Dawn Pisturino's Blog

My Writing Journey

Afternoon Tea from the 1950s Housewife

Although afternoon tea is not an established tradition in America as it is in the British Isles, women in the 1950s would often get together in the afternoon for card parties, tea parties, and luncheons in order to share gossip, recipes, husband advice, child-rearing suggestions, fashion, hairstyles, make-up, current affairs, and plans for vacations and interior decorating. These social events broke up the boredom and mundane routine of household chores, encouraged bonding and friendships, and strengthened neighborhood cohesion and security. Neighbors knew one another back then and turned to each other in times of trouble. On the flip side, there was the usual rivalry over who was buying the newest car, the biggest house, the most expensive television set. People gossiped about each other shamelessly, with everyone knowing each other’s business. But, shhhhh, don’t talk about it out loud! That would be bad manners.

Afternoon Tea Menu

Assorted sandwiches (see suggestions below)

Toasted Sponge Cake

Small cakes (like Petits Fours – see recipe below)

Sweet wafers (vanilla wafers)

Bonbons, such as nougat candy and fudge

Cookies, such as assorted macaroons or French macarons

Nuts

Tea with sugar, cream, and sliced lemon

Tea Sandwiches

“The tea sandwich is seldom made of meat, though such things as minced chicken, lobster, or crab meat, and sardines beaten to a paste, are sometimes used for it.”

Thinly-sliced bread, with or without the crust.

Fillings may include lettuce, mayonnaise, chopped olives, nasturtiums and other edible flowers, watercress, cucumbers, cheese, Vienna sausages, jam, preserves, butter, and almond spread.

Buttered hot biscuits with cream cheese and preserves provide a delicious alternative.

Recipe for Petits Fours

2 cups sifted cake flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup shortening

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup milk

4 egg whites, stiffly beaten

Fondant (can be bought pre-made)

Sift flour, baking powder, and salt together. Cream shortening, vanilla, and sugar together until fluffy. Add sifted ingredients and milk alternately. Fold in stiffly beaten egg whites. Pour into 2 greased (9-inch) pans. Bake in moderate oven (375 degrees F.) about 25 minutes. Cool, then cut into 2-inch squares or triangles or use cookie cutters. Brush off crumbs, arrange on wire racks, and place racks on waxed paper. Melt fondant slowly over hot water (using a double boiler), tint with food coloring, and pour slowly over cakes. Decorate with nuts, candied fruit, small candies, coconut, or ornamental frosting pressed into flower shapes with a pastry tube. Makes about 30.

(Photo from Land O’Lakes)

Preparing the Tea

Avoid metal when preparing the tea! Glass or earthenware pots make the best tea. (Of course, every 1950s hostess had her favorite China teapot.)

Heat the teapot by filling it with boiling water. Empty it. Add the dry tea leaves (1 teaspoon of tea per 1 cup of hot water is a good guideline) and refill the pot with fresh boiling water. Cover and allow to brew for 3 to 5 minutes in a warm place. Serve immediately.

Tea may be served with sugar, cream, milk, lemon, cloves, candied cherries, orange peel, rose leaves, or mint. Cream should be used with black tea.

Mate and herbal tea may be substituted for traditional tea.

All menus and recipes from The American Woman’s Cook Book, 1952.

Dawn Pisturino

March 1, 2022

Copyright 2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

40 Comments »

Evolution of Natural Gas in America

The natural gas industry is so vital to the functioning and prosperity of the United States that a depletion of natural gas resources would cripple the whole country.  Roughly 25% of the energy used in the United States comes from natural gas.  From manufacturing uses to home energy consumption, natural gas plays an important role in everyday life, even if American consumers are unaware of it (Busby, 1999, p. xviii).

