Thursday, January 17, 2008

A piece of history

Recently, I was thinking about restoring the copy of The Settlement Cookbook that my grandfather gave to my grandmother in 1939.

My grandfather writes to my grandmother just in the binder: "To Mrs L.G.B. From Mr L.G.B. on her birthday 04/16/39". The spine of the book is in terrible disrepair, but the book itself is in OK shape. It is a great heirloom for me to have.

Anyways, a fellow I used to work with is a collector of books, and so he was helping me with options for restoring it. As we got talking, I told him that I collected cookbooks. He was so kind, and gave me a recipe box that he had found at a flea market.

It was a recipe box from Gold Medal Brand, a flour company started in 1880 by the Washburn Crosby company (eventually becoming General Mills). They had entered the first International Millers Exhibition and won not only gold medal, but bronze and silver as well, for the different grades of flour they milled. After that, they started using "Gold Medal" on their prime grade of flour.

The recipe box is packed from front to back with recipes from Gold Medal, recipes handwritten on note cards, blank checks (yes, really!), random sheets of paper, even a ripped envelope (post marked August 12, 1933). The box was probably filled in the early 30's and passed on, as some of the recipes are in the box twice, once on the faded pieces of paper and then again on note cards.

The owner of the box was from the Saint Paul, Minnesota area; the blank check is from Glencoe, MN, The Security State Bank.

The envelope was addressed to Stillwater, MN. The envelope was addressed to Mrs E.B. Madson. I wonder if this was her recipe box as it is possible that the owner simply used this envelope to copy down a recipe. There is no return address on the envelope, and the stamp was ripped off.
Most of the recipes are faded, as they were written in pencil. Most don't have instructions, only a list of ingredients. Some that have instructions are actually in short hand, making them of no real use to me.

However, there are some really interesting effects in the box. The first is a small brochure from the Northern States Power Company, from 1935. The brochure speaks to how having an electric refrigerator can save you money, by
1. eliminating food spoilage,
2. allowing you to utilize leftovers, and
3. allowing you to buy in bulk at money saving prices.
The back of the pamphlet has recipes that "cook with cold", such as Tutti Frutti Trifle. Here is the recipe:
1/2 grapefruit
1/2 cup pineapple
1 orange
1 cup moist cocoanut
6 marshmallows
6 maraschino cherries
2 TBS maraschino juice
3 egg whites
6 TBS confectioners sugar
Cut fruit and marshmallows into small pieces. Soak marshmallows and cocoanut in combined juices. Beat egg whites until stiff and fold in sugar. Drain marshmallow mixture, combine with fruits and and fold in egg whites. Turn into refrigerator tray and freeze 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Serves 6-8.
Actually, doesn't sound that bad....

There was a pamphlet from Kraft Mayonnaise called Tempting Salad Recipes. It is a colorful pamphlet, consisting of those beautifully drawn pictures of molded salads and pretty open faced sandwiches.
Some of the recipes contained in the pamphlet include Molded Waldorf Salad, Jellied Vitamin Salad and Molded Crabmeat Salad.

Another pamphlet in the box, was a small one, about 2X3 inches. It contained cake recipes, and was entitled CAKES: Your husband will boast to all of his men friends...when you make them with Gold Metal Softasilk, the Cake Flour and these "Kitchen-tested" recipes. On the back of the pamphlet, there was an offer from the Betty Crocker Home Service Department for a new 24 page book, "New PARTY CAKES for all occasions", FREE! with the tops of 2 boxes of Gold Medal Softasilk, The Cake Flour.
One of the greatest things in the box, was a section of newspaper from The Saint Paul Pioneer Express, Sunday December 5, 1915, called Cookery Hints.Unfortunately, it is not in that great of shape, but some of the recipes are readable. The recipes are mostly technique recipes, such as how to make meringue, how to make custard, how to make single crust pies etc. Still, this article from 1915 is timeless and is a special piece of history.

