Ask the Past: American visitors

My six year old's new best friend is a kid who has recently moved here from New York. He wants to invite their whole family round for lunch, and he's said all the food needs to be American. I figured that meant hot dogs and apple pie, but he says that's not American enough. Can you suggest some even more American recipes that will satisfy a six year old?

I think the only way you are going to convince a six year old that a recipe is really American is if it has American in the title. Fortunately, if you look back through a lot of old cookbooks, that seems to have been the right way to convince a lot of adults that a recipe was American, too. Here are a few recipes that are bound to pass the test.

The Hostess Cookbook includes a whole section of sample luncheon menus, and although a lot of them start with soup, none of them, for some reason, start with this recipe for American Super-Soup. It's possible that The Hostess Cookbook considers this more of a dinner soup, but I'm sure you can serve it at lunchtime:

Ingredients: bacon fat or butter; onions; leeks; flour; cauliflower stalk; stock; tomatoes; parsley; bay-leaf (optional); potatoes; celery; sugar; milk; cream or evaporated milk (optional); paprika (optional)

Melt 3 teasp. bacon fat or butter in a large saucepan. Peel and cut in quarters 2 medium-sized onions. Chop 1 large leek and 1 cauliflower stalk. Add to the hot fat and cook for 1 minute. Add 2 level tablesp. flour and toss about, cooking for another minute. Add 3 cups stock or water, 2 large tomatoes (halved but not peeled), and 2 cups chopped potatoes. A few stalks of celery may be added. Season with salt and pepper and 1 teasp. sugar. Boil for 1 hour, adding during cooking 2 or 3 sprigs of parsley and, if desired, 1 bay-leaf. Remove the parsley and bay-leaf and pour through a colander in a basin, mashing as much of the vegetable as possible. Return to saucepan and add 2 cups milk (or 1 cup milk and 1 cup cream or evaporated milk). Continue cooking for another 3 minutes. Serve piping hot. It may be garnished with whipped cream and sprinkled with paprika.

While you are boiling your soup for an hour, you'll have time to make several other dishes. This American Salad, from Lady Hackett's Household Guide, is quick to make, and obviously, extremely American:

Take 1 lettuce, 1 orange, 1 banana, 1 apple. Cut the lettuce up finely. Chop up orange, banana and apple and mix through the lettuce. Pour over all the ordinary salad dressing.

In case you don't already know how to make the ordinary salad dressing, she does give a recipe for it (although obviously if you have a recipe for an American salad dressing you should use that instead):

Take 1 cupful cream, 1 dessertspoonful tarragon vinegar, 1 teaspoonful castor sugar, salt, pepper, cayenne. Put the cream in a basin with the sugar and seasoning and stir well, and lastly stir in the vinegar.

For dessert, you have a couple of options, although since you're cooking for six-year olds, you may just want to make both. Firstly, there's this American Cocktail Cake from The New Zealand Nurses' Association International Cookbook:

2 eggs, 1 1/2 cups sugar, 1/2 cup oil (salad), 1 medium can fruit salad, 2 cups flour, 2 teasp. soda, 1/4 teasp salt, 1 teasp. vanilla

Combine eggs, sugar, and oil. Add flour, soda, fruit and vanilla. Pour into ungreased tin and bake 40 minutes at 350 F.

Topping: 1 can (about 4 oz) shredded coconut, 4 oz butter, 1 teasp. vanilla essence, 3/4 cup brown sugar, 1 small can unsweetened condensed milk

Boil together 10 minutes. Pour over cake and place under grill until it bubbles.

The other option will require a bit more advance preparation, but if you have the time to deal with gelatine, this American Shape from The Kookaburra Cookery Book is sure to be a hit:

Soak 6 sheets of gelatine in 1 cup of water; 4 eggs; 1 pint milk. Make a custard with the milk and yolks of eggs, pour on to the soaked gelatine. Return to the saucepan and just let it come to the boil. Have the whites of eggs beaten to a stiff froth and pour the boiling custard on to them. Stir well and pour into a mould. Serve cold.

You may also want to provide some hot dogs and apple pie.

I'm sure that will help.

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