In celebration of Cinco de Mayo, the Kirschner Collection and Magrath Library are giving away a copy of University of Minnesota professor Jeffrey M. Pilcher's Planet Taco: A Global History of Mexican Food. To enter the giveaway, leave a comment on this blog post with your name and favorite taco filling by 11:59pm (CST) on Sunday May 5, 2013. We will select a winner at random and announce the results on Monday. You must be able to pick up the book at Magrath Library if you win. Only one entry per person, please.
More than one friend has alerted me to weird banana recipes lately. This of course led me to dig out all of the banana cookbooks I could find in the Kirschner Collection. Actually, these are promotional pamphlets more than actual books, and they are chock full of just these sorts of recipes (Ham Banana Rolls With Cheese Sauce!). This got me wondering about why these sorts of pamphlets proliferated when they did, which led to more research on the history of bananas in the U.S., which led to finding Peter Chapman's Bananas: How the United Fruit Company Shaped the World. I recommend it if you want to know more about the seedy underbelly of the banana industry. And just who is this United Fruit Company? Well, now we know them as Chiquita. Most (but not all) of these pamphlets were published by United Fruit/Chiquita. With that in mind, I'd like to take you on a visual tour of some of my favorite moments in banana propaganda. [Full disclosure: I am a banana fiend.]
As a final bonus for a friend on Twitter, I leave you with a recipe. You must take a photo and report back if you ever make and eat this.
Banana Sardine Boats
From This Way to the Banana Salad Bazaar (1940)
1 ripe banana
Peel and cut banana crosswise into halves and place on salad plate. Cut a groove lengthwise along the top of each half. Fit a whole sardine into each groove so it will stand upright. Garnish with lemon and crisp greens.
Serve with mayonnaise.
If you haven't seen it already, I wanted to give a shout-out to Andy Sturdevant's piece on Virginia Safford's Friends and their Food over at the Heavy Table. We have this book here in the Kirschner Collection and it is a wonderful piece of Minnesota food history. I appreciate that Sturdevant situates the canned-soupy, gelatin-based recipes in this book in some historical context rather than playing them for laughs. It's worth a read.
In case you missed it, yesterday was Pi Day in honor of that famous irrational number 3.14152965... The staff of Magrath Library celebrated with a pi(e) potluck (highly recommended, even for the non-mathematically-inclined). I took this opportunity to try out a recipe from the Kirschner Collection that is unlike any pie I've ever made before. Mrs. Foster's Lime Pie from Maida Heatter's New Book of Great Desserts is a light, airy, frozen pie that would just be perfect on a hot summer day (which incidentally, is exactly what I'm dreaming of right now). Topped with some whipped cream, it was a big hit at the potluck.
Mrs. Foster's Lime Pie
From Maida Heatter's New Book of Great Desserts(1982)
1 1/4 cups graham-cracker crumbs
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 ounces (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
Adjust a rack one-third up from the bottom of the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a bowl, mix the crumbs with the sugar. Then add the butter and stir with a rubber spatula until the butter is evenly distributed; the mixture will not hold together.
Turn the mixture into a 9-inch ovenproof glass pie plate. With your fingertips loosely distribute the crumbs evenly over the bottom and sides of the plate. Then press firmly, first on the sides and then on the bottom, to form a compact crust.
Bake for 10 minutes and then cool to room temperature. While the crust cools, prepare the filling.
5 eggs (graded large), separated
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup fresh lime juice (grate the rind of 2 limes before squeezing, to use below)
Finely grated rind of 2 limes
1/8 teaspoon salt
Adjust rack one-third up and preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In the small bowl of an electric mixer, be the yolks with 1/2 cup of the sugar, reserving remaining 1/4 cup of sugar, at high speed for 5 minutes until the mixture is very pale and thick.
On low speed gradually add the lime juice, scraping the bowl with a rubber spatula and beating only until mixed.
Remove from the mixer and stir in the grated rind.
