Sunday, March 19, 2017

Feminine Food: “Food That Looks Pretty” (1934)


Last week I gave you some ideas on how to “feed the brute,” 1930’s style. This week I am delighted to provide, from the same era, some alternatives for the more girly members of your family. The information, which I am sure you will find most informative and entertaining, comes from the same source – the scripts from Housekeepers’ Chat, a regular program from the United States Department of Agriculture Radio Service. Today’s story is from Monday, May 7, 1934.

Feminine Food.

                  A while ago — sometime in March, I believe — you and I had a chat about meals for men. Remember? We discussed what to put on the menu to suit the typically masculine taste. And we came to the conclusion that men generally prefer simple, hearty fare to dressy dishes, that they like old-time, substantial food to novelties or frills. For example, most men will choose corned "beef any time to dainty "bits like sweetbreads or squab. And we agreed that men generally liked roasted or broiled meats best, that they count on the old reliable Irish potato with meat, that they like plain, simple vegetables and salads, and that, if they have a sweet tooth, they will incline toward pie and ice cream rather than any other kind of dessert.

                  But when you're having just women in to a meal, that's quite another story. When you're entertaining the girls at a bridge luncheon, say, or when you're having the other wives in to a May-morning breakfast or a springtime tea, then you'll probably reverse many of these rules about menus for men. You know how we women are. When we're out by ourselves, our taste in the food line is usually very different from that which would please our husbands. Feminine inclinations generally are toward light, dainty food and away from calories. We enjoy the frills. We like food that looks pretty. And we like novelty dishes — new ways of cooking or serving.

                  Colorful fruits and vegetables appeal to us. That's one reason why tea rooms catering to women so often make a specialty of good-looking salads, vegetable plates, and fruit desserts. A successful restaurant in New York made a report on pies recently. The report said that mince and apple pies were most popular with men, but that lemon chiffon pies were the biggest sellers to women guests. Frills again, you see.

                  Men enjoy strong flavors and high seasoning. Women, on the other hand, often prefer the more delicate, subtle flavorings and seasoning. Men like onions and strong cheese and catsup and chili sauce and so on. Women prefer only a delicate trace of onion flavor generally; they'll usually choose milder cheese; and less of the highly seasoned sauces.

                  Quantity appeals to men. They like hearty food in generous amounts. Appearance and daintiness appeal to women. The time to plan your table decorations with the greatest care, the time to work out a pretty color scheme in the menu, and to exhibit your best china and linen — the time to pay the greatest attention to appearances, especially to the so-called "little touches," is when your guests are women . I heard someone say the other day that women wanted quality and men quantity in food. I shouldn't express it quite as strongly as that. But certainly women prefer small, perfect dishes, rather than large helpings. They would rather have a tiny chicken pattie, say, that was cooked to the queen's taste, than a large slice of roast beef or a big steak. The feminine eye and appetite will appreciate clever and dainty garnishing, and new and pretty ways of serving food.

                  Spring and early summer seem to be ideal seasons for feminine parties. You can feature the more delicate shades in your table decorations and in your menu. You have the delicate colors of the spring flowers as your guides. And you have the new tender garden fruits and vegetables for your menu. Spring flowers, new garden foods, new spring clothes — somehow they all go together.

                  A feminine company meal doesn't have to be expensive, either. The food nay be low in cost and you never need to serve large amounts. But everything on the menu must be delicious in flavor and attractive to look at.

                  Suppose now that we plan a May luncheon party, maybe for your bridge club, maybe for some other feminine occasion. This is a medium-priced menu with emphasis on delicate color and flavor.

                  Individual rice rings filled with cream salmon; New green peas; Cloverleaf rolls or tiny cheese baking powder biscuit served piping hot; Spring salad of garden greens or garden vegetables; for dessert, Rhubarb or strawberry tarts; Tea or coffee.

                  Just a word about making those rhubarb tarts. They're very simple. Some people like them made with a meringue over the top. Personally, I like just the rhubarb with no meringue. I like to see that delicious pink color suggesting springtime.

                  Well, bake your little pastry shells on the back of a muffin tin. Fill the shells with rhubarb sauce. You remember that when we spoke of making sauce we suggested dropping the diced rhubarb into a thick hot syrup and cooking gently until the rhubarb was tender. We also suggested that you could make sauce just by mixing the rhubarb with sugar and cooking. Always cook rhubarb gently so it will hold its shape. Never remove the skin. That gives the sauce its attractive color.

                  Some people like rhubarb tarts made spicy with the addition of nutmeg or even a bit of cinnamon. Other people like it cooked with a little orange or lemon peel. You suit yourself about that. Also suit your own taste about the meringue.

                  Once more — that menu: Individual rice rings served with creamed salmon; New green peas; Cloverleaf rolls or tiny hot cheese biscuit; Spring salad; Rhubarb tarts; Coffee or tea.

