Good Afternoon Getaway: A Trip to Greece in Under 10 Minutes

As you know we are BIG fans of The Spartan Table here on the blog. Not only did last November’s post and prizes spark a bevy of ideas and recipes but it also it got everyone daydreaming about escaping to Greece to work with Jehny and George underneath the olive trees.

This morning I was so excited to receive an email from Jehny in regards to a recent promotional video featuring the team behind The Spartan Table. Narrated by her husband George, the video takes you on a gorgeous journey around the Sparta countryside while explaining how their products are made, sourced and produced.

If you find yourself in need of a little getaway this afternoon look no further than this seven minute video.  So beautifully filmed it will make you want to abandon everything and hop on the next plane to Greece.

If you missed last year’s interview with George and Jehny, catch up here.

How Many People Does It Take to Translate a Mug?

The title of this post makes it sound like a bad joke is on its way. But in all seriousness this is a real question we are trying to answer here in the Vintage Kitchen. The mug in need of a language lesson is this one…

a 1950’s era Chinese covered mug made by the Peacock Enamelware Factory in Tianjin, China.  With its cute button top style lid, aged patina, classic red, white and blue colors and the lettering of that faraway land it has all the potential of becoming a fully functional exotic storage tin for tea, spices or other little kitchen sundries in need of corralling.

But before it becomes one of the items listed for sale in the Vintage Kitchen shop, some mysteries need to be solved. First and foremost is the obvious one…what exactly is that jaunty little message written across the front? Could it be something cheery like Have A Great Day!? Or could it be something promotional like Eat at Al’s Pancake World? Or could it be something deeper and more meaningful like a message relative to Asian pop-culture or 1950’s history?

Once we find out that info, then we’ll be able to answer our second question… what was this mug used for and how? Was it a vessel for hot tea, or noodle soup or fried rice? Maybe all three! Was it part of the general household serving brigade or did it carry on-the-go lunch for a factory worker or a shopkeeper or a government aide with a message to share?

It is very unusual to see vintage enamelware with such writing on it. This covered mug is very, very rare so I’m thinking that the possibility of it reading Eat At Al’s is pretty unlikely. But you never know until you actually know, so we aren’t assuming anything at this point. Which takes us back to the big question…just how many people does it actually take to translate a mug?

So far that number is four. Four people and the internet.  And the message is only just partially translated.  After figuring out that it is written in Mandarin (the local dialect of Tianjin where the mug was made),  I stumbled across a vintage Chinese propaganda poster site and started noticing some similarities in letters between the posters and the mug. This would make sense for both the time period and the fact that there is no decorative imagery on the mug.  Perhaps the saying has something to do with a powerful political statement! These are some of the posters with matching letters… one has to do with the little red book about Communism,  one with leader Mao Zedong, one with birth control and one about agriculture…

Pulling out key words from some other poster translations I then started down the online-dictionary translation road and began matching up American words with Mandarin characters.  Like any language where one word could have several meanings this wasn’t the easiest route but at least I was getting somewhat in the neighborhood of possible translations. Also I was working with an American keyboard so I couldn’t type in any Mandarin characters. It was trial and error guessing at English words to see what kind of  similar Chinese characters they would produce.

A most helpful breakthrough came when Sing in Seattle and her brother sent back a few possible suggestions regarding what they could make of the translation… the words ADVANCED PRODUCTION and the word PRIZE. Maybe this mug was an award given for achievement or some sort of recognition like employee of the month! With possibilities ranging from Eat At Al’s to communist propaganda to good-job accolades, the mystery of this mug was getting more intriguing by the minute. Determined to be able to tell the proper true story of this vintage marvel for a future buyer, I was completely committed by this point on solving the puzzle.

Next came a paper diagram so that I could keep track of all the word possibilities and see if a general theme or idea would begin to emerge…

Working around the ADVANCED PRODUCTION  and PRIZE words I began doing searches for any word that could be remotely associated – factory, assembly, worker, champion, reward, office, competition, building, community, win, made, propel, leader, team, unite, etc etc etc. Over the course of two weeks, every time I thought of a new word that might be appropriate I’d consult the dictionary and see if I had a character match. Little by little, words started getting paired up. As of today this is what I have deciphered so far line by line… (The underlines are words that I have yet to figure out. In parenthesis are other possible translations that may be helpful or may be the actual verbiage in relation to the overall sentiment).

