Wednesday, April 27, 2011
After just about being blown away in a tornado outside of St. Louis this past Friday, I return to you with a renewed vigor for life and... cooking! I had such a good time visiting Babu's grandmother Easter weekend I almost forgot about my pact with myself, you guys, Old Scratch, and Blogger to be more conscientious about making at least a weekly appearance on the world wide internet and in print. So-o-o-o-o-o, in celebration of the fact that Bab's Honda didn't fly off the road outside of Marion, Illinois, and send us both to Rock and Roll Heaven, I thought I would talk about something near and dear to my heart. Like cooking oil.
I love nothing more than flipping through old giveaway type pamphlets hawking one brand or another of cooking product, and coming across this Wesson Oil & Snowdrift company pamphlet on Open Library was certainly a pleasant surprise in that regard. I expected the majority of it to be a treatise on the benefits of deep frying for flavor, but boy was I surprised to find a not so hidden message of "boost your self esteem by becoming a better baker". And alsousewessonoilifatallpossiblethanks. Heck yes!
Why is it a "Happier World"? Because we have good food to eat! We've got ham! And meringues! And cookies! And fried chicken! Cakes! Salads!
"Your chocolate cake and lemon pie...hot biscuits for breakfast or muffins for supper...golden fried chicken with a bright beckoning salad...all help make this a happier world. Yet none would be possible if we had no salad oil or shortening."
The hyperbole of 1950's cooking copy is making me wicked hungry for this early in the morning. My coffee and eggs are running thin... I wish I had some hot biscuits as described!!
As always, click on any of the pictures for a human-sized version of these ant-sized thumbnails.
The presentation of this noodle casserole, assorted muffin basket, salad, and stuffed tomatoes makes Mrs. Homemaker VERY popular with Billy, Suzy, and Mr. Homemaker. So popular, they've actually staged a culinary coronation. Congrats, Mrs. Homemaker! This was the moment you were waiting for. But certainly you didn't begin life as a kitchenaid superstar...how did you, how can we in turn, become truly great bakers?
The answer? Wesson Oil, of course!
The spin-factor of the in-between recipe patter is definitely something I can get behind. For example, don't think of desserts as bad for you!
"There's more to dessert than satisfying your family's sweet tooth, though that's a happy idea in itself. Better still, desserts are a fine way to add nourishment to your meals in a way everyone loves."
I would love to nourish myself with these apple dumplings! Lemme at 'em.
It's always difficult for me, when listening to ads for say, Ironized Yeast tablets in between terrifying segments of Arch Oboler's Lights Out , to imagine a pre-McDonaldsian time in which a majority of people needed to GAIN weight rather than lose it. The line above seems to hint at a happier, skinnier time in which one actually struggled to put on some nutritious padding by MAKING oneself eat dessert. God bless. Or it could just be a fatuous stab at emphasizing the cherry (it's fruit! It's a fruit!) in "cherry pie" rather than the "tons of sugar and butter in the crust and filling" part of "cherry pie". Either way, it sounds delicious, and in the former case, justifiable!
Speaking of pies...
Doesn't it just make your tastebuds hum?
"Luscious pies... how men do love them."
Both your main man and your little man are moved into action by the making of a pie for company. Note how Junior is dragging Pappy by the hand, across a gulf of dead typespace and printed word, towards the header where you, Queen Homemaker, are graciously serving one of these savory concoctions to your guests.
I love the idea (left) of making the cup-portion of cherry tartlets by using the backside of a muffin/cupcake pan as a form. Genius, Queen Homemaker! Genius!
Here are two "revolutionary" ways of making pie... not sure how revolutionary these would seem to we jaded members of the Sara Lee premade frozen Deep Dish generation, but still, they do look lovely. "Snowdrift" was some kind of special for-baking shortening product of the Canola oil product family... I'm not sure that they make it anymore, but I'm sure you could just substitute any kind of shortening in its place. While you're at it, look at this simply fantastic piece of Art Deco advertising for said Snowflake product... I didn't know you could make shortening look like it was designed by Adrian, but I guess you can!
Hot bread + husband = sex appeal. Look at this Darren Stevens of a guy! He loves ya. He loves ya biscuits.
"The thrill when a bride brings in a plate of beautiful biscuits...her very own...the pleasure your family gets from all those tempting hot breads...those are the things that make baking worthwhile." The "Quick Blueberry Streusel Coffee Cake" LOOKS SO. GOOD.
