It was New Years Eve 2020, and to celebrate I decided to make a spread of party food for my family. Little smokies in bbq sauce, rotel cheese dip, pizza bites… but mostly I just wanted layered taco dip. I know the recipe by heart because I made it so much growing up. But it has been years, maybe even decades, since I last made it.
I started to soften the cream cheese in the microwave wondering whose recipe this was again. Was it Betty Grotjohn’s or Lorraine Robeson’s? So I pulled down the Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church Blue Cookbook, the one that I use mostly for the monster cookie recipe and play dough. Thumbing through the appetizer section I noticed that my mouth was fully salivating. Hot Artichoke Dip, Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms, Ham Cubes, Cheese Balls, Fluffy Fruit Dip. Why on earth do we not make these foods anymore? Aha. Here it is. Yes, it is Bonnie Brueshoff’s recipe: Taco Delight. I remember that now.
I added sour cream to the cream cheese and some powdered ranch dressing mix. Mixed it up and spread it on a plate. Then I layered on the salsa (I didn’t have Ortega, an actual shame), lettuce and cheese. I didn’t have tomatoes or olives, so it was a bit anemic, but it doesn’t really matter the toppings of this one. Mostly I liked it in high school because it didn’t have beans.
I took my Chi-Chi’s tortilla chip—the very best tortilla chip out there (that was just a hot tip, right in the middle of my story)—and scooped through the layers.
Yup. Taco Delight. Totally worthy of the name. As my kids began to trickle in and help themselves, I started to thumb through more of the Blue Cookbook. I found a few pages of recipes called Fruit Salad, only there was not a fresh fruit to be found! Pudding mix, marshmallows, jello, cool whip and canned fruit. I sat there as a mother of five and looked to the front of the cookbook to see what year this baby was assembled: 1991. Is this what it was like to be a mother in the 90’s? Was no one breathing down your neck to be sure your kids got organic, pasture-raised, locally harvested, gluten-free, non-gmo, grass-fed, naturally-pollinated meals into your people?!!
I thumbed to the section called “Vegetables” and laughed out loud. It’s like the best chapter in the book. Cooking was simpler in the 90’s. Because for every tiny vegetable chopped in one of these casseroles, there is a can of Cream of Something to pour on top with French’s fried onions for a bit of crunch.
In my head I thought, “those lucky dogs.”
What a sweet slice of time. When iceberg lettuce was still considered nutritious. I began to wonder deep thoughts. Like, if you were to cook the whole Blue Cookbook, how many cans of cream of mushroom soup would you need?
Also worthy of a mention: group gatherings have gone downhill since the 90’s, a fact that is obvious from the Sips and Beverages section. We now fill coolers with La Croix and pretend that sparkling water is yummy. But you know what is actually yummy? Punch. And there are plenty of recipes to back this up.
Now listen, I live on a farm where we raise grass-fed, organic, free-range, non-gmo, fresh everything for our family. And we eat really well here. But do you know what this 1991 Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church Blue Cookbook did for me on New Years Eve? It offered me a whole lot of grace. Grace to add more Cool Whip to our life. Maybe even Cheez Whiz. For sure more bricks of cream cheese. Grace from the good people of Shepherd of the Valley. How very perfect coming from my very favorite Lutheran Church.