Monday, September 1, 2014

Thrifty Acres: A Salute To Summer, 1956 Style

Hello! Well, it's Labor Day, which means that summer is winding down. But thanks to yesterday's thrift store purchase of the 1956  Better Homes&Gardens Barbeque Book, summertime reading pleasure is mine year round.

This is a packed 162 pages!  From a multitude of recipes, menus for many occasions, and a wide variety of grilling equipment (none of it gas, by the way), there was something for everyone here. 

And today, nearly 60 years later, I can also enjoy the retro illustrations, lavish food styling in the photographs, and marvel at the various grilling get-ups that don't seem to be in existence anymore. (Many of the recipes still sound good too!)

The Chapter 1 illustration is fun:

We'd now consider it a bit sexist, perhaps, that Daughter is carrying a food dish while Son is carrying the bag of charcoal briquets. Also signs of the era: Mother and Daughter aren't wearing pants, Mother has heels on, Son is wearing cowboy boots, a toy gun and a holster, and Father is smoking a pipe. But no matter - they're all obviously forward to their cookout. 

Their barbeque grill looks similar to charcoal grills sold today, but in subsequent pages of the book, I encountered a dizzying  variety of cookout equipment. The photos that follow show just a few of these. 

"...smoke-barrel barbeque. Windlass lowers ribs attached to cover. There's a special metal box to fill with damp hickory sawdust or chips." There also appears to be a generously-sized shelf around the circumference of the grill - large enough to hold a casserole dish, a basket of rolls, condiments and more. 

Also generously-sized is this spit roaster, which held three small whole chickens and also had a shelf for tableware and long split loaves of bread.

"Grill above - broiler below. Stuffed mushroom caps top the hamburgers. Broil them first; keep toasty warm on the grill. Coming out now: buns topped with pineapple rings, cheese rounds and mayonnaise, left; little English muffin pizzas at the right." 

Not to be undone, the opposite page shows:

"Easy-to-wheel barbeque cart. Burgers broil between walls of coals in this little barbeque cart. Rolls are tucked in warming oven, left. Or toast them in the wire rack after burgers are done to their sizzling best. New potatoes brown in butter; corn and coffee stay hot on the grill." 

"Little barbeque cart"? It's cooking six burgers, keeping buns, corn and coffee warm, plus cooking potatoes. And there's room for condiments, bread basket, and cutting board to boot. Perhaps it was, indeed, small in size, but it sure was big on efficiency!

"The young chef in the picture above is grilling franks on one portable grill, toasting buns on another. Build charcoal fire inside special insert, put rack on top, and you're ready to broil franks in just ten minutes. You can carry foods to picnics in these handy buckets. The lids double as trays here."

Love that plaid - very cool! I've seen a similar plaid design used for thermoses and picnic baskets, but this was the first time I've seen it for portable grills. It'd be fun to bring this look back!

Sure, all these barbeque grills are nifty, but what about the  recipes? Well, they're pretty nifty too - in fact, most of them would still be welcome at a cookout today (maybe other than the two sandwich recipes I saw that used canned deviled ham - does anyone still eat that stuff?)

As always with vintage cookbooks, I like to see what occasions folks back then thought were worthy of celebrating - or at least what cookbook writers thought were worthy. I can report that the BH&G Barbeque Book has menu plans for "Garden Supper", "Hawaiian Special" (perhaps a real novelty because Hawaii hadn't joined the Union yet), "Family Fresh-air Special", "Eat Cool to Keep Cool", "Wrangler's Cookout", "When You Ask Folks Over", and more. 

That's just for dinner. There's also "Triple-H Special", "Pizza Favorite" and more under the heading of "hearty sandwich meal". The pizza recipe, by the way, bears only a scant resemblance to pizzas eaten today. 

What was the "Triple-H Special", you may ask? Well, here's your answer:

Shown above, Western Sandwiches, Poncho's Limas (a hearty bean dish), Crisp Relish Sticks, Fruit Basket, Hot Coffee, Milk (butter and mayonnaise aren't named, but they're in the spread too). "Hearty, delicious food with all the tang of an evening campfire and the informality of relaxed Southwest Living", the cookbook writers declare. 

I personally don't find Western Sandwiches "delicious", but I can't find fault with the food styling! 

And for the first meal of the day, "Rise-and-shine outdoor breakfasts", featuring "Dude Ranch Brunch", "He-man Breakfast Splurge", "Sunday Brunch" and "Chef's Griddle-cake Breakfast". 

Oh, and that reference to a "He-man" meal? Currently there is much discussion on how "super-sized" meals have led to an obesity epidemic in this country. I'm sure that people were, indeed, slimmer in 1956, but nevertheless there were some super-sized recipes in my cookbook, such as:

Paul Bunyanburgers (named for a mythical lumberjack who lived very large), made with two pounds of ground beef - and meant to serve only three people! The shaping technique was interesting: each meat portion is shaped into a nine-inch patty, filled with goodies like cheese, chopped onion, pickle relish, etc, then the patty is folded over in half. The end result looks something like a meaty turnover, as seen above. 

I'm sure they are very good, but I'm old enough to remember when McDonald's rolled out the Quarter Pounder hamburger in the early 1970's. That was considered huge at the time, at least at McDonald's. For those who were already familiar with Paul Bunyanburgers, a Quarter Pounder would have seemed minute!

There are no skimping on submarine sandwiches either:

"Start with a hefty cut of French bread; add plenty of ballast from tray. A Sub can go to jawbreaker heights - some addicts pile up 30 ingredients!" 

30 ingredients? The tray above looks packed with "ballast", sure, but a careful counting of ingredients showed only 20. Oh well, can't win 'em all!

The "He-man Breakfast Splurge" featured juices, frizzled ham, Golden Hominy Scramble (eggs, bacon and hominy cooked together), Speedy Donuts (refrigerated biscuits shaped into doughnuts and deep-fried) and coffee. 

Sounds hearty enough, but there's a recipe in the pancake section called "Palmer House Griddle Cakes" (named after the hotel in Chicago, I suspect) - the pancakes are supposed to be 12-15 inches in diameter! "But if your griddle is small, you'll have to settle for smaller cakes" we are told. 

Smaller griddle? How about smaller plates? A Palmer House Griddle Cake would hang over the edges of my largest plates! 

The dessert section of the cookbook is quite slim, but eat up the following dessert and say goodbye to slimness:

A scrumptious "Rainbow-sundae Buffet", complete with "scoops upon scoops of ice cream in three flavors. Banana halves, strawberries between. Toppers: cherry sauce, walnut halves, sliced peaches, crushed pineapple - also Chocolate-velvet and Snow Sauces. It's your choice." (Snow Sauce is a marshmallow sauce)

And it's now my choice to end this blog post. Summer is ending too, but it's nice to know it's always summertime with the 1956 Better Homes&Gardens Barbeque Book.

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