From China with Love, Circa 1951

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You don't think about Americans eating - much less cooking - sophisticated Chinese fare in the fifties. So I was truly surprised to find recipes for an entire Chinese banquet in this issue - Bird's Nest Consomme, Shark's Fin, Pheasant, Bamboo Shoots, Wined Kinghwa Ham.  And yes, there were even a few recipes for tofu. And here they are...

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I made the tofu last night (reduced the oil to a single tablespoon, added more garlic, ginger and scallions) and served it over rice. It was a perfect little meal for a hot night. Fresh and simple, like eating clouds.   

But there are, in fact, many fascinating recipes in this issue - for French, Italian and even German dishes.  I'll be posting a few more in the days to come. 

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More Vintage Fritos Recipes

Last week's vintage Fritos recipes were such a hit that I went trolling through old issues of Gourmet, looking for more.  Here, from the September 1951 issue, are a couple of gems.

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Tomorrow, a few truly surprising Chinese recipes from that issue.  They're remarkable for the time - although I think I'll skip the recipes for bird's nest and shark's fin. 

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Remember Pousse Cafes?

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I certainly do. When I was a cocktail waitress, conventioneers loved to come into the lounge I worked in and order pousse cafes all around.  This was a nightmare for the bartender, who had to make the things - but more of a nightmare for the waitress, who had to carry them, very carefully, across the dining room, with a tableful of drunks hoping that you'd trip.  They tasted terrible too - sticky sweet.

But they were very pretty.  And I never knew that this particular contraption even existed:

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Vintage Dal, Lasagna and a Great Old Grill

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It's September 1960, and Gourmet has a very good piece about growing up in South America - complete with recipes for empanadas that sound very good. But that recipe also has a "Chilean paella" - pictured on the cover - which is kind of a mess of a recipe. All you need to see are those canned olive-embellished artichoke hearts to know you don't want to try this one.

But a few recipes in the issue sound great - and are rather avant garde for the time. Consider this recipe for Dal (although you might want to think twice about using chili powder, and toss in a few freshly ground Indian spices instead).

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Then there's this recipe, which stunned me.  Homemade pasta? In 1960?

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And just for fun, an ad. This cast-iron, all-purpose smoker, grill and broiler apparently had a rotisserie inside.  Looks fantastic. If this appeals to you, there's a vintage model for sale on Ebay for a mere $850.

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Very Likable Lamb

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Romney Sheep

Went into The Meat Market in Great Barrington the other day, in search of inspiration, and spied a very lean-looking leg of lamb.

"It's a Romney," said the butcher.  "We don't get them very often."

"What's different about that breed?" I wondered.

Sheep, he explained, are divided into two categories: wool sheep and meat sheep.  Romney, apparently, are the exception. They have excellent wool - and tasty meat.

Not sure about the wool part, but I can attest that this was the most delicious lamb I've ever cooked. The meat is very mild, without a hint of that gaminess so many people find objectionable.  

I love lamb. I especially love leg of lamb for dinner parties because it's the most forgiving cut of meat- delicious no matter how much (or little) you cook it.  Unlike beef, which is, in my opinion, hardly worth eating unless it's rare, lamb is delicious in every state from rare to well done.  You can put it in the oven with no worries. I always cook lamb with rosemary and garlic, so it makes the house fantastically fragrant as it cooks. 

Now that I've discovered Romney lamb, I've got a problem; when am I ever going to find more?

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Two (Old) Recipes and One (Hilarious) Ad

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It's July 1960, but this couple doesn't seem to realize they've left the fifties behind.  Another interesting note: nearly all the ads in this issue of Gourmet are for liquor of some sort.

Little surprise then, that the recipes tend to be rather boozy.  Here are two:

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A Little Taste of 1960

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 The fifties were over; it was the first summer of the new decade, and what were New Yorkers dreaming of?  An all-inclusive trip to Hawaii, which could be had, airfare and hotel included, for less than $800.  How times change!

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To prepare you for that trip, the editors kindly threw in a recipe for the  kind of Chinese shrimp toast you might encounter in Waikiki.  (Gourmet of the era seemed quite enamored of MSG, but I'd skip it.)

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Not your cup of tea?  How about some savory summer pancakes? This all-American recipe sounds quite intriguing; I've never seen one like it. 

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But maybe you'd prefer a drink?  Go outside, snip some herbs, and make yourself a potent Bloody Mary. (There's that MSG again....)

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How to Store Basil

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If you're tired of opening your refrigerator and finding that the basil you bought two days ago has wilted into a sludgy black mess, take a look at the basil above.  I bought it at the farmers market three weeks ago.

"Treat it like flowers," said the young woman I bought my bunch from.  "Just put it in a jar of water."

"And put the jar in the refrigerator, right?" That's how I've always stored it.

She shook her head.  "Nope. Just put it on the counter and leave it there.  You'll be surprised how long it lasts."

For weeks now, I've been surprised.  The flavor? Still powerful, still green, still pesto-perfect.

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A Couple of Vintage Gems

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It's August 1978, and inquiring minds want to know about roasted candied tomatoes.  It is, they tell the magazine, a recipe they haven't tasted for fifty years.  Can the editors help?

It's a dish I've never tasted at all - and it sounds interesting. So here you have it,  a new recipe for your tomato repertoire.

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If that doesn't float your boat, how about a classic recipe for a deep dish blueberry pie with a lard crust? We don't see lard crusts often enough, so here, from an article cleverly entitled "Summer Fruit Desserts" is a pie from the past. 

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Old Fashioned Fritos

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This is the cover of Gourmet from April of 1951.  It's a fascinating issue that makes you cringe as it tells you a great deal about where America was in the middle of the last century.

Samuel Chamberlin makes another stop on his tour of France:  "The Epicure of Savoy enjoys his sumptuous fare against the mightiest backdrop in Europe." 

Robert P. Tristram Coffin extols the joys of rural life in Maine with an essay on the quahaug. 

There's an illustrated  dictionary of cigar smoking. 

And an absolutely appalling piece where a writer touring the south imagines a slave coming back from the dead to cook for her.  

There are ads for Metaxa (can you still buy the Greek liqueur?), an article about  an electric tray, "nobly dedicated to prove a boon to buffets in a dozen cozy capacities," and of course, the usual introduction of the latest Miss Rheingold, who seems uncharacteristically elegant.

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And then there is this.  Frito recipes in Gourmet!

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About this journal
Where am I eating? What's for dinner tonight? And what books have I been reading? For a look at what's going on in my life lately, take a look at this journal, which I try to update on a regular basis.