Interlude: an Elegy to Microsoft Paint

No recipe this week, but an important update.

Microsoft took its standard-issue drawing program, Paint, off life support this week, indicating the program would be removed in a forthcoming Windows Creators update.

We took this news especially hard, as we depend on Paint to bring you lazily meme-ified editions of our terrible food photography. Liz wrote this short elegy in response.

I loved everything creative as a kid—writing, singing, acting, dancing, playing the Harry Potter theme song on my sixth-grade saxophone. I pursued them with the ruthless ambition of a Pokemon trainer. 

But art class was more frustrating than fun. I had all these weird ideas tumbling around in my head, but nothing came out on paper the way I'd pictured.

I tried. Believe me, I tried. But I didn't get much better over the years. 

My ineptitude—and attendant insecurity—followed me to college. The drafting assignments in my Stagecraft: Scenery and Lights class took me hours longer than my classmates and frustrated me to tears.

Even when I had rules to follow and straight edges to use, I still couldn't make my hands do what my brain wanted them to. 

But when memes became ubiquitous, I found MS Paint.

And fell in love.jpg.

Paint was perfect for the kind of charming, childish images that made the front page of the internet. Which turned out to be perfect for the crude, noodle-y glyphs I'd been churning out all along.

The more low-effort something looked—the more artifacting or .jpg rot an image had—the funnier it seemed.

In grad school, I had access to a free version of Adobe Photoshop and tried to teach myself to use it.

I was excited at first. For the first time, I wouldn't have to go through a needless chain of work-arounds for basic image manipulation. There was a designated tool for everything!

...but after a while, the insecurity came back. I started to feel like a thin-necked kid driving a Ferrari to the grocery store. I wasn't making anything complicated enough to merit all the custom features and bells and whistles—they just got in the way. 

Plus, I got twice as frustrated when tools didn't work the way I wanted them to. 

So when we started this blog, I went back to Paint. Even though it took three times as long to do simple things like tilt an image on its axis ("skew image," anyone?). Even though my drawings looked as though they had been created by a feral child with detached retinas. 

 With Paint, there seemed to be an understanding: none of this was to be taken seriously. If the image looked crappy, who cared? That was the point.

Plus, all I really needed to do was add toony cans of Hamm's to a murky iPhone photo backdrop. 

I know a lot of folks aren't fans of irony in art, and I get that. 

But Paint has always been less about irony for me and more about clumsy nostalgia—for that benighted, pre-internet age when digital drawing was just something you did on your dad's phonebook-thick laptop to break up the monotony of bloatware pinball. 

I guess what I'm saying is: thanks for never judging me, Paint. Thanks for teaching me to listen to Sheryl Sandberg and lean into being a big sack of crap. 

All panels created in MS Paint (obviously). 

Experiment #12: An Unusual Cold Soup

Over the past few months, we’ve had a bit of a crash course in Atomic Age cuisine. We’ve fussed over meringues, whipped two whole creams, and packed solidified ketchup and Tiny Shramps™ into the shape of a phallic-nosed trout.

But sometimes, you don’t need a lot of spices and sauces and finicky techniques. Sometimes, all you need are simple, high-quality ingredients and a wholesome preparation that lets them shine.

This is not one of those times. 

This week’s recipe, An Unusual Cold Soup, is a culinary toast to the American Experiment—provided that experiment was designed to assess whether non-Newtonian fluids count as “soup.”  

 Do-do a dollop of dafuq?
Let’s dispatch with the obvious. This coupe glass crammed with beefsog and congealed nonsense is not a soup. But it is cold and unusual, and two out of three ain’t bad.

Today’s “What? Why?” special comes to us care of Helen Kelley Stafford, wife of the inimitable Robert Stafford (R-VT) for whom your student loans are named.

This dish is something of a rare miss for the Stafford clan. Bob, a native Vermontian, was a Master Mason and legislative golden boy who never lost a single election over the course of his 41-year political career.

And boy, did he win a lot of elections. Ol’ Staff Infection ran (and served) as Vermont’s state attorney, attorney general, lieutenant governor, governor, and congressman.

Stafford was a Republican environmentalist, which is not an oxymoron but rather an archaic reference to a species of legislator on the IUCN’s critically endangered list. Today, they’re found only in a handful of zoos—sadly, never in breeding pairs—and Rand Paul’s human menagerie.

