Sunday, November 14, 2010

Tea and Sandwiches

I have been dipping into my Detroit Times cookbook (Practical Recipes for the Housewife, published during the allegedly-Great Depression), just for enjoyment. It appears to have been slapped together in a big hurry by the women’s pages staff (remember women’s pages in the newspaper? They’re called lifestyle pages now, but the content is the same) from contributions by subscribers, and it sure doesn’t look as though an editor or a proof-reader was ever called in.

There is a Table of Contents but no index, and in some chapters you run across recipes that clearly don’t belong there.

In the Menus section everything runs into each other. The sub-heading An Automobile Lunch lists a nice little cold collation to be taken along on your Sunday drive (remember Sunday drives?) and includes Cold Sliced Ham with Parker House Rolls, Brown Bread Sandwiches with Celery and Olive Filling, Potato Salad, Dill Pickles, Chocolate Cake, and Coffee. Very tasty.

But then it segues right into a meal of Baked Ham with Cider Sauce, Baked Sweet Potatoes, Creamed Green Beans, Head Lettuce Salad and Peach Cobbler, all delicious but with the exception of the sweet potatoes, not exactly picnic food. This menu just possibly wandered over from the Sunday Dinners page.

I would certainly prepare this; what a lovely, homey supper it would be. I'm getting hungry reading it.

The Celery and Olive Sandwiches turn up again under the sub-heading of School Girl Parties. “Whether you are planning an afternoon snack a-la-teatime or having school friends in for the evening, the following menus will be found helpful. They are inexpensive and easy to prepare so that little help from mother or the family cook will be needed.”

Celery and Olive Sandwiches

1 cup finely-diced celery
¼ cup chopped, stuffed olives
1 loaf whole-wheat bread
“Mix chopped celery and olives with enough mayonnaise to spread. Spread between slices of buttered whole-wheat bread. Cut into squares and garnish each sandwich with a slice of stuffed olive. Makes 18 small sandwiches.”

Interesting that mayonnaise is the mortar of choice; tea sandwiches in this era were more frequently bound with cream cheese. I wonder if mayonnaise was used because it was cheaper.


panavia999 said...

Once of my favorite sandwiches since childhood is peanutbutter, dill pickles and onions with mayo and lettuce. Usually people say eeeyooo over that, but I say "try it". I was reading my 1940 cookbook and that sandwich was on of the recommendations for a tea party.

Shay said...

The same people saying "eeeyooo" are the ones lining up at the local Thai place for vegetables in hot peanut sauce.

(I dunno about the dill pickles, though).

Packrat said...

If the mayo was homemade, it had a different flavor than what we purchase. Actually, it sound good for a change.

Peanut butter and dill pickle sandwiches are yummy unless you don't like dill pickles. (Peanut butter and horseradish on crackers is really good, too.)

Anonymous said...

Thinly sliced dill pickle with mayo on white bread is delicious too.. my brother and I would pass up bologna sandwiches for the pickle ones for school lunches.
my mothers favorite was peanut butter and onion sandwiches.

Anonymous said...

You know the whole "Needing mother or the family cook" in a Depression cookbook sounds off.

I had family that talked about the Depression (ok, I asked) and at no time did we employ a "family cook".

Could these have just been a nostalgic look back during the time to the late teens/20s?

Packrat said...

Note to Sewducky: One of my branch of my family did have a cook during the Depression. She had been with the family "forever". It would have been cruel to turn her out.

On the flip side, during the Depression, a daughter of that same family came West to be a cook for wealthy families. She had a salary (very small), food to eat, and a place to live.

panavia999 said...

Thanks for the PB and horseradish suggestion!
Peanut Butter and onion is great too. Any kind of pickle works with peanut butter. Also, peanut butter, sliced radish and mustard. Try it, you'll be surprised.
As for "family cooks" and help during the depression. Not everyone was poor during the depression and labor was cheap. In the early 30's, my grandmother, who was a highly skilled secretary and bookkeeper worked part time as a waitress/maid for a caterer. I still have the white cuffs and little cap she used. One of the job benefits was that she brought the leftovers home to eat. About 1937 she found work as a secretary again.
I think in those days, the idea of extra help was most appealing. After all, food prep took longer.(No bagged lettuce or food processors.) If that was the pretension of those days, the food pretension these days is organic and local. We read the trendy cookbook or watch the trendy food show, the chef exhorts us to use fresh, organic, local but we still go to the Piggly Wiggly for the ingredients.
Food pretensions may change but good company over a meal is forever. 50 years from now, people will be making fun of today's cookbooks.

Shay said...

Judging by things I have read in my vintage cookbook collection, it was considered the norm for a middle-class household to have full or part-time help at least into the late 1950's.

Anonymous said...

By household help, that often meant having someone in a couple days a week to do the "rough work". (Sometimes a poor relation.) Plenty of 'middle class' people have household help now - mexican cleaning ladies fill that gap in my region.

Anonymous said...

As for fancy sandwich mortar - my old cookbook suggests a mix of mayo and creamcheese for olive and celery sandwich. I would add just a touch of garlic for extra zing. Frankly, when I make it for myself, I top it a couple anchovies. Anchovy and cream cheese and capers on good sourdough is on my top 10 sandwich list.