First ____  Makes ____       {related words/themes from this line include: living, livelihood, give rise too, birth, life}

Prize  {reward, given for victory}

Burning Culture 1st ____ ____ 2nd ____ _____  {collectivization, work, worker, skill, profession, individual}

Could it have something to do with a worker’s union? Or a denouncement of non-communist ideaology? Could it be a call to action towards creating a better life or a better community? Could it be the Keep Calm and Carry On mantra of  mid 20th century China or the more wordy motivational version of our contemporary one-liner Hustle? In 1940’s Tianjin, Chinese citizens were trying to take back their marketplace from foreign residents who had set up competing concessions within the city. Tianjin is also the 6th largest city in China and has long been prized for being an innovative hub for trade and finance and an important power player in the country’s economic health. So perhaps this mug’s message could have been a local rally cry for national pride and patriotism. Oh the possibilities!

This week I reached out to two new people for possible translation – one a Chinese language school and the other a collector of Chinese propaganda. But in publishing this post I’m also reaching out to you for your helpful translation skills. If you know any amount of Mandarin or are a student of Chinese history please comment below with your thoughts and translation suggestions. Together, we’ll see if we can shed true light on this mysterious little mug yet. Stay tuned for info (hopefully) coming soon!

 

 

 

The Not So Easy Adventure of the Very Pale Petit Fours

It just came to my realization that we haven’t done many dessert style recipes here on the blog, even though our instagram feed is full of vintage sweet treats that we have baked over the past two years. Today we are remedying that with a three piece recipe adventure just in time for Easter. I call it an adventure because I’d never charted these waters before, the journey wasn’t quite what I anticipated and surprise situations popped up right and left.

It all began with a 1960’s recipe that my grandmother had clipped from some unknown source and tucked inside her recipe box. When she passed away at the marvelous age of 97, I inherited her box and carefully preserved all the recipes in her own handwriting, while also pulling out all the collected newspaper/magazine/packaging recipes that sounded interesting. While looking through these the other day this one caught my eye…

Easy petit fours! A fun colorful dessert for the Easter holiday. Perfect! I know I’ve eaten petit fours before – in France when I was young and most probably at a wedding or two since, but I don’t actually recall the details of those desserts except of course they were made of tidy little packages and came in an array of Easter egg colors.  My grandmother, Dorothy, never considered herself a confident cook (although everything she made was delicious) so the fact that this recipe was in her box and that it was labeled easy seemed the perfect foray into this age old French confection. With that in mind, I set off to make my very first batch.

You’ll notice in the recipe above that the first ingredient is sponge cake – so I first started there, making a sponge cake from a recipe in Betty Crocker’s Picture Cook Book circa 1950.

Next I went on to make the buttercream frosting from the 1960’s-era Easy Petit Four recipe, which with its five ingredients was super quick to whip up. So far so good!

The Easy Petits Four recipe used food coloring to make the pretty pastel shades of this elegant, lady-like dessert. But not really a fan of the ingredients used to make food coloring (a mixture of mostly artificial and synthetic materials) I opted to create my own dyes using natural fruit juices.  In my head pastel pink and orange seemed like a pretty arrangement so in the blender I finely chopped cherries for the pink and then manderin oranges for the orange and strained each into separate bowls using cheesecloth.  As a just-in-case, I also, at the last minute, chopped and strained a batch of blackberries and blueberries for a purple shade if one of the other two colors didn’t work out.

This was where things started to get a little tricky. When I divided the buttercream into four separate bowls, and added a few teaspoonfuls of natural juice dye as the Easy Petite Four recipe suggested, the buttercream barely changed color. I added more juice dye and the color brightened but then the buttercream became too liquidy.  So then I added more powdered sugar to bulk it back up again, which brought the buttercream color closer back to white again. You can see I had a situation on my hands. Setting these four batches of whites off to the side for a minute, I cut up the sponge cake into petite parcels and thought about some solutions to a bolder burst of color.