And you can't be a June Cleaver-ite without making a mean batch of homemade cookies. I made some powdered sugared fudge brownies last Christmas and if they wouldn't knock your socks off...well, then you deserve for your socks to be left on, sir. The color combos on the plate and the pleasing arrangement make me want to try and make a similar bounteous display of baked goods.
"There's no cake quite as nice as the one you make yourself." And it's true! Even if it's just a Duncan-Hines from the box kind of mix cake, that you've only added eggs and oil (Wesson Oil, anyone?) to, people go nuts to eat a cake that you made yourself. But why would you make one from the box when you have these SUPER AWESOME recipes that only take slightly more effort, and probably taste even better? I want to make the pink party cake for my next get together (which is coming soon! Details TBA).
The authors keep referring to "emulsorized shortening" which, to me, sounds like something you would have to face off with on an episode of Lost in Space. I think it's the same as "emulsified shortening"? Which is described on this one message board thus: "Emulsified shortening is also known as cake, icing or high ratio shortening. It can absorb more sugar and liquid than regular vegetable shortening and gives a finer/smoother texture to cakes while helping to keep them moist, as well as keeping icings more stable."
That must be the same stuff... I just wonder where they got "emlsorized" from.
Can't have a cake without icing! "Just as the trimming makes a hat, so does icing make the cake." Ain't it the truth?
I want to try and pour chocolate on the edges of a white-iced cake as suggested on one of these pages (see the bottom right). Also, pineapple mint icing. SIGN. ME. UP.
If you want your family to look like this while digging into a dinner (pleased, successful, pen and ink people):
Then by all means, serve them this:
Golden...fried...chicken. Being from the South, I can't say a single bad word against this, our finest and best regional food. I wonder how this recipe from Wesson stacks up? Surely an oil company would know a thing or two about a dish best served lightly fried?
I'm glad for this tutorial on how to core tomatoes and what to put in them-- the very first time I was invited to my future-mother-in-law's house, on the occasion of HER mother's birthday, I was asked to scoop out tomatoes. Which, being the kitchen Philistine I was at that moment in my life, I did so careful it must have worked her last nerve... usually precision without speed is not a virtue valued in the kitchen. The resultant tomato cups, however, were so light and summery...! I've been wanting to make them again and here's a perfect recipe. Or two.
Hope you guys enjoyed the 1958 cooking goodness. Have you been cooking anything out of a vintage book lately? Any greatest-of-all-time vintage cooking experiences? Or horror stories? Always glad to hear from you guys. Have a great Wednesday night!!
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Wouldn't you love to be one of the stylish ladies in the illustration above? Pocketbook that doubles as a vertical file, netting trailing the back of your Easter Sunday hat, bow tied just so... I found The Complete Book of Sewing: Dressmaking and Sewing for the Home Made Easy by Constance Talbot on the Open Library website... and was just bowled over by the colorful fashion illustrations on each page. I want to be that stylish gal!!
Lately I've been thinking more and more of committing myself to picking up dressmaking as a hobby... it certainly would solve the length and width issues I keep butting heads with when buying vintage clothes. Also, the problem of scarcity in items made before the 1960's, at least in terms of the estate sales and thrift stores I go to, could be addressed by the relative abundance of PATTERNS of pre-Kennedy manufacture. I could make well-fit, wear-resistant everyday clothes in the styles I like!
I found myselfwalking to the old work-stead this morning and thinking of the 60's, mod-flower-patterned, shift dress I'd put over skinny black pants (I think it was meant to be a mini on a person of slightly below average height? Which means without pants it would in no way preserve my modesty?) in terms of construction-- what was to keep me from making ten of this ultra flattering tunic, except an inch or five longer? Only my own inexperience, which, seeing as I work in a library FULL OF HOW-TO BOOKS all day, should be a point begging for remediation.
One of the sections of the book that particularly impressed me concerned itself with re-making items suffering from flaws of fit and/or style... if you click on any of these pictures, you can see a slightly larger version in which the print might just be readable. See how a strip set into a narrow sleeve can save you from constrictingly tight arms, or how a yoke and sleeve can change your torn dress into a new endeavor altogether.
I love the practical nature of these repairs. From the viewpoint of less handy or hardy times, I can tell you it would have never occurred to me to restructure a dress because of a flaw... buying 95% of my clothes from Goodwill, I would just pass up an item that didn't fit quite right or didn't seem "beltable", being as belting and pinning are pretty much the only two fixes I'm currently capable of putting into use. That said, look at the kitten the author encourages you to embroider on children's mittens! Why leave it to the kidlings? I'm all over that.
