Friday, July 04, 2014

Fourth of July Dinner, 1929.

I have previously given you the scripts (which include menus and recipes) from the series of radio program sponsored by the US Department of Agriculture and US Bureau of Home Economics in the 1920’s and 1930’s. So far we have had the dinners recommended for April Fool’s Day in 1929, and Easter in 1932 - let us now see what was suggested for the Fourth of July in 1929. 

The glorious Fourth is about to roll around again and we’re bound to have company, sure as shootin'. Company means a specially nice dinner, of course.

I asked the Menu Specialist what she'd suggest for dinner tomorrow, if she were expecting guests.

"I am expecting guests," said she, "and I am going to have chicken, as the main dish. Besides chicken, I'm serving new potatoes, and peas, and Swiss Shard, and Fruit Lemonade, and — well, what shall I have for dessert, Aunt Sammy?"

"Watermelon. There's no choice, when you can get watermelon."

"Watermelon  it is," said my friend. "Any more suggestions?"

"We must have a centerpiece — are there any attractive combinations of red  and white and  blue flowers?"

"Yes," said the Menu Specialist. "I planned my centerpiece, "before I planned the menu — "blue cornflowers, red poppies, and daisies. Won't that lend a patriotic touch to the table? And, if I I can't get cornflowers, poppies, and daisies, there's another combination — delphinium, red sweet peas, and the white flower known as baby's breath. There are many other appropriate bouquets, which might grace the table on the glorious Fourth."

How, if you'll take your pencils and notebooks, we'll get through this dinner in a hurry. Would that it were as easy to prepare a meal, as it is to talk about it!

Let's write the menu, first: Smothered Chicken; New Potatoes; Peas; Swiss Chard; Fruit Lemonade; and Watermelon. Does that please you, ladies and gentlemen of the radio audience? Of course, if you like, you might serve a fruit curd, or fruit cocktail, to begin the dinner. Cherrie and peaches, or raspberries and peaches would be appropriate for the fruit lemonade; it will taste better if there is a sprig of mint emerging from the top of the glass.

I shall give you directions, for cooking the Smothered Chicken. If you have never served this dish, I think you'll be glad to add it to your meat dishes. Only five ingredients, for Smothered Chicken:

1 broiler chicken weighing about 2 to 2-1/2 pounds
4 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
½ teaspoon salt, and
1 pint milk

Five ingredients, for Smothered Chicken: (Repeat).

Put the chicken in a greased shallow pan, with the skin side down, and sprinkle lightly with salt. Prepare a sauce of the butter, flour, salt, and milk. Pour this sauce over the chicken. Put the pan into a moderate oven and cook for 1 hour. Turn the chicken and continue the cooking for one-half hour longer or until the chicken is tender and lightly browned. Serve from the dish in which cooked, garnished with chopped parsley. If the gravy is slightly curdled remove the chicken, add a little flour and milk, stir until well "blended and smooth, add the chicken, reheat, and serve.

Is everybody familiar with Swiss Chard? Swiss Chard belongs to the same family as beets, but the edible part is all in the leaves and fleshy leaf stalks, or midribs, as a botanist would call them. Since these stalks require longer cooking than the leafy part, strip them out from the rest, cut the stalks in inch-long pieces, and cook for 10 minutes in boiling, unsalted water. Then add the green leaves and cook for a few minutes longer until both are tender. Drain, season with melted butter, pepper, and salt. Serve with vinegar or lemon juice and hard-cooked eggs or chopped, crisp bacon.

There — our dinner recipes are concluded. Don't forget the red, white, and blue bouquet, for the center of the table, and don't forget the sprig of mint for the fruit lemonade.

To repeat the menu; Smothered Chicken, or Chicken a la Desdemona; New Potatoes; Peas; Swiss Chard; Fruit Lemonade; and Watermelon.

[omitted: a section on the management of poison ivy]

Friday we shall talk about jelly-making. I think I'll get the Recipe Lady to give us some facts on jelly. She's been working on it this week. 


Judy said...

I had a chuckle, when I read chicken I was nodding in agreement but then they went on to say smothered chicken. Nope, nope, nope! When all of us showed up at Grandma's for the Fourth it was fried chicken, potato salad, pineapple-carrot Jello salad, ripe tomatoes, cucumbers-n-onions, corn-on-the-cob, homemade ice cream with fresh strawberries, iced tea and all the watermelon we could eat.

The farm women in my family would not have keep the kitchen hot to have served something like smothered chicken. We kids didn't sit at the table. We filled our plates and went to one of the porches where it was cooler to eat. Only babies and their mamas sat at the kitchen table to eat.

I wonder who they were writing for? I also, wonder how many folks would have had a fan in '29? And if, you were rural you might not of even had electricity.

SometimesKate said...

After an hour's baking, wouldn't that white sauce be a scorched, curdled mess? And taste like library paste, given there is no seasoning?

Anonymous said...

Chicken a la Desdemona?!

The Old Foodie said...

Hi all - I am just catching up with responding to comments after being away on holiday.
Thanks for your personal insights, Judy. I do love it when a post resonates with some-one's personal memories!
Kate - I completely agree about the wallpaper paste lack of taste. the pot was probably placed on the back of a solid-fuel range, so very gentle heat.
Bklynaruspex - I dont know what the dish was, exactly, but have a feeling I have come across it before. I will see what I can find.

Shay said...

We were eating new potatoes here in Illinois by July 4th, but the peas (known as English peas for some reason) were well past their peak.

BTW I think something is wrong with your anti-robot mechanism.

Shay said...

We were eating new potatoes here in Illinois by July 4th, but the peas (known as English peas for some reason) were well past their peak.

BTW I think something is wrong with your anti-robot mechanism.