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1940s Archive

Food Flashes

Originally Published November 1944

Again Johnny Doughboy has first call on the drumsticks. When Thanksgiving Day dawns, the ambrosial odors of roasting turkey and mashed potatoes and gravy will rise from camp kitchens round the world. Less turkey for civilians, one-quarter pound less a person than we had last winter, when it was three pounds apiece. This year it will be half a drumstick less for the plate. But listen where the missing bit's going. Prisoners of war are to have turkey for Christmas dinner—last year it was chicken.

The cranberry crop is the shortest since 1921, or 53 million pounds, 16 million less than last season. At least a third of this will be going to the military. Oysters are on the skimpy side, but a few more than last autumn. There they lie in their beds, fat and willing, but there's not enough labor to tong and pack the crop.

Otherwise, the great-day feast is the usual bounty, war or no war. Pass the mashed potatoes piled in a high, light drift. Help yourself to yams candied in their own rich blood. There are large supplies of potatoes, both the white and the gold. No onion famine this winter —onion crops are breaking records. Mash the purple-tinted turnip. Serve the parsnip of sweet, earthy taste. Native squash is here to celebrate the day in proper manner.

Traditionalists insist that the Thanksgiving pie should be of three kinds, pumpkin, mince, and apple—a sliver of each. This year one pie is enough. “What moistens the lips, what brightens the eye, what calls Kick the past like the rich pumpkin pie?” The pumpkin crop got hurt this fall by the drought in New Jersey and Maryland, where this native vegetable is grown by the hundreds of acres. Even so, there will be pumpkin enough to put a pie on every American table. Mincemeat is in better supply this year than for two holidays past. More apples, for one reason, plenty of raisins. And a line apple crop means a fine cider flow.

Domestic nuts—almonds, filberts, and pecans—are in about the same quantities as a year ago. English walnuts are a record crop. And there are more imported nuts—cashews and chestnuts— than at any time since the war began. But the Brazils are still absent from shelves and tables.

Brooklyn's famous orange bread, a war casualty for months, returns to the menu of Mammy's Pantry, 122 Montague Street, one of the city's beloved of the home-style restaurants. “Good to see the bread back again,” women say who shop after luncheon at the retail bread case.

It's a bread dark as fruit cake. It has an orange peel tang for the palate, made as it is with the whole oranges (minus their seeds) put through the food chopper. Raisins are added to the pulp, and pecans coarsely cut. White flour goes in, whole eggs and seasonings. The oranges are shipped direct from a Florida grove, the pecans come from a grower in Georgia, and the baking is supervised by the restaurant owner, Mrs. Christine Heinemann, a grand cook from Virginia. But the recipe is Northern, from a farm woman in upstate New York.

Four summers back Mrs. Heinemann, on a fruit scouting trip, stopped her car at a farm gate near Burlington Flats. The orange bread was served with a glass of iced tea. Knowing rare food when she tastes it, the food expert of Brooklyn begged the recipe. The farm woman, modestly belittling her product, as farm women do, said diffidently, “It's nothing much, just different, you know.” Then she eagerly admitted it had won the blue ribbon at it the State Fair.

The little 35-cent loaf will cut ten to twelve slices, depending entirely on the sharpness of the knife. The bread needs only the thinnest streak of butter to be the last word with tea. Or use it with cream cheese. It is as fragrant as a pomander, the flavor truly orange.

The canapé goes to the cocktail party in a brand-new chariot shaped as a miniature basket, these made of rich pastry. Each little basket can handle a tablespoonful of “whatsoever,” be it hot or cold. Although tender, the pastry is perfectly reliable and will never relax into flakes in a manly paw. When basket-carried, wine-soaked cheese, or chicken liver, or hot creamed lobster isn't going to slide galley-west and embarrass the consumer.

The basket maker is the French house of Henri, 15 East 52nd Street, where the pastry chariots are turned out by the tens of dozens daily, with never a blister to mar the neat interiors. Baskets sell at 60 cents a dozen when empty, or $1.80 when filled with exotic tidbits. A liver pâté made of chicken and duck livers and plenty of sweet butter—that for one; chopped shrimp for two, or chopped lobster for three of some two dozen choices.

Chitchat: Imported Spanish capers, those pickled flower buds of the caper plant, are seen at Macy's, 34th and Broadway—the nonpareil, packed in green glass as in days of old. Non-pareils are considered the choicest, being the youngest buds and the smallest. … That crystal salt which some of you have been hunting fur the salt mill, is carried by Maison Glass, 15 East 47th. … Welcome back the three-in-one pack of chicken, peas, and carrots, Dorset brand, selling at Enoch's Delicates-sen, 872 Madison Avenue, a main course for two, the price $1.85 …. Honest-to-goodness Italian Parmesan cheese, five years old, is waiting at Dussourd and Filser, 960 Madison Avenue. … Spanish saffron returns to the Vendôme, 415 Madison Avenue, packed three-fourths of a gram to an envelope, the price 10 cents, just enough there to flavor and color one dish. Truffles are there, too, the one-half ounce tins $1.75, the three-fourths ounce size priced at $3.

