Sunday, October 14, 2012

Avocado Ring and Apple Crunch - More Recipes from 1946

I have heard of Apple Crisps.  In fact, I have made a few in my day.  But Avocado Jello molds?   They seem to have gone the way of the dodo.  And I know why!   On the left is a photo of a slice of Avocado Ring from my 1946 cookbook.  It was the recipe that sounded the best of the no less than five Avocado Molds in the book.  I served it with pear slices (as suggested) and a slice of homemade toast.  With a bite of pear on each bite, the Avocado Ring was palatable.  Without it, it was rather flat and boring and a complete waste of 2 perfectly beautiful avocados.  The lemon jello flavor was subtle, as was the avocado.  Other ingredients included sour cream (I used low fat) and a touch of mayonnaise (also low-fat as I use in all recipes I make).  Note that there was not a single Guacamole recipe in this cookbook compiled by Southern Californian women.   It appears that, once Guacamole hit the scene, avocado jello molds bit the dust.  No surprise here...
The Apple Crisp (called "Apple Crunch"), which I made last night, was much better.  A quarter cup of Sherry added complexity.  And the texture was perfect - soft, juicy apples covered with a somewhat crunchy topping.  My husband added a scoop of  Butter Pecan ice cream on his, and said it was excellent.  The recipe is below:
I still plan to make the Tuna Casserole I told you about.  Something about chopped eggs, green stuffed olives and no cheese being the "gold standard" for that time period (and region) has completely piqued my curiosity.  After that, I only plan to make the breads, cakes, and pies.  1946 was a year of Pumpkin Chiffon Pies, Chess Pies, and a bevy of fruit-based muffins.  And, of course, I will lighten them up as I do with all full-fat recipes that cross my path.  
I am realizing that 1946 was indeed a pivotal year for American cooking.  But not necessarily in a positive way.  People were experiencing a sense of prosperity after years of scarcity with two unfortunate consequences.  Most of the main-dish recipes use inexpensive cuts of meat which, consequently, are often processed, high in fat, and, well, tough.  Also, too many of the recipes use canned and processed foods.  These years of plenty - beginning in the late 40's, and moving into the 50's and 60's, ushered in the Junk Food Mania that remains such a problem in our nation today.  Sigh...  My 1946 cookbook has been a very eye-opening experiment, especially in light of the reading I am currently doing on the "China Study".   More on that in another post.   Until next time, happy and healthy eating!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Clam and Bacon Appetizers - 1946

 Tonight I initiated my circa 1946 cookbook with, appropriately, some very easy-to-prepare appetizers.  They were so easy to make, in fact,  that my husband finished one while I worked on the other.   Above is the best - by far - of the two.  "Clam Hors D'oeuvres" is a delightful blast from the past.  I spread the mixture of drained, minced clams, an 8-oz. package of cream cheese, and 1 T. mayonnaise on slices of Melba toast and put them under the broiler for about 2 minutes (even though the recipe said to do so for just "a few seconds").   We all agreed that this would make a nice hors d'oeuvre to serve this coming Thanksgiving.  My husband wished he could taste the clams a bit more, so I may add another half can the next time I make them.  But my son and I were pleased with the warm cheesy texture and the subtlety of the clams.  See photo below for a close-up of this yummy, extremely simple-to-make appetizer:
As for the "Broiled Bacon and Olives", I made them because they reminded me of an old favorite of mine - Rumaki.  Rumaki is chicken liver and a slice of water chestnut wrapped in half a slice of bacon and broiled until done.  I don't know what made me think that stuffed green olives wrapped in bacon would taste anything like Rumaki.  We were able to finish them all, but they were SALTY, with the olive taste dominating the bacon.  Too bad.  They were so easy to make!  See photo below in case you think you may want to try them for yourself or if you suffer from a salt-deficiency:
 I broiled them for a total of six minutes, turning them after four.   What I really like about this cookbook is that none of the recipes call for expensive ingredients and most of them are pretty easy to make, as well.  They are truly a reflection of their time and may contain some gems - I hope - for ours.   Stay tuned for the next installment from this delightful and whimsical addition to my culinary repertoire. 

Friday, October 5, 2012

1946 - A Pivotal Year for American Cooking

Until I started researching the year 1946, I did not realize what a "find" the cookbook I bought last weekend was!   Check out the happy housewife on the left.  The year before this cover was made, she was more than likely working because her husband was fighting in WWII.  The war did not end until late 1945.   And women across the country were employed, primarily in the "war effort".   Technically, the Great Depression ended in 1940.   But the effects of it lasted until the end of the war.   This cookbook, then, came out at a time of tremendous flux in our nation - a time, not only of the birth of economic recovery, but also  when our men were returning home from the front and women were returning to the kitchen.    
Before I start preparing and sharing with you recipes from this pivotal year in our country's history, I want to share some facts about 1946 America.  The average household salary was $2,500/year.  Average home prices were less than $10,000.  A gallon of gasoline cost 15 cents a gallon, and you could buy 3 cans of Campbell soup for 25 cents.   Spam, which was invented largely to feed our men overseas, was heavily promoted in late 1945 to 1946 as an inexpensive and versatile meat.  In fact, the back cover of the May 14, 1946 issue of Time magazine featured a Spam Upside Down Pie.  With the introduction of Tupperware in the 1940's jello molds became all the rage.  (The Jell-O Company was established in 1923 but was tremendously expanded in the 1940's through 60's).   Frugality was essential in one's life choices.  Many women were constantly mindful that, just a few years earlier, food was scarce and money, hard to come by.  "The Kitchen Collaborator" - the cookbook I will be introducing you to - is a peek into what middle-class American women were cooking in 1946.

With average gas prices at $4.00 a gallon and 43 million Americans out of work, I see us at a time when a peek back at 1946 cooking could be an eye-opening experience.  I hope you will tune in and enjoy the journey with me!

Monday, October 1, 2012

A Peek at 1940's American Cooking

This past weekend, while visiting my son at the College of William & Mary, I paid a visit to his favorite used book store - Mermaid Books - and found some cookbooks I just had to have.  The Kitchen Collaborator (pictured at left)  was published in 1946, when foods were often cooked in a "moderate" or "slow" oven for an unspecified amount of time, and tuna casseroles became all the rage.   The book was compiled by the American Association of University Women in Long Beach, California (my old haunting grounds!).   Over the next few weeks, I plan to make several of the dishes in it (mainly the appetizers, casseroles,  desserts, and breads since beef and liver, which are no-no's in my diet, figure rather prominently in the "main dish" section) and will share them with you (complete with photos).  I hope you will join me as I take this step back in time to the days of our mothers, grandmothers, or - sigh - even great-grandmothers.  Until the first installment, happy and healthy eating!