I love cookbooks. I have a fairly sizable collection, 300 or so, and I’m always adding to it. I read them for fun, for entertainment, for education, and occasionally for cooking.
So it was with a sense of delight and anticipation that I settled down with my newly purchased “Saveur: The New Classics” (Copyright 2014, Weldon Owen Inc.) — delight because Saveur is one of my favorite food magazines, anticipation because you never know what you’re going to find when you crack open a new cookbook.
Let me repeat that last phrase: You never know what you’re going to find when you crack open a new cookbook.
And boy did I find something surprising in this one.
On page 117, in the sandwich section, I found a classic recipe for a dish I love: Creamed chipped beef on toast. Except it wasn’t called that. The cookbook used a rather more indelicate name, one, the story goes, bestowed upon the dish by disgruntled servicemen, a name often abbreviated to S.O.S.
Yes. There it was in black (or actually, red) and white: S— on a Shingle.
Boy howdy. This was not Betty Crocker I was reading.
Let’s just say I was a little taken aback to find a recipe under that particular name. I thought for a minute that it might have gotten in by mistake but no, it’s called by that name in the index, too. They obviously meant to use what my young daughter calls the S-word.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I am no prude. I have used that word, the barnyard synonym for manure, innumerable times in my life. And I have used in all the ways it is available to be used: To express anger, disgust, surprise. I have even used it in the barnyard. And yes, I have looked down at a plate of creamed chipped beef on toast and called it That Particular Word on a Shingle.
I just never expected to read it in a cookbook.
To be fair, the recipe in question was adapted from the 1945 Manual for Navy Cooks, and so perhaps the Saveur cookbook people were going for a little maritime authenticity.
Whatever the reason, I was suddenly seized with an impulse.
I had to call Mom.
“Mom, I just got a new cookbook and it has a recipe for (you know what) on a shingle, and guess what they call it?
“(You know what) on a shingle,” she replied without hesitation.
Well, shoot. Here I was hoping to surprise her and she knocked my joke right out of the park. Then again, she had a lot of brothers who went into the service, and she has been known to use that word herself a time or two. Ask her about the time 20 years ago when she dropped a big pot of stewed mushrooms in the parking lot right outside the shelter house where we have our family reunions. As far as I know, my mother’s anguished expletive is still echoing around the woods.
At any rate, I have to admit I’m still a little surprised to find a barnyard word in a cookbook. I was going to go on about how it’s just another example of our society getting coarser, but I think I’ll just skip that and cook something instead. And no, it won’t be S.O.S.