Friday, January 19, 2018

MODERNIZING THE FARM KITCHEN, 1949



As I mentioned in a previous post, daughter Hallie sent a link to this YouTube video (here) developed in 1949 on the modernization the farm kitchen. “Did anyone ever have such a kitchen?” she wondered. Here are her observations and my responses:

·       Note the food waste bin that can be emptied from the outside. REALLY?? Is that actually more convenient?
I don’t think it is more convenient, and I was reminded of the Dragnet radio episode where the perpetrator gained entrance to the apartment through the garbage chute.

Who would take out the garbage and how often was a mid-century household discussion. In the first kitchen I remember, garbage was an issue. We had neither disposer nor dog, so plate and pot scrapings went into a can under the sink which was lined with a paper bag. I considered it nasty and hated dealing with it! And boy! – if “we” forgot to take it out – whew!! Today, our house is on a septic tank, so I use the disposer judiciously. Any scraps the dogs can’t devour are immediately removed to the outside garbage receptacle or compost bin.

·       The film shows lots of things that are so useful but clearly did not become mainstream. Why not? Storage behind the sink, bins under the cupboard for flour, sugar, etc.
I suspect these inventions were too expensive to produce, given that kitchens don’t come in standard sizes. This was a customized kitchen, and while the presenter seemed to say we could all have these features, I think it was in the dream phase.

And perhaps even more importantly is the fact that in this post-war period, we were sitting on the cusp of great change. Women were losing interest in the role of homemaker, including chief cook and bottle washer. She was ready to put the focus on other aspects of life.

Good place for a lazy susan
Of all the ideas presented, the rotating cupboard (lazy susan) is one I’ve actually experienced, and I like them. It’s “a round peg in a square hole,” as it were, so clearly there will be some waste space, but space in a deep cupboard is mostly wasted through inaccessibility anyway.

·       Was that lady feeding an army with that quantity of potatoes and onions?
I thought that was funny, too. Remember, mid-century we were still a meat and potatoes society. And while my parents were feeding teen-agers in the ‘50s, we also had large quantities of potatoes and onions on hand. We ate a lot of potatoes (mostly boiled) and gravy. I also thought it was funny that she ringed the platter with the potatoes and then squeeeeeezed the meat into the middle.

·       What was she doing at the seated-height cutting board (filling boxes)? Does she have a side business? Is that marijuana?
I had a good laugh over this question. She appears to be putting blanched spinach into freezer boxes. (Ah! I remember this process well.) And was she using her iron to seal the bags? I finally determined she was using the iron to compress the bag. It’s just an example of how the system could be used, but couldn’t she just sit at the table? The only time I ever want to sit in my kitchen is when I’m at the sink to clean, pit, and/or peel a large quantity of fruit. That process can go on a long time, and I do get tired of standing.

And what about that dessert? It appeared to be fruited Jello and a large piece of frosted chocolate cake. Talk about super-sizing in an era when we usually didn’t! – or at least we think we didn’t. KW

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

GTI UPDATE



The 2015 VW GTI we bought a month ago is now at home in our garage. The old Dakota is living out in the elements so that the GTI can sleep under cover. It’s licensed and ready to go. Except . . .

Before Christmas, Mike and I drove into town, and he insisted I “get checked out” on the GTI. “Go ahead and start it,” he said, and he went on to his shop to get something. Well, it wouldn’t start for me. It kept saying, “No key in vicinity,” or something like that. My key fob was in my purse, so I knew it was lying – just being deliberately obstinate since it knows it’s Mike’s car. Mike came along, reminded me of the correct technique, and the car started. He got in, and I continued to drive as we ran our errands. We had no further issues.

Sunday evening I decided to drive the GTI to the neighborhood grocery store. With my foot firmly planted on the brake, I pressed the starter, and the GTI said there was no key. What!!? And that’s when it dawned on me that my key fob was dead! So, I marched into the house, grabbed Mike’s fob, and of course, the car started. It had actually started on Mike’s fob with the previous incident. We just didn’t realize it.

When we initially bought this car, some of you suggested the customer service was lacking. We have come around to this way of thinking. It’s inexcusable that the dealer didn’t replace the batteries in the fobs and also check them out. The manual suggests the dealer should change the battery (of course), but we aren’t running to Post Falls for this little task. Mike did it, and it works. 