To the left, great collars. Great ones! Look how stylish a dickie or a collar can make just about any outfit. In the middle, early 40's style tips by month. April's tip? "Bring back your January boutonniere ["a huge boutonniere of violets or gay, vari-colored felt flowers"], or make a new smaller one in daisies. Sew matching flowers around the brim of your hat. Repeat the color of your flowers in linen touches on your dress or suit". Yes'm, ma'am! In my opinion, fake and felt flowers in this, the early twenty-first century, are a woefully underrepresented fashion choice.
I once read that our Joan-Crawford-who-art-in-Heaven would buy an extra bolt of matching fabric when buying dresses in the 50's and 60's, in order to have a matched pair of shoes made up with the goods. This is a similar idea for 40's hats... how much greater would it look to have a MATCHED hat rather than simply one in a similar or complementary color?
The picture on the left is from a chapter entitled "Teaching Your Daughter to Sew". First thought? "My hair! My hair! Yay, she's got my hair!" (the braids that swept the nation...uhh... seventy years ago!!). On the right, my favorite fixer upper to an ill-fitting dress... notice how the addition of an inverted panel takes you from "this dress is too tight" to "I look like later career Joan Bennett", which, is to say, like an immaculately dressed lady of taste. I love it!
A turban, a pill box, and a drape coat that reminds me of an estate sale snafu this weekend... did I, under the fashion influence Mildred Pierce (the JC one, not the also excellent, albiet fur-coat-less new mini-series), fall deeply under the sway of a massive fur coat in a similar boxy-shouldered, draped style? I did. Did I try it on and look uncannily like Grizzly Adams? I did. Did an estate saleswoman follow me around for at least ten minutes trying to tell me what a bargain the (admittedly, more than half off) coat was, how the brown, yellow-rhinestone encrusted clasps were Bakelite and probably worth the price of the coat alone? She did. Needless to say, the coat and I parted ways, but I sure am still looking for a full length fur coat that DOESN'T make me look like a mink trapper, so much as a mink wearer. It irks my sweet little vintage loving heart to try something on, that's a DEAL, that just doesn't look well on me, but I have to remind myself that no one will ask "What was your inspiration when choosing this coat? What kind of a deal did you get on it? How old is it?" so much as they will ask "What was she thinking?!" Le sigh.
Though, frankly speaking, if I found the net skirt and three different bodices in the left hand picture, or either styling of the evening dress to the right, I can't say I would exercise such lengths of buyer's restraint. I often forget how much easier it would be to follow the fashion mindset of buying two or three fine dresses and a ton of switch-it-up accessories in order to have twenty, varied outfits, as opposed than scrambling around trying to find twenty new dresses, each different. Ah, well.
Tailored evening dress? Tailored suit? One of each, please.
A Brenda Frazier lookalike and her interesting cuffs and shoulder embellishment combo... how do you like that semi-transparent hat? She looks like a million dollars cash. Also, in the illustration, at last! A woman with measurements that would enable her to wear all these vintage wedding gowns I've been trying on! Seriously, I can't seem to find anything with a waist allotment of larger than, say, 25 inches. Which would make me...almost inverse. Le sigh. Pour la deuxième fois.
The yoke set in the upper left hand corner at right is making me see stars. Cape effect! Give me that cape effect! The fan tucks remind me of the designer Adrian.
Pretty embellishments and collars.
Any kind of early 40's collar you could possibly think of are in the above illustrations. I mean wow. Can you choose your favorite? I choose the large bow and the lady on the right's hair.
To the upper left hand corner, the kind of morning coat you wear over your nightgown if you wake up and you're Loretta Young. That said, I want to wake up and be Loretta Young.
I really need a stylish jumper dress like the ones to the right... one that makes you look more like a 40's movie and less like a kindergarten teacher circa 1992. I keep seeing 80's and 90's dresses that are styled very 1940's, but the fabric and the buttons tend to remind one more of said kindergarten teachers, and it puts me off them. Is that wrong? I just can't quite get past it.
Last but not least, the best advice you could get for pulling of a style with grace and aplomb... stand up straight! How underrated the virtue of good posture is these-a-days! Mine could use some improvement.
Which of these did you like the best? Where do you go for vintage patterns or style inspiration? If you sew, did you start out simple, or just jump in the deep end right off the bat? Let me know!
You can read the whole book online at HERE, but as it's a check-out via Open Library, you might have to wait until I get my 40's sewing fill of it first. :)