Friday, March 10, 2017

Everybody Needs An Old Cookbook

A mid-twentieth century American cookbook is a gold mine of food economy. Fast food had not yet been invented, deli convenience was as good as today, and rural electrification was far from complete. Menus were geared to consuming every bit of the food that was so precious during the Depression and even more so during the war.

Simple menus composed of good quality basic ingredients produce small amounts of tasty leftovers. An old cookbook will have ways of using cooked meat, cold vegetables, and small amounts of pasta to best advantage. A few forays into the world of improv will reveal the thinking behind classic dishes that seem to require unreasonable amounts of preparation. To make the most of a nine dollar a week food budget, I spent my first year at the stove mining "Lunch, Brunch, and Supper Dishes" in The Joy of Cooking.

Running that lean still makes sense for this small household. I prefer food that is as fresh as possible, so the refrigerator is small and trips to vendors relatively frequent. Check the USDA's listings of safe shelf life for food.

One legacy of child-rearing is our habit of eating nutritionally correct junk food on Saturday. Last week I revived a blockbuster-simple mommy menu from 1952: hot dogs with sauerkraut, potato salad, and green salad on the side. With genuine franks, pretzel buns, and "salat" from the South German deli at the market, total prep time was five minutes. By the time the coffee had dripped, dinner was on the table -30-


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