I love the scripts from the programs of the United States Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Home Economics Radio Service. The service ran a weekly ‘Housekeeper’s Chat’ for a number of decades in the first half of the twentieth century. I have given you several of these scripts in the past, and hope you like the one I have for you today.
From April 16, 1928:
(NOT FOR PUBLICATION)
Subject: "A Shore Dinner for Those Who Live Inland.
Today's special is a shore dinner, for those who live far away from the sea, from lakes and rivers, and fast-running streams.
I won't take time this morning to give you a long lecture on the importance of fish; you know already that fish is an important tissue-builder, and that salt-water fish is rich in iodine, which we need in our diet.
The Menu Specialist and I visited the Fish Market in Washington D. C. over a week ago, just after 15 boats, laden with fish, had docked at the market. I wish you could have seen the fish: there were shad and herring and rockfish, white and yellow perch, catfish and carp, received from the nets along the lower Potomac. Herring were so plentiful that they were selling by the hundred, instead of by the pound.
Inside the market we: found a great quantity of cod and haddock, selling quite cheap, too. We also found crabmeat, lobsters, and diamond-back terrapin. As I told the Menu Specialist, the design on the shell of a diamond-back terrapin would be stunning in a sports coat for spring. She told me I'd better keep my mind on fish, for the time being.
Perhaps you are bemoaning the fact that fresh fish is not available in your community, and that it is impossible for you to have fish in your menus, as often as your family needs it.
Do you know about the fish which are frozen, packed in sanitary sealed packages, and sent all over the country? No longer need we envy those who live near the sea, for we can get fish, all ready to cook, which has all the qualities of ocean fish.
Some years ago a young American biologist, living in Labrador, brought home a catch of frozen fish and threw it into a tub of water, so it would thaw out, for eating. After a while, the young biologist was greatly surprised to see his dead fish come to life, and begin swimming around in the tub. The biologist never forgot about the frozen fish, which had come to life. Since that time he and other technically trained men have been studying fish, as it comes from the sea to the table. As a result, we housekeepers can buy fresh fillets of fish, frozen at a very low temperature, packed in paper packages, or in cartons, all ready to cook.
I suspect that some land lubber wonders what a "fillet" (fil-lay) of fish is, and what we mean by the process of "filleting". I'll tell you. The process of filleting a fish consists of scaling and dressing the fish, splitting it, and removing the backbone. The two sides, or fillets, are left clean, and practically free from bone. In one process of freezing, each fillet of fish is passed through a final cleansing bath of salted water, after which it is carefully wrapped in a white vegetable parchment paper, to insure cleanliness, and to preserve the ocean flavor. As a final step, the wrapped fillets are packed in containers, sealed with airtight covers, placed in sturdy boxes with chopped ice, and shipped to your market — all in the same day. Haddock and cod fillets are among the most popular.
There's a great deal more I could tell you about fish, but I must be getting on, to this shore dinner, for those who live inland. It begins with a Clam Broth, Canned. With the Clam Broth, you might serve tiny Horseradish sandwiches. Don't put too much horseradish in them.
After everybody has finished with the Clam Broth, and the Horseradish sandwiches, you can bring on the second course, consisting of a Deep-Sea Pie (I'll describe it presently); Hot Cabbage Slaw; and Corn Bread. I'll tell you about dessert later.
The Deep-Sea Pie is the unusual part of this dinner. I never heard of a Deep-Sea Pie till the Menu Specialist planned this meal, and I have an idea that she and the Recipe Lady got together and invented the title. However, it's a wonderful pie, whatever the name. Ten ingredients, for Deep-Sea Pie:
2 cups diced salt codfish 4 tablespoons butter
4 cups tomatoes 4 tablespoons flour
1 bay leaf 2 cups mashed potato
6 cloves ½ teaspoon salt, and
½ onion 3 drops tabasco
Let's check the ten ingredients, for Deep-Sea Pie: (Please repeat)
Soak the codfish in cold water, until sufficient salt has been removed. Then cover, and cook in fresh water for 10 to 15 minutes, or until tender. Prepare a tomato sauce by cooking the spices and seasoning with the tomato for 10 minutes. Strain, and to the tomato juice add the melted butter and flour, which have been blended. When thickened, mix with the drained cooked codfish and pour into a buttered baking dish. Cover the top with mashed potato and bake until the potatoes are brown.
Now I'll tell you about the dessert. The Menu Specialist's first thought was to have Plum Duff for dessert, because she'd heard that Plum Duff was about the only real dessert that sailors had in sailing days. She must have been reading "Two Years Before the Mast." Well, she hunted up a cookbook of the United States Navy, and found out that a Plum Duff is a heavy boiled pudding, thick with dried fruits, molasses, and spices not a very good suggestion for a warm spring day.
But was she discouraged? Not a bit of it. She decided to have Raisin Cup Cakes, with Whipped. Cream. "I can still include the plums," said she, "but in lighter vein. Sort of a sublimated Plum Duff, Aunt Sammy,"
Here's the recipe for Raisin Cup Cakes, to accompany the Shore Dinner.
Nine ingredients, for Raisin Cups Cakes:
1/4 cup butter 1 ½ cups sifted soft-wheat flour
½ cup sugar ½ cup raisins
1 egg 2 teaspoons baking powder
½ cup milk ⅛ teaspoon salt, and
½ teaspoon vanilla
Nine ingredients, for Raisin Cup Cakes: (Please repeat).
Cream the butter and sugar. Add the well-beaten egg. Roll the raisins in 2 tablespoons of the flour. Sift the other dry ingredients, and add alternately, with the milk to the first mixture. Stir in the raisins and vanilla. Bake in greased muffin tins for 15 to 20 minutes, at a temperature of about 375° P. Serve while still warm, with whipped cream or a pudding sauce.
To repeat the menu: Clam Broth; Deep-Sea Pie; Hot Cabbage Slaw; and Raisin
Cup Cakes with Whipped Cream.
I hope you'll like this dinner. And don't feel down-hearted, if you can't have fish fresh from a rippling stream. Go to market, and see whether your dealer has frozen fish on hand. If he doesn't, see what he has in the way of salt fish, smoked fish, and canned fish. There's no need, nowadays, for any family to be without this most necessary item of food.
Interesting that she doesn't include instructions for getting the salt out of the salt cod. It was quite an undertaking and if you didn't do it right the cod was inedible.
I agree those old scripts are fun. I went through some of them researching my seafood history book. The author does instruct how to freshen the salt cod, just not how many water changes would be needed. I have a feeling it is because salt fish was a common staple until the arrival of Birdseye's flash-freezing.
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