Italy in America, Circa 1951

August 1, 2015

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Some early issues of Gourmet were absolutely stellar. This one, April 1951, was one of those issues. Yesterday we looked at a few Chinese recipes.  Today I'm adding a few recipes from an article on produce in the Veneto by a writer named Dorothy Giles.  I haven't been able to find any information on Ms. Giles, who wrote this wonderful little aside on American produce of the time:

"Throughout the United States, even in good fruit-growing regions, fruits are like children brought up by an emotionally unstable mother.  Either they early give up the struggle for security and grow neurotic themselves, or they develop a tough hide and a self protective lack of personality. "

In Italy, she said, things were quite different.  She went on to extol peaches, pears, stracchino cheese, fresh ricotta – and this lovely-looking vegetable tart.

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Made the torta last night, which reminded me that in the fifties Gourmet didn't have a test kitchen. This recipe needs a LOT of help.  Basil, for one thing, which was unavailable in 1951.  (Angelo Pelligrini didn't publish the first American recipe for pesto until the middle of the decade.) I'd forgotten that eggplant slices were such serious assassins of olive oil; they simply soaked it up.  Next time I'll salt them before frying, which draws out the water and makes them less absorbent.

You also need really great tomatoes (which I lacked),  a little garlic would be good, and unless you've got real mozzarella, use some other cheese like a fresh teleme in place of those supermarket slices that turn to rubber. And next time, I'll use half and half instead of milk, and sprinkle the top with grated parmesan. 

I'll let you know how that turns out.  Meanwhile, should you be interested in another vintage ad, here's your chance to help select Miss Rheingold, 1952.

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3 Comments

  • Jo Procter says:

    Before Gourmet’s test kitchen remark reminds me of Julia Child’s original way around that problem. She used her early TV shows as her “test kitchen” when I worked for her at WGBH. The recipes were given out on the program recipes as well as in mailed copies. Following the broadcast my job was to answer listener complaints and corrections and compile these so that “correct” recipes could be included in “The French Chef Cookbook.” I suspect this crowd sourced test kitchen was one reason why Julia was not unhappy to be paid a lowly fee for her TV programs.

  • suz says:

    Interesting information, J.P.
    I’m enjoying the archives here a great deal. From 1970-1980 I have every Gourmet magazine. The reason they’ve all been kept is for me to find the time to look for a recipe I made – and loved – for my family. I had to give it a taste test, and upon doing so, sat on the kitchen floor, added fresh cream to accompany, and ate the entire casserole dessert myself. Divine! And one day I’ll do it again.

  • Ruth Reichl says:

    That is fascinating Jo. And somehow reassuring that Julia used crowd-sourcing. I kind of think of her as a one-woman crowd all on her own.

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