Thursday, 21 February 2008

Into the Wayback Machine - February 21st, 1962 - Part 1

A few years back, we were renovating some townhouses. In one of them, when we removed the baseboards to allow for re-wiring, we discovered that a large number of newspaper sheets had been pushed underneath, presumably to stop the drafts. They were dated February, 1962. Must have been a cold and windy one!

One of the pages was from the Wednesday food section of the Toronto Telegram. I took some notes from it, although the paper itself was too brittle to be worth keeping. I thought I would share some of the tidbits from that date...

Louise Moore had an article which included the following menus for a week:


Sweet Pickled Shoulder of Pork
Parsley Potatoes
Buttered Cabbage
Harvard Beets
Sliced Tomatoes with French Dressing

Apple Whip with Ice-Box Cookies


Liver with Onion Gravy
Green Lima Beans
Tossed Salad
Hot Biscuits

Raisin Rice Pudding


Sliced Cold Sweet Pickled Shoulder of Pork
Creamed Potatoes
Glazed Carrots
Cole Slaw

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake


Swiss Steak with Tomatoes
Baked Potatoes
Green Beans - Celery Hearts

Butterscotch Pie


Hamburgers with Mushroom Gravy
Whipped Potatoes
Buttered Broccoli
Raw Vegetable Fingers

Ice Cream and Molasses Cookies


Tuna Casserole
Tossed Salad
Green Peas

Fresh Rhubarb Pie


Macaroni and Cheese with Bacon
Mixed Green Salad
Hot Rolls

Raisin Pie with Ice Cream

Well. Wow. Times have changed... mostly for the better it has to be said. Let me comment, one day at a time:


As far as I can tell from Googling, sweet pickled shoulder of pork would be a kind of brined but uncured ham. The shoulder is fattier and cheaper than the hind leg; presumably this is being suggested with an eye towards keeping to a budget.

Also, I remember those bloody 1960's winter tomatoes. Three little pinkish tennis balls in a plastic coffin covered in cellophane, generally imported from Florida. Mum would insist on buying them; I really don't know why. They were spectacularly horrible. Slop that dressing on, folks.


What the hell - was Monday "pick on picky eaters day"? I would totally eat that menu, and enjoy it too, but really, what was she thinking? Liver, lima beans and rice pudding? Of course, it was considered good nutritional form to serve liver once a week at this time. I think there's an element of let's-get-this-over-with to this menu.


Why look, it's leftovers. Cold leftovers even. Of course, any self-respecting home economist of this era must emphasize the thrifty use of time and money by planning for several meals at once. All I can say is I hope this pork shoulder was boneless, because she hasn't made any plans for soup. Somewhat token effort here. I give her a C-. But presumably that pineapple cake will will make people feel happier about it all. (It would me, I admit.)


Not much to say about this, except to note that there are potatoes again, and not for the last time this week. My sweetie and I have a joke about the food of this era: it was meat and two veg; one of which was guaranteed to be potatoes, and the other one of which was not guaranteed not to be potatoes. Yep. But let's give Ms Moore some credit: she's kept it down to 4 meals out of the 7, unless there's potatoes in the Tuna Casserole.


I'd say things are running half-local, half imported on the vegetable front; not bad for the middle of February. The meat is pretty much all local except for the tuna. Yesterdays green beans almost certainly came out of a tin, but the broccoli is probably freshish from California. Raw vegetable fingers is pretty vague. I'm assuming celery and carrots, woo-hoo. And maybe a radish or so. Again, half local and half imported. (No local celery in February, more's the pity.)


Fish, natch. Of sorts anyway. Nothing too actually fishy. It wasn't just for Catholics; or at any rate any public or semi-public meal would include fish on Friday and lots of people were happy to partake just to get a change from everlasting beef and pork.

There's a fifty-fifty chance, I imagine, that the housewife who followed this menu used frozen peas over tinned ones. In spite of the tomato thing, Mum was reasonably discriminating about food, so I got served frozen veg much more often than tinned (in the winter) when I was growing up, even though I'm pretty sure the tinned were noticably cheaper. Not everyone would have had a fridge with a freezer compartment, and if it did have one, it would have been one of those tiny little aluminum boxes that required frequent and regular defrosting.

FRESH RHUBARB PIE! This is a thrill. (It's a thrill I've already had this year, and look for more coming up too.) Forced rhubarb was pretty widely available in February. It would have been leaped upon as the first sign of the new growing season, and would have great, zingy appeal after a few months of stored vegetables eked out with expensive imports. You can still find a bit nowadays, if you hunt, but it's not the seasonal staple it used to be.


Saturday, on the other hand, loses that spring-is-coming feeling, and goes back to good, filling winter stodge. Realistically, it must be admitted.


From the time home economics was invented around the turn of the previous century, papers and magazines ran sample menus all the time. Presumably the thought was that mere housewives couldn't be trusted to figure out what to eat themselves, or at least not to come up with menus that combined economy and nutrition (according to the lights of the day). Really though, I don't think I know anyone who actually paid any attention to these menus, even though they do give a pretty good general idea of what many people were eating back then. Both my parents had been brought up on the meat and two veg one-of-which-was guaranteed-to-be-potatoes principle, and were not much inclined to serve them all that often. I got a lot more rice and pasta than I did potatoes, with the result that I now regard potatoes as a bit of a treat. But I think that was unusual.

It's noticeable that there was no chicken or any other poultry in this menu, which is now eaten a lot more than beef or pork, I would think.

I also sure didn't get dessert every day, never mind three pies in one week! Actually, I notice this series of menus is artfully poised between the make-everything-from-scratch era, and the convenience food era. Baked goods were the first foods to become regularly bought ready-made instead of being made at home. This menu includes lots of things that could be made at home by the budget-conscious, or purchased if preferred: cookies, biscuits - the cake would probably be home-made since it's an easy recipe and I've rarely seen it for sale - rolls, and of course those three pies. You could buy your Swiss steak ready beaten and formed, instead of having to do it yourself, and maybe even the hamburger patties if you were really decadent.

The one thing that does get a sigh of nostalgia out of me is the apple whip. Mum used to make prune whip with custard once in while and I loved that stuff. I'll have to see if I can make some apple whip.

Tomorrow: A look at the ads, and a "Market Report".


Bellini Valli said...

We've come a long way baby :D. I know my own mother, bless her heart cooked this way and still does for the most part. We always new what day it was by what was on the menu :D

Kevin Kossowan said...

Great post!!
I wasn't alive back then, but certainly saw that generation's food habits growing up as a kid. Sadly, I feel it's both gotten better AND worse. Many of those meat-and-potatoes folks have turned into 'buy my meals premade at M&M or Costco' folk. How about, 'beef roast in a box' or 'steam your veg in a bag in the microwave'. The only people I know into that stuff are from the 'meat and potatoes' generation.

Adrienne said...

This is so great! Maybe you can help me. Phaedrus at HungryBrowser gave me this link. My Mom had a recipe out of a 1962 issue of the Telegraph for "Cookie Crock Specials" by Louise Moore. When she refound it in her vast collection of cut out's, half of it had disintegrated. I contacted centre who has the Telegraph archives and they don't answer me. Can you help?

Ferdzy said...

No, sorry, Adrienne. I just found a few old newspapers in the wall, and didn't keep them. Your best bet is to keep chasing after the archives.