Dec 31, 2010

Going back to the 1940's - in the kitchen, at least

I love old cookbooks, but especially cookbooks from the 1940's. This was a time in America where commercially canned foods were not yet readily available, but electric appliances were. It is the ultimate "cooking from scratch" without having to go out and milk the cow and harvest the wheat.

I was cleaning out a bookcase yesterday (getting ready to move it up to my sewing room), and found some old cookbooks I must have picked up at yard sales. One in particular caught my eye, and I've been pouring over the recipes all afternoon. The cookbook is OHIO STATE GRANGE COOK BOOK published in 1948.

I notice a few things about the recipes. First, they are familiar, so I believe my mother cooked many of these. Second, not a lot of herbs and spices are listed as ingredients. Celery salt, salt and pepper seem to be the main spices used. Third, one of the few prepared/commercially canned foods I see as an ingredient is Soup - Cream of Mushroom and Tomato almost exclusively. Also, God bless 'em, the concept of "too much fat" didn't exist and butter and cream were used often and profusely!

Here is one of my very favorite meals as a child -- not cooked by my mother, but cooked by Mr. and Mrs. Ayer -- the lunch cooks at our school! That's right - we had the most wonderful homemade foods every single day at school.

2 Tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour
1/4 tsp mustard
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups milk
1/2 lb. cheese
thin dry toast or crackers

Make white sauce of the butter, flour, seasoning and milk in top part of double boiler over direct heat. When sauce has boiled, place over hot water and stir in cheese. Continue stirring until cheese is melted and mixture smooth. Pour over toast. Serve at once.
Oh, mmmm... my mouth is watering just typing that up. I'm going to have to try this out and see if Mr. B the picky eater might eat it.  At school lunch it would be served over saltine crackers with a good serving of vegetables on the side. And every day we had amazing homemade desserts - pineapple upside down cake, chocolate cake, apple crumbles, and more. But guess what? You had to clean your plate before you were allowed to go up for your dessert! And we had milk - plain white milk. No chocolate milk, no soda (pop), no flavored waters. Plain milk. And you had to drink it or for go dessert. No discussion. No allergies.

Here's another recipe from the same cookbook that I know my mother made often.

1 can salmon
2 eggs
1 tsp lemon juice
1 cup bread or cracker crumbs
1/2 cup milk
1 tbsp butter
season to taste

Mix all together and bake.

Ha! No step-by-step on what "mix all together" means as today's cookbooks. No pictures. No oven temperature given. No number of minutes to bake it at or what kind of pan to cook it in.

I am going to give some of these recipes a try. Salmon Croquettes is calling my name, as is Chicken A La King (remember when that was the rage in the 60's?).  Some recipes make me wonder - "Wilted Lettuce" and "Stuffed Mangoes" (stuffed with ground beef?) and "Carrot and Lemon Salad".

I'll keep you posted and share recipes as I try them out. This could be fun! And because of the lack of commercially prepared foods as ingredients, I'm betting this is also going to have a positive affect on my food budget!

1 comment:

Anita - aka Granny Patches said...

What a coincidence, I've been going through some of my old cookbooks too. My first years of school were in a one room school house. No lunch for us, we carried a lunch bucket. But, oh what good foods I remember being in that bucket!