While I was cutting and the buttercream was resting, the colors in the bowl turned a little darker, so I trimmed up the little cakes into as even square shapes as possible (not the easiest of feats!)…

and set to work on frosting them to see what these buttercream versions would look like…

As you can see, there is slight (the slightest!) variation between all three frostings. Not exactly the dramatic shades I had in mind but at least they didn’t contain unnatural ingredients. By this point in the whole dessert endeavor I should have been ready to frost the rest of the batch, call this recipe done and serve them on a plate. The Easy Petit Four recipe suggested styling them with colored sugar or chocolate pieces or candied flowers.  But because my frosting was a little mild on the color spectrum, I opted for a different topper – a mixed berry reduction and fresh sprigs of mint which would lend a spirited dose of revelry to this celebration. To the stovetop I went…

The colorful mixed berry reduction (a combination of red grapes, blackberries, blueberries, cranberries and raspberries) helped bring out the color in all the little petit fours and the flavors between fruit and cake were fresh and balanced. They definitely weren’t traditional but they were delicious. In the end these little bite-sized bundles turned out to be quite curious all on their own even though they didn’t wind up as originally intended.

Which goes to show you that you can still learn new things from old recipes! It also means the easiest route is not necessarily the most healthy route. And even though it took about a half day to work through the process of this vintage recipe, I came up with two other ideas in relation to other meals – one for an appetizer and one for an hors d’oeuvres (more on those latter this spring).

Like any travel adventure I started out on this journey thinking that I’d already know what my final destination would look like but somewhere along the way this kitchen trip side-stepped my plans and led me down another path from which I ended up returning wiser and more curious. Petits fours are part of French cuisine defined as small cakes baked in small ovens. Which means any cake-like dessert has a chance to be a petit four. What I thought of as a fairly traditional dessert with a singular style really has no boundaries – nut butter, chocolate, jam, fruit, honey, whip cream, herbs, vegetables all have the opportunity to be whirled up into a petite confection. So in this sense petite fours are very easy, very accommodating. The natural fruit dyes on the other hand are still a work-in-progress! If you have any recommendations or helpful hints, please share!

Below are the three recipes needed to make up the Vintage Kitchen’s version of a petit four. The 1960’s Easy Petit Four Recipe below has been adadpted to suit this new minty fruit-topped version. If you’d like to make the original mid-century version please consult the recipe photo near the top of the this post.

Betty Crocker’s Glorious Sponge Cake circa 1950

6 eggs

1 cup sifted all-purpose flour or 1 cup sifted cake flour

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup cold water

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon lemon extract

1 teaspoon grated lemon rind

1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease the bottom of a 13″x 9″ inch pan.
  2. Separate the egg whites from eggs in two different bowls.
  3. In a large mixing bowl beat the six yolks together until thick (at least 5 minutes).
  4. Beat in gradually the sugar, then the flour and then the water, lemon extract and lemon rind.
  5. In a separate mixing bowl combine the egg whites, salt and cream of tartar and beat until stiff.
  6. Gradually and gently cut and fold the egg yolk mixture into the beaten whites. Pour into prepared pan and bake 30 to 45 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean (depending on your oven this may take more or less time).
  7. When cake tests done, invert and let hang until cold.

Easy Petits Fours circa 1960’s

1 sponge cake

1/2 cup butter

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

2 egg whites, unbeaten

1 lb. confectioner’s sugar, sifted

Few grains (one pinch) salt

Cut 24 petit fours from one sponge cake. Cream butter until light and fluffy; add egg whites, beat in. Add sugar and salt slowly while continuing to beat. Add vanilla. Divide frosting into 4 portions, leaving one white. With food coloring (or natural dye)  tint the other portions pink, green and yellow respectively. Hold top and bottom of each cake between thumb and finger. Frost sides. Place cake on flat-surface and frost the top. Decorate with your choice of embellishments.

Mixed Berry Reduction

8 oz. of assorted fresh berries (the smaller in size the better!)

2 teaspoons butter

1/8 cup cane sugar

1/8 cup water

Fresh mint for garnish (the smaller the leaves the better)

Pinch of salt

  1. In a small saucepan over medium heat combine the water and berries and bring to a simmer.
  2. Add the butter, sugar and salt and toss to combine. Cover and reduce heat to medium low, stirring occasionally until some of the berries breakdown and form a thin sauce.
  3. Remove the lid and stir until almost all the liquid has evaporated.  Remove from heat, let cool completely before topping petit fours.
  4. Garnish with fresh mint.

A Note from Ms. Jeannie!

At last, at last our dear Ms. Jeannie has surfaced! Yesterday found us with a quick letter and a photograph detailing where she has been spending her last few weeks. How exciting!