       Natural gas is a natural resource that has developed over millions of years of plant and animal decomposition.  It is often found at the bottom of bodies of water that have existed for eons, such as oceans and lakes.  Plant and animal matter that became buried before decomposition or became lodged in anaerobic water, such as a stagnant pond, avoided oxidation.  As sand, mud, and other materials collected on top of the organic matter over long periods of time, these materials solidified into rock.  The organic matter was preserved by the rock. Years and years of pressure and heat turned the organic matter into gas and oil.  “Coal, shale, and some limestones have a dark color that comes from their rich organic content.  Many sedimentary basins are gas-prone and produce primarily natural gas” (Busby, 1999, p. 2-3).

       The average composition of natural gas, after processing, is 88% methane, 5% ethane, 2% propane, and 1% butane (Busby, 1999, p. 2).  The natural gas widely used today is, therefore, largely methane, “a colorless, odorless gas that burns readily with a pale, slightly luminous flame (Busby, 1999, p. 1).  The by-products of burning natural gas are mostly water vapor and carbon dioxide, making it “the cleanest burning fossil fuel” (Busby, 1999, p. 1).

       Methane is used in making solvents and other chemical compositions.  Propane and butane are separated from natural gas and sold as separate fuels. Liquified petroleum gas (LPG) is mostly propane and used as a fuel in rural areas where pipelines do not exist.  When carbon dioxide and helium are recovered from natural gas, they are often used to boost production in old oil fields.  Helium that is recovered from natural gas is used to fill balloons and blimps.  It is also widely used in the electronics industry.  Hydrogen sulfide, which is very corrosive, must be removed from natural gas before it is transmitted through pipelines or it will damage vital parts of gas wells and pipes (Busby, 1999, p. 1-2).

       Wood that has been subjected to high temperatures over time, turns into coal.  Coal seam gas is primarily methane. At depths with cooler temperatures, bacteria produce microbial gas, which is largely methane. Thermogenic gas develops at lower depths and with temperatures greater than 300 degrees Fahrenheit.  Trapped in underground reservoirs, high temperatures sometimes “gasify” the heavier hydrocarbons.  When the temperature cools, the gas re-liquifies and forms a condensate, which is largely pure gasoline. This is known as “wet” gas.  “Dry” gas is composed of pure methane.  Natural gas liquids (NGL) are composed of butane, propane, ethane, and gasoline condensate.  At depths greater than 18,000 feet, high temperatures turn oil into natural gas and graphite (Busby, 1999, p. 3-4).

       “Most deep wells are drilled in search of natural gas . . . [because] most gas that has been generated over the ages has been lost rather than trapped, which is why many exploratory wells are unproductive” (Busby, 1999, p. 3-4).  The reservoir rock holding the gas must be porous as well as permeable to allow for containment and access.

       Although people in the past were aware of natural gas, it was not until the 1800s that gas began to be developed and used for various purposes.  Coal gas began to be utilized in gas lighting in America and Europe, which allowed factories and businesses to operate for longer hours and families to engage in more social activities in the evenings (Busby, 1999, p. 5-6).

       One of the first inventors to experiment with coal gas was William Murdoch.  His experiments were so successful that his employer, Boulton & Watt, expanded its business to include “installing gas lighting in English factories” (Busby, 1999, p. 6).  The city of Birmingham adopted gas lighting, which inspired great demand for this new technology (Busby, 1999, p. 6).

       One of the first gas lights, the Thermolamp, was invented by Philippe Leon in France in 1799.  He patented a process to generate gas from wood and put it on display in Paris in 1802.  But the French government rejected the idea of a massive lighting system fueled by gas (Busby, 1999, p. 6).

       In 1807, Frederick Winsor “staged the first gas street-lighting display in London” (Busby, 1999, p. 6).  He had found a way to pipe large quantities of gas via a centralized system and founded his own public gas distribution company in 1812 (Busby, 1999, p. 6).