His work on clean water and air frequently put him at odds with his party, from industry leaders to then-President Reagan, who attempted to veto amendments that strengthened the Clean Water Act (Speak Softly and Carry a Big Staff led a successful effort to override the veto). According to the Associated Press, an auto industry executive once told Stafford, "if you ever want a piece of paper saying you are a certified son of a bitch, come to me.”

The problem? Stafford was a Rockefeller Republican who championed natural disaster relief programs, assistance for higher education, and, in his retirement, civil unions for gay couples.

His voting record even earned the admiration of a young (in a “youngest redwood sequoia in the Bingo parlor” sense) Sen. Bernie Sanders, who at the time of Staffords’ death said his work on education and the environment had “made our state proud.”

Certified Son of a Bitch®
In return for his years of education-centered service, Congress produced a crippling debt albatross and festooned the sun-smelted carcass around Stafford’s neck like a laurel wreath.

Federal Stafford Loans: Keeping Your Dorm Fridge Stocked with Consommé since 1965.

Helen Kelley’s contribution to the Congressional Club Cook Book is so bizarre, it nearly defies description. We thought we’d try something a little different this week.

Two truths and a lie:
  1.  This dish has only two ingredients
  2.  All of the ingredients are cow-based
  3.  This dish tastes like an open packet of Jack Link’s that someone left in a bog.

…the joke is on us.

Step 1. Acquire two whole ingredients

*soup intensifies*

No vegetals this week. What a relief! Just two ingredients: two cans of “jellied Madrilene” and a pound of sour cream. For strong bones.  

When we first read Helen Kelley’s ingredients list, we thought this was going to be some kind of posh French dessert. We’d never heard of “jellied Madrilene,” but it sounded delicious.

Our initial research suggested true Madrilene involves tomato, but we couldn’t find cans of jellied beef-and-tomato consommé anywhere in the metro. Still, we found several recipes purporting to be Madrilene that just used beef consommé, so we felt safe to recreate the dish without it.

[Arrested Development voiceover] “They weren’t.”

Step 2. Cool your cans

 One can to rule them all
One can to find them
One can plus sour cream and gelatin to bind them

SURPRISE MOTHERF*CKERS: inside every can of consommé lies an ancient evil waiting to be awoken. All you have to do is refrigerate it long enough to assume its true form.

After a couple hours in the fridge, the consommé had solidified into the texture of middle 
school cafeteria Jell-O salad.

Not awful, right?

Now imagine that Jell-O salad was flavored entirely with brine-soaked hooves.

Consommé Cthulu ftag’n.

Step 3. Assemble your cold broth parfait

Helen’s only instruction is to “layer cold Madrilene and sour cream in parfait glasses.” We took the glassware at its word and assembled a few trifle layers of jellied broth and Milk Tang.  

...okay, the side view isn’t the greatest. We promise there are layers in that trough of eel slime. But have you tried to spread congealed gelatin into a delicate band?

Helen Kelley has. And probably served the result to a party of fancy Congressional ladies.
The 1980s. What a time to be alive.

Step 4. Consume your consommé

We mashed up a first-taste reaction video of Tom and Liz sampling those juicy beef squeezins’.  

But if you haven’t the bandwidth or fortitude to click, we’ll give you the highlights.

The consomme is loose and oily, the full-fat sour cream is dense and pasty, and the resulting salty pudding-sludge is both unpleasantly beefy and unsettlingly tangy.

Sheen level: The West Wing  

But from a distance, you can almost convince yourself it’s a root beer float topped with whipped cream.

We’re not suggesting you trick your friends with it this April Fool’s Day.

But we can’t think of a better use.

An Unusual Cold Soup
By Mrs. Robert (Helen K.) Stafford
Adapted from the 1982 Congressional Club Cook Book

2 cans jellied Madrilene
2 cans Hamm’s
1 lb. sour cream

Layer cold Madrilene and sour cream in parfait glasses. (I have served this on a picnic in plastic airline type glasses). Serve each glass with a frosty Hamm’s. Make 4 to 6 servings.

Experiment #11: Gastronomic Horror

What kind of man does it take to make something out of nothing, and then turn that something into additional, unrelated somethings, name all those somethings after himself, and then – having conquered Capitalism itself – decide to just say “fuck it” and go found a city after himself like Alexander the Goddamn Great?

Could such a paragon of American-ness truly exist? Has there ever walked among us a man with that kind of vision?

