December 12, 2006

Retro Recipe Paydirt!

I'll admit it.

The challenges over at Retro Recipes have captured my attention for several months now. I followed Mr Peabody and Sherman on a culinary tour of the twentieth century, as each participant contributed a recipe published near their birth year. And last month's challenge, a collection of retro fall favorites.

I'll also confess I've been feeling a bit left out. Like a kid wearing a cast on the sidelines at an impromptu neighborhood baseball game. I *wanted* to play -- but I couldn't. In my case, no cool toys. No retro recipes.

But much to my delight, all of that changed a couple of weeks ago. Going through yet another box of my parents' things trying to find them space in my home, I came a small green recipe binder. Hmm. I'd seen it before -- I could close my eyes and picture it in my childhood home today. But I'd never paid a lot of attention to it. Curiosity got the better of me and I sat down to go through it.

The inside font cover states the book's purpose succinctly: "This book is the homemaker's file for her personal recipes, the family favorites, and many ideas clipped from magazines and newspapers. Use the envelopes provided under the proper headings for the printed clippings. Later, when they prove their worth, paste them on the plain paper. The lined paper is for recording your own recipes, menus and guest lists.

Well in my case, the lined and plain paper all remain in their original location at the back of the book, but each of the 12 sectional envelopes are stuffed with recipes clipped from newspapers and magazines in the 1940's, 50's, and 60's. Hallelujah, I've hit the retro-recipe motherlode!

Though I can't be positive, I suspect my newest treasured recipe collection belonged to my mother. Though she wasn't the cook in the family, the carefully clipped recipes bespeak her handiwork -- Mo would have just ripped pages out of whatever publication interested him. I also don't suspect many of these recipes got made in my parents kitchen -- whatever whim they captured that caused Mom to cut them out and file them away never caused her to go back to her collection for culinary inspiration.

I suspect that as I try some of them in my kitchen -- for the retro challenge or for the hell of it -- I'm going to have questions. Who spotted this one? What appealed to them? Did anyone make it?

My contribution to the December Boozy Holiday challenge is obvious immediately: a cordial-and-gelatine combination first published in the Oakland Tribune on Sunday December 2, 1962. Home economics writer Martha Lee promises to provide me with "two in one -- an after dinner cordial in dessert perfect for holiday entertaining."

I'm sold. I carefully gather up my yellowed newspaper clipping and head to the liquor cabinet to get to work on my Bavarian Mint.

1 envelope unflavored gelatin
1/2 cup sugar, divided
1/2 cup cold water
3 eggs, separated
1/4 cup green creme de menthe
1/4 cup white creme de cacao
1 cup heavy cream, whipped

Martha instructs me to mix together gelatine, 1/4 cup sugar and salt in the top of a double boiler. Stir in water then egg yolks (one at a time) stirring to blend well. Place over boiling water and cook, stirring constantly, until gelatine is dissolved and mixture thickens slightly, about 5 minutes. (I'm glad I have some previous experience with custard here, or I suspect I might have been in danger of scrambling the egg yolk a bit.)

Remove from water. Stir in creme de menthe and creme de cacao. Chill until mixture is the consistency of unbeaten egg whites.

Beat egg whites until stiff but not dry. (again, previous experience is helpful here, she doesn't give us a lot of direction.) Gradually add the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and beat until very stiff. Fold into gelatine mixture. Turn into a cup serving bowl. Chill until firm.

If desired, garnish with additional whipped cream and chocolate curls.

Okay... a couple of observations.

First, my attempt didn't yield 5 cups. I suspect Martha missed a step. The ingredient list calls for 1 cup of heavy cream, whipped, but except for as a garnish, it's never mentioned in the body of the recipe. Since the faded photograph of the final product looks far more voluminous than mine, I think I should have incorporated some whipped cream in there somewhere. Ah well.

Second, Martha proudly claims that while Bavarian Mint is "a simple dessert to make" (she's right there) "it looks elaborate enough to delight the most discerning gourmet." Hmm. Maybe hers does. Mine pretty much looks like a green jello salad.

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peabody said...

You do realize I was named after Mr. Peabody!

wheresmymind said...

Wow...that looks so prettay for the holidays!