Saturday, 8 December 2018

Comments!!!!

O.M.G. The last comment I published here was in the Autumn of 2016. For some reason I didn't see any more comments "awaiting moderation" for ages. I figured either no one was reading or that Blogger had changed something that made it impossible for people to comment. I couldn't figure out how to fix it, if so. I felt for a long time that I was pretty much talking to myself here, except for the occasional mention from someone in real life who said they liked something here.

I haven't made this blog a priority for some time, using it more as a journal for myself or to put things on to share with a number of people. So it has slowly cranked to a near halt.

And just now I've found a whole slew of comments dating back for a couple of years! Sorry to have ignored you all this time!

Wednesday, 28 November 2018

100 Years of Food - 1970s

Sue quoted someone called Heston Blumenthal as having said the 70s were the decade that good food forgot. She said the big things that came along were pasta dishes, powdered mashed potatoes (brand name Smash), tinned chow mein and something called Angel Delight (think Jello instant pudding mix in strawberry and banana flavours). The humble quiche was also fashionable in Britain. 

At my house we ate Kraft's macaroni and "cheese" that came in a box (4 for $1!), but not much spaghetti and meat balls. We did have powdered potatoes a lot, with loads of margarine. Mom did buy cans of chow mein and water chestnuts, instant white rice and packages of crispy noodles, but then she'd spend half a day making garlic frittered chicken from scratch and my mouth still waters at the memory. We never once had quiche at our house though. 

I'm thinking that this particular fashion didn't hit Oklahoma until the 1980s. I never attempted to make one until the early 90s, because it featured in The Tightwad Gazette. Quiche is everywhere in cafes over here in Britain, not anything fancy at all, and men eat it without worrying in the least about their masculinity. Does anyone else remember some idiotic book about 'Real Mean Don't Eat Quiche'?

I'm thinking Sue offered us several things for the 1970s, but the only one that made a photograph or my notes was the Angel Delight. Which I happen to quite like. My photo is very sad being as how I was stingy in my portions of desserts. 

Pink stuff is Angel Delight.






Wednesday, 21 November 2018

100 Years of Food - 1960s

To recognise the decade lovingly remembered as the 1960s, Sue brought up the term 'technology'. It would seem that it was in the 60s when convenience foods hit the shelves. As I recall growing up Mom wasn't using much in the way of convenience food as yet but apparently here in Britain they had just discovered kiwi fruit from the Antipodes. I just learned that this word doesn't refer to Australia/New Zealand, but is a term referring to the point on the opposite side of the planet going through the centre of the Earth. So, if you were standing in Sydney the Antipodes could mean the US (or some ocean nearby). Hmmm...

Where were we? Kiwi fruit. Sometime when I was married to H1 my in-laws gave us a Fruit of the Month club gift (from Harry and David - are they still around?). I'd never seen such lush fruit. However, the box of kiwis went to waste as I'd never encountered them before and I couldn't think of eating something so 'hairy'. My boss at work was appalled that I had let something so relative expensive rot. He brought one to work one day and peeled it for me. I was full of remorse - I still am, 30 years later.

So, back to the 1960s Britain. Apparently pavlova was also all the rage. I don't think I ever met a pavlova back home in the US. We obviously didn't keep up with the food fashions. Sue's sidekick-in-the-background, Dorothy, had a friend make the pavlova bases for us. It's not really to my taste, being whipped egg whites with sugar that's baked and crunchy. If it all goes wrong and you don't have Hersey kisses shaped mounds, crush it all up with fruit and whipped cream and call it Eton Mess. We didn't have a mess, we had pavlova with tinned peaches, kiwi and whipped cream and I quite liked the very small portion I had. On my own I would just do the fruit and cream. But I hear that was big in the 1980s, apparently, fruit and condensed milk.




I wonder if we'll look back on the 2010's and discover we followed food-fashions without realising it? 

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

100 Years of Food - 1950s

Coronation Chicken. 

