Experiments #3 and #4: "Scrumptious Taties" and Ritz Cracker Dessert

We’re bringing you a double feature this week thanks to the devious, dairy-loving mind of Mrs. Wayne (Millie) Grisham.

Millie contributed two recipes to the Congressional Club Cookbook, “Scrumptious Taties” (scare quotes hers) and a Ritz Cracker Dessert.

The bad: both of these dishes are clotted beige conglomerations of milk and salt.
The good: the shared palette is strong enough to anchor a dinner party, assuming the theme of that party is “wet nubbins.”

We’ve barely scratched the surface of this cookbook, but our exposure thus far suggests 1980s cuisine has a gloppy, bog-like quality to it, a marbled, mottled, je-ne-sais-ew that we can only describe as “mulpy.”

Millie Grisham makes mulpy food.

But it was enough to sway her high school sweetheart, the steely eyed (and stomached) Reverend Richard Wayne Gary Wayne Rep. Wayne Richard Grisham.

The Hon. Mr. Steal-Yo-Girl, (R-CAn I get your number?)

After a stint as an airman in the European Theater of World War II, the serial realtor served California’s 33rd Congressional District for a whopping five years before being demoted to Strom Thurmond’s caddy  the night shift at the Denny’s the *gasp* STATE LEGISLATURE.

That’s right, folks. Politics is brutal business, even when you’re a straight white man with hair.  

Blame Grisham’s reverse-Gatsby on a nasty bout of redistricting that left him scrambling against a strong primary contender. After his loss, the self-described “conservative do-gooder” spent a year directing the Peace Corps in Nairobi, Kenya, before he was elected to California’s lower house. He later attempted an upgrade to state senate, perhaps believing his bad luck had run out. He was wrong.

During his brief tenure as a real boy Congressman, Grisham sponsored nine bills, all of which died in committee. He spent most of his political capital trying to nab tax credits for health insurance premiums and other medical expenses.

Although we don’t have access to his medical records, we suspect he may have needed the aid.

There are approximately 2780 calories in Millie Grisham’s “Scrumptious Taties,” and only about 600 of them come from the potatoes.

That’s right, folks. Buckle up for another wild ride through the clogged-artery theme park of Buttermelt and Sour Cream. Let the flavors transport you back to a simpler, milkier time, back when men were men and women were housecoats and you could read the word “taties” and not hear it hissed in a Gollum-like cadence by a nearly naked Andy Serkis cavorting in front of a green screen with tennis balls glued to his thighs.

Step 1. Fondle your cans
The lone 1980s vegetal in its natural habitat: surrounded by starch and lactose.  

The omission of spices is not a transcription error. There’s no spice like the comforting, chicken-adjacent hug of condensed cream soup.

Millie’s short on instructions, but the recipe advises you to “boil peeled potatoes.” first. How long? Who knows. Our recommendation: boil them and then wander into another room and complete a task. The potatoes are done when the jolt of recognition hits you: oh shit, I left the stove on.

Step 2: Apply goo

Slice the soft potatoes and combine them with other soft things. Specifically, a stick of melted butter, a pint of sour cream, a can of condensed chicken soup, and a stock pot of shredded cheese.

Oh, and a green onion. Because health.

Don’t be alarmed if your potatoes aren’t neatly coated in cow. The sauce doesn’t cling to the taties so much as it inevitably winds up adjacent to them.

Step 3: Add some cornflakes why not

The final assembly step is also the most puzzling. Millie instructs you to “top with crushed, buttered corn flakes” as though buttering a cornflake were the most sensible thing in the world.

We forgot to crush the cornflakes until we’d already decoupaged the top with dry cereal. So we just added more. Truthfully, the zestiest part of this dish was the cornflakes, and we didn’t even butter them.

Step 4: Bake until the butter screams for mercy  
Objects in mirror are crunchier than they appear

We’re going to level with you here: something in this mixture (looking at you, cream of chicken soup) made the taties impervious to heat and time. After an hour in a 375 degree oven, they still came out with a paste-like exterior and the disappointing crunch of a canned water chestnut.

This seems like the kind of dish that would give Mitch McConnell heartburn: rich, but flavorless. The cornflakes are crispy. The potatoes are also crispy. The sour cream is…present.

