Sunday, July 26, 2009

Cruel and Unusual

In 1953 our old friends the Culinary Institute of Chicago published a little pamphlet intended to free the housewife from the arduous task of menu-planning. It was modestly titled Menus for Every Day of the Year and each dish was indexed against a recipe in one of the Institute’s other cookbooks. One had only to turn to, say, the first dinner menu for March to find therein a recommendation of Consommé Madrilene (Book #6) followed by Roast Chicken with Mushroom Stuffing and Hominy Grits (both in Book #4), and Buttered Peas (Book #11). For dessert, Book #12 provided instructions on how to serve Vanilla Ice Cream with Butterscotch Sauce.

All the dinner menus are on the stodgy side. Even those specifically assigned to summer months, when any intelligent cook starts looking for ways to lighten things up, are traditional, starchy, heavy and hot. Editor Ruth Berolzeimer and the merry crew of sadists who thought up the menus for the month of July ought to have been made to prepare and eat them in the average early 1950’s un-air-conditioned home. Here is the first week:

July 1st: Pineapple Juice Cocktail, Baked Pickerel with Shoestring Potatoes, Pea Soufflé, Lettuce Salad with Thousand Island Dressing, Honeydew Melon Rings with Melon Balls, Iced Tea

July 2nd - Stuffed Lamb Shoulder with Franconia Potatoes, Summer Squash Tomato Casserole, Carrot Raisin Salad, Maple Nut Pudding

July 3rd - Filled Beets, Planked Ham Loaf with Duchess Potatoes, Baked Onions and Tomatoes, Royal Salad, Brazil-nut Marshmallow Cream

Fourth of July Dinner – Jellied Sherry Consommé, Broiled Half Chicken Rolled in Bread Crumbs and Parsley, Corn on the Cob, Asparagus Tips in Tomato Cups, Mashed Potatoes, Small Hot Rolls, Summer Salad Bowl (Cucumbers, Radishes, Spring Onions with Watercress and French Dressing), Strawberry Ice Cream Tarts

July 5th - Apricot Juice, Rump Roast of Beef, Mashed Potatoes, Gravy, Kohlrabi, Lettuce with French Dressing, Red Raspberry Sundae

July 6th – Pineapple Appetizer Salad, Baked Chicken with Sage Stuffing, Mashed Sweet Potatoes, Buttered Broccoli, Peppermint Stick Parfait with Chocolate Sauce, Coffee, Milk

July 7th – Sweetbreads with Mushrooms, Broiled Tomato Slices, Buttered Beet Greens, Cottage Cheese Salad with Thousand Island Dressing, Gooseberry Date Pie

I’m going to have to look for Book #5 which contains the recipe for this last-named dessert. That any cook would combine gooseberries and dates in a pie is enough to shake one’s faith in humanity.


Anonymous said...

I have to agree with you.. that wouldn't be my idea of a good meal on a hot summer day with no AC
However I wish I had some kind of menu planning book for modern times.. I love to cook but run out of idea's.

Appalachian Woman said...

Packrat said...

I, too, cannot imagine ruining gooseberries with dates (or dates with gooseberries), but maybe the extremes of sour and sweet go well together.

We always had hot meals (meat and potatoes) in the summer (no A/C). The men insisted on it. However, ours weren't as fancy as these meals. There were fresh fruits and vegetables, tho. YUM

Amanda said...

Wow, I wouldn't know where to begin preparing those kind of meals. Seem pretty elaborate.

Shay said...

Appalachian Woman: Good grief, that's the very same recipe!

"From the Western chapter of the United States Regional Cookbook, Culinary Arts Institute of Chicago, 1947"

I noticed there weren't any reviews of the recipe on the site, though.

Sisiggy said...

This brings to mind a scene from the Katherine Hepburn movie "Alice Adams" where, in order to impress Alice's high society date (Fred MacMurray), the family, on the hottest summer day, makes this heavy several-course dinner, served by Hattie McDaniel forced to wear a maid outfit for the occasion. The father's collar keep popping up from the heat, Hattie McDaniel's lace hat keeps drooping over her face and everyone is sitting languidly around the table, unable to eat such a heavy meal. All the while Katherine Hepburn is nervously chattering away as brussels sprouts roll across the table because no one knows what to do with such an exotic vegetable. Great scene!

Miss Kitty said...

Oof. Lord help the housewife who had to prepare that meal. And the people who had to digest it.

The only seafood dish I'd consider eating on a blazing-hot July day would be ceviche.

Rochelle R. said...

I guess that was before the idea of the 4th of July barbecue became prevalent :)