A Few Gems from Old Gourmet, Circa 1941

August 6, 2014

Reading old magazines is so endlessly fascinating, I can't help passing some of this on.  These nuggets (some truly appalling), are from the first six issues of Gourmet.

In some cases the articles speak to how openminded Americans were when it came to what they considered edible back in the forties. They were happily devouring offal and foraged foods – and they were crazy for turtle. On the other hand, their appreciation of foods eaten in any continent other than Europe and America was almost nonexistent.  The Japanese admiration for raw fish, for example, was considered a "curse."  As for women… well, read on. 


January 1941

Introducing the magazine:

“The art of being a gourmet has nothing to do with age, money, fame or country. It can be found in a thrifty French housewife with her pot-au-feu or in a white-capped chef in a skyscraper note.  But wherever it exists, the practitioner of this art will have the eye of an artist, the imagination of a poet, the rhythm of a musician, and the breadth of a sculptor.  That is the subtle amalgam of which the true gourmet is compounded.” 


February 1941

The Last Touch - French sauces

“The trouble with giving advice about sauce-making is that every experienced cook is likely to have his or her own special difficult. Your own sauce weakness may be injecting the right delicate seasoning, somebody else may fall down in consistency, while another poor wretch is always having his or her sauces curdle. How is even the best-intentioned advice-giver going to find one piece of wisdom that will cover all these emergencies? It’s like trying to tell a hundred homely girls in one sentence what’s the matter with them and what they had better do about it.”


March 1941

“Terrapin comeback” 

“The first way is to kill the terrapin by giving it a blow on the head, then chop off the head and suspend the turtle to let it bleed. Scald the whole turtle in a kettle of boiling water for about 5 minutes.  Now remove the outer scales, and the dark skin of the fleshy parts. Then turn the terrapin on its back and cut down the center of the undersell. Discard entrails, heart, sandbag, gall, head, and the nails from the feet.”


April 1941

Food Flashes

…a new egg noodle maker in the E. 50s, a cheese biscuit maker with a small factory in Forest Hills, Long Island duck farms, a new store selling British dried herbs and teas, a delicious canned tripe available on Lexington in the 70s, a fine-grained Polish-style ham being made in Chicago, and (amazing) frozen cocktail sandwiches.

The Last Touch 

Talks about how men have a keener sense of smell than women: “They make, therefore, the best chefs.  They know taste, and taste’s the thing in sauce-making.” 


May 1941 

Eating around the world

“The principal curse of the Japanese diet, after the incessant rice, is the raw fish which is an alleged national delicacy.  One final horror remains. It is the rice wine of the country, sake, a stomach-curdling stuff which I always found unpalatable and indigestible.”

“The Arabs of Northern Africa have a similar dish, made, however, with sheep or goat.  They wrap the chunks of meat in a cooked porridge of wheat or millet, and eat the entire mess with their fingers. As I recall it, this not altogether aesthetic arrangement is labeled couscous."

Food Flashes

“Fiddlehead, a common colonial day pot herb and still a favorite green in the kitchens of Maine, is being given a second year trial this month in markets and hotel dining rooms of New York City. Though Maine housewives will pickle fiddleheads, Gourmet recommends serving them ala hotel chefs on toast with brown butter sauce."

“Paradise nuts from the Amazon Valley are for sale in Grand Central Terminal.  We tried one on a favorite squirrel in Central Park.  He had never met a paradise nut, but he knew what to do with it.” 


June 1941

Food Flashes

Smoked turkeys, more American cheeses, bottled cocktails so that women can impress their men by “making cocktails,” a business that will send your soldier a coconut cake and a whole roasted chicken, pheasant from Oregon, different Virginia hams.

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