       By 1819, London had installed approximately 300 miles of gas pipes that supplied more than 50,000 gas burners.  The pipes were made of wood, but these were eventually replaced by metal pipes (Busby, 1999, p. 6).                                                                                                                                        

       In America, Charles Peale began testing gas lighting in Philadelphia in 1802.  The city of Baltimore hired his son, Rembrandt Peale, to install a gas lighting system in 1816.  The first gas utility company in America was born in that year, and more sprouted up along the East coast.  The first gas company in the southern states was established in New Orleans (Busby, 1999, p. 6).

       America could boast around a thousand companies selling coal gas for lighting by the end of the 19th century.  And most major cities around the world had adopted gas lighting (Busby, 1999, p. 6).

       Most consumer gas distribution was not metered but delivered at a flat rate, which was based on the number of hours of use and the number of lights in a household or business.  A gas meter was invented in 1815.  By 1862, gas meters – which monitor the volume of gas used – were being used in London.  Coin-operated meters became available in the 1890s which allowed poorer consumers to utilize gas energy as they could afford it (Busby, 1999, p. 7).

       “Coke is a solid, porous by-product of gas manufacturing that can also be used for domestic heating” (Busby, 1999, p. 8).  The evolution of the iron and steel industries created a demand for blast-furnace coke that led to the development of the push-through-coke oven.  The demand for coke oven gas increased until it “constituted 18.7% of all manufactured gas” (Busby, 1999, p. 8) in 1920.

       As new uses for gas were discovered, developed, and implemented, “the first gas range in the U.S. was built around 1840” (Busby, 1999, p. 8).  The Goodwin Company introduced the Sun Dial Stove in 1879.  Two more gas stove manufacturers opened within four years.  And in 1887, the first gas appliance store opened in Providence, Rhode Island.  By 1900, cooking with gas had outstripped gas lighting and gas heating (Busby, 1999, p. 8).                                                                                                            

       Using gas to heat water storage tanks became popular in the 1860s.  The year 1883 saw the first circulating water heater come onto the market.  A water heater with a thermostat was introduced a few years later. Gas distribution was fast becoming a household necessity (Busby, 1999, p. 9).

       Natural gas was frequently discovered in the 1800s when people drilled for water, but the gas was ignored.  It was not until 1821 that William Hart drilled the first natural gas well and piped it through wooden pipes to neighbors’ homes.  This same gas was used to light up the City of Fredonia, New York a few years later (Busby, 1999, p. 9).

       Gas wells were drilled in Pennsylvania, New York, and West Virginia throughout the 1830s and 1840s.  But gas pipes were still primitive and only able to transport gas to customers near the gas wells (Busby, 1999, p. 10).

       The first natural gas company opened in Fredonia, New York in 1865.  When oil was discovered in Titusville, Pennsylvania, an oil rush ensued that diminished the importance of natural gas.  “Gas produced along with oil was usually just burned off, or flared” (Busby, 1999, p. 10).

       Andrew Carnegie, the famous steel magnate, documented in 1885 that 10,000 tons of coal had been replaced by natural gas.  But as the supply of natural gas became depleted, steel makers were forced to revert to using coal again by 1900.  This pattern repeated itself for the next 25 years.  Wastefulness and leakage were the main culprits (Busby, 1999, p. 10).

       The first long-distance wooden pipeline was built between West Bloomfield and Rochester, New York in the 1870s when a large reservoir of natural gas was discovered in West Bloomfield.  The gas was transported through this 25-mile pipeline (Busby, 1999, p. 10).

       Indiana Gas and Oil Company laid a 120-mile parallel pipeline made of wrought iron in 1891 that used high pressure (525 psi) to transmit natural gas to Chicago from the gas field in Indiana.  The company started using manufactured gas when the natural gas supply ran out in 1907 (Busby, 1999, p. 10-11).

       Oxyacetylene welding was invented in 1911 which sped up development of seamless steel pipe in the 1920s.  Natural gas could now be transmitted at higher pressures and in larger quantities and to longer distances, which boosted profitability for natural gas companies and helped them compete with other fuels.  The natural gas industry continued to expand until the Great Depression, which slowed down economic activity across the country.  As soon as World War II was over and the economic climate improved, the industry began to boom again (Busby, 1999, p. 11-12).

