The Snack of the Swan

My son is bird-obsessed these days, so I presented him with E.B. White’s classic, The Trumpet of the Swan. He loved it and I was soon fielding questions about swans, trumpets, and what watercress sandwiches taste like. I’m not a swan or a trumpet expert, but watercress sandwiches? That I can do!

A quick Google search reveled 559,000 recipe results. In the end, I went with the simplest one: white bread, mayonnaise (or in our food allergic house, Vegenaise), and fresh watercress. I did have a little trouble locating the watercress, but finally found success in the produce section of Whole Foods.

And what did my son think of the sandwiches? Here’s his full report…

To be honest, it did not have much of taste, sort of like spinach. But it did have a bit of spicy aftertaste. Which was not much compared to the mustard cabbage I once tried. That was a dark day. I am obsessed with waterfowl (scientific name Anseriformes). And in one part of the book, the swan eats some watercress sandwiches, and it is said in the book that all the swan really wanted was the watercress. I guessed that waterfowl eat watercress, and other stuff that grows underwater. So we tried it to see what it tastes like. So overall, it wasn’t bad or anything. Just a little bit tasteless. Maybe next time I’ll try bird seed.

Yes, I was a bit surprised. Watercress is a tad spicy. Not unlike arugula. However, the spice added a nice kick to counter the creamy mayo. Nom nom nom. Watercress is also a gorgeous green. I couldn’t resist garnishing Fred Marcellino’s illustration of Louis being presented the bill for twelve watercress sandwiches, Ritz Carlton Hotel, Boston (Harper Collins, 2000 paperback reissue).

If you are looking for a few more recipes, yummies, and challenges heading into the holiday season, you might want to try some rock cakes, say hello with this chocolate pen, or take our literary food quiz!

Food, Glorious Food

greater jello recipe book

The Greater Jell-O Recipe Book (G.F. Corporation, 1931)

I’m currently working on a big special collections project (it’ll be ready to roll in a few months, and you’re going to love it – stay tuned!). Today’s post, however, is about another set of items that are inadvertently crossing my path during my adventures in collections acquisitions. Specifically, hilarious historic cooking pamphlets. Like The Greater Jell-O Recipe Book. Because who doesn’t want to whip up a gelatinous Ham and Celery Loaf? Mmmmmmm.

green loaf in greater jello recipe book

I bought this for my personal collection. It’s a little 7up recipe pamphlet.

9 ways to spark family favorites

9 Ways to Spark Family Favorites (The Seven Up Company, 1948)

With a recipe for ham basted with 7up.

ham basted with 7up

Or hey! 7up with milk for the kiddies???

7up and milk

As it turns out, Katie also had a small horde of these pamphlets, and we started rifling through them with gusto. Check out the During Scalomatic instructions. Honestly, I’m not sure if the woman’s expression on this is excitement or horror.

during scaleomatic pressure cooker

During Scalomatic Pressure Cooker (During Developments Inc., 1946)

Or how about New Cake Secrets? Because everyone already knows the old cake secrets.

new cake secrets

New Cake Secrets (G.F. Corporation, 1931)

Here’s one of Katie’s favorites. Both for the title and the illustration. Those are some FIERCE skirt pleats. Apparently part of the standard uniform in Health Defense.

meat in the meal

Meat in the Meal for Health Defense (National Live Stock and Meat Board, 1942)

And just in case you are needing 99 tempting pineapple treats…I wonder…did the 100th recipe not quite meet the “tempting” threshold…?

99 pineapple treats

Ninety-Nine Tempting Pineapple Treats (Association of Hawaiian Pineapple Canners, 1924)

Here’s Some of My Favorite Good Things to Eat, a vision in plaid:

some of my favorite good things to eat

Some of My Favorite Things to Eat (Church & Dwight Inc., 1940)

Funny. In one of the illustrations, the mother’s waistline appears to be smaller than that of her her 6-year-old daughter. Also, call my picky, but last time I checked, sour milk was not listed under my top 5 “Good Things to Eat.”

some of my favorite good things to eat interior

There were quite a number of Jell-O pamphlets. Here’s the “Mordor” of Jell-O towers.

jello recipes cover

Jell-O Recipes Pamphlet (G.F. Corporation, 1934)

One the back cover, instructions to delicately inhale the bouquet of your freshly opened box of Jell-O. Which I never thought to do, honestly. But now I’m totally going to try it.

jello recipes back cover

Another Jell-O pamphlet, this one from 1920.

many reasons for jello

Many Reasons for Jell-O (Genesee Pure Food Company, 1920)

I want to frame this center spread. The “Strawberry Brick” is giving me pause, however.

many reasons for jello ice cream interior

I save the best for last. This is a pamphlet for Spry, a product that is still going strong!

124 spry recipes

What Shall I Cook Today? (Lever Brothers Company, circa 1950)

The hilarity continues on the back. This is my favorite panel. Because I don’t know about you, but I do all my grocery shopping in a hat, lipstick, and white gloves.

can of spry

Happy Birthday Harry!

happy birthday harryIt’s July 31st and we’re celebrating with some delicious pumpkin pasties! I can tell you, they were perfect. Flaky, buttery, with just the right amount of filling and spice. The recipe is at the end of the post, but you might be interested in the story behind them!

The chef’s name is Melody Edwards. At the time she created these stupendous goodies, Melody was a senior at Princeton University. Her final semester, she was enrolled in a “Literature, Food, and the American Racial Diet” course. The goal of the course was to explore – through novels and cinema – how food and taste informs race, nationhood, gender, family, and class.

One assignment was to bring to class “1. A dish based on a “literary” recipe. This can be a recipe found in or mentioned by a novel or by a literary figure or belonging to a particular historical period; Or, 2. A dish from your childhood.”

At least that’s how the assignment started. Over the course of the semester it morphed into a full-on cook-off that allowed student chefs to interpret the course “historically, archivally, contemporarily, globally, and more.” There’s an interesting article about it here.

Team Wingardium Leviosa (which consisted of Melody, Samantha Essig and Daniel Ling) decided to make pumpkin pasties. You’ll find their awesome academic analysis of the pasties here.

Melody graduated from Princeton last May and is headed to the The Institute of Culinary Education (a.k.a. ICE) in NYC. It’s no surprise. Her pumpkin pasties, which she adapted from several recipes, were AMAZING. Especially when you consider that she was working in a very hot, very small, dorm kitchen. Let’s take one more look at them.

pumpkin pastiesMmmmmm…nom nom nom. Here’s the recipe! I’ll leave you with a sweet quote from Melody about her connection to the Harry Potter series:

Perhaps I was an anomaly of the Harry Potter Generation, but when I was first reading the books, I did not look forward to the confrontations with Voldemort. I did not drag my parents to the bookstore before the sun was up for the dark, action-filled scenes that always came at the end of Rowling’s books. Rather, I relished the most mundane passages. Nothing brought me more joy than learning how wizards celebrated the holidays or reading intricate descriptions of breakfast in the Great Hall. While this reveals that I’ve been obsessed with food for my whole life, it also speaks to Rowling’s gift for creating a fully fleshed-out world for our delectation.

Happy Birthday Harry!