|A Gourmet cover from 1950|
shown at the top
of her Gourmet
Each column in Gourmet included a series of descriptions of new food products -- both imports and local ones. Here are some quotes that I enjoyed, which I think illustrate what's fun and breezy not really so florid as all that.
From July, 1951:
"Mighty like a rose and it is rose, a rose-petal honey made by a recipe taken from the famous Martha Washington cookbook, the original copy now owned by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.
"Martha kept a stock of this honey on hand, and one garden of red roses was grown at Mount Vernon just for its making.
"This pale honey of the delicate rose flavor is made almost exactly like that brewed by Martha.
"The maker is Mrs. Abraham Elkon, a former food columnist for French and Canadian newspapers, who loves experimenting with food. While perusing the Martha Washington cookbook, she took a fancy to the honey recipe.
"The honey is processed with rose petals, which are purchased in quantities, 'scummed' carefully, and allowed to cool slowly. In accordance with modern tastes, she has reduced the rose flavor slightly. For centuries after the Crusades, rose was one of the most popular flavors, Rose petals, rose crystals, rose waters, were a frequent addition to sauces and cakes. The ancestral palates were more used to this flavor than ours. Knowing this, Mrs. Elkon makes her honey most delicate of the rose, much less heavily scented than Martha turned out for George. But that flavor is 'something very special,' one taster wrote." (source)From 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." (source)From December, 1944 -- wartime:
"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." (source)Each column was several times as long as what I've quoted, but I think I've given a suggestion of her writing style. Despite the accusations of recent writers, I find this style very amusing. I think I can see how it attracted readers to her columns in the New York Herald Tribune, Gourmet, and other publications. It's dated, for sure, but I defend her against the most exaggerated criticisms!
I also read two articles about her: one from the New York Times about her personal papers that reside in the library at Kansas by R.W. Apple (2005), another from the Saturday Evening Post, "Clementine Paddleford: Her Passion is Food" (1949). And I've ordered a copy of her most important book, How America Eats (1960), which will arrive in the next few weeks. So I will have more to say eventually.