When we bought our little farm, we told the elderly woman who’d been living there she could leave behind any junk she didn’t want to move and we’d deal with it. In addition to quite a few tools and farm implements, she left behind two shelves full of books, including some old, faded cookbooks published in the 1950s. Chareva looks up recipes in those books now and then and noticed some interesting entries recently.
The first was the opening of the section on poultry in a Better Homes & Gardens cookbook. The section was titled To Clean Poultry:
Pick poultry dry or dip into hot, not boiling, water until water penetrates the skin. Grasp feathers close to skin and pull in the direction they grow, not against it. Cut off wing tips if desired. Singe by holding dry bird over direct flame, turning to expose all parts of the body. Remove pinfeathers with tweezers, or use the dull edge of a knife.
Cut around vent and make slit almost to the breastbone. Insert hand and carefully loosen entrails from back and sides; pull out, making sure lungs are removed. Push back skin of neck; cut off neck close to the body and remove windpipe. Separate gizzard, heart, and liver and cut away gall bladder attached to liver, being careful not to break it. Cut through thickest part of gizzard; open and pull out sac. Remove oil sac from tail.
Gizzard? Gall bladder? Lungs? How many cooks these days would even know what those look like? I don’t think I could identify a gall bladder. We’re so far removed from our food these days, it’s actually surprising to find a cookbook that describes how to clean a chicken.
Another interesting section in the same cookbook is titled Your Daily Food Plan. Here are the recommendations:
- Leafy green and yellow vegetables: one or more servings per day.
- Eggs: preferably one each day, at least four per week.
- Milk and cheese: Children through teens, 3 ½ cups to one quart of milk. Adults, 2 ½ to 3 cups. (There are conversions listed for cheese.)
- Potatoes and other vegetables: two servings per day.
- Citrus fruits: one per day.
- Meat, poultry, fish: one serving every day. Include liver, heart and other organ meats.
- Breads, cereals: some each day.
- Dry beans and peas, nuts: one or more servings per week.
- Fats and oils: some every day and as needed in cooking.
We went from those recommendations in the 1950s to being told to avoid eggs, butter and whole milk and to consume 6-11 servings of grains per day in the 1970s. Boy, that sure worked out.
In an old Betty Crocker cookbook, Chareva found this introduction to the Meat section:
Meat has been the backbone of man’s diet from the beginning of time. Wild fowl and fish were devoured with the deer and wild boar which the caveman brought from the hunt. The great feasts of medieval times were made up of meat and very little else. It is not strange that food in those times was referred to merely as “meat.”
Less than fifty years ago in our own country, any dinner or banquet worthy of the name included a separate fish course, a main course usually referred to as “the roast,” an “entrée” or made-dish such as creamed sweetbreads or chicken patties.
Family and guests in a famous Washington mansion at the beginning of this century started Thanksgiving Day with a Porterhouse steak and codfish balls for breakfast. The dinner a few hours later began with oysters on the half shell, followed by cream of chicken soup. Next came fried smelts with tartar sauce. All this was the prelude to the roast turkey with cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, baked squash, boiled onions, and parsnip fritters. Following was chicken salad, then a venison pastry. The traditional mince and pumpkin pie shared honors as dessert with ice cream and hickory nut cake. Fruit and cheese topped off the meal. In the even, a supper was served including cold roast turkey and scalloped oysters.
Today we are content with a serving of meat, poultry or fish for dinner. Without one of these three, it is an unsatisfactory meal for most people, undoubtedly because they miss essential nutrition elements. All three give adequate amounts of high quality protein and B-complex vitamins. Only fish also gives some vitamin D, and fish is a good source of vitamin A. Meat is particularly rich in iron and phosphorous for blood and bones. Shellfish and salt-water fish contain more iodine than other common food. In addition, the fat of these foods is a rich source of energy … it also adds flavor and eating enjoyment.
That’s what your grandmother or perhaps your great-grandmother knew about cooking and how to feed a family.
Too bad we decided Grandma didn’t know as much as all those experts in the 1970s.