       Natural gas is one of the main fuels used in the food processing industry in the United States.  Large boilers are used to create process steam, which is used in “pasteurization, sterilization, canning, cooking, drying, packaging, equipment clean-up, and other processes” (Busby, 1999, p. 87). Natural gas energy saves companies money when they install “high-efficiency, low-emission natural gas-fired boilers” (Busby, 1999, p. 87). 

       Large amounts of hot water are also needed for “cleaning, blanching, bleaching, soaking, and sterilization” (Busby, 1999, p. 87).  High-efficiency industrial water heaters are used routinely in food processing.  Gas appliances are also used for “drying, cooking, and baking, as well as for refrigeration, freezing, and dehumidification” (Busby, 1999, p. 87).

       Tyson Foods has made a commitment to reduce energy use and produce fewer emissions that puts them at the top of the food processing industry.  As of 2019, they were using 42.15%

non-renewable fuels (including natural gas), 15.72% electricity, and 0.45% renewable energy (wind and solar power).  They are using renewable fuels like biogas from their waste treatment plants in their plant boilers in order to reduce their natural gas use.  They used about 666 million cubic feet of biogas in their boilers in 2019.  Although their energy use went up in 2019, their emissions went down.  The company is reusing process water in their plants to reduce water use.  And it is considering natural gas, electrification, and hydrogen fuel for their transportation fleet (Tyson Sustainability, 2019).

       “Natural gas . . . is the cleanest burning fossil fuel, and emits very few pollutants into the atmosphere” (Natural Gas, 2013).  Although Tyson is already using natural gas in its plants, it might want to consider using natural gas to generate its own electricity in order to free itself from dependency on local electric companies.  This could save them money in the long run, especially as electricity rates go up and electricity delivery reliability goes down.  This, however, would require a large capital investment that Tyson might not want to make (Natural Gas, 2013).

       But Tyson is already using boilers that produce steam, and this steam could be used to generate electricity.  If the boiler keeps running, “the steam can be diverted to a turbine for generating power” (Busby, 1999, p. 87-88).  This is called cogeneration because “waste heat is recovered and used” (Busby, 1999, p. 87).

       Although most power plants have been fueled by coal, there has been a push towards using natural gas because this reduces emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, soot, and smoke (Busby, 1999, p. 88).  “Natural gas can be used to produce electricity either directly, in a gas-powered turbine, or indirectly, in a steam-powered turbine (using steam from a gas-fired boiler)” (Busby, 1999, p. 89).  The natural gas also serves to increase boiler efficiency.

       Natural gas demand is expected to increase in the future as consumers expect energy efficiency regulations to reduce emissions in the atmosphere and industries are pressured to use low-carbon fuels.  Natural gas is a clean, reliable, and efficient energy source that can be used with confidence in the residential, commercial, and industrial settings.

Dawn Pisturino

Thomas Edison State University

October 14, 2020

Copyright 2020-2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

References

Busby, R.L. (Ed.). (1999). Natural Gas in Nontechnical Language. Tulsa, OK: PennWell.

Natural Gas. (2013). Natural gas and the environment. Retrieved from

       http://www.naturalgas.org

Tyson Sustainability. (2019). 2019 sustainability report. Retrieved from 

https://www.tysonsustainability.com/environment/energy-emissions.

.

15 Comments »

The Gingerbread Boy

Gingerbread is such an integral part of Christmas that it may surprise some people to learn that the first gingerbread recipe came from the Greeks in 2400 B.C. The Chinese followed next in the 10th century. But it was the Europeans — particularly, the Germans — who turned gingerbread into a high form of art. Cookies decorated with gold leaf were a symbol of English nobility and royalty under the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.

Gingerbread cookies were so popular by the late Middle Ages that Gingerbread Fairs became a popular form of entertainment. Germans began creating gingerbread houses in the 16th century. The story of Hansel and Gretel may have been inspired by gingerbread or gingerbread may have been inspired by Hansel and Gretel! Nobody knows for sure.