A later article from the Daily Gazette, Stillwater Minnesota, Tuesday, April 25, 1939, in the Modern Cookery section, describes different types of rolls: feather rolls, orange rolls and Kelvinator rolls. I was curious as to what a Kelvinator roll was. Apparently, a Kelvinator is a type of refrigerator. The roll is similar to a Parker House roll.

Another clipping, from Thursday February 23, 1939, in the HELPS for Housewives section has a recipe for meatballs that "came from Sweden only last year".
Here's the recipe:
Take 1/3 lb veal, 1/3 lb beef, 1/3 lb salt pork, grind twice. Salt and pepper to taste. Take 1/2 tsp nutmeg, 1 egg slightly beaten, 1 cup bread crumbs. Mix and roll into balls 1 inch in diameter.
Let stand 1 hour, then sprinkle 2 TBS flour over meatballs. Fry in salt pork fat or butter until nicely brown. Cober with 1 cup milk and a little water. Let simmer 45 minutes.
Now, I've never heard the term cober before, and I'm wondering if it is a typo. I did a search on google and came up with "cober" in recipes a couple of times, all in reference to covering a pot and simmering. I'm assuming it's a typo unless someone knows otherwise.

The recipe box really is special. I will save it and preserve it the best that I can. Hopefully my son or daughter will want to take it someday.
I'm still waiting for my mom to give me my grandmother's recipe box. I'm sure that it's full of great treasures just as this one is.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Food glorious food

Once and a while, a dinner so special comes along, that I just have to write about it.
This past Saturday night we had one of those dinners.
For you Bostonites, it was at Grill 23, a popular steak house in town. I have always enjoyed going there, however, I had not been in a while, as the previous few dinners I had there were just OK.

My brother, a CPA/Financial adviser, happens to have the wine directer of Grill 23 as a client. He emailed him to let him know we'd be coming in to celebrate our father's 65th birthday. I'm so glad he did...

When we sat down, we were presented with a 1.5 Liter bottle of Duval-Leroy champagne, a Brut which is 75% Pinot Noir and 25% Chardonnay. It was delicious.
Here's what Wine Spectator had to say about it:
“A big, full-bodied bubbly, featuring graphite, toast, lemon and nut aromas and flavors. Balanced with an assertive finish. Will improve with a few months of cellaring. Drink now through 2009”.
The bottle itself was beautiful, black with ornate gold decorations all over the bottle.
With the champagne, came a platter of seafood which included Jonah crab claws, lobster tails, shrimp and Island Creek oysters on the half shell. Wow.

But wait, there's more. With dinner came a bottle of Newton Claret, a bold red, which is primarily a mix of Merlot and Cabernet, but also contains some Cab Franc and Petite Verdot. It just so happens to be a favorite of my father's, so it was appropriate to say the least.

To top it off, we were presented with a dessert wine from Austria, specifically from the Kracher Weinlawbenhof winery in Burgenland. The wine, Kracher, is named for Alois Kracher, the gentleman who developed the wine. It was sweet and velvety on the tongue. Sadly, Alois Kracher recently died in December of 2007.

The food was delicious as well. For an appetizer I had the seared tuna, which was served with skewer of Kobe beef (was it really Kobe??? I don't think so, but it was still yummy), and a quail egg panna cotta. The tuna was crusted with a mix of spices and barely seared. It was good. The quail egg panna cotta was a bit to firm, but was still tasty none the less.
My dinner was scallops and foie gras. The foie gras was actually shaped into legos. Yes, I wrote legos, 4X2 to be exact. (Foie gras is actually duck liver. Believe me, I wouldn't eat anyone's liver unless it tasted good. Duck liver is buttery and sweet and really is delicious). I'm still wondering why they shaped the foie into legos, but, hey, it got me to order it....
For dessert I had sticky toffee pudding which was served as a mini bundt cake. It was accompanied by an ice cream made from a liquor called Biscotti Famosi, which has an anise flavor.

The food, mixed with the wine experience really made it a celebratory evening (I think I am still hung over today)....