Friday, January 6, 2017


Ah, yes - here's another two-fer.  I wrote this one for this month's community magazine, and I've had a few favorable comments on it. We've all been speculating about the answer to the last sentence.

Image result for lobster newburg delmonico's
Lobster Newburg - I haven't had this in years!
Ingredients include cream, sherry, cognac, butter, and, of course, lobster.

Do you remember Lobster Newburg, Salisbury steak, Chicken a la King, and that all-time favorite Creamed Chipped Beef on Toast? This last one was also known to many of us as Sh..  …well, let’s just say that time marches on and, fortunately for us, so have the trends for what we eat.

We were accustomed to calorie-dense foods, foods that were relatively inexpensive but filled us and provided the calories for hard work and play. Noodles, pasta, potatoes, and bread played a big part in our diets. Unless it was spaghetti night, supper was meat, a starch, and a veg. Salads made very rare appearances on our plates. Farmers markets were few and far between, and unless your family maintained a vegetable garden, your veggies were days, even weeks old. The butcher, the baker, the green grocer, and the milk man, were the common independent purveyors who now find themselves under one roof in the supermarket.

Sundays were the days for a huge roast, perhaps leg of lamb or fresh ham, and all the accompaniments. Mom spent a lot of the morning preparing the roast, and the rest of the family spent the late afternoon working or snoozing off the effects of the meal. Today, such large roasts are served mostly on holidays. Many Baby Boomers don’t even remember a fresh ham, thinking it’s the non-canned variety of a smoked ham.

While weeknight desserts were things like jello, chocolate pudding, or tapioca, Sunday desserts were presentations: pound cakes, layer cakes, pineapple upside-down cakes, coconut cream pies, pies of every flavor, and, in season, things like buckles and cobblers. In summer there might have been a treat of home-made ice cream.

In the Fifties, while we on the western side of the Atlantic were eating these traditional foods, people like Julia Child were over in France learning new ways to cook. No longer was Chinese cooking just chop suey or chow mein. No longer was Asian cooking just Chinese. No longer were chop suey and chow mein or spaghetti and pizza the only international foods on our plates.
Television, advances in freezing foods, and widespread transportation meant that we were getting a larger variety of fresher foods and were learning new ways to prepare them. No longer did one cookbook cover everything we wanted to prepare. Fanny Farmer, Better Homes and Gardens, or the Settlement cookbook, have been joined on the packed shelves by hundreds of others. The vast variety of subjects to be covered in individual cookbooks meant that book stores moved the few cookbooks out of the Reference section, and began to devote whole sections of their shelves to them.

Today we aren’t as reliant on seasonal foods, although eating with the seasons, becoming a “locavore” and cooking with what is readily available from nearby sources, is the latest trend, especially for restaurants. Many restaurants don’t have freezers, preferring to use only the freshest ingredients for their menu. And that’s another difference in the way we eat today: more and more we choose to eat out. Rather than stock our kitchens with all the ingredients for international cuisines, we go to the local places that satisfy our tastes. Just in our area we can have Asian, Italian, Greek, Mexican, New York Deli, Southern, you name it, breakfast, lunch, or dinner, and it’s nearby. So much food, so little time!

Just wonderin’…   …Remember the party standby, deviled eggs? Just plain deviled eggs. Today, according to a recent issue of Saveur magazine, they marinate the whites in soy sauce and raspberry vinegar - just for fifteen minutes, mind you - and then fill them with the yolks that were combined with lump crab meat, avocado, and apple. Chefs are getting inventive. Food is getting fancy. It’s probably a good thing, but we have to wonder what “comfort food” will be to generations to come.

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