Turn the mixture into the top of a large double boiler over shallow hot water on moderate heat (the water should simmer gently). Cook, scraping the sides and bottom constantly for 6 or 7 minutes or until the mixture thickens enough to coat a wooden spoon. When it is just done, a candy thermometer will register 175 to 180 degrees.
Remove the top of the double boiler immediately and pour the mixture into a large mixing bowl. Stir occasionally until it cools.
In the large bowl of an electric mixer, add the salt to the egg whites and beat until they hold a soft shape. Reduce the speed to moderate and gradually add the reserved 1/4 cup of sugar. Increase the speed again and continue to beat until the mixture holds a definite point, but not until it is actually stiff or dry.
Gradually, in three additions, fold the yolk mixture into the whites, handling very little and very carefully. It is not necessary to fold the first and second additions thoroughly.
Turn the mixture into the crust. It will look like there is too much filling, but it is all right, just mound it high. (It will be about 4 inches high in the middle.)
Bake for 15 minutes until the top is lightly browned.
Cool on a rack to room temperature. (The pie will shrink slightly as it cools -- O.K.) Then freeze the pie. When it is frozen, cover it with plastic wrap. The pie may be kept frozen for up to 3 weeks. Serve it frozen with whipped cream.
I honestly had no idea what I was getting into when I pulled Ita Jones' The Grub Bag off the shelf this week. The subtitle gives some indication: "An underground cookbook. The practical, philosophical and political aspects of food -- with recipes and metaphysics." The cover art is also a giveaway. This book sets its tone with an introduction titled:
we are all lost people in this world
do we need introduction?
Oh, the 1970s! With a little research, I found out that this book is actually a compilation of articles Ita wrote for the Liberation News Service. The Village Voice gave this book an extremely positive review when it came out, not for its recipes, but for its philosophy. Both of these bits of information make a lot of sense when you open up the table of contents and find chapter titles like "The Moon," "Chauvinism," and "Cannibalism" (thankfully, that chapter has no recipes in it) along with things like "Pumpkin Bread," "Mushrooms," and "Meat."
This is a book from a food writer who cared deeply about politics and the world around her. It just happens to also have some recipes. And the recipes are very diverse. I found everything from how to hunt, skin, and cook a rabbit to this simple recipe for homemade applesauce:
From The Grub Bag (1971) by Ita Jones
- Wash 2 lbs. tart autumn apples. Peel, core, and cut into thick slices. Place these in a pot with about 3/4 cup water, depending on the juiciness of the apples, and a dash of salt.
- Cook over a low heat, stirring now and then, until the apple slices are tender enough to fall apart. Beat with an eggbeater or fork until slightly lumpy. Remove from the stove.
- Add about 1/2 cup sugar, depending on taste, and continue beating until the applesauce is as smooth or lumpy as you like it. Makes 3 cups. Serve either warm or chilled. A bit of lemon juice or grated lemon rind can be added. Or plumped raises (to plump raisins, pour boiling water over them and let stand 10 minutes).
It is the end of February -- the time of year when Minnesotans' thoughts turn longingly to seeds, gardens, and produce. I was in just this sort of funk coupled with an itch to bake something when I came across Janet Ballantyne's Desserts from the Garden in the Kirschner Collection. This book has recipes from the expected (strawberry tart), to the very unique and intriguing (green tomato chocolate cake). I decided to try out the carrot chocolate chip bars since I had nearly everything on hand. They're a very dense, not-too-sweet bar and the carrot gives just a hint of what lies ahead.
Carrot Chocolate Chip Bars
From Desserts from the Garden by Janet Ballantyne, 1983
1/2 cup crunchy peanut butter
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cups grated raw carrots
1 cup chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350°
Cream together the peanut butter, sugars, eggs, and vanilla. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and baking soda. Mix well with the peanut butter mixture. Stir in the carrots and the chocolate chips. Butter a 9" x 13" pan. Spread the batter evenly in the pan. Bake for 40 minutes, cool completely, and cut in squares.