A well-known children’s folk tale is The Gingerbread Man or Gingerbread Boy, depending on the teller.

THE GINGERBREAD BOY

Now, you shall hear a story that somebody’s great-great-grandmother told a little girl ever so many years ago:

There was once a little old man and a little old woman who lived in a little old house on the edge of a wood. They would have been a very happy old couple but for one thing — they had no little child, and they wished for one very much. One day, when the little old woman was baking bread, she cut a cake in the shape of a little boy, and put it in the oven.

Presently, she went to the oven to see if it was baked. As soon as the oven door was opened, the little gingerbread boy jumped out and began to run away as fast as he could go.

The little old woman called her husband, and they both ran after him. But they could not catch him. And soon the gingerbread boy came to a barn full of threshers. He called out to them as he went by, saying:

“I’ve run away from a little old woman,

A little old man,

And I can run away from you, I can!”

Then the mowers began to run after him, but they couldn’t catch him. And he ran on ’til he came to a cow. He called out to her:

“I’ve run away from a little old woman,

A little old man,

A barn full of threshers,

A field full of mowers,

And I can run away from you, I can!”

But, though the cow started at once, she couldn’t catch him. Soon he came to a pig. He called out to the pig:

“I’ve run away from a little old woman,

A little old man,

A barn full of threshers,

A field full of mowers,

A cow,

— And I can run away from you, I can!”

But the pig ran and couldn’t catch him. And he ran ’til he came across a fox, and to him he called out:

“I’ve run away from a little old woman,

A little old man,

A barn full of threshers,

A field full of mowers,

A cow and a pig,

And I can run away from you, I can!”

Then the fox set out to run. Now foxes can run very fast, and so the fox soon caught the gingerbread boy and began to eat him up.

Presently, the gingerbread boy said: “O dear! I’m a quarter gone!” And then: “Oh, I’m half gone!”

And soon: “I’m three-quarters gone!” And, at last: “I’m all gone!” and never spoke again.

Traditional Folk Tale

Story from St. Nicholas Magazine, 1875

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Dawn Pisturino, RN

Copyright 2020-2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

22 Comments »

Christmas Dinner from the 1950s Housewife

(1956 Christmas table setting – Photo from Click America)

Christmas Dinner 1950s Style

Note the formal table setting above. Elegant, polished, shining, and decorative. Polishing the silver was a long and tedious job, but so worthwhile! Beautiful!

Christmas Dinner Menus

Menu #1:

Oyster Cocktails in Green Pepper Shells

Celery and Ripe Olives

Roast Goose with Potato Stuffing

Apple Sauce

String Beans

Potato Puffs

Lettuce Salad with Riced (Grated) Cheese and Bar-le-Duc (currant jam)

French Dressing

Toasted Wafers

English Plum Pudding

Bonbons

Coffee

Menu #2:

Cream of Celery Soup

Cheese Sticks, Salted Peanuts, and Stuffed Green Olives

Roast Beef with Yorkshire Pudding

Potato Souffle

Spinach in Eggs (hard-boiled eggs filled with cooked spinach)

White-Grape Salad with Guava Jelly (peeled and de-seeded white grapes on lettuce leaves)

French Dressing

Toasted Crackers

English Plum Pudding with Hard sauce

Bonbons

Coffee

(Menus from The American Woman’s Cook Book, 1950)

Christmas Cocktail Parties

(Cocktail wiener tree.)

Cocktail parties were popular in the 1950s, and the Christmas cocktail party was no exception.

Favorite drinks:

martinis

daiquiris

mint juleps

whisky sours

champagne cocktails

punch laced with alcohol

Appetizers:

Finger foods such as canapes, Vienna sausages, cocktail wieners, cheese, deviled eggs, and olives.

Sweets such as petits fours, candies, cookies, and other small desserts.

1950s Cocktail dresses:

1950s Christmas tree with lots of tinsel!

