Sunday, July 15, 2007

Cooking Has Changed A Lot!

I have a cookbook from my Grandmother dated 1940. If you think cooking is difficult now, just wait for these recipes. These recipes assume a lot. For example:


4 cups water
16 cups flour
1 cake yeast
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon shortening
1 rounded tablespoon salt

That’s it. No mixing instructions. No baking instructions.

How about Fried Carrots?

Boil until tender, and peel the carrots cut lengthwise in thin slices, dip in egg and roll in cracker crumbs, and fry until crisp.

Last one:


2 eggs
1 cup cream
1 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon lard (I guess that they didn’t have a problem with cholesterol back then)
Flour to stiffen.

Again no cooking instructions.

In 1938, this is how they made Hollandaise sauce.

This is called Never-Fail Hollandaise Sauce

½ cup water
1 ½ tablespoons cornstarch
4 tablespoons butter
2 egg yolks
juice of 1 lemon
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
little onion

Cook water and cornstarch together until clear. Add butter and eggs and stir. Finally add lemon juice and season with salt, pepper and onion.

Here is a look at today’s recipe.

1 cup butter, unsalted
3 egg yolks, large
1 teaspoon vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
½ teaspoon salt
1-2 dashes cayenne or hot pepper sauce

Notice how even the ingredients have changed. There is no water in today’s recipe, but the butter has increased from 4 tablespoons to 16 tablespoons. Cornstarch is not used as the thickener, and the egg yolks increase form 2 to 3. Vinegar and lime are added in the more modern recipe. The first recipe is a little more bland.

But look at the difference is instructions. Today’s recipe:

1. Heat the butter in a heavy saucepan until hot and foamy, but not browned.
2. Ladle off the clear butter and place in a container.
3. In a small stainless steel bowl, whisk or beat the egg yolks with the vinegar, lemon juice, lime juice, salt and cayenne until foamy.
4. Place the bowl over a pan of low-simmering water and whisk quickly to thicken the egg yolks. Do not let the mixture get too hot, as the eggs will scramble.
5. When the yolks start to thicken, remove the bowl from the heat and slowly whisk in the clear butter.
6. Return the bowl to the saucepan and heat over very low heat until the mixture is slightly thickened. Adjust the seasoning with salt and hot sauce if desired. Serve immediately or let stand over warm heat.

Why the difference? This is just my opinion. In the 30’s and 40’s, women played a different role in society. You went to school, got married and raised a family. You learned how to cook as a matter of course, while you were growing up. Families lived in close proximity to each other. Mom and Grandma were close enough to run over to their house for information.

Today, you may live across the country or the world. You are expected to, as the commercial used to say, “Bring home the bacon and cook it up in a pan”. A lot of women don’t learn to cook in their childhood. Women are expected to work outside the home, raise a family, feed the family, wash the clothes and in her spare time to volunteer for a worthy cause. More and more frequently, you will see more prepared food in the market, frozen entrees, quick and easy this and that.

But, cooking is truly a skill. After working eight hours outside the home, it’s hard to come home and create a masterpiece. But on the weekends, the wonderful weekends, cooking is your time to relax, be creative, be in control of what your family digests. The sense of satisfaction when you put that dish on the table and everyone starts to ooh and ah, and then to say mmmm and yum that feeling is hard to beat.

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