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The wonderful foods of the Golden Era

Discussion in 'The Golden Era' started by marilynliddell, Jul 13, 2018.

  1. marilynliddell

    marilynliddell New in Town

    Messages:
    1
    I was reminded of this by comments in another thread as well as a discussion with my young wife. I'm sure it's been talked to death already but I didn't get a chance to say anything. So here are some more thoughts.

    First off, the Golden Era to me was the 1950s, although the early 60s weren't bad. No doubt the 1940s were better and everyone always says the nothing was better than the 1930s. But I don't remember those earlier decades as well but only because I hadn't been born yet, although I remember some things pretty well. We never quite leave the past behind, you know.

    We do seem to leave a few foods behind, though, only to be replaced by newfangled foods like tacos, frozen pizza and instant mashed potatoes. For instance, who still makes Jello or instant pudding, you know, the stuff that you saw in stemware glasses in refrigerator advertisments being peddled by housewives who wore dresses, presumably because they were going to have their pictures taken.

    For some reason, the one food item that I remember from my childhood in the 1950s was a kind of salad that consisted of a big spoonful of cottage cheese on a bed of lettuce topped with a cherry. I guess it was a food but I wouldn't eat it. There were a lot of things I wouldn't eat, like most kids, which may have been the reason I was skinny, but a cottage cheese salad was my favorite thing that I refused to eat. I don't think anything else came close.

    A distant second and I mean a very distant second was celery. We didn't have it very often and if memory serves (it usually doesn't--I have to get it myself), it only appeared on the table at Thanksgiving and probably Christmas. It was placed in a funny shaped cut glass dish with a purple edge. I'm not sure if we had that dish for the purpose of serving celery or if we served celery as an excuse to use that particular dish. I have no idea what ever became of it but we don't have it and we therefore don't serve celery. There always seems to be celery in the refrigerator but I don't know why. It's always limp, too. At least it doesn't start sprouting like the baby carrots. Baby carrots didn't exist when I was little. That would probably make an interesting research project.

    We had a garden, as did half the people in the neighborhood. Those who didn't were considered unpatriotic slaggards. Some of the food we grew was okay but there were some things I didn't think were that appetizing and still don't, in spite of having broadened my taste for unusual foods in the last 60 years, which has led to other things broadening. But I never saw the point of raising squash. My grandmother would eat it but it was on my list of untouchable foods. I think we may have grown it just to fill in the wasted space between the corn stalks. We also grew rhubarb. It grew in a little patch in a corner of the garden and for the longest time I thought it was a wild plant. More likely, it was what was called "voluntary." To this day I have no idea what it's used for.

    We also grew vast quantities of leaf lettuce as well as onions. But I have come to understand that onions do not agree with some people.
     
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  2. galopede

    galopede One of the Regulars

    Messages:
    190
    Location:
    Gloucester, England
    Ahh, rhubarb crumble with custard! Still love it.

    Gareth
     
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  3. scottyrocks

    scottyrocks I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
    7,554
    Location:
    Long Island, NY
    I don't quite as far back as the OP, but one thing that said 1960s dinner table to me, which I never see today, anywhere, was my parents' first 'course' at dinner - a half grapefruit with a maraschino cherry in the center.

    Also, my mom was big on canned veggies, which I wouldn't touch today with a 12 foot pole.
     
  4. LizzieMaine

    LizzieMaine Bartender

    Canned vegetables were the only things we ever had, except for the occasional corn-on-the-cob, peas, or green beans from a farm stand in season, or dandelion greens dug out of the yard when we were really broke. This was true in my childhood, and my mother's 1930s-40s childhood as well. And judging from the number of rusty cans heaped behind the ruins of my great-grandparents' house, it was the case in their time as well.

    The thing is, it's very difficult to grow vegetables here. The soil is bad, the weather is harsh, and the bugs are relentless. We always knew some deserate soul who'd try a backyard garden, and they'd fight and sweat all summer and come up with a handful of wormy tomatoes, and shriveled lettuce for their trouble. The only edible vegetables were those grown by people who had the time, the equipment, and the land to do it right. And that wasn't us. You could find fresh vegetables -- but only in season -- at a grocery store, but they cost too much for people like us except as a rare treat. And the stuff we got here was often disappointing, even at a premium price -- to this day I dislike sliced tomatoes because of bad childhood experiences with soggy, discolored, buggy farmstand specimens.

