1940s Archive

Food Flashes

Originally Published March 1944

Luxury today has the flavor of vice. In the ancient world of 1940, luxury was nearly a virtue—that is, if you could come by it honestly. So the world turns. Now turtle steak, once an out-and-out gourmet's dish, gets its chance to pinch-hit for the once-upon-a-time everyday beef and veal. So the menu changes.

Turtle steak is still expensive at 65 to 75 cents a pound—but not a slice of waste. Anyhow, that doesn't seem such an outlandish price in a world where good red meat is worth its weight in ration books.

Turtle steak is red meat in color, and tastes something like veal, only more delicate and sweeter, with an underlying odd flavor distinctly its own. These steaks come from green turtle giants taken on the sunny sands of the Caribbean, weighing from 100 to 300 pounds each, and imported by Moore and Company, 137 Beekman Street, one of the East's largest packers of turtle products. Steaks are taken from the sides, only thirty-five to forty pounds being available per turtle, these to sell to hotel kitchens and local specialty shops. Much of the turtle's weight is made up of the juicy meat of the large flippers, so fine for a stew. The meat in the shell does duty by the soup pots.

Steaks may be ordered cut thick for broiling, or in wafer-thin slices for breading and frying. When frying, sprinkle the brown crusted pieces at the very last with a few drops of Sherry. Cover the pan a moment to let the aroma penetrate the meat, then serve, and in a hurry. No Sherry on the shelf? Tsch! Tsch! Then shed a brief tear of lemon juice for the golden brown cubelets. Prepare for them a bed of crisply fried parsley. A rare stimulant!

Turtle steaks may be purchased direct from the Moore Company. They are retailed also by S. Comollo, Inc., 357 Sixth Avenue, and F. Rozzo & Sons, 159 Ninth Avenue. Flippers, too—these are for stews or a homemade broth. Cook the flipper with bone in to lend extra goodness. The bone is removed easily after the meat tenders. Bake the fins as you will.

Horn's Restaurant on Pearl Street broils the steaks beautifully, dealing them out with mushrooms in regular beef-steak fashion. The Voisin Restaurant, 375 Park Avenue, serves turtle steak broiled, and does the flippers in a Maryland sauce with Sherry.

The Moore Company imports the cow turtle only, since her meat is more tender, her shell superior to that of the bull. Genuine clear green turtle soup is made of that most prized portion, the outer circumference of the two heavy shells, the upper, “calipash,” the lower, “calipee.” And good for you, in case you care. The green turtle is a vegetarian, existing on seaweed; thus its meat is enriched with valuable minerals—iodine, calcium, and manganese.

“We served your grandfathers,” is the boast of Bellows and Company, established in 1830 as importers and dealers in fine wines and other spirits. Twenty-one years later, in 1851, the house was offering a few rare delicacies in its annual catalog. Among those early-day items were Canton preserved ginger, fine Dijon and London mustard, China and India teas, Sumatra, Java, and Mocha coffees, spices from the Orient, wine vinegars out of France. Today, in spite of war, there are five imports on the shelf still. Domestic items offered are of equal importance, each food selected with scrupulous care. The de luxe olives are a notable example, with four different stuffings for these super-colossals of the California groves. The fillings are celery, pimento, almond with capers, and finely-cut olive meat. Jars are in two sizes, the 1-pound, 6-ounce $1.65, the 10-ounce 75 cents.

The sweet spiced cantaloupe is cut in voluptuous strips, nearly four inches long and at least an inch wide, packed in heavy syrup, sharpened with vinegar, blended with spices.

There are still stocks of pears, cherries, and peaches, matured in old brandy. You serve these flambé or as a sauce for ice cream or other desserts. Just as a century ago, the firm offers olive oil produced from the first pressing of hand-picked ripe olives, grown on the French Riviera slopes. Like the great wine vineyards, the yield of French olive trees is small, but high in quality. The oil is triply clarified, and is classed among the finest olive oils in the world. Packed in France (but before the war, of course), the price $1.50 a pint.

Tooth and tongue! Now what is this? A West Coast chili sauce made with spiced fruit—one sniff and there is no escaping from such insidious fragrance. So good it is we could enjoy it served in a dessert dish to be lapped up with a spoon. This is first of all a tomato sauce with mild sweet peppers in it, onions finely cut, and then the different thing—quite large chunks of pickled peaches. How mystically wedded are the peaches and the tomato! There is a simplicity to the combination of the few ingredients, yet a sapient harmony. It would do a deal for the humble hamburger. Yet it is equally acceptable passed with veal cutlets. It's a sweet-sour stuff such as is beloved by the Pennsylvania Dutch. Sold by B. Altman & Co., Fifth Avenue at 34th Street.

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