This week in the Kirschner Collection, I had one of my best finds to date: No Time For Cooking by Arlene Francis. I love this book not for the recipes, most of which I regard with a mixture of equal parts awe and revulsion (see: curried pickle and pimiento loaf), but for the photographs. Prior to picking this up, I did not who Arlene Francis was, but after reading her charming introduction and commentary throughout, I found myself poring through every video I could find on YouTube that she starred in. Here's a favorite clip in which Arlene plays the trombone on the game show I've Got a Secret:
And the photos! The photos of both Francis and the food in this book reminded me of one of my favorite entertainers, Amy Sedaris. I think this book is exactly what Sedaris was trying to re-create in her book I Like You. So, rather than just share a recipe, I would like to take you on a visual tour of some of my favorite images in this book, along with Arlene's commentary on each one.
Today I have cookies on the brain, and now this means I must make a field trip to Wilson Library on the West Bank Campus to find a microfilm reel of the December, 1976 issue of Redbook. Why? Because today while I was pillaging the cookie section of the Kirschner Collection, I came across Redbook's Get-Ready-for-Christmas Cookie & Candy Cookbook. This "book" is really just a pamphlet with some recipes -- it's a teaser for the December, 1976 issue of Redbook, which featured a visit to Minneapolis and St. Paul for the holidays, as well as recipes from our best Minnesota bakers. I would love to see all the recipes (hence the microfilm), but this pamphlet is a nice start. There are a couple recipes in it from Anne Dimock, who I'm guessing is the same Anne Dimock that wrote Humble Pie in 2005. If any of you out there who participated in this issue, I'd love to hear from you. In the mean time, here's a recipe:
Anne Dimock's Bondkakor (Swedish Country Lasses)
From Redbook's Get-Ready-for-Christmas Cookie & Candy Cookbook, 1976
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 cup chopped almonds
2/3 cup lightly salted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon dark molasses
Mix flour with baking powder and almonds. In a large mixing bowl beat butter and sugar until creamy. Beat in eggs 1 at a time and then add the molasses. Stir in flour mixture about 1/2 cup at a time. Divide dough into thirds and with lightly floured hands roll each piece into a cylinder about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Wrap in wax paper and freeze until firm. 1 hour or more. Heat oven to 375°F. Cut cylinders of dough into 1/4-inch-thick slices and place 1/4 inch apart on greased baking sheets. Bake 10 to 12 minutes, until firm and edges are golden. Remove from oven and transfer cookies to wire rack to cool.
The University Libraries' Archives & Special Collections have asked me to come give a talk about the Kirschner Collection. It's free and happening this week (along with another talk about the Immigration History Research Center.) I'll be giving an introduction to the Kirschner Collection, and talking about some of the stories cookbooks can tell us. Here are the details:
What's the Big Idea? First Fridays, December 2012
What: Two presentations
1. "From the Old 'New' Immigrants to the New 'New' Immigrants: Fifty Years of Collecting Immigrant Stories," presented by the Immigration History Research Center.
2. "Thousands of Cookbooks: Research, History, and Feeding a Family," presented by the Kirschner Cookbook Collection.
When: Friday, Dec. 7, 2012, Noon to 1 p.m.
Where: Elmer L. Andersen Library, 222 21st Ave. S.
Feel free to bring your lunch. Light refreshments will be served. Free and open to the public.
"What's the Big Idea, First Fridays," is a series of intellectually stimulating talks at Elmer L. Andersen Library. Each month's presentation is based on materials in the University of Minnesota Libraries' Archives and Special Collections.
I am saddened to report that Melvin J. Kirschner passed away last week on Friday, November 23, 2012. Mr. Kirschner was Doris Kirschner's husband and a great friend to and supporter of the Kirschner Collection. His full obituary can be found at http://www.lapaz-grahams.com/fh/obituaries/obituary.cfm?o_id=1832185&fh_id=13379.