Henny Wyle, the Vienna candy maker, is bitter-chocolate dipping those dried banana fingers coming now from the Honduras and Mexico, the price $2.20 a pound in the glass-mirrored shop at 557 Madison Avenue. Another Wyle specialty of the autumn is the jumbo prune, chock-a-block with grape-fruit. So large the prune, so fancy that stuffing, one sells for a dime—and sells!

Big basket news is looming on the horizon—sophisticated Christmas refreshment in the form of a twenty-pound hamper of fruit from the Blue Goose, Orchards in Oregon. Check up the loot: French du Comice pears, once the luxury fruit of kings. Super-sized Delicious apples—both the red and the gold! Oranges—my gracious!—big as grapefruit. Emperor grapes—and grapes, you know, are slim picking this year. White figs, and these, too, a. rarity. Coachella Valley dates—creamy the texture, dreamy the eating. One conclusion: the price must be something terrific—but no, only $10.95, express prepaid. Address your order to the Blue Goose Orchards, American Fruit Growers, 213 Fir Street, Medford, Oregon. Or would you prefer to be really economical? Then order a box of the world famous du Comice pears, ten to fourteen in each box, $2.95—yes, including express.

Ladle and Spoon is a new herb-and-spice seasoned salt put out by Twin Tree Gardens, Lynbrook, Long Island, a unique preparation to take the guess-work out of seasoning. It's an all-purpose salt, prepared to blend with virtually any type of food. Use it in cooking, use it at the table. It does its best by meat, and then docs as well by egg and cheese dishes. Use it, too, in soups, for vegetables and salads. The salt is bag packed, three-fourths pound 50 cents, at Lewis & Conger, 6th Avenue and 45th. A tag-a-long is a wooden salt box for wall hanging done in reproduction of a historic box found in an early — day Long Island collection, the price $1.75-a charming reminder of old days and old ways.

Those who have the price to whet the taste in caviar at $22 a pound will find the fresh eggs big as shirt pearls, if they shop at Wynne and Treanor's. 712 Madison Avenue.

Another “whet” idea is marinated Icelandic herrings, these to be cut in thin strips and laid on fingers of dark bread spread with sweet butter. Twenty barrels of Matjes herring from Iceland are in the storage cellar of the Old Denmark Food Shop, 135 last 57th. The fish are mellowing to tenderness in a white wine vinegar mingled with sliced onion and intriguingly spiced, 25 cents for a filet. Danes prefer this herring bedded on ice and passed with new potatoes, boiled mealy dry and served melting hot, with a big chunk of sweet butter. Beer goes with this simple repast, and dark bread thinly sliced. For the supper's ending, try a fruit soup peaked over with small dips of stiffly beaten egg whites.

“Gin-Rum-E” is a cake that tastes like a highball, a second Aunt Martha take, baked by Mrs. Mildred French of the Old Stone House of Wayside Farm. Broomall, Pa. It comes to town as an autumn partner to that whisky cake of the Bourbon taste.

These cakes are the same cake except for “their spirit,” and spirit it is. In the whisky cake, one quart of Bourbon gives its strength to six pounds of batter. That's why the after-taste is so lasting, so pleasurable. In the Gin-Rum-E, a half-and-half blending, it's the rum that speaks out.

A family cake it is, the recipe out of England, handed along by Great-Aunt Martha Elizabeth Williams, born in New York City in 1837. Great-Aunt Martha had it from her mother, who had carried it from England in the 1820's. It's like a fruit cake, but isn't. Butter, sugar, fresh eggs, a little flour—that's the stuff that holds the nuts and raisins together. Little blonde raisins are used, and pecan meats left in halves. The cake is delicately spiced, its color honey gold. It is a cake long baked, thoroughly baked. It slices fairly thin, and is so moist it should keep just next to forever. First flavor impression is of good ingredients, winy raisins, crisp nuts, the richness of real butter. Then comes the liquor taste, not a vague do-you-get it? but, wow, whisky!

The cake-baking venture started as a neighborly gesture to oblige a few friends. Soon this country town cake was drawing orders from Philadelphia. Within a year Aunt Martha had a private trade ordering around 100 cakes weekly. The Broomall housewife's ambition got growing pains. Aunt Martha took a train to New York and stayed for two days and sold her cake in six stores. That cake doesn't need a salesman. Just lift up the lid. One whiff—it blows the boys down. Ten stores, twenty stores asked for whisky cake. Aunt Martha had a time to keep up with the orders. Last fall she decided to concentrate on two stores. Today R. H. Macy has Gin-Rum-E, introduced in early spring, the one-pound ten-ounces, $2.59. Hammacher Schlemmer, 145 East 57th Street, handles the whisky cake, this at $2.75.