Christmas is timeless, however it’s celebrated.

Dawn Pisturino

December 12, 2021

Copyright 2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

33 Comments »

Thanksgiving Dinner from the 1950s Housewife

Thanksgiving menu 1950s style

Clear chicken or turkey soup

Bread sticks

Salted almonds

Celery

Olives

Roast turkey

Giblet gravy

Chestnut stuffing

Mashed potatoes

Brussel sprouts

Jellied or whole cranberry sauce

Romaine salad with French dressing

Cheese plate

Hot mince pie

Bonbons

Coffee

~

How to make chicken or turkey bone soup

“Never discard the bones of turkey or chicken as they always will make a delicious soup. Scrape the meat from the bones, break the bones, pack in a kettle, and cover with cold water, adding a small onion. Cover closely and simmer very gently for three hours. Strain and cool. One-half hour before it is to be served, return to the fire, and for every quart of stock, add one cup of the cold meat, season, and keep hot till needed. This soup may be greatly improved by adding to it, three minutes before serving, ten oysters to each quart of soup.”

Chestnut Stuffing

1 quart chestnuts

1/4 cup bread crumbs

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons cream

Salt and Pepper

1/2 teaspoon onion juice

Shell and blanche chestnuts and cook in boiling water until tender. While hot, rub through coarse sieve. Mix with remaining ingredients. Makes 2-1/2 cups.

~

Formal Table Settings and Service

Housewives of the 1950s set their holiday dinner tables with their finest china, bearing the most exquisite designs. If the dinner was served in courses, a different design might be used with each course. All the dishes used in one course would match.

Place Plate – 10-11 inches across. This was the base plate on which the dinner plate was set.

Dinner Plate – 10-10.5 inches across, used to serve the meat and side vegetables.

Entree Plate – 8.5-9.5 inches across, used to serve an entree, salad, or fish. May have been used for dessert if the fingerbowl was brought in on it.

Dessert Plate – 7.5-8 inches across, used for dessert or salad. Used for the cake plate at tea.

Bread and Butter Plate – 6-6.5 inches across.

Soup Plate – 8-8.5 inches across with a broad, flat rim. Or a bowl could substitute.

Cups and Bowls

Cream Soup Cup – A low, broad cup with two handles, 4.5-5 inches wide and about 2 inches deep. Used for purees, bisques, and cream soups.

Boullion Cup – Looked like a tea cup with two handles that was used for clear soups, consommes, and bouillons.

Chilled Cocktail Bowl – A low, broad bowl inside a separate container. The bowl would be used to serve grapefruit, shrimp cocktail, and other chilled foods. Crushed ice would be packed around the bowl.

Glass

Colored glassware was very popular in the 1950s and would have matched the colors in the china dishes. Crystal glassware was preferred for formal dinners, either etched, cut, or rimmed with gold.

Goblet – The main component of the glassware setting. Two other glasses would have been set alongside the main goblet, usually a claret glass and a champagne glass.

Sherbet Glass – A medium sized bowl on a short stem used to serve sherbet, ice cream, and other frozen dessert.

Finger Bowl – a low, broad bowl used to dip the fingers in water.

Silver

Polished silver gave an air of sophistication to the table setting. Besides the usual dinner knife, fork, and spoon, the 1950s hostess might have provided an array of cutlery including a butter knife and smaller knives and forks for fish, entrees, salad, and fruit.

A List of Useful Serving Pieces

2 or 3 tablespoons

2 or 3 dinner forks for serving

Medium sized carving set

Butter knife or butter pick

Gravy ladle

Sugar tongs

Pie or tart server

Cold meat fork

Olive spoon or fork

Berry spoon

Jelly server

Preserve spoon

Long-handled fork and spoon

Pickle fork

Pierced server

Salad dressing ladle

Lemon fork

Asparagus server

Entree server

Cake fork

sardine server

Ice tongs

Ice spoon

Sugar spoon

Sugar sifter for powdered sugar

Ice-cream knife or server

Cheese server

Melon knife

Grape scissors

Linen

The 1950s hostess preferred white linen damask for a table cover at dinner. The napkins always matched the tablecloth. Monogramming was very popular in the 1950s.