“As promised,” she writes…”I’ve been spending time on land and sea in worlds that Rudyard Kipling would be so very fond of. I’ve seen mountains that contain every shade of green and gold and gray that has ever been known. And sunrises!  Dawns that do indeed come up like thunder just as R.K. promised. My latest mode of transportation is this boat I met one afternoon in harbor which I have secretly named The Cormorant after the bird who floats and dips and glides so gracefully along the waterline….”

She goes on to apologize for not getting in touch sooner detailing that her schedule has been so rigorous she couldn’t find any time to stop and write. As is true to character, Ms. Jeannie doesn’t get into much specific personal information about where she is or what she’s doing except to say that she would be setting foot on more sturdy ground within the month. The postmark on her envelope came from Kashmir so there is no doubt that Ms. Jeannie has been spending time in India as well as sailing the Asian seas in that magical junk boat.  Where could she be landing next?  We’ll just have to wait until we hear from her again.  If you have any guesses of her next landing spot post them in the comment section below and we’ll start a little game of Where in the World is Ms. Jeannie?!

In the meantime, we’ll be cataloging Ms. Jeannie’s journey and following her globe-trotting adventures in the Field Notes section of the site which you will find here.  Stay tuned for more reports as she reports from here, there and everywhere.

 

Cooking While Under Construction: This Old House {Part Two}

It’s been two months since we last checked in with Renee and Michael on their 1940’s colonial house kitchen renovation.  According to the original plan laid out in February, by this point in the game, they should be more than halfway through the construction project. Their eyes should be twinkling with the excitement of a foreseeable finish line. Their bellies should be full of the creative, outside-of-the-box meals they’ve been making with limited equipment. And the countdown to the end of all that ham-ham-hammering should be coming to a close.

Is it? Are they well on their way to a brand new kitchen? Are they feeling happy and healthy and homely? Let’s find out with this update in Renee and Michael’s own words…

Hi again!  

Remember how last time we talked about how excited we were to finally begin our renovation project after 4 months of delays?  And that we were supposed to start on February 15th?  Well, that didn’t happen.  Now, we’re looking at breaking ground sometime in April (if we are lucky).  Why, you might ask?  Well, let me tell you a story about the worst thing to ever happen to mankind – LOCAL GOVERNMENT!  I won’t go into details, but essentially our local Zoning Board had a bone to pick with our contractor, and took it out on us by finding a measurement error of 3 inches on our plans, and is making us hire a surveyor, re-measure everything and potentially reapply for the very simple variance that we need.  

The bright spot is that it looks like a lot of our kitchen-less time will now occur during the summer months.  That means that we’ll be able to grill outside a fair amount instead of having to make due with “cooking” on a hot plate or getting takeout.  

We’re also using this extra time to work on perfecting some of our food-preservation techniques.  Today, we spent a cold and rainy Sunday in our vintage kitchen making a whole ton of chicken stock and some really awesome granola, the recipe for which we share below with you, the readers of In The Vintage Kitchen.  

We were going to post the chicken stock recipe too, but we thought “put chicken in a pot with some veggies and simmer it for 5 hours” was a bit of a cop-out.  

The granola is Renee’s own recipe and has gone through a whole bunch of iterations over the years from chewy and sweet to crunchy and a bit savory.  This batch is particularly good, and despite its ability to last a long while on the shelf I have a feeling it will be gone pretty darn quickly.  It’s got a nice cinnamon warmth, and an almost brittle-like bark that contrasts amazingly with the chewy oats.  Sprinkled on top of some good yogurt (like our favorite from SOHHA: www.sohhayogurt.net) with a nice drizzle of local honey it makes the perfect breakfast, snack or dessert. We hope you enjoy it just as much.

Renee’s Homemade Shelf Stable Granola

3 tablespoons of oil (for this batch, we used one tablespoon each of olive, walnut and coconut oil, but use whatever you like or have on hand)

2 tablespoons of honey

2 tablespoons of maple syrup

2 tablespoons of nut or seed butter (we used almond, but you can use peanut or sunflower butter – whatever you like)

½ teaspoon of vanilla extract

½ teaspoon cinnamon

1 tablespoon of chia seeds

1 tablespoon of hemp seeds

1 tablespoon of flax seeds

1 tablespoon of sunflower seeds

1 tablespoon of shelled pumpkin seeds

¼ teaspoon flaky sea salt

2 tablespoons of unsweetened shredded coconut

¾ cup of nuts of your choice, roughly chopped (we used ¼ cup of almonds, ¼ cup of hazelnuts and ¼ cup of pecans)

1 ½ cups of old fashioned rolled oats

Preheat your oven to 250 degrees F.