By the way, the prefix on the license plate is BFU. Hmmmm. Seems like with a whole alphabet at the state's disposal, they could have found something else. My favorite was WUP, but that number went by the wayside some years back. KW

Monday, January 15, 2018

THE MODERN WAY

The old Dobson Homeplace -- never a modern place


I have been trying and posting recipes from “Brer Rabbit’s Modern Recipes for the Modern Hostess.” Several posts ago, I reported that you could find this booklet on Amazon (here), but today as I looked at it again, I noticed that Amazon’s copy is titled, “Brer Rabbit’s Modern Recipes for Modern Living.” Otherwise the cover is the same. My booklet doesn’t carry a copyright date, so I wonder if “Modern Living” is an update of “Modern Hostess” or vice versa.

Not even up-to-date when new
The mid-century use of the word “modern” has intrigued me since I was old enough to understand the concept. When I was an elementary student (the ‘50s), that word “modern” appeared on textbooks that were decidedly outdated. “Modern” implies new, up-to-date, the latest thing, state of the art – well, you know what modern means – but if you call it modern yesterday, is it modern today? And what about tomorrow? “Modern” appears in the title of many recipe pamphlets published in the ‘30s and ‘40s. “Mid-century modern” even became a movement.

My mother used to say “modish,” as in “What a cute hat! It’s modish." (Fashionable or stylish in a modern way.) I thought the word was rather old-fashioned, but apparently we still use it. In the ‘60s, we liked “mod.” Then it seems like we quit using "modern" so much, but online research tells me I could be wrong about that. Still, I think we use the word with more care. 

Updated today but not "state of the art"
Today most of us probably think of ourselves as modern, but this wasn’t always true. For instance, during the mid-century decades, the folks on the farm were decidedly behind the times, and they felt it. The difference between town and country was obvious, even if the rural town was only a step ahead of the country. My grandparents living on the farm without “modern” amenities would never be modern themselves. They lived to see their way of life and their values become obsolete. Their children desired to live in the modern world, but they were conflicted about that, too. They carried the stigma of rural upbringing while loving their farm home.

But the goal of society was to modernize – and to modernize the farm as well. And in this regard, daughter Hallie sent me a link to a YouTube video about modernizing the farm kitchen which was produced in 1949 (here). It's less than 15 minutes long. I'll share my thoughts on it in a future post. KW

Saturday, January 13, 2018

MOLASSES ICE BOX COOKIES



When Brer Rabbit’s Modern Recipes for the Modern Hostess was published, the kitchen as we know it today was still in the process of being born. Some women, like my Grandma Ina, were still cooking on a wood stove. And many young housewives with electric stoves, like my mother, remembered what it was like to cook on a wood stove. Not everyone had an electric mixer, and even if you did, it probably wasn’t powerful. And some kitchens still had an ice box instead of a refrigerator. The wording of this recipe for “Molasses Ice Box Cookies” reminded me of all this.

½ cup Brer Rabbit Molasses
½ cup shortening
½ cup sugar
1 egg
2 ½ cups flour
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp soda
¼ tsp cloves
½ tsp ginger
½ tsp cinnamon

Put molasses and shortening in large saucepan. Stir over low heat until shortening has melted. Remove from fire; stir in sugar. Cool. Add unbeaten egg; stir. Sift remaining ingredients together and add to first mixture. Form dough into rolls about 2 inches in diameter. Wrap in waxed paper and chill 3 to 4 hours. Slice thin and bake on well-greased baking sheet in moderate oven (375 F) 10 to 15 minutes.

I was very careful as I melted the shortening in the molasses, keeping the temperature at the simmer setting. Once I removed the mixture from the heat, I immediately added the sugar. Then I was distracted over the noon hour, and the mixture cooled too much. I probably should have re-heated it, but despite its stiffness, I managed to stir in the egg. Then, like a good girl, I sifted the dry ingredients before adding them to the molasses mixture in the big pan. I was tempted to use the mixer at this point, but I stirred by hand until it was well-blended. I then made two logs of the dough, wrapped them in waxed paper, and put them in the fridge for about three hours. We had plans for the evening, but I had time to bake the cookies before supper.


Now, I can’t slice straight or with uniformity to save my soul, but I tried my best. The recipe said “slice thinly” – not very specific. And I was skeptical of that 375 oven. So, I sliced my first tray at about 1/8 inch and baked at 375 for 8 minutes (instead of 10-12), and the cookies came out just short of scorched. Feeling bolder, I sliced the next tray thicker (1/4 inch), cut the heat to 350, and baked again for 8 minutes. Perfect! These cookies don’t spread much, so I crowded them onto the tray to save baking time.

I think we like them. I would try the recipe again and use the mixer. KW

[That evening we went to see Darkest Hour and enjoyed it. There were 14 of us in the theater, and I would guess most of us were 70+.]

