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's not a low fat dish. Which is why it tasted so good, no doubt.