The recipes for the day come from the same era as the article above, but from the other side of the Atlantic. I give you the ideas for variation on a theme of rhubarb tart (including one topped with meringue) from a feature on seasonal rhubarb recipes which appeared in the Manchester Guardian of March 9, 1936.

Rhubarb in Season
Some Recipes

 …. Several varieties of rhubarb tart can be made, and these are a pleasant change from apple. Here is one. Line a pie-dish with short or puff pastry. Stew three or four sticks of rhubarb with very little water and some sugar until half-cooked. Beat together the yolks of two eggs and two tablespoonfuls of sugar, add the grated rind of half a lemon, and mix with the rhubarb. Put the mixture on the pastry and bake in a moderate oven until it is cooked. Whisk the whites of the eggs to a stiff froth, fold lightly in two tablespoonfuls of castor sugar and pile it on the tart. Sprinkle more sugar on the top and put into a cool oven to set the meringue.
With Figs.

Rhubarb and figs are a good mixture. Choose the plump cooking figs usually sold on strings, and cut them into pieces. Cover a pie plate with pastry, put on it a layer of figs, then the rhubarb cut in pieces. Sprinkle liberally with sugar, add more figs, and cover with pastry. Bake for at least an hour, in a hot oven at first, then reducing the heat. Should the figs be at all hard, it is preferable to soak them in water overnight. Rhubarb and pear, rhubarb and pineapple, or rhubarb and banana can also be tried.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Menus for Men: Feed the Brute, 1934.


As regular readers know, one of the sources I return to regularly is the scripts of The United States Department of Agriculture Radio Service program called Housekeepers’ Chat, which aired regularly during the 1920’s and 1930’s.  They always offer an interesting historical perspective.

Today’s story is from the program of March 26, 1934.

Menus for Men.

How about this matter of the way to a man's heart. We women have often been told that food is what takes us there. But that's rather indefinite advice to go to work on. Another humorous maxim says, "Feed the brute." Also indefinite. Feed him what? We need to know what kind of food appeals especially to masculine taste, what certain dishes he likes best, and what kind of menu pleases him. For example, suppose that you have some men guests coming to dinner tonight and want to serve them their idea of a perfect meal. What will you plan for the bill of fare?

Well, I listened the other day to a group of men discussing their ideas versus their wives' ideas of satisfying food. And I'll pass on their remarks to you for what they are worth. How and then a man's viewpoint on matters of food is very enlightening.

The tall, dark man sitting in the corner began the discussion by saying, "Women are funny, aren't they? They all seem to like real he-men. In general their movie favorites are all of the knock-down and drag-out type. Yet when it comes to meals, they will go on serving their husbands or their men guests feminine food — you know, dainty, fluffy- ruffles dishes, dabs of nothing all dressed up."

Another man in the group agreed, "Yes, sir, that's just the way it goes. I've often told my wife that she can't appease a man's appetite with a fruit salad or a bit of marshmallow whip. I've often said to her, 'For goodness' sake, let's have some muscle and brawn food for once!"

Still another man added, "Why don't they save their dainties for women's luncheons and teas and give us some real food when we come home?"

In general they all agreed that the food they liked best was simple, substantial fare; that they preferred corned beef any time to delicacies like sweetbreads and squab; that they liked broiled or roasted meats best, and vegetables simply cooked and simply served without sauces; they preferred simple salads with just plain French dressing, and desserts like those two old-timers — pie and ice cream.

From that conversation I decided that no matter how cultured or refined a man may become, nor how far he has left his football days behind, still his ideas about food don't change much. He still prefers plain fare to dressed up food. And he's still a carnivorous animal and likes steak and roast beef usually better than the daintier meats. And in spite of present day diet fads that rule it out, most men feel that no dinner is complete without the good old potato in some form or other. Men also like highly seasoned foods. They're fond of onions. They're fond of strong cheese. They like catsup and chile sauce and so on. You may be so refined that you shudder at the thought of strong- smelling cheese, but for the sake of household happiness, better have it on the table once in a while, so your husband won't have to leave home to satisfy his appetite.

As for this matter of meal plans, I gathered from the remarks on all sides that the masculine ideal of a menu starts with soup, continues with meat or fish and potatoes and ends with a plain salad, crackers and cheese, and coffee. A man with a sweet tooth may want ice cream or pie or stewed fruit for dessert. Other men may want one good cooked vegetable besides potatoes with the main course.

Well, of course, I'm repeating to you the conversation of just one group of men. Tastes may differ. But I think this group voiced the opinion of the sex in general. Have you ever noticed what specialties are featured in men's clubs? They're usually dishes like roast beef and Yorkshire pudding or beef and kidney pie or some other plain substantial food. This is the kind of food universally served in England where everything is planned to please the men.

The soups men like are generally the heavier soups, bean or lentil soup, onion soup with cheese, chowders and oyster stew. Men like Boston baked beans with brown bread. They like calf's liver and bacon. Among the Lenten main dishes they like Welsh rabbit and broiled fish steak. They like big baked potatoes and French fried potatoes. For dessert, you'll find them pleased with deep-dish apple pie, cherry pie, strawberry shortcake and plain ice creams.

