Old recipes V: the dented tin box

Jill Ellis Feninger, in the NYT‘s “Metropolitan Diary” on the 29th:

It sat on a shelf of my grandmother’s pantry on Bedford Avenue in Brooklyn. And then my mother’s on 36th Street in Murray Hill. And now mine on 138th Street in Harlem.

A giveaway from Land O’Lakes; dented, scratched, worn.

Inside, stained 3-by-5 cards (the rich people, my mother told me, had 4-by-6); yellowing newspaper clippings, backs of envelopes covered with delicate, peacock-blue fountain pen handwriting. They practiced the Palmer method, then.

An inscrutable filing system that I’ve never had any desire to change. Yes, “A” for Apple “Dumplings,” But also “A” for Aunt Berdie’s noodle “kugel.”

A 1940s recipe hit parade: salmon loaf; Jell-O mold; butterscotch pudding, deviled eggs. “Mock” apple pie made with Ritz crackers, sugar, cinnamon and no apples whatsoever.

No measurements given: “a fistful of flour,” “a pinch of nutmeg,” “a knot of butter.”

The recent nor’easter in New York inspired a dip into the box.

“Miriam Steinbeck’s mother-in-law’s Meat Loaf” (under “L”).

“Ground beef, a packet of Lipton’s Onion Soup Mix, a sleeve of saltines, a couple ounces of milk, tomato juice, an egg, and a spoonful of wistashur sauce.”

I inhale the beefy, oniony aroma wafting from the kitchen. I hear the sizzle of the fat drippings accumulating in the bottom of the pan.

I slice up Miriam’s masterpiece, take a forkful, blow on it, and take a bite.

I taste the generations.

I have Ann Daingerfield Zwicky’s box (plastic, with 4×6 cards, clippings, etc.) and still consult it, indeed have posted recipes from it here. Ann died 31 years ago, and I have some of her mother’s recipes (Libby died over 55 years ago), some just lists of ingredients, with no measurements or instructions for preparation — merely reminders for the cook.

Earlier on this blog:

on 12/10/11, “Chicken verdicchio” from Felicia’s in Boston’s North End in the 1960s

on 2/1/12, “Waffles and gnocchi”: recipes from Monique Serpette Transue

on 5/2/12, “Old recipes I: Mrs. Curtis”: 1914 edition of Household Discoveries and Mrs. Curtis’s Cook Book, by Sidney Levi Morse and Isabel Gordon Curtis

on 5/2/12, “Old recipes II: Libby Daingerfield”: recipes “that really amount to notes to herself”

on 5/2/12, “Old recipes III: milk pie” (as made by my Pa. Dutch grandmother)

on 5/5/12, “Old recipes IV: George Leonard Herter” (in his Bull Cook and other food books)

on 8/15/12, “Julia is 100”, about annotations in

my copy of Beck, Bertholle, and Child, Mastering the Art of French Cooking (1961) — a first edition, much used, food-spattered, and annotated (by Ann Daingerfield Zwicky)

on 7/8/15, “birch beer”:

… [characteristic Pa. Dutch dishes, including:] bova shankel / boova schenkel “boy’s thighs/legs” (noodles with a mashed potato filling. often with beef added to the filling)

… My Pa. Dutch grandmother made a number of these dishes, including bova shankel (with browned butter as dressing), but not under that name; I don’t recall the name she used, but I do recall that the dish was an enormous amount of work.

on 8/31/15, “Eat your weeds”:

My Pennsylvania Dutch grandmother went a-gathering dandelion shoots in the spring, often with my help, and then served them in “wilted dandelion salad”, with a hot dressing of crumbled bacon and curdled milk. She never wrote this (or any) recipe down, nor did she show anyone how she made the dish — and though I’ve found lots of recipes for wilted-greens salad with a hot vinegary dressing, none of them looks quite like Grandma Sue’s. (Sue died 50 years ago.)

(Wilted-greens salads can be made with any of the bitter greens listed above, or several together — after the brief springtime dandelion season, Sue used curly endive — or with other greens, like spinach, sorrel, or watercress.)

on 11/7/15, “Adventures in food: vintage Betty Crocker, fun with hot dogs” (and bananas): 1971 recipe card collection

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