1950s Archive

Food Flashes

Originally Published December 1950

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year! Say it in Mexican, say it with tamales—four kinds of tamales, kit-packed, yours for gift-giving, to keep handy for those special occasions.

The tamale, did you know, is American in origin, the favorite food of the Aztecs? Long ago it went marching with Montezuma's troops, a sort of a K ration convenient to carry, something to eat hot or cold.

Tamales now, as then, vary in size and in content, but one general procedure is followed for all. A clean corn husk is opened and spread with a layer of soft-cooked masa, a mash made from corn and resembling corn bread. Over this goes a layer of chicken or beef or mashed dried fruits, and the husk is rolled. The husk performs the same function as a wax paper sandwich bag, enclosing and protecting the rolled sandwich.

The tamales gift kit brings beef, chicken, and a sweet fruit tamale, also one hotly spiced tamalette, to serve with the drinks. The most popular of all is the one with a filling of beef highly spiced with cumin and pepper. This cumin, long a favorite with the Indians of Mexico, made it possible in olden times for the warriors to carry their favorite food on the hunt or to war without spoilage, the cumin acting as a preservative.

The masa is made of grains of corn soaked in lime water and ground to a pulp without removing “the eye.” that dark fleck in the meal which distinguishes it from hominy or grits. It's the eye that is the heart of the corn.

Ears of corn have great variety in color, which accounts for the different colors of the masa. Example: If the ear has purplish grains, a blue masa results, but the food value is the same.

Meat and vegetable fillings are standard for tamales but at a fiesta, a sweet kind called Tamale Dulce is an important addition. Although any fruit and sometimes nuts are used in this, it is most often made with a filling of raisins ground to a paste, served with a light syrup as a sauce. A delicate sweet for teatime, with hot cocoa or coffee.

Jean Shelton, packer of the tamale foursome, gave us these tamale facts and has suggested ways to use the various types. The chicken and beef are to be eaten any time for a snack or a main course, heated and served with a hot chili sauce. Mexicans love them broken into bits and scrambled with eggs for breakfast or for a late supper, and at breakfast the meat-filled tamale is often toasted or pan-fried.

In California, the word tamale most often means a large roll, fruit-filled, Mrs. Shelton said, while Texans think of tamale chiefly as the meat kind. Historically. a tamale is all the kinds described above plus that twentieth-century number, the cocktail-sized tamale, this about half as long as the regular. packed with a very mild chili sauce. Oven-heat these and serve with shucks opened and toothpicks handy for the pickup; a spicy addition to a cocktail menu. And there you have it. one can each of beef tamales, chicken tamales, cocktailers, and Tamale Dulce, price $3.25 postpaid. Address J. J. Shelton, 1901 North Harwood, Dallas, Texas.

A gourmet's heaven in a box! Pastries of twelve kinds, Continental in origin but out of the South, from Mobile, Alabama, and having about them the lavish richness that belongs so definitely to the Southern kitchen of tradition.

Knife in hand, cut off a nip from each little charmer and make the taste test. First the chocolate petit four, a round sweet about three inches wide, layered with chocolate butter cream, covered with thick fondant icing, a slice of almond the top decoration. The raspberry petit four is similar. One pastry is the grillage petit four, with butter cream filling and caramel fondant covering. The little cake we like especially has a filling of lemon cream, made with egg and fresh lemon juice, lemon-iced. Next, two éclairs, thumb-sized, with caramel mocha and chocolate butter cream fillings, frosted accordingly.

Paris tart is new to us, made from almond cake in which finely ground nuts take the place of flour. The heart of this one is a chocolate truffle, the whole coated with chocolate. The raspberry tart is made from pecan cake, with pure raspberry filling. One called Chinese tart is of almond dough, with cherry filling. Hungarian pecan marble has a pecan filling moist with rum, encased in a thin glazed pastry crust. Pecan square is made of crisp short butter dough, with pecan filling. Our favorite is the Oriental date, a whole soft date enveloped in macaroon paste, covered with thinly sliced almonds overlapping to give the effect of an armadillo's shell.

The standard box of these European pastries contains twenty-four pieces, two of each kind, $3.95 the price, including postage and special delivery. A big money's worth, since half the pastries are large enough to serve as a dinner dessert. The same assortment in miniature is available on special order.

Order from The Pastry Shop. 210 St. Francis Street, Mobile, Alabama.

Anyone of Scandinavian origin will bless you for a Christmas pudding from Sophie Madsen—fish pudding, not plum! Her puddings take wing to embassy kitchens, to Hollywood, to Palm Beach. To her plain-as-plate, starch white shop at 1183 Third Avenue, New York, come the great, the near-great, the just-you-and-me folks—anyone who loves a fish pudding done Norwegian style. Sonja Henie buys her fish puddings there. Trygve Lie stops in often or sends his chauffeur for a featherlight mold and a quart of rich sauce.

Long years ago Sophie Madsen came to America from Norway to study for the opera. She ran short of money and began to make fish puddings as she had learned to make them from a caterer in her home city. The puddings sold to her friends but only on order. Divine puddings, “light as a cloud.” they said, and a business soon grew.

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