Sunday, May 16, 2010

To Each According to His Budget

In 1955 the supermarket industry in America celebrated its silver jubilee by publishing the Super Market Cook Book (dedicated to Mamie Eisenhower, "the Housewife of America's No. 1 Household").

"The super market is so much a part of our lives today that it is hard to believe it is only twenty-five years old and that its origin goes back only to 1930. Like many other great American industries, such as the electric light, the airplane, and the automobile, the super market didn't just happen. It was the product of far-sighted grocers who sought a way to bring down the cost of food for the average homemaker."

And, although they didn't mention it, a way for the food industry to change American eating habits from a gloriously messy and diverse jumble of ethnic, religious, and regional preferences to something more uniform.

The selection below, from the chapter called "The Food Problem," shows menus that were carefully selected to woo this country's housewives to a way of cooking (and shopping) that was tidy, planned and careful. Note that the actual food on the menus doesn't vary that much--proteins, starches, vegetables and sweets (and coffee. What would this nation be without coffee?). The poor--excuse me, those with limited budgets--ate cheap cuts of meat and simple desserts. Families of moderate means ate lamb chops instead of lamb stew. Rich families got a first course and elaborate dishes indicating the presence of a servant to help put dinner on the table.

And the working wife scrambled eggs and opened cans, but still cooked a recognizably formal sit-down meal for her family.

Suggested Spring Dinner Menus for a Limited Budget

Lamb Stew with Dumplings
Carrot Strips
Snow Pudding

Pan-broiled Hamburgers
Onion Rings
Creamed potatoes, Glazed Carrots
Devonshire Shortcake

Glazed Picnic Ham
Baked Sweet Potatoes
Broccoli with Browned Crumbs
Sliced Oranges and Bananas

Suggested Spring Dinner Menus for a Moderate Budget

Broiled Lamb Chops
Baked Potatoes
Creamed Kohlrabi
Ice Cream, Chocolate Sauce

Swedish Meat Balls
Noodles with Poppy Seeds and Almonds
Carrots with Lemon Butter
Caramel Custard

Broiled Ham
Potato Puff
Beets with Greens
Upside-Down Cake

Suggested Spring Dinner Menus for a Liberal Budget

Cheese and Anchovy Canapés
Fried Chicken, Cream Gravy
New Potatoes with Chives
Peas with Mint
Macaroon Cream

Jellied Madrilene
Boiled Tongue, Caper Sauce
Mashed Potatoes
Buttered Beets
Mixed Green Salad
Strawberry Shortcake

Cream of Pea soup
Poached Salmon, Egg Sauce
French Fried Potatoes
Braised Celery
Endive Salad
Sliced Fruit with Kirsch

Suggested Quick Spring Suppers for the Business-Woman Housekeeper

Minute Steak
Stewed Potatoes
Buttered Asparagus
Watercress Salad
Stewed Rhubarb

Black Bean Soup
Scrambled Eggs with Shad Roe
Hot Biscuits
Buttered Lima Beans
Apricot and Cherry Compote

Tomato Juice Cocktail
Veal Cutlet
Baked Potatoes
Braised Celery
Chicory Salad
Shredded Pineapple


Anonymous said...

Hmm after reading all the different groups, I'd rather eat the budget meals.. come on now.. who wouldn't rather have a glazed ham with sweet potatoes and broccoli?

Packrat said...

Dumplings? Aren't they one of the ultimate comfort foods? Really, I'm with Pat. For the most part, I'd much rather have the foods listed in the limited budget meal menu.

Anonymous said...

I think it's cool everything has coffee. Of course, I live off the stuff.

Shay said...

I'm with you; anchovy canapes, bleah.

Anonymous said...

hey, I like anchovies, and I bet the canapes ARE good (if you like canapes and anchovies of course.)