Those of you who have visited me here and at my other blog for almost five years now might think I'm slightly obsessed with the 1950s and earlier, and you wouldn't be far wrong.
There is one subject I cannot get enough of, am besotted with, and that is:
And all of us who were turning the pages were receiving parts of the same message: we can make ourselves, our homes, our lives better by working and buying, by caring enough."
I get up from reading a vintage issue of Woman's Home Companion or Ladies' Home Journal or McCall's or more obscure magazines feeling that I've taken a magical antidepressant--without any bad side effects!
And sometimes I am inspired to cook a meal or even bake a cake.
This Brown-eyed Susan Cake from the September 1937 issue of McCall's magazine was fun to make and decorate.
Guess who made the brown-eyed Susans on it? RH did! He used almonds for the petals and chocolate covered raisins for the eyes.
But I'm not going to give you the recipe here because it was not that great. After all, it is a recipe from The Depression years, and recipes from those years are often very skimpy on sugar and other ingredients. So this is what I'll do when I make another one.
I'll take my best Devil's Food Cake recipe, which happens to be a fabulous one from RH's mother and has buttermilk and twice the sugar, and bake that.
The banana cream filling was okay but nothing to write home about so nix that. The coffee icing that I boiled to a soft ball stage was not sweet enough or intensely flavored enough so next time I will find a richer recipe for that online and use it for both filling and icing.
Because we can keep the good things of the old days and discard the bad. It's just deciding what is good and what is bad that's sometimes difficult, isn't it?
I made this cake and shared it with a brother-in-law and sister-in-law, along with a dish my mother often used to make when I was a child, Swiss Steak. As good as my mother's Swiss Steak was,
I used Alton Brown's recipe instead.
I've never had an Alton Brown recipe to fail and his Swiss Steak is fork tender and full of flavor.
RH helped me make it because we doubled the recipe so we could share it, and it required trimming the fat from two large bottom round roasts and then slicing them in 1/2 inch slices, dredging them with flour and seasonings and browning them for a few minutes on each side. That took some time, and knife skills.
Then we had two pan loads of thin sliced onions to sauté, next celery and garlic.
(And yes, I'm a messy chef.) Then we cooked the sauce, tripling it because the leftovers from this dish make the base for a wonderful vegetable-beef soup.
The day after I made the cake and Swiss Steak, I found a recipe for Swiss Steak in the October 1951 issue of Ladies' Home Journal. It was identical to Mama's, good but not as fabulous as Alton B's.
What was fabulous though was the pretty presentation of the dish, of the entire meal. The picture sure makes my Swiss Steak look pitiful. I hadn't even put a sprig of parsley on to serve it.
Get my point? That recipe needed improvement but a 1951 magazine inspired me to next time put more effort into the beauty of my meals because we also eat with our eyes, don't we?
Yes, I adore my old magazines, even though not everything in life then was as good as it is today. We have to take the good from those days for our lives now and change what was bad, I believe. And we certainly could take some of what is bad now and return to what was good in The Old Days, amen?
I admit that I am obsessed with The Old Days, the 1950s especially.
Evan Jones, in his biography of my favorite chef from that time, James Beard, quoted this from the New York Times:
"A typical American family then could afford three children, a house, two cars, three weeks at the seashore, a television set, and meat seven times a week, all on a single wage earner's income."
Are you rolling your eyes at me?