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

MUSINGS ON GINGERBREAD



A food blogger I am not. In fact, as I built my Pinterest boards, I decided not to save recipes except those from recognized test kitchens for the simple reason that I just don’t cook / bake that much. When there are just two of you, you don’t need much food. But here I go – trying and posting mid-century recipes.

I like variety in my diet, so constantly baking gingerbread might not be to my liking. However, today I’m trying a recipe for a molasses refrigerator cookie, but since they are to remain in the fridge for 3-4 hours, I won’t have time to bake them until tomorrow.

As I’ve mentioned before, I have gingersnap recipes from both of my grandmothers – Nina Saunders Portfors and Ina Dickson Dobson. The recipes are similar – both rolled. I don’t recall that Mother ever used the Saunders’ recipe. My dad, however, loved his mother’s gingersnaps and made them frequently, storing them in a tin can. We used to laugh that Daddy would change any recipe, often before he even tried the original, and yes, he changed the gingersnap recipe by adding an egg. Actually, as I’ve researched more modern gingersnap recipes, it appears the addition of an egg is the main difference. Perhaps my dad had done his homework.

At Thanksgiving, I made a batch of the Dobson gingersnaps, using my turkey-shaped cookie cutter. Years ago, I vowed that when I could afford it, I would have a collection of wonderful cookie cutters. Wouldn’t you know it, when I finally “arrived,” I no longer cared about cookie cutters? I now collect patterns of a different sort.
 
And when I searched for the perfect ginger cookie to frost, my dad's comment was, “Why not just frost the cookies from the old family recipe?” Frankly, I just think time goes on and there are probably tastier recipes, so my quest for the perfect frosted gingerbread boy is ongoing.

Reading recipes you see a lot of variation in the amount and type of spices. Both ginger and molasses are strong flavors (and expensive, too, by the way.)

Oh! I almost forgot -- I also tried a recipe for molasses oatmeal raisin cookies last month, but I didn’t care for them. No one else raved about them either, so I won’t make that recipe again.



Of course, my favorite cookie is your standard Tollhouse Chocolate Chip. Sometimes I substitute M&Ms. Sometimes I add Rice Krispies. But -- the men in my life prefer any other kind of cookie and preferably without candy, with the exception of toffee bits. KW

Monday, January 8, 2018

HARVEST APPLE CAKE



Once upon a time, many years ago, I served gingerbread to my mother. She commented that gingerbread should be served with a sauce, such as a lemon or caramel. I thought her comment odd since we occasionally had gingerbread when I was at home, and we never had a sauce with it. However, true to my training, I didn’t question her -- or perhaps I just didn't want to hear that she thought my cake was dry. As I’ve moved through life, I have continued to serve gingerbread with nothing more than Cool Whip, if desired.

I suppose my first experimental effort of the season isn’t actually gingerbread because the recipe doesn’t call for ginger. It was the molasses-based “Harvest Apple Cake” from Brer Rabbit’s Modern Recipes for the Modern Hostess, 1940. As I said in a previous post, I have had both successes and failures with this recipe. Here’s the original recipe noting my alterations:

Harvest Apple Cake
1 ½ cups thinly sliced apples – I used 2 cups Gala apples, chopped
¾ cup Brer Rabbit molasses – I used Grandma’s Molasses.
1/3 cup shortening
½ cup hot water
2 ½ cups flour
½ cup sugar
1 t cinnamon
½ t cloves
¼ t mace or nutmeg – I used nutmeg.
1 ½ t soda

Slowly cook apples in molasses until tender. Cool. Melt shortening in hot water. Sift all dry ingredients and gradually add hot water mixture, stirring constantly to keep smooth. Stir in molasses and apples. Pour in greased pan and bake1/2 hour in moderate oven (350 F.). Serves 8 to 12.

In a previous effort, I’m sure I scorched the molasses and apples mixture. This time I used my small Crockpot on low for three hours. Two hours would have been sufficient, I think, because the molasses already smelled pretty hot. I then followed the directions and poured the batter into an 8x8 pan. I set my oven at 335 and checked the cake at 25 minutes. I took it out at 35 minutes.

Conclusions:
·       It was nicely done around the edges, but the center was a little under-done. And that under-done part was most delicious in my opinion.
·       The recipe doesn’t state the pan size. Next time, I would use the 7x11 pan instead of the 8x8. I think it was a little too much batter for the 8x8.
·       The recipe doesn’t call for salt. Mike immediately missed it. I would add ¼ teaspoon.

Mike prefers his cake plain. I used Cool Whip on my serving. KW