Centerpieces and Decorations

Flowers were popular centerpieces in the 1950s. The colors had to blend in with the rest of the color scheme. Candles were usually white or natural wax color. The candles were lighted before the guests entered the dining-room and were kept burning until after they left the room.

From The American Woman’s Cook Book, 1950

~

Sounds like a lot of work! A lot of serving to do, and a lot of dishes to wash! But the 1950s housewife took pride in setting a well-appointed table. She derived satisfaction from pleasing her guests. Of course, we all know that that does not always work with family.

Most importantly, however, Thanksgiving is and was a time to spend with family and friends and to be thankful for what we have. Washing dishes is a small price to pay.

Thanksgiving Prayer

Lord, source and giver of all things, we give You thanks and all the glory on this Thanksgiving Day for the splendor and majesty of creation. We give You thanks for the blessings of family and friends: both those gathered around this table and those who are present only in our hearts. We give You thanks for this food, prepared by loving hands, and for the graces You provide to nourish our spirits, souls, and bodies so that we may continue to serve You passionately. Help us to be faithful stewards of all we have been given. May we reflect Your love and that which we have received to all those we meet, especially the less fortunate in our midst. Amen.

Practice Gratitude – Conversation Starters for Around the Table

Name two things you are thankful for this year.

Who are you thankful for, and why?

What part of nature is inspiring and beautiful to you?

What is something that makes you laugh out loud?

What is an unexpected blessing you’ve received this year?

Choose someone you are with and share three things you admire and appreciate about that person.

What is something you love about your family?

How are you going to practice gratitude this year?

Have a Safe, Happy, and Blessed Thanksgiving this year!

Dawn Pisturino

November 4, 2021

Copyright 2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

13 Comments »

My Grandma Dora’s Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake

With the holidays here, I started thinking about my Grandma Dora’s recipe for Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake with Caramel Frosting. The mayonnaise part sounds yucky, but actually, this cake turns out so rich and moist, you can’t even taste the mayonnaise. It used to be a staple in our house for special occasions. I haven’t made one for years, but I got out my mother’s old recipe box and found the recipe. If you try it, I would use regular mayonnaise.

Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake

1 cup salad dressing (regular mayonnaise)

1 cup sugar

4 tablespoons coca.

Mix well and add:

2 cups sifted flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 cup warm water

1 teaspoon vanilla

Blend together, pour into a sheet cake pan, and bake at 350 degrees until done, when knife inserted into the center comes out clean. (Don’t you just love those old-fashioned directions?)

Quick Caramel Frosting

Melt 1/4 cup margarine or butter (I would use butter) in a sauce pan.

Stir in 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar and a pinch of salt.

Cook 2 minutes over low heat, stirring constantly.

Add 2 tablespoons milk — stir constantly until mixture comes to a boil.

REMOVE from stove.

Stir in gradually 1-1/4 cups sifted confectioners sugar. Add 1/4 teaspoon vanilla and mix well.

If too thick, additional milk may be added.

Frost the cooled cake right away.

Enjoy!

Dawn Pisturino

November 3, 2021

28 Comments »

Culinary Tips from the 1950s Housewife

Dedicated to my mother, Adeline Lucille Spencer

The 1950s housewife was expected to cook three wholesome and nutritious meals every day for her family; send children off to school with filling and healthy lunches; set an elegant and lavish table for entertaining; and keep her husband happy and satisfied with a full stomach.

She was expected to know how to choose the best foods at the best prices, and to plan weekly menus that fulfilled the nutritional needs of her family. She read women’s magazines and cookbooks, looking for new recipes and advice about raising happy, healthy kids. Over cups of coffee and freshly-baked cookies, she swapped recipes, shared marital secrets and advice, and complained about housework to neighborhood friends and family. The 1950s housewife was highly-regarded and well-respected as the glue that kept the family and society together. And she benefited from post-war prosperity with new innovations in household appliances, television, and increased leisure time. 

