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Vintage Cookbooks: Scratch cookery endures!

Thursday, September 12, 2002

By Alice Demetrius Stock, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

With the emergence in the 1960s of convenience foods, such as Tang, Cool Whip, Pop-Tarts, Shake 'N Bake and symmetrical potato chips in a can, the nation's eating habits began to change, but not in the way that might have been expected.

With improved food technology, mechanized agriculture and ever more super supermarkets presenting a large variety of processed convenience foods, an interest in cooking from scratch should have become obsolete.

Instead, however, cooks all over the country expanded their interest in the culinary arts in general and seemed eager to improve cooking techniques and add new dishes to familiar ones giving rise to an avalanche of specialized cookbooks.

According to food writer James Beard, more cookbooks were published in America in the 1960s than in any other period in our history.

One of the contributors to the explosion in cookbook publishing was the Cook Book Guild, created in 1962. During its first 10 years, it counted more than 400,000 members -- many from small towns far from bookstores -- delighted to acquire cookbooks through the mail, often at a cut-rate price.

The so-called hippie culture emphasizing health foods, natural foods and organic gardening influenced the way Americans thought about food and cooking as did the public's interest in emulating the Kennedys after Jacqueline Kennedy hired a French chef to head the White House kitchen.

At the same time, Julia Child's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" appeared, as did her television program, "The French Chef."

The result was a renewed interest in French cuisine; especially the use of wine in cooking.

"Best Recipes of the Cookbook Guild" is an interesting sampling of foods Americans enjoyed throughout the 1960s -- shrimp toast, crab meat and bacon balls, vichyssoise a la Ritz, meat balls stroganoff, chicken tostadas, moussaka, breaded snails in Burgundy, vitello tonnato, French lace horn cookies, cocoa crepes and cherry mousse parfait.

Recipe selections were reprinted from 150 cookbooks written by the most popular and prestigious food authorities of the time, including Nell B. Nichols, Fannie Merritt Farmer, Craig Claiborne, Poppy Cannon, Amy Vanderbilt, Gladys Taber, Clementine Paddleford, James Beard and Julia Child.

While no longer in print, copies of "Best Recipes" may still be found in some libraries.

Loin Of Pork With Pistachios On Apple Brown Betty

This warm, fragrant dish seems just right for the beginning of cool autumn weather when apples are crisp and flavorful and when appetites are ready for something more substantial than salad and sandwich summertime fare.

  • 4 pounds boneless loin of pork
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon powdered ginger (must be fresh)
  • 1 cup onion, finely chopped
  • 1 cup dry white wine (such as chardonnay)
  • 3 apples, peeled, cored and diced (we like Golden Delicious or Granny Smith)
  • 4 cups cubed, stale white bread
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped pistachio nuts

Remove pork from refrigerator 1 hour before roasting.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Trim excess fat from loin and rub surface with salt, pepper and ginger.

Place in a shallow roasting pan, without a rack, and roast for 25 minutes.

Add chopped onion and roast another 5 to 10 minutes until onions are lightly browned.

Stir in the white wine, diced apple and bread cubes to the onions in the pan, stir around and roast another 25 minutes.

Beat eggs and milk together and stir into the roasting pan mixture.

Sprinkle chopped pistachio nuts all around and stir lightly into the mixture.

Roast for another 25 minutes, or until pork is golden and tender.

Arrange sliced pork on heated platter over the pistachio and Apple Brown Betty mixture. Serves 6.

"Best Recipes from the Cook Book Guild," Patricia Fin (ed.), 1972

(Reprinted from "Spendid Fare," Albert Stockli, 1970.)

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