So much for my report on a masculine conversation. Now let's plan a dinner to suit men guests. Let's start the meal with a tomato juice cocktail, seasoned with onion juice, a bit of horseradish and so on. Then let's have a planked steak or just a thick broiled steak. Baked potatoes and French fried onions next. And green beans with butter. For dessert, deep-dish apple pie. You can make it "a la mode" if you like it. Finally, coffee.

Once more. Tomato juice cocktail; Broiled steak; Baked potatoes; French fried onions; Green beans buttered; Deep-dish apple pie; Coffee.

Rather unusually for the program, this episode did not give an actual recipe for any of the dishes mentioned. The French Fried Onions leapt out at me as being the most “knock-down and drag-out” dish on the menu so I went in search of contemporary instructions for cooking them. Serendipitously the search led me to a little booklet called French Frying, published by the Home Economics Department of the Procter & Gamble company in 1932 in support of their popular product, Crisco.

French Fried Onions (flour coated)
Cut large onions into slices about ¼ inch thick. Separate slices into rings. Dip rings into milk, dredge with flour, and fry in deep Crisco heated to 365o-375oF. or hot enough to brown an inch cube of bread in 60 seconds. Drain. Salt slightly.


You will be pleased to know that some weeks later, the program did feature Feminine Food. I will be sure to give the insights from that script, at a date in the near future.

Sunday, March 05, 2017

Give them Bread, not Muffins or Cake.


“Muffins” are, if we are honest enough to admit it, simply an excuse to eat cake for breakfast. Or at least they are nowadays. Once upon a time, in a land far, far, away – by which I mean when I was growing up in the north of England - a muffin was what we now are forced to refer to as an “English” muffin. The distinction is now necessary to avoid confusion with the modern usurper of the name – the cup-cakey, dare I say, “American,” version. The “original” muffin was made from a yeast-leavened batter on a hot griddle, and commonly served split and toasted. With butter of course.
A similar situation exists with Banana Bread, Gingerbread, Coconut Loaf, Date Loaf and other similarly named baked goods. The names of these breakfast and tea-time staples comes from their bread-like shape of course, and they do lend an air of plain respectability to the items, making us feel less greedy and indulgent about eating cake yet again. Do you agree?

Some time ago, I gave you a recipe for “real” coconut (cocoa-nut) bread from Eliza Acton’s marvelous work The English bread-book for domestic use (1857.) This is a yeast-risen bread whose sweetness derives solely from the included grated fresh coconut (cooked in milk.) In the same story was a World War 1 recipe for “real” carrot bread – again, leavened with yeast, and with no added sugar.

I am returning to the theme today, with another recipe from Acton’s The English bread-book for domestic use. This time, it is a variation on a basic bread, not cake, recipe, with ginger flavouring. I have not tried this myself, but intend to very soon. Let me know if you make it too!

Ginger Loaf, or Rolls.
Mix intimately two ounces of good powdered ginger,—called in the shops prepared ginger,— and a little salt, with two pounds of flour, and make it into a firm but perfectly light dough with German or brewers' yeast, in the usual manner. Bake it either in one loaf, or divide it into six or eight small ones.
Flour, 2lbs.; prepared ginger, 2oz.; little salt; German yeast, ½ oz. , or fresh brewers' yeast 1 large dessert-spoonful; milk, or milk and water, 1 pint: to rise one hour or until quite light: to be kneaded down and left again to rise until light.
Remark. — When diarrhoea or other complaints of a similar nature are prevalent, this bread will be found of excellent effect, especially in travelling; far better, indeed, than many of the compounds to which people have recourse to avert disturbance of the system. The proportion of ginger can be much increased if desired; but the bread should not then be habitually eaten for a long continuance, as the excess of any stimulating condiment is often in many ways injurious. Rather less than the pint of milk will often prove sufficient.

Finally, I offer you an alternative idea which is a compromise of sorts: a type of soda-bread with about 4 ounces (114 gm) of sugary stuff to a pound (454 gm) of flour.

Ginger Treacle Bread.
You require 1 lb. flour, 3 oz. butter, 2 oz. sugar, 2 tablespoonfuls treacle, 1 teaspoonful (level) baking soda, a pinch of salt, 1 teaspoonful ground ginger, buttermilk or milk and water to mix. Sieve all dry ingredients together and rub in butter. Mix treacle and milk together by slightly warming, and stir into the dry ingredients to make a medium dough. If you have not buttermilk, a mixture of milk and water is good to mix. Form into round loaves about two inches thick or put into greased bread tins. Bake in moderately hot oven about thirty minutes till brown and firm. – Kathleen O’Leary, ad 10, Castelnau Gardens, London, S.W. 13.
"Readers' Recipes." Sunday Times [London, England] 21 May 1939