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Purple dressing and frozen sandwiches aren't that bad

By By Robert St. John / food columnist
July 16, 2003
Robert St. John is the executive chef/owner of the Purple Parrot Caf and Crescent City Grill in Hattiesburg and Meridian. If you have any questions or comments, he can be reached at or at (601) 264-0672.
My children eat prepackaged, individually wrapped, frozen peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
In the 21st century, kids have many funky foods to choose from. I am embarrassed to say that the St. John offspring eat colored butter.
My six-year old daughter puts pink squeeze margarine on her breakfast biscuits, my two-year old son opts for blue. Today's dairy products are color-coded by sex.
Did you know that Ranch dressing comes in two colors? A tossed salad can be orange or purple.
If I saw purple salad dressing on a bowlful of green lettuce, I'd be gone quicker than you could say, "SpongeBob Square Pants."
Ketchup comes in the fun-filled shades of green and purple. In the old days, when food was an unusual color, it was our built-in warning system to tell us that something had spoiled. When Aunt Erma left her potato salad out in the hot sun all day long, it turned green; the food itself was warning us not to eat it. Nowadays we're paying extra for stuff like that.
In the 1960s our choices were limited. I ate a lot of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, but they didn't come from the freezer.
I also remember eating a lot of fish sticks. Not colored fish sticks, just breaded cod, dropped on a cookie sheet and shoved into the oven.
I still eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and I like breaded fish, but a meal I haven't eaten since I was a kid is beanie weenies.
There were many meals at my house that consisted of nothing more than hot wieners swimming in a torrid vat of pork and beans.
I am a collector of cookbooks old and new. Most of my cookbooks from the 1950s and 1960s contain recipes for beanie weenies.
Why someone would need a recipe to combine a can of pork and beans with a package of weenies, I don't know.
Beanie weenies were a Sunday evening staple at the St. John house. "Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color," "The Ed Sullivan Show," "Bonanza" and beans and franks.
I saw John Lennon sing "Ticket to Ride" and Paul McCartney sing "Yesterday" with a big bowl of processed pig lips and barbecued kidney beans sitting on my TV tray.
To this day, every time I hear "A Hard Days Night," I have a pre-psychedelic beanie-weenie flashback.
Bonanza and beans are a good pairing. Hoss Cartwright always looked like a beanie weenie-eater. Little Joe probably ate fish sticks. But I'll bet Hop Sing never served purple-colored Ranch dressing at the Ponderosa.
TV dinners were also a big part of my youth. The TV dinner was one of the biggest culinary steps backward our society ever made.
A flimsy tin tray filled with soggy fried chicken or bland-tasting Salisbury steak, the worst mashed potatoes ever prepared, hard peas so perfectly round and neon green that they looked as if they were prepared in a genetics laboratory and a dessert that always seemed to get mixed in with the gravy from the Salisbury steak.
The dessert in the TV dinner always tasted like fried chicken because it was steamed inside the aluminum foil lid along with the savory-tasting foods.
I used to eat TV dinners on a TV tray sitting 3 feet away from the TV. Anyone see a pattern here?
I might not be able to use any algorithms, but I can tell you that Samantha Stevens' crazy look-alike cousin who wore mini skirts and go-go boots was named Serena, "The Monkees" was shown on Monday nights, "Batman" on Wednesday nights, "The Green Hornet" on Friday nights and that Salisbury steak comes from the town of Salisbury, England.
Note: The preceding statements are all reasons why I am a burger flipper and not a more productive member of society.
The biggest collective wet Willie ever given to the nation of kiddom was the dreaded congealed-salad hoax. It was a terrible trick.
It looked like Jell-O, it shook like Jell-O but it had vegetables inside.
Yuck! Great aunts and grandmothers all over the world spent years devising this deception.
They disguised their creations with names like "aspic" and "molds," but we knew them for what they really were tomato-flavored gelatin with carrots inside, a lettuce leaf on the bottom and a dollop of mayonnaise on top!
Maybe blue margarine, purple dressing and frozen sandwiches aren't that bad after all.