Since the meals are geared to a family of five, I'm left wondering what happens to the leftover pie. The next day's dessert is chocolate blanc mange. Every dinner comes with dessert (all the meal plans note the accompanying recipe and its page number where it can be found), but as the introduction stated, this book was for the homemaker. She had time to make dessert every night. Taking care of her family was her full-time job.
She was probably sneaking pieces of leftover pie when she was doing the dishes. And maybe some sherry she kept under the sink, but that's not in the meal plans, so let's not mention it.
Recipes include such concoctions as Swan Cream Puffs (pictured around a floating water-lily candle), Jellied Tomato Bouillon, Veal and Vegetable Pie, plus tips like how to create butter roses and butter curls. There's a whole section on canning, with most of the recipes directing to seal jars with paraffin wax. There are, of course, still the more old-fashioned country staples to be found, such as pan-fried summer squash, applesauce cake and baking powder biscuits.
Overall, as stated in the foreword, this book is sandwiched between that cheerful old woman who'd "ruther" eat what she'd "ruther" and used her lard accordingly and the coming new age of more health-conscious and sophisticated recipes and foods.
And, while the writer of this book may not have understood the entirety of her own social commentary, she did know that she was making one - which is one of the more sophisticated nuances in the book and in stark contrast to some of its accompanying unconscious sexism.
"Philosophers, poets, and economists may smile at the idea of eating as a social force. But if this is a trifle, it is one of those tremendous trifles which help to shape the destiny of the family, even of the whole of society," she writes.
I've always thought food was important, and the glimpse of how food was important and why in previous eras has long fascinated me, along with the question of what we're saying about food today.
Even as food becomes ever more convenient in packaged food products and fast food restaurants, there's also a revival of interest in home cooking. I see food prepared at home, from scratch, as a touchstone, a source of grounding, in our ever-advancing society.
But a walk through "The Modern Family Cook Book" of 1942 reminds me that my vision is as clouded as its author. Only the perspective of time will tell what we are really saying about food today and its relation to society.
But for the record, pie fixes everything.
Writer Suzanne McMinn lives in Roane County, where she writes every day in her blog, Chickens in the Road, at www.chickensinthe road.com.
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