As I’ve mentioned in the past, in acquiring inspiration for these food articles, I sometimes “Get by with a little help from my friends,” as the Beatles sang. Such is the case in today’s column. Friend Perry Templeton furnished a piece on the subject of “Eating in the ’50’s,” and he and his wife Cathy generously provide months of magazines on Louisiana food and culinary events. Another contributor to this article comes from a friend of our daughter’s who gave her a cookbook from the ’50’s, knowing that her mom was also a lover of all things related to food.
The cookbook, “De Bonnes Choses a’ Manger,” or “Good Things to Eat,” published by St. Matthew’s Guild of Houma in Terrebonne Parish, was copyrighted in 1956. It is said to contain art, romance and methods and traditions of cookery along Bayou Terrebonne. A comparison of the eating habits of those living in the 1950s, and the recipes found in the cookbook, show just how much tastes have changed since then, while appetites for nourishing, tasty food remains.
In the 1950s, “pasta” had not been invented, there was only macaroni or spaghetti. The cookbook gave this simple food an upgrade with a recipe for “macaroni mousse,” using scalded milk, eggs, butter, cheese, pimento, parsley and onion. In the 1950s, curry spice was not found in local dishes, most knew it only as a surname. Tacos had not been discovered, all potato chips were plain and chicken didn’t have fried fingers as they do now.
As opposed to the varied cooking oils found on grocery shelves today, such as canola, safflower, peanut and coconut, to name a few, oil in the 50’s was used for lubricating. “Fat” was the ingredient called for in cooking and “healthy food” was thought to be anything edible. In the cookbook, a recipe for daube glace, a specially-prepared jellied beef roast using the ingredients of red wine and tomato paste, was seasoned with a slice of fat pork.
The directions in the recipe called for the fat to be cut into small pieces and inserted all through the roast. Veal shanks, pigs feet, or both, were also ingredients listed for the daube glace. In today’s more health-conscious society, large cuts of meat are injected with liquid seasonings through syringes, a technique that this nurse/food writer found to be a little off-putting when recently used. A standard of measurement found throughout the recipe book would have been difficult for a nurse or person who relied on precise measurements to use, as many ingredients were listed as being of “cooking spoon” size.
What many would call appalling today, and definitely not on the menu for someone watching their blood cholesterol levels, were recipes for brain fritters, calf brains, sweetbreads with bacon, and a tripe supper menu for 12 men. Directions for preparation of the tripe included soaking the meat in cold water and removing the pipes and membranes.
In addition, the cookbook described instructions for tenderizing tough steaks by putting three tablespoons of olive oil and 1 1/2 tablespoons of vinegar on a plate and lay the steak in it in the icebox for four hours, turning many times until the meat is ready to cook.
Another interesting section of the cookbook was described as “Electrical Deserts.” Those were sweet confections such as orange cream and mocha cream frozen in the ice tray of a “mechanical refrigerator.”
Times have changed, as the article “Eating in the ’50’s” points out. Elbows, hats and cell phones were never on or at the tables in those days. Some things have not changed, however. A hearty appetite and sharing the joy of a meal with family and friends, while recalling the good times and foods of years past, will always remain constant.
The following recipe is an updated version of an older classic, submitted for a St. Edward’s School cookbook, “Sharing Our Best,” published back in the early 1980s when our children were students there.
CHICKEN POT PIE
3 cups cut up cooked chicken
1 1/4 cup milk, divided
1/2 cup dairy sour cream
1 can condensed cream of chicken soup
1 cup frozen peas
3/4 cup biscuit baking mix
1/4 cup cornmeal
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Heat the chicken, 1/2 cup of milk, sour cream, soup and peas to boiling. Spoon into 6 ungreased 10-ounce custard cups or 1 rectangular baking dish (13 x 9 x 2-inch).
Beat the remaining ingredients, except cheese with a wire whisk or hand beater until smooth, approximately 1 minute. Pour evenly over the hot chicken mixture. Sprinkle with cheese and paprika. Bake, uncovered until top is set and soup mixture bubbles around edge, approximately 20 to 25 minutes. Serves 6.
CATHERINE WATTIGNY embraces the “joie de vivre” as a wife, mother and grandmother, inspired by her prior nursing experience with a new focus on good mental health for all.