What is a Fireplace Oyster?

August 19, 2015

Sorry – can't seem to get enough of this January 1951 issue of Gourmet.  There's a delight – and a riddle – on every page.

Consider, for example, this ad for "fireplace oysters" from the "oldest oyster cultivators in U.S.A."  I hoped that the J & JW Elsworth Company was still cultivating their oysters, but the only oystermen I could find in Greenport Long Island were Little Creek Oyster and Widow's Hole.  Neither, sadly, offer "fireplace oysters." I did discover that Fireplace Oysters were served at the Plaza Hotel in 1951 – presumably from the Elsworths.  But I could not find a single other reference to this particular creature.  If anybody has any information on them, I'm curious. 

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Then there was this interesting ad for a "yogurt incubator"; who knew Americans were making their own yogurt in 1951?

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And finally, a recipe I find hilarious for so many reasons.  Dating from a time when skinless, boneless chicken parts were not a supermarket staple, a time when white bread stood in for rice, it's hard to imagine that this simple dish was actually served in a restaurant. Should you be wondering about that "Key Sauce," it's nothing other than a Pakistani brand of soy sauce.  (My guess is that it's made mostly from water, sugar and caramel coloring, but I couldn't find a picture of the back of the bottle.)

And then, just for fun, an interesting remedy for ailing cats.

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As Promised….

August 18, 2015

Without any fanfare, here is the Angel's Tit as published by Gourmet in 1951.  I can hardly think of anything that sounds worse.

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Well, to be honest, these other Angel Drinks sound equally loathsome.

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There were, however, some really good suggestions in this issue – often in the form of ads.  This, for instance:

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Since I've become increasingly interested in whole grain, stone-ground flours, I went online to see what I could find out about Bear's Mill.  I was expecting nothing – but I was wrong. Bear's Mill is still a working grist mill, still grinding flour, still selling it.  There is, it seems, some hope.

And then I found this: an ad for the first electric coffee grinder.

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 I happen to have one, and like it very much.  Kitchen Aid started making this retro model again about ten years ago.  Apparently it was not a huge success and the model is now discontinued. But you can still find it in a few places.  Here, for instance. 

And then there is this interesting ad.  My mother used to buy ripe black olives, but it's been years since I've even thought about those bland black orbs. This recipe brought back a sharp taste memory; I'm pretty sure my mother once made this dish.

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A Few Blasts from the Past

August 17, 2015

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It's 1951 in Gourmetland, and Chiquita Banana is wiggling her hips (and cooking with coconut), men are (to everyone's apparent amazement) washing up,

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and inquiring minds want to know how to cook peacocks.

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Tomorrow, from this same issue, a recipe for haunch of wild chamois and, I kid you not, a drink called "Angel's Tit."

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Something Fishy from the Past: Eel Mania

August 16, 2015

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It would be hard to imagine a mainstream epicurean magazine running an entire feature on eel recipes – but that's exactly what I found in the August 1951 issue of Gourmet.  After an opening ode to the eel, the magazine offered a number of recipes.  I liked these two best:

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And in case you've been thinking that Rheingold was the only beer that ever advertised in Gourmet, here's a word from their competition.

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My Favorite Weed

August 15, 2015

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Purslane!

I love this crisp, juicy, slightly lemony green – and I was thrilled to find it at the farmer's market today.

To my mind purslane makes every salad taste better – simply wash it well (the leaves tend to cling to dirt, so don't be careless about this), and strip the leaves right into the bowl alongside your garden-variety salad greens.  It makes terrific tacos, quickly steamed,  stirred into a quick green salsa and topped with queso fresco.  Steamed and mixed with tomatoes and olives, it makes a fine Moroccan salad. 

But today, I think, I'm going to mix it into a cucumber and tomato salad with a very lemony vinaigrette.

Begin by peeling, seeding and dicing a few cucumbers until you have about 2 cups.  Dice a pound or so of tomatoes, until you have an equal amount.  Add some chopped scallions or a half of a diced red onion, and a cup and a half of coarsely chopped purslane leaves. 

Now stir in a cup of chopped Italian parsley and then mix it all with a lemony vinaigrette (2 tablespoons of lemon juice whisked into 3 tablespoons of olive oil, along with salt and pepper). If I have the time, I think I'll add a few whole pieces of lemon as well, although peeling lemon sections can be annoyingly time-consuming.

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