    One thing a lot of people don't realize about the Era is that it was the age in which convenience foods really came to the fore. Canned goods were praised, not just by the Boys, but by trained home economists, as a better buy, of more uniform quality, than the stuff than you'd buy at a grocery store -- which might have sat in the hot sun in crates in front of that store for hours or days before you bought it. And you never knew for sure what the deal was with the stuff you bought from a pushcart vegetable vendor. A canned product might have been squishier, but it was also uniform every time and was guaranteed not to be have been tampered with, or sold to you at short weight by a crooked grocer with his thumb on the scale.

    It wasn't just canned goods that were seen as a step forward. When Kraft Dinner -- yes, the same orange slop beloved of small children and impoverished college kids today -- was introduced in 1937, it was hailed as a real time-saver and a real value . Ten cents for a meal enough for four people that would be ready for the table in seven minutes was a godsend to a housewife who'd been boiling laundry all day and had no desire to spend even a single minute more in that damn hot smelly kitchen.
     
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  5. Fading Fast

    Fading Fast

    Messages:
    11,143
    Location:
    New York City
    Like you, just old enough to remember the half grapefruit with the maraschino cherry in diners (I used to sprinkle a packet of sugar over it which was a common thing to do then).

    Custard in general was a food people would order based on menus going back to (at least) the '20s. It, too, seems to have all but faded from menus since the '70s.

    A few others:
    • Chopped steak (basically ground beef cooked, usually with a bit of a char and served with mashed potatoes, gravy, green pees [usually] and gravy)
    • Salisbury steak
    • Liver and onions (I could hardly sit at the table if someone was having it, but it was popular)
    • Fruit cocktail as an appetizer (usually the soaked-in-syrup kind that could not have been healthy)
    • Jello "molds -" jello with fruit or other foods in it
     
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  6. Fading Fast

    Fading Fast

    Messages:
    11,143
    Location:
    New York City
    My mom didn't really cook, she warmed things up. So vegetables in my house were canned or frozen - it wasn't until I was out of our house and the early "fresh" food thing started in the '90s that I began eating fresh fruits and vegetables. To be fair, growing up, we did have some fresh fruits from the occasional road-side farm stand, but vegetable came from cans or the freezer.

    And, again, with my mom not really cooking, we had all the frozen this or that, canned this or that, etc., that was out there. I genuinely had no idea how food was cooked until I lived with a girlfriend in the early '90s and then all-but lived with another one a few years later who was a catering professional (holy cow, she knew how to cook).

    All that said, and I do appreciate fresh food now, I still have a pull to processed foods sometimes for - just what you said they were marketing - the uniformity and "knowledge" that they are "safe." We've had to toss fresh foods sometimes (not often) for this or that issue, but that almost never happens with frozen or canned foods.
     
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  7. LizzieMaine

    LizzieMaine Bartender

    Another thing worth noting is that in the 1920s and 1930s, especially, there were thousands of local canneries in operation all over the US. You'd walk into your neighborhood grocery and see half a dozen local/regional brands on the shelf along side the Libby's or the Del Monte's or the Stokley's, and it was common for shoppers to open up a can and be eating as local as they'd be if they'd grown the stuff themselves.

    [​IMG]

    Consolidation in the canning industry put an end to most of these local operations by the 1950s, even though many of the local brands were continued for a while longer by their new corporate overlords.

    Cup custard was one of my favorite things in the world, made with that Jell-O mix, which no longer exists, and who has the time to make it from scratch? Not somebody who works three jobs, that's for sure.

    My other lost favorite is the frozen breaded veal cutlet. These were ubiquitous in the lunchrooms and diners of the Era -- they might be the single most common item on the menus I've collected from the period. Always served with "tomato sauce" of some kind, with a side of peas or green beans, for thirty-five cents. We used to get the four-packs of these cutlets at the grocery store, and a can of Hunt's tomato sauce -- which we'd punch open with a church key and pour over the cutlet as it sizzled in the frying pan -- and that was a cheap, filling meal. Although you can pay pretty money today for fresh veal cutlets and bread them yourself, you don't get very much meat for the money and time it costs you, and it isn't really worth the effort -- which makes the disappearance of the quick-frozen ones all the more frustrating.
     
