Experiment #9: Impossible Quiche

This week's entry is coming at you a little late—and nothing's more time sensitive and topical than the 1982 Congressional Club Cook Book—but we have an excuse.

We were attempting the impossible. The Impossible Quiche, that is.

Our latest culinary experiment comes from the inconstant mind and fat-soluble tastebuds of Mrs. (Carol) Jamie L. Whitten, Jr., daughter-in-law of Rep. Jamie L. Whitten (D–MI). Rep. Whitten (Sr.) was an old-school Southern Democrat, as committed to segregation as he was to state aid.

Whitten Prime was born in Cascilla, Mississippi, in 1910, and served his state's First District with the fervor of an estranged teenager at a Manson Family picnic. Over the course of his 53-year tenure in the House, Whitten rerouted an outsized parade of federal funding to his home state, due in part to its longstanding inability to adapt to an antebellum economy (we're not exaggerating. At the time of the 1860 census, 55 percent of Mississippi's population were enslaved. Mississippi does not have a great track record of eliciting voluntary residents)

Known as “Mr. Mumbles” for his tendency to thicken his Southern drawl whenever he wanted to obfuscate a point, Whitten had an uncanny knack for leveraging his position on the powerful Appropriations committee through the judicious application of weasely words and careful silences that always seemed to end up getting the money where he thought it ought to go. Typically: decades of cotton subsidies and four-lane highways between Nowhere and East Nowhere.

Like any upstanding Southern man of his generation representing a majority-black district, Whitten was a segregationist who signed the “Southern Manifesto” that condemned Brown v. Board and voted against the Civil Rights Acts of ’57, ’60, ’64, ’65, and ’68 (BINGO!). But he had a change of heart once he realized his black constituents could vote and voted for the Civil Rights Act of 1991. 

America: where any man can summon the courage to act 30 years too late.

When not occupied with a glacial change of heart on race relations, Whitten also pseudo-penned a pro-pesticide piece of propaganda, That We May Live, as a rebuttal to Rachel Carson's environmentalist text Silent Spring. We say "pseudo" because the book was almost entirely funded and conceived by the pesticide industry.

Hey, not everyone has access to the celebrated ghostwriter of The Art of the Deal.

At the time he left office, he was the longest-serving member of the House of Representatives and the second-longest serving member of Congress in general. Naturally, he was beloved by his constituents and colleagues alike. 

“He’ll give you an ulcer,” said fellow Representative Silvio O. Conte. “Dealing with him is like throwing putty against a wall.”

Another colleague described him as a “good Southern horse trader,” a turn of phrase that makes us wonder whether “horse” was in the first draft.

Today, Whitten's voting record seems as impossible as his quiche. Sure, he was pro-segregation and anti-environment, but he also voted for food stamps and against abortion restrictions, Reagan-era tax cuts, and the Persian Gulf War.

In short, Jamie L. Whitten was a man whose political contradictions were rivaled only by his daughter-in-law's culinary confusion.

Step 1. Attempt the...impossible? 

It is the greatest mystery of our age. 
Carol's cromulent crustable has some...unorthodox instructions. Let's start with the fact that one of the first sentences in the recipe descriptions for her IMPOSSIBLE QUICHE is "Easy quiche, makes its own crust!"


We're reminded of a local attorney named Brad Bradshaw (yes, really) who has billboards plastered with his face all over town. The problem is less with his face (*swoon*) than with the tagline "PHYSICIAN. SURGEON. LAWYER." as if this were a boon and not a terrifying testament to Brad Bradshaw's shallow tenure in and commitment to any one of those expensive careers.

Turns out, "Impossible" was a descriptor used in Bisquick®-branded recipes throughout the Canned Age. Ostensibly, the goal was to capture the life-changing magic of crusting shit up.

Still, "impossible' seems a bit rich. We'd like to suggest "the improbable quiche." Or, perhaps, "the inscrutable quiche." 

Step 2: Steal your recipe from the back of a box  


Turns out, Carol Whitten is a big fat phony. While researching this blog, we kept turning up nearly identical recipes for "Impossible Quiche" adapted from the back of the Bisquick box. Though we couldn't find an image of the old box, we were able to track down a few sources.

To Whit's credit, she made two innovations: nixing the chopped onion (NO VEGETALS ALLOWED) and adding a whole stick of butter.

Spoiler alert: like nearly everything in this book (and, we suspect, like the denizens of the Congressional Club themselves), this quiche is overly rich and incredibly white flavorless. 

Eat your literal heart out, Jonathan Safran Foer.

Step 3: Heat your meat 

Carol calls for 1/2 cup of "ham or bacon." We weren't sure whether the stick of butter would add the requisite layer of standing grease, so we went with the latter.

Once crisp, dice it up and eat it plain set it aside. You may want to cover its little bacon eyes while you liquefy the rest of the ingredients in a blender per the recipe's instructions (we used a food processor—both seem like overkill when you're mixing eggs, pancake mix, and melted butter, but we're going to give C-Whit the benefit of the doubt here).

Disobeying "max fill" rules because that's how we roll. 

Step 4: Bake "until solid"

We had to burn our only pie plate in a cleansing ceremony after making Jesse Helms' Vinegar Pie, so we used a 9x9 metal pan instead. We think this was the wrong move. The quiche turned out a lot thinner and softer than Whit-Whit's instructions augured.

Still, it doesn't look half bad topped with shredded Swiss and bacon sprinkles. Stick that sucker in a 350° oven for 40 minutes (remember: roasting wasn't invented until 1993). Or take Whitten-y's unsettling advice and bake "until solid." 

Step 5: Revise your "impossible" expectations

r u a liquid or a gas or a plasma

Some good things: this looks like a food! The cheese is melting, the bacon's crisping, the egg is...egging.  

Some bad things: this is the texture of cotton batting and the thickness of a pog. 

Crust level: no 

Like a white Mississippi day laborer, our quiche obstinately refused to make its own crust. Nor did it rise to anything approximating a quiche level of puff.

But the bacon and cheese add a certain skill-less cushion to the judging, like the artistry points in a figure-skating routine. This quiche is fine. It will literally power your body. 

It's just missing a certain... je ne sais flavor

Impossible Quiche
By Mrs. Jamie L. (Carol) Whitten, Jr.
Adapted from the 1982 Congressional Club Cook Book
3 eggs
1/2 cup Bisquick
1 stick melted butter, cooled
1 1/2 cups Half and Half or milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
dash pepper
1 cup shredded Swiss cheese
1/2 cup cooked ham or bacon, diced
2 cans Hamm's

Place all ingredients, except cheese and ham/Hamm's or bacon, in blender. Mix for a few seconds to blend well. Pour into well greased 9 inch quiche or pie pan. Sprinkle cheese and meat over mixture; push gently with back of spoon to get mixture below the surface. Pie pan will be full to the rim of pan. Bake at 350° for 40 minutes. Check to see if solid. If not bake 5 minutes more. Allow to set after removing from oven, about 15 minutes. Serve. Easy quiche, makes its own crust! Makes 8 to 10 servings.


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