Archive for August, 2007

People’s Dairy — Salads

Friday, August 31st, 2007

Salads” have a checkered past on America’s dinner tables. In past decades, raw veggies were considered “savage,” and so most fruits and vegetables were disciplined into subservient mush with a hardy boiling. Laura Shapiro explains:

A thorough scrubbing followed by an equally thorough boiling was the usual prescription for vegetables, which had to be cooked long past the point of resistance in order to be deemed digestible. According to the syllabus for one cooking course, it was primitive “man’s” first encounter with a vegetable that prompted his rise from savagery. Fruits and nuts he could consume raw, but the moment he saw a vegetable he understood that it had to be boiled, and at that moment he took his first step toward civilization. Most authorities recommended up to three hours’ boiling for string beans, forty-five minutes for asparagus, twenty minutes for cucumbers, half an hour for celery, and up to twelve hours for beets (90).

Even when the salads of yesteryear resembled the green stuff we have at our tables, our grandmothers were taught to be slightly skeptical of the health of those untamed leaves:

The object of scientific salad making was to subdue the raw greens until they bore as little resemblance as possible to their natural state. If a plain green salad was called for, the experts tried to avoid simply letting a disorganized pile of leaves drop messily onto the plate (90).

So you have these civilized salads from the Dairy Council, complete with disciplined peppers and thoroughly confining gelatine.

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Names like “Health Salad” and “Vitamin Salad” sound so tasty that they whittle away your appetite before you even come to the table. And don’t forget those arcane classic salad dressings. There’s not a vinaigrette in sight! Now you can see the dreaded homemade mayo that made so many people ill at church picnics of yesteryear (contemporary mayos having little that resembles actual “eggs”). And which Thousand Islands exactly sired a condiment with pimentos, beets, catsup, and “thick chili sauce”?

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I keep coming back to the NEW beet salad and the NATIONAL fish salad. And the MOCKING Chicken Salad. Chickens give us so much. Must we poke fun of their noble efforts with that other white meat?

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People’s Dairy — Soups

Wednesday, August 29th, 2007

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My dad tells the story about begging his mom to make them fried chicken for once. She said, “Sure! Why not?” And promptly boiled the chicken for soup first and then pan fried it. For grandma, cooking perfectly good chicken without boiling the good stuff into broth was unconscionable. All our grandmothers excelled in soup because it’s really so very good for you. Some of my favorite recipes from my mom and mother-in-law are soup recipes, and I haven’t found anything yet to top those old-fashioned chicken noodle and beef barley basics.

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People’s, of course, adds dairy. Not bad, but I just don’t see it as rustic as good ol’ bone broth soups. Their soup secrets are pretty sound ideas still for more simple and economical living. I guess I’m just a soup fan.

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People’s Dairy — Breads

Monday, August 27th, 2007

Bread is bread. And honestly, if there’s anything that’s timeless in this little cookbook, it’s the bread. The best recipe among them, I would guess, is the gingerbread. How can you go wrong? We’ll be trying it this holiday season.

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People’s Dairy

Friday, August 24th, 2007

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My father-in-law, Robert, worked at People’s Dairy in Desoto, Missouri. And this recipe book is from 1937 from what I assume was Mona Faye’s mother’s collection. Your grandma or great-grandma probably had something similar on her shelf since it was produced by National Dairy and Food Bureau, Chicago.

This little sliver of a cookbook has it all! The “choicest” recipes that would usually cost “dollars.” Solutions for weight loss and weight gain (go figure!). From etiquette to wild game cookery. It even “solves” the “lunch box problem.” And most importantly, of course, “the most helpful information on whipping cream and the care of milk in the home.”

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First things first. Each child must get one quart of milk a day and each adult a pint! For every dollar you spend at the store, 44 cents should be on dairy! So if I spend a $100 at the store, I need to be buying $44 worth of milk! Are they NUTS? Meat is only 12%. Are they buying gold milk in diamond cartons?

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Just so you know where you stand, the final page of the cookbook includes this handy little weight chart. So you can see what that 44% of milk you’re buying should create pound-for-pound. No one exists taller than 6′. And, of course, only women read charts. Things officially changed in 1959 and 1983. Science is always at work to bewilder us into trusting them more.

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To Begin. . . .

Friday, August 24th, 2007

I’ve always been fascinated by domestic histories. I don’t think there’s anything more interesting than to hear about Perfection Salad — that exemplar of heavenly domesticity from the turn-of-the-last-century. Or about freezing diapers in Northern Canada because it’s assumed to be the only way to properly disinfect them. Or about children learning their letters from copying “receipts.” I’ve managed to intersect my scholarship with entertainment and daily chores quite frequently in my adult life. And this is just more of the same.

When my mother-in-law, Mona Faye, gave me this huge stack of old cookbooks, I was elated, and I knew I had to share with you all. And I’ve had this blog ready for some time, but I just can’t begin. I don’t know how to start. I read Lileks for inspiration. Or a classic women’s history for facts. And still I sputter.

So I’m just going to jump in. This blog will have recipes and newspaper clippings, advice and advertisements, history and entertainment. All things to think about while scrubbing the floors and ironing the shirts. Because we women have been doing it for millenia. And by now, we should be pretty funny while doing it.