  8. 2jakes

    2jakes I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
    8,326
    Location:
    Elysian Fields ☀️
    4C3D9D02-6BD7-4732-85A3-E364D14FDA5B.jpeg
    1950s:
    Prepared in a pitcher with plenty of water
    and sugar.
    To this day I will only enjoy it if I add plenty of water and
    sugar like my grandmother made it.


    This is my "wake up in the middle of the night hungry"
    treat from the Golden Era
    which on occasions I still enjoy.
    Along with Saltine crackers and a cold bottle of Coca-Cola.
    324BEAF8-B3A2-459A-AC60-16077B1E729A.jpeg
    Sometimes I'll have the ones with tomato sauce or mustard,
    depending on what I find in the pantry at night.
     
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2018
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  9. Fading Fast

    Fading Fast

    Messages:
    11,143
    Location:
    New York City
    Watched "Footsteps in the Dark" form 1941 recently in which the family sits down to breakfast starting with a half grapefruit, sectioned and sitting in a dish with ice under it to keep it cold, but, sadly, no maraschino cherry.
     
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  10. Haversack

    Haversack Practically Family

    Messages:
    912
    Location:
    Clipperton Island
    Saltines and sardines are Golden Era camping food. I was introduced to this by my father when we started backpacking in the '60s. They had been a staple for him after WWII when he manned a fire lookout in southern Oregon. (No refrigeration).

    Canned goods have been shaping American cuisines since the 19th C. ( Heinz got its start in the 1860s.) Between the heat of US summers and how mobile the population was, (most older food preservation techniques take time), canned foods were a necessity. Also, look at any number of church lady recipe collections from early in the 20th C. They almost all feature the use of canned food in some form. (Often in the form of tomato sauce or mushroom soup). My great-grandmother, (who emigrated from Denmark in the 1880s and lived on a ranch with no shortage of fresh vegetables), still called out canned tomato sauce, catsup, and Worcester sauce in her recipe for baked beans.
     
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  11. Haversack

    Haversack Practically Family

    Messages:
    912
    Location:
    Clipperton Island
    Regarding putting sugar on grapefruit as Fading Fast mentioned, grapefruit today are bred to be significantly sweeter than they were in the 1960s. (I also remember sugaring grapefruit).
     
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  12. scottyrocks

    scottyrocks I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
    7,554
    Location:
    Long Island, NY
    Yes, I have noticed this. As FF mentioned, sprinkled sugar on grapefruit was a regular thing in the '60s. Today there is no need.
     
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  13. Fading Fast

    Fading Fast

    Messages:
    11,143
    Location:
    New York City
    If no one's looking, I still do it.

    And since I'm admitting embarrassing things, I love maraschino cherries, but the original Croatian version (yup, Croatia was first, then the company moved to Italy owing to WWII) is even better than the US' (but I won't say "no" to a US one).

    The Croatian cum Italian one:
    51tvV8-C+2L._SY355_.jpg

    Here's a link to the insanely complicated history of why there are two "maraschino" cherries in the world: https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/what-is-the-real-maraschino-cherry
     
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  14. 3fingers

    3fingers Practically Family

    Messages:
    967
    Location:
    Illinois
    ^^^ Interesting. Also an interesting site. After I read your link, I read about half a dozen more articles. :)
     
  15. Fading Fast

    Fading Fast

    Messages:
    11,143
    Location:
    New York City
    I'll admit this - I had to slow down reading that story to keep the details straight as there were a bunch of twist and turns to the great maraschino cherry divide.

    Atlas Obscura is a fun site. Since you enjoyed it, I'd recommend signing up for its daily email - it's one email a day (no more), highlights a story and reminds me the site is there.
     
  16. I remember seeing commercials for Donald Duck orange juice in the '70s which featured Clarence Nash who was the voice of Donald Duck. In the commercial he looked like a distinguished old English gentleman extolling the virtues of the product with a British accent and then then at the end of the spot would do his famous Donald Duck voice.
     
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  17. green papaya

    green papaya One Too Many

    Messages:
    1,157
    Location:
    California, usa
    one of the main staples was lots of fresh caught fish, I sometimes ate fish several times a week, lots of Crappie fish, trout, black bass , striper, salmon, catfish, I use to smoke salmon in a special fish smoker, smoked salmon was one of my favorites
     
    Last edited: Jul 16, 2018 at 12:46 AM
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