Simple Breakfast Menu

Fruit Juice

Coddled Eggs (hard-cooked or soft-cooked boiled eggs)

Graham muffins (or bran muffins)

Coffee and Milk

Simple Lunch Menu

Bacon and Liver Sandwiches (or Bacon and Liverwurst)

Lettuce and Onion Salad Bowl

Chiffondale Dressing ( a variation of French dressing)

Baked Stuffed Pears

Simple Vegetarian Lunch Menu

Creamed Asparagus on Toast

Stewed Tomatoes

Cottage Cheese Salad

Prune Whip

Custard Sauce

Simple Dinner Menu

Roast Beef

Yorkshire Pudding

Toasted Carrots

Buttered Onions

Lettuce and Chicory Salad Bowl

Cheese Tray and Toasted Crackers

Coffee

Simple Vegetarian Dinner Menu

Cheese Souffle

Mashed Potatoes

Buttered String Beans

Radish and Cucumber Salad

Strawberry Shortcake

* * *

A huge part of entertaining guests in the 1950s was setting a proper table using the best china, glassware, silverware, linen napkins and tablecloth, condiment holders, place cards, and centerpiece. Monogrammed napkins and tablecloths were quite popular in the 1950s. Buffet dinners, in particular, gave the 1950s hostess the opportunity to show off her best silver, glass, and linens.

The Formal Dinner

1st course – Appetizer

2nd course – Soup

3rd course – Fish

4th course – Roast 

5th course –  Game

6th course – Salad

7th course – Dessert

8th course – Crackers and Cheese with Coffee 

9th course – Nuts and Raisins

10th course – Fruit

The Simplified Formal Dinner

1st course – Appetizer

2nd course – Main Entree

3rd course – Salad

4th course – Dessert

5th course – Coffee with Fruit or Crackers and Cheese

Courses were served individually in a particular way, and the place setting and position of knives, forks, and spoons reflected the order in which the courses were served.

1950s Food Wisdom

“Expensive foods are not necessarily the most nutritious.”

“Prepare all food so attractively, and season it so well, that it will be irresistible.”

“Beautiful color and dainty, attractive arrangements play a large part in a successful meal.”

“A combination of colors pleases the eye, stimulates the digestive juices, and creates an appetite.”

“When planning combinations, follow the day’s nutrition schedule and good combinations will result.”       [Today, we have the food pyramid that provides nutritional guidelines.]

“Fine flavor in foods is developed by proper cooking. Additional flavors are provided by herbs: garlic, onion, celery, and by spices. Highly-seasoned foods whet the appetite, while sweets satisfy it. For that reason, well-seasoned foods are served for appetizers and sweets for desserts. Serve only one strongly-flavored food at each meal.”

“A most important point is the serving of at least one each soft, solid, and crisp foods at each meal.”

“Serve hot foods hot and cold ones cold.”

“Plan meals that do not have too many last minute touches. When entertaining, avoid serving food that will be ruined by a few minutes waiting.”

“If planning to bake one dish, arrange your menu so that the whole oven may be used.”

“Learn to buy so that there is a minimum of food left over.”

“In summer, the market provides foods low in energy value but high in minerals or vitamins, such as fruits and vegetables. In winter, high-energy foods, as fats and carbohydrates, are needed, too.”

* * *

When my mother got married in the 1950s, she did not know how to cook! She was given a wonderful cookbook called The American Woman’s Cook Book (1952) as a wedding gift. I pored through that cookbook when I was growing up. The colorful pictures of fabulous desserts and  savory cooked meats always fascinated me and made me want to experiment in the kitchen. I treasure that cookbook as a beautiful reminder of my mother and days gone by.

Dawn Pisturino

May 25, 2021

Copyright 2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

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