I never heard of this dish until I came to Britain. I'm sure I've had a dozen or so Coronation Chicken sandwiches, chicken in some sort of spicy sauce. Not my first choice, but not unpleasant. I hadn't realised it had a history, or I might have appreciated it more. Not that Sue seemed to think the run of the mill stuff was much to do with the Proper Recipe that she used. 


Coronation Chicken at about 4 o'clock (postion, not time) served over basmati rice with peas.

Its pedigree is undeniable as it came from the cookbook written by the inventors: Constance Spry and Rosemary Hume. Funny enough, I've actually heard of Constance Spry and I somehow think of spray on oil...but her Wikipedia entry describes her path from nursing and welfare work to flower arranging.  It sort of boggles my mind as to how one makes that transition from such serious, useful work to arranging flowers but I suspect it has to do with having married better the second time around. Or perhaps after all the grimness of real life she wanted more beauty instead. So it would seem she is known first as a Florist - she eventually was florist to royalty - rather than a Cook. Reading about her almost makes we want to take an interest in flower arranging, something I've always scorned (all too achingly lady like). I may have to get my hands on her biography.

Turns out it was Hume who was the cook. She and Spry opened a school for Domestic Science (which I now as a Tightwad take very seriously) in Berkshire. Spry did the flowers for various royal functions, including the coronation of Elizabeth II and she got an OBE (an OBE for flowers, OMG), but Rosemary Hume was the Cordon Bleu chef who devised the chicken recipe and her Wikipedia entry says she should get the credit. So there. Of course Hume being French-trained initially called the dish Poulet Reine Elizabeth. The relationship between the British and the French is complicated...but of course the dish had to be given an English name.

The story Sue told was about the limitations involved in feeding masses of dignitaries following the coronation service, which would have been quite long. It had to be served cold. I'm not sure I would attempt this recipe without the actual cookbook in front of me, but my notes say whole chickens were poached in stock. The sauce included a glass of red wine, some onion, curry powder, lemon juice, sugar, oil, salt and pepper, mayonnaise, whipped cream and apricot puree. This chicken in sauce was served over basmati rice (another thing I never encountered until living in Britain), peas, cucumber cubes, herbs and French dressing made with French mustard. I can tell you that what is called French dressing over here is nothing like the stuff I grew up with in the States.

I can truthfully report Coronation Chicken is wonderful. Now I might even have to figure out Jubilee Chicken

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

100 Years of Food - 1940s

So where were we before being so rudely interrupted by Halloween? The 1940s! Which brings us Vegetable Pie. Doesn't sound wonderful does it? Let me tell you it actually is quite nice.

Of course everyone knows that there was food rationing in the time of WWII, even in the US. I still have one of Grandma and Grandpa's ration books. There was also a points system which seemingly applied to foods and to other things like clothing. It will have been an odd time, I imagine, of both fear and boredom. Fear for your life if you lived in Europe, fear for your loved ones elsewhere. Given the number of things that were rationed you could get bored eating quite plain food and waiting for some news or for the next bomb. I think it was a time that required a great deal of ingenuity. If you hadn't any of that it will have been pure suffering and tedium.





All that said, I liked the vegetable pie well enough to try making it and we have had it a couple of times. If we had more leftover veg I would make it every week, but we don't. With my present method of cooking a lot but not an enormous amount of veg for each dinner, it looks as though we might managed enough surplus - carefully putting it aside instead of mixing it in with a stir-fry the next night - to make vegetable pie every 3-4 weeks. Something to look forward to. 

Sue showed us the leftovers she had collected throughout the week: mashed potatoes, carrots, tinned peas, cauliflower cheese and parsnips. She also had some chicken stock jelly. As people were limited to one egg per week, she made an oatmeal pastry without egg: 3/4 cup flour, 1/3 cup oatmeal, 1 oz cooking fat/butter, 1 oz. grated cheese.

This egg-less crust was amazingly tasty. I'm not much of a whizz with pastry but, so long as you don't worry how it looks, it's not very hard - just messy. I've become a fan of 'rubbing in' rather than 'cutting in'. It is much easier and faster. Mind, if you lived in the southern US I can see that the heat in your kitchen would be a challenge to overcome. Here in the North of England with my North facing kitchen, heat isn't much a problem. Still, I mixed the pastry and stuck it in the fridge while I greased my pie plate and gathered my veg. Mine included home grown runner beans, some roasted pumpkin and marrow, roasted onions...it's not a low fat dish. Which is why it tasted so good, no doubt.

Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Maverick

I don't know about you, but when I think about the character Maverick I think of James Garner. I think it must have been a TV series for a while when I was a kid. Do you remember it?





Anyhow, this is about Halloween costumes for my step-son, so we'll be talking about the 1990s, not the 1950s/60s. It would seem Mel Gibson made a film using this character. I don't recall that I ever saw it, but looking over ideas for Halloween costumes and what I could produce easily and with little cost, Johnny was enthusiastic about Maverick.



As I recall, he had some slightly dressy trousers, an old cowboy hat and some boots. I think I found a white shirt and a cordouroy jacket at the thrift shop. I remember the brown vest belonged to me, Mom made it for me years before. I came up with some brown ribbon for a tie of sorts. I think his favourite part was getting to carry cards around all day. Also that the costume was comfortable.




Wednesday, 24 October 2018

100 Years of Food: 1930s - Cocktails and Canapes

For food in the 1930s we were served a cocktail of 'champagne' (fizzy wine) with Angostura bitters, lemon juice and a sugar cube. It was nice enough, but I probably wouldn't bother. Then again, I had the non-alcoholic drink as I was driving. 





The canapes on the other hand, were pretty special. Sue mentioned a book called Larousse Gastronomique, which sounded terribly impressive. I go to a lot of these things to be exposed to information I'd never get elsewhere and so she just ticked that box. There were several trays of canapes. One had a small scone (biscuit in the US) base with mushroom pate and a slice of roasted mushrooms on top; others had some kind of chutney with a bit of cheese on top. Another was a small round cracker with a smear of cream cheese and a tidbit of smoked salmon. The last was a 'blini' base (like a 50 cent / 50 pence sized pancake) with anchovy pate and a green olive on top. Sue gave us a word she said was used in the '30s to describe the bases. I've tossed my notes apparently, but I think it was something like 'smidgeon'.




Pat didn't care for the anchovy paste but I liked them all pretty well. I later asked how to make mushroom pate: saute mushrooms and diced onions in butter and blend; seems simple enough. In writing this I started wondering about the difference between a canape (which should rightly have an accent mark over the e) and what my Dad used to call Horse Dovers (and yes, Mom made them for any celebratory occasion like Christmas or New Years Eve).  It would seem that canapes are finger food, meant to be eaten in one or two bits (so I wasn't being a pig) while hors d'oeuvres are often served on a plate and eaten with cutlery.

The period between the first and second world wars is one that has fascinated me since I 'discovered' it. I've written often about it here, mostly to do with authors, Bright Young Things and the flippant attitude that young people developed as a form of rebellion against their Victorian parents. There must have been nearly as much to mourn as to celebrate after the first war ended. That will have been in the 1920s. 

Then came the crash of Wall Street and the Great Depression. Hitler came to power in Germany in 1933 and WWII began in 1939. According to this website, unemployment was quite high in Britain in the early '30s, but if you had a job your standard of living improved substantially and fewer people lived in absolute poverty than had previously been seen. So, I suppose if you had the means, cocktails and canapes make perfect sense. 

Also, serving drinks and small bits of food - ie a 'cocktail' party - was less onerous and expensive that entertaining friends with a sit down meal. The party had a set start and finish time as well. These days I expect a sit down meal might work out at a similar price to serving booze, but that's a guess; and there is always someone who doesn't know it's time to go home. My experience over the years I've been in Britain is that fewer and fewer people bother to entertain in their homes, which I find rather sad. The old fashioned potluck that I grew up with doesn't seem to ever have taken hold here. On the other hand, it may just be that people don't feel they want to share the privacy of their nests more than not wanting to spend the money to feed people. 

My view is that once a party stops being about spending time with good friends and becomes an exercise in social or professional advancement it is no longer fun. But this presentation about food through the decades was definitely fun!