But you can’t deny, that melted butter (IN GLORIOUS MOTION PICTURE) is sexy:

By Mrs. Wayne (Millie) R. Grisham
Adapted from the 1982 Congressional Club Cookbook

8 medium potatoes
1 stick butter
1 cup cream of chicken soup, undiluted
1 ½ cups grated cheddar cheese
1/3 cup chopped green onion
1 pint sour cream
1 cup crushed corn flakes
2 cans Hamm’s beer

Boil peeled potatoes. Drink Hamm’s until potatoes are almost cool and then slice or dice. Melt butter. Mix with cream of chicken soup, grated cheddar cheese and green onions. Blend with sour cream. Add potatoes and toss lightly. Top with crushed, buttered corn flakes. Bake 1 hour at 350°. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

“…but Liz and Tom,” you say through a mouthful of taties. “What if I want something bland and crunchy for dessert?”

Millie’s got you covered.

Truthfully, this was one of our most edible experiments thus far. If you forget about the salty Nabisco powder, this is basically a walnut meringue. Unfortunately, neither of us had ever made a meringue and assumed it was the sort of thing any competent chef could do by hand with a whisk.

They could. But they don’t.

Do not make this dessert unless you have a hand or stand mixer (or a child in need of punishment).

Step 1: Artfully arrange your cellophane packets
Our food photography services are available for a large fee. 

This is a pretty sensible lineup. Egg whites, sugar, whipping cream, quartered walnuts. And Ritz Crackers, because nearly every recipe in this book has a name-brand product that a lobbyist snuck in.  

Step 2: Go through all five stages of grief whisking
On Tom's whisk: a stiff peak. In the bowl: a dejected peak. Not pictured: profanity.

Full disclosure: we don’t bake a lot, so we weren’t exactly sure what “beat egg whites until stiff” entailed.

Answer: suffering. Again, DO NOT MAKE THIS RECIPE BY HAND. We whisked until our palms calloused. We whisked until we began to hate our own arms. We whisked as if in service of a cruel karate master, hoping it would all be worth it.

About two-thirds of the way in, we had a serious conversation about whether the meringue might be one of those prank inventions, like a left-handed screwdriver or blinker fluid.

But eventually (EVENTUALLY) it came together.

Step 3: Mix your wet and branded dry ingredients
Not convinced.

Millie says to “fold” the egg whites into the dry and crunchy ingredients, an instruction we followed with the razor-sharp focus and tentative dove hands of a bomb disposal unit. We’re not sure if this is necessary, but we weren’t about to risk deflating those peaks.

This looks not unlike the symphony of beef when you put it in the pie pan. The cracker crumbs and walnuts turn the surface an unpleasant shade of gray.

Step 3: Bake
Still not convinced. 

This smells quite nice and nutty while it bakes. We suspect the Ritz Crackers are doing a kind of prescient salted caramel thing to the sugary meringue.

It does look like a sausage frittata, though. And we cracked it, which we think is maybe bad? That sounds like a feature by which you might judge a meringue. Also, Millie doesn’t say to grease the pie plate, but we’re going to suggest you do.


This right here is why you always read the recipe first. No sooner had we turned our first meringueish out to cool when we realized we were going to have to do MORE WHISKING. You could (and probably should) just use prepared whipped cream, but we were already planning to replace our forearms with bionic implants, so we just soldiered on with an 8 ounce carton of whipping cream.

If you’ve never beaten whipping cream by hand, for the love of God, CHILL YOUR WHIPPING IMPLEMENTS.

Whip despondently until it looks like something you should have just bought at the store, then spread over the surface of the meringue like frosting.

It’s nutty. It’s chewy. It’s completely devoid of dried beef.

Everything you could hope for from a Congressional Club dessert.


3 egg whites
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
20 Ritz crackers, rolled fine
¾ cup walnuts
8 oz. whipping cream
2 cans Hamm’s beer

Beat egg whites until stiff. Drink Hamm’s to stay hydrated during vigorous whisking. Mix together sugar and baking powder. Fold in egg whites. Gently fold in cracker crumbs and nuts. Bake in a 350° oven for 25 minutes in 8 inch pie pan. Cool. Top with whipped cream. Chill for 2 hours before serving. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

1 comment:

  1. I might go for the Ritz cracker dessert. I know it might take so much work to make it all perfect but the taste this Ritz cracker dessert gives, is so amazing. I am in love with that kind of taste.