This week’s Certified Congressional Club Hunk, Terry McGovern Carpenter, was born in Cedar Rapids, IA (city motto: “Smell it for yourself!”), but came of age in Scottsbluff, NE (city motto: “Where? Oh, damn.”) 

Named, perhaps as some form of ironic bullying, for prizefighter Terry McGovern, the Terryminator served as a Democratic Congressman in Nebraska’s Fifth District from 1933 to 1935, a period of time the western great plains remembers fondly as “somewhat biblical in tone.”

Depression-era sensibilities may have played a role in his wife, Hazeldean’s, cooking. YAAASSDEAN’s contribution to the Congressional Club Cook Book, “Gastronomic Horror,”(really) is an open-faced sandwich and closed-fist slap to the senses.

There’s Miracle Whip. There’s canned fish AND mechanically molded meat. There’s processed cheese and white toast.

It’s so simple and childlike in its sensibilities, it reminds us a little of Carpenter himself. 

“All the way to Washington, I wondered what I was doing there,” Carpenter told reporters of his clipped Congressional stint. “Then, after I got there, I wondered how the hell did these guys get here?”

The answer, then as now, was “by being white, male, and rich.” Terry didn’t stay in Washington long, serving just a single term before retiring at 34 to launch failed runs for governor (four times), lieutenant governor (three times), senator (five f*cking times, take the L, dude…), and mayor of Scottsbluff (an office he would eventually hold, thanks in some small part to the aforementioned whiteness and richness.)

When he wasn’t busy serving his constituency, he was busy becoming a millionaire by age 42—no small feat back when a dollar could buy you a seven-course meal and a down payment on a brand-new Studebaker.

Over the course of his compulsive career, Terry Trademark owned a refinery, a brickyard, a ready-mixed concrete business, a horse track and stable, a chicken hatchery, a liquor store, a radio station, a bakery, and an event space named Terry’s Arena. This is not a complete list.

And then he founded the village of Terrytown, NE.


Incorporated in 1949, pop. 1,198 at the last census. You can visit modern-day Terrytown through the magic of Google Street View. I’m not saying you’ll be underwhelmed… but you’ll be some kind of whelmed.

Yes, the ORIGINAL Chute #3 Keno Parlor, 12 Terry Boulevard (again, really).

Here’s a recent writeup about Terrytown that’s so strange and Nebraska, we needed to quote it verbatim from the Gering Courier:

“Carpenter owned a brick factory and dug sand from a nearby area, creating a large pit. He always saw opportunity, even in a hole in the ground, so he filled it with water and called it, unsurprisingly, Terry’s Lake. It remains a community centerpiece and most of the 60th anniversary celebration, including a fireworks show, will be centered around the lake.”

But Carpenter DID let the homeless camp for free in Terrytown—possibly to inflate its population numbers—and he hired those who were interested to haul gravel for him ($1 a day if they brought their own wheelbarrow, $0.75 if they used one of his. Terry was emphatically not running a charity over here.)

Rep. Carpenter earned the nickname “Terrible Terry” (another nod to the boxer) from the Omaha World-Herald for his price wars with competing gas stations in Scottsbluff. Controversial business practices aside, Terry always managed to hold steadfast to his principles. "I can introduce a bill in the morning and be opposed to it in the afternoon," he said.

That may explain why he switched his party affiliation five times over his political career, skewing Republican in his later years (sadly, he died before Reagan took office and never witnessed the glories of capitalism ascendant).

But we’re holding out on you. How is the raison d’eating, his wife’s Gastronomic Horror?

The saddest part may be that this recipe makes only 1 serving. We had to double it so we could each have a sammy. 

We’re forced to imagine poor old Hazeldean alone in a grim DC apartment, broiling ham by the intermittent light of the neon sign from the 24-hour check cashing business next door. Terry’s away—again. He’s manning the ribbon cutting for the Terry Cloth Robe Co., where Scottsbluff honeys go for all their Lutheran lingerie.

Or maybe she just wasn’t willing to cook for him. We’re betting Mrs. Terry had some simmering, proto-feminist rage from watching her husband slap his mediocre moniker on hatchery after hatchery when he could have named them after something as metal as Hazeldean.

Or maybe—and this seems the likeliest scenario—Hazeldean set out to assemble something so horrific and spitefully mulpy, that even Terry wouldn’t want to put his name on it.

Ladies and gentlemen, in deference to Queen Hazeldean, we present to you this week’s recipe: Gastronomic Horror Terry Toast.

