Sunday, November 25, 2012

Random Cookbook of the Week: Joy of Cooking, 1951 edition

When my parents married in 1952, one of the wedding gifts my mother received was a 1951 edition of The Joy of Cooking. It's one of the books I brought home after she passed away from lung cancer in early 2010, along with my father's and grandfather's Bibles and a speller my grandmother and great-aunts and uncles learned from in the early decades of the last century.

This cookbook is more a piece of family and cultural history than a source for planning my meals, of course. Occasionally I'll page through it just to explore what's changed and what hasn't in six decades of American home cooking.

You see the 1950's enthusiasm for canned goods in pages of suggestions for how to augment canned soup and how to reheat canned french fried potatoes. (Canned POTATOES?! What were you thinking, 1950's America?)

You glimpse another aspect of the past in the sheer number of jellied recipes, and in the detailed instructions for skinning and dressing a squirrel--making me joke that I'm hanging onto this cookbook in case of apocalypse. But I'm also reminded of my father, born in 1929 as one of nine children of a poor farm family in rural Alabama. A strawberry blond with the attendant redhead's complexion, he remembers getting blistering sunburns through his shirt from long days plowing behind a mule. My husband and I recently found Dad's family in the 1940 census--where my grandfather's total reported income for 1939 was $400 (that's about $6600 in 2012 dollars, though it wouldn't have included the food the family grew or hunted for their own consumption). I remember Dad telling me--the last-born, surprise baby of the family growing up in the 70's and 80's during my parents' hard-won middle-aged, middle-class prosperity--that there's good eatin' on a squirrel.

But there are many sections of the 1951 Joy that seem right at home in 2012. The pasta section contains a variety of sauces I recognize from the rest of my cookbook collection, and things like cookies, pies, and and cakes are classics for a reason.

When I drew this cookbook for my random challenge, I wanted to choose a recipe unlike my usual 21st century style, so all those totally normal pasta sauces and cookies were right out. But I also didn't want to go with something unappetizingly of its era, like, say, Jiffy Souffle with Canned Soup. So I settled on something different, but tasty-sounding.

Sauteed Apples and Bacon

Pare tart winter:
- Apples
Cut them into cubes. There should be about 4 cupfuls. Sautee in a heavy skillet:
- 8 slices bacon
Remove the bacon when crisp. Keep it hot. Leave about 2 T grease in the skillet. Add the apples. Sprinkle them with:
- 2 T white or brown sugar

Cover and cook slowly until they are tender. Remove the cover. Turn the apples carefully. Let them brown lightly. Place them on a hot platter. Surround them with the bacon.

I didn't take a picture because, trust me, this dish wasn't much to look at. It tasted OK, but even though I used good bacon and in general am a bacon lover, the hint of bacon in the apples just tasted odd, somehow.

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