It makes a damned fine soup wherever it really came from. It hearty enough to be a meal on its own with just a nice crusty bread to go along with it and a piece of fruit for dessert.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon minced onion
1/2 cup mushrooms, cut fine
1 cup diced celery
4 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon tapioca
1/2 cup cooked chicken, diced
1/2 cup cooked ham, diced
salt and pepper
sage, nutmeg and onion salt
2 hard-cooked eggs
1 or 2 cups cream
chopped parsley

Melt butter, add onion and cook until yellow. Add mushrooms and celery; cook 10 minutes. Add stock, tapioca, chicken, ham and seasonings. Cook 20 minutes. Add eggs, chopped fine, and cream. Serve in big bowls with chopped parsley on top. serves 7-8
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Now comes the scary part: a post-script at the end of the recipe says:
“To simplify, use canned cream of mushroom soup in place of fresh mushrooms, and cream and canned luncheon meat in place of ham. Not the same, but still very good and a thought for the emergency shelf.”

When they say canned luncheon meat, they mean Spam. See? WWII, just like I said.

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How is it possible that the Soup Lady has lived her whole life and never even been in the same room with a pagach? It is , after all, part of my ethnic heritage and certainly fits the criteria for Salvic foods: white, cheap and greasy. Yum Yum.

During a visit to our home town, the Soup Sister (who now lives in Georgia) expressed a desire to taste pagach once more. “Whatever do you mean once more?” says I. Turns out that while I went for the bright lights/big city experience, she immersed herself in the local culture of northeastern Pennsylvania and became something of a pagach connoisseur. Not only did she know where to find them, she kept up a running comentary evaluating each local maker’s results, all while the Soup Lady was at the wheel, desperately trying to peer through the mists of memory to find the correct winding mountain road in the pitch dark.

Pagach_box_4 And what is this mysterious delicacy, you might wonder? What creation could be so delicious as to overcome its unfortunate clunker of a name and become the object of desire? It’s a stuffed bread, usually made from cabbage or potato filling baked inside of pizza dough. That’s right – the local pizza parlors all have pagach on the menu and that is what we were searching for – a pizza parlor. Here we see the pagach nestled snuggly in its pizza box on the morning after. It is nothing if not filling, so despite the longing, we were only able to consume a few cuts.

2-1/2 cups flour
1 cup warm water
1 pkg yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt

Cabbage filling:
1 lg onion peeled and sliced
1 med head cabbage, shredded
1/2 cup oil

Potato filling:
3 potatoes
1 medium onion
1/4 lb oleo
1 tablespoon milk
5 oz cheddar cheese

The dough: Dissolve yeast in the water. add salt and 2 1/2 cups flour and knead smooth and
elastic, adding more flour as needed. Place dough on countertop, cover with
stainless steel bowl. Allow to rise double in bulk.

Potato filling: Cook the potatoes in 2 quarts salted water, until done. Drain. Fry onion in oleo until golden. Add to the potatoes. Add cheese, milk and salt and pepper and mash with the potatoes.

Cabbage filling:
Saute onion in oil until soft. Add shredded cabbage and salt and pepper and cover and cook until cabbage is tender and soft. Drain off any excess oil.

Punch down dough and divide into 2 parts. Cut bread dough in half. Roll out one half and place on cookie sheet. Place cooled potato filling on one side of the dough and spread the cabbage filling on the other half, leaving a 2 inch margin at the edges. Cover with the other half of the dough. Carefully pinch edges together. Brush oil over the top of the dough and sprinkle with salt or garlic salt. Place on greased baking sheet. Let rise until double.

Pagach_1 Bake at 400°F for 30 minutes or until golden brown.

Around here, you can get pagach that are all cabbage, all potato, or potato and cheese. Personally, the Soup Lady likes the two fillings mixed together so that you get the goodness of each in every bite.

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