Step 1. Buy a single vegetal

This will be a familiar line-up to friends of the blog: cans, cream, cushiony white bread, and Pasteurized Cheese Product®.

…and Miracle Whip, because the only thing better than mayonnaise is salad oil with a bunch of sugar in it. Buying that jar filed off little pieces of our souls.

Note the strange combination of crab and ham. CRAM. It’s what legislators crave.

Step 2. Crisp your Certified White Bread

Don’t skip this step. You’re about to pile on more wet shit than a portajohn in a typhoon.

Toast that bread until it’s as tan and dehydrated as Terrytown’s gravel-hauling transient population.

Step 3. Magic up a ham-sized tomato  

Hazeldean’s instructions are…lacking. Slice a ham, put it on toast, then draw the rest of the f*cking owl.

But the ingredients list does ask for one thing in particular:

“1 slice tomato (as near size of ham as possible)” 

Completely indistinguishable. 

This threw us for a loop at first. We’ve seen hams. We’ve seen tomatoes. We’ve never seen a ham-sized tomato.

We sort of cheated by buying half of a boiled ham, which turned out to be almost exactly the size of this genetically engineered supermarket tomato. We love you, Norman Borlaug.

Step 4. Assemble a Jenga Tower of Horrors 

JimmyHazeldean’s only instructions are to “Place all listed ingredients on the slice of toast in the order which they are listed.” She doesn’t tell you whether the king crab should be drained or undrained (or even opened). She doesn’t tell you how much Miracle Whip or garlic salt to use.

Liz had terrible flashbacks to a dumb elementary school lesson where she had to instruct a teacher on how to make a peanut butter sandwich.

“Put the peanut butter on the bread."

Teacher places an entire jar of unopened peanut butter on top of a loaf of bread.  

“Uh…okay, open the peanut butter, put in a knife, and spread it over the bread.”

Teacher opens the jar, sticks a knife inside, and drags the plastic jar bottom across the loaf of bread with an expression of triumphant obstinance.

“Mrs. Irwin, I think you should maybe just let me make the sandwich for you."

At this point in the proceedings—ham, tomato, toast—the horror is starting to look a little like a BLT. If the B stood for boiled ham. And the L was swapped out for a can of king crab (KC). And the T were the size of a ham.

So, you know, a BKCT.

Which looks suspiciously like BUCKET.

Coincidence? You decide. 

Step 5. Coddle with Cheese  

Foil because the bellies of our sheet pans all look disgusting (how do you get burnt olive oil out of aluminum? Asking for a friend).

The Original Recipe™ calls for Old English cheese, which is sadly neither the furniture polish nor the 40 ounce malt liquor but rather the now-defunct, processed Medium Ched that Kraft used to sell in individually wrapped singles and spreadable teardrop jars.

We had to settle for singing old madrigal songs to slices of processed Sharp Cheddar.

Step 6. Heat that ham

You know it’s good for you because it looks like mustard-flavored petroleum jelly.

Bake the whole thing in a 375° oven for 10 minutes, then turn on the broiler and crisp that cheese until it crackles and shines.

All things considered, the Gastronomic Horror looks a little like a Croque Monsieur, if the “Monsieur” were a Lutheran lector with a bunch of shit in his fridge that expires tomorrow, Dave.

The taste was…fine. The Miracle Whip adds a wholly unnecessary dollop of sweetness to the proceedings, but this is, at its core, just a substandard open-faced sandwich.

Tom described it as “a perfectly delicious slice of ham covered in hot nonsense.”

Sheen level: Two-and-a-Half Men

Hazeldean instructs you to “serve with a spiced peach.” That peach wasn’t listed in the ingredients, so we came up short when we got to that step. This is why you always read the recipe in full first, kids.

But also, what is a “spiced peach”? And also—why? Comment if you can help us untangle this mystery.

Gastronomic Horror 
By Mrs. Terry (Hazeldean) Carpenter
Adapted from the 1982 Congressional Club Cook Book 

1 slice white toast
1 slice baked or boiled ham
1 slice tomato (as near size of ham as possible)
1 6 ½ oz. can King crab
Garlic salt
Miracle Whip mayonnaise
1 slice Old English cheddar cheese

In a shallow pan place all listed ingredients on the slice of toast in the order which they are listed. Bake in a 375° oven for 10 minutes to warm through. Turn oven to broil and slightly brown the top. Serve with a spiced peach and two cans of Hamm’s, none of which were listed in the ingredients. Makes 1 serving.