In a large bowl, mix the first five ingredients until well combined.  Add the cinnamon, all of the seeds, salt and coconut and mix well.  Add in the chopped nuts, followed by the oats and mix until all the ingredients are incorporated.

Line a large baking sheet with a sheet of parchment paper (cool trick we learned to keep the parchment paper from shifting – crumple up into a ball first, then unravel and place on sheet).  Spread the granola mixture on the sheet, distributing as evenly as you can.  Bake for 45 – 50 minutes, checking and turning sheet pan every 15 minutes.  When the granola is slightly browned, remove from the oven and let it cool completely in the pan.  Break up into pieces and store in a glass container.  Enjoy!

It is so poetic how Renee and Michael’s messy pre-construction situation yielded a messy recipe. There must have been some serious satisfaction in getting the big knife out and chopping away at all those nuts and seeds. It must have felt rewarding to tame a mass of unruly ingredients into an any-time sweet treat. In a followup conversation with Renee, I  learned that their new zoning meeting has now been scheduled for the end of April, which hopefully will grant and greenlight the whole start of their construction project. That means they will be looking at an end date closer to August than the originally anticipated month of May. In the interim, as far as the healthy cooking challenge has gone Renee and Michael are still for the most part on track despite having this major lull in their plans.  Renee explains further here…

♦ InTheVintage Kitchen:  Since the project was delayed but essentially you had already packed up all your equipment in anticipation of the February start date, did you wind up unpacking any of the boxes so you could do more cooking?

Renee:  Yes – we did unpack a few things that we needed in order to continue cooking at home.  We didn’t pack up the entire kitchen (we were waiting until the very last day) so most of the essentials  were still there for us to use in the interim.

♦ ITVK: How has it been going using a pared-down amount of dishes and pots and pans and such? Has it changed your eating habits in any way so far?
Renee: Surprisingly, it’s been OK – or maybe we’ve adjusted?!?!  We already pared down (threw away/gave away/donated) many of our old and duplicate kitchen items and kept only the essentials in the kitchen to keep the packing and unpacking light.  We’ve been preparing for a kitchen reno in the back of our minds for quite some time now, so we’ve been really good about what we really need and don’t need!  As far as new habits – we’ve started adapting to our new electric hot water kettle to boil water (to make coffee/tea. etc.) and have been prepping food items that will keep without refrigeration in our spare time over the weekends.
ITVK: Has the delay impaired any other cooking situations other than not having your boxed up items readily available and your patience tested?
Renee: Mostly the ability to throw a dinner party or have guests over to the house – we love entertaining, and it’s been really difficult to do at this point between the empty walls and piles of boxes… and lack of serving platters, etc… ugh!
♦ ITVK:  On a 100 percent scale, at this stage in the game, how would you break down where you are eating?
Renee:  80% at home
              10% at friends/family’s houses
              10% out and about (restaurants, coffee shops, etc)
               0% order-in/delivery
We are still trying to cook at home as much as we can – we know that any day now we won’t be able to – so we are taking advantage of the extra time that we have.
♦ ITVK: Did having the kitchen in a semi-state of upheaval for this delay time give you any new insight into how the next three months might go once the construction begins?
Renee: In a way – yes!  It’s made us realize what we really need/don’t need for day-to-day cooking to create healthy meals.  But, since it’s now dragging out the 3-month timeline, it’s definitely been a downer.  Perhaps that will just make the new kitchen all that more loved and appreciated:)  I’m sure when we are actually in the thick of it – nothing can really prepare us for what it’s  going to be like, especially given how many surprises we’ve already had… who know’s what’s to come! 
Michael admitted that this post was off to a sour start but wound up being sweet in the end. Next time they pop-in for an update these two hope to share actual pictures of actual construction occurring in their old/new kitchen. Fingers crossed that those days are right around the corner.  If only local government ran on granola…
Did you miss Part One of Cooking Under Construction? If so catch up here.
Photo Credit: Granola photos provided by Renee and Michael. 

Sunny Side Up: Your Peppy Vintage Music Playlist is Here!

There’s some new (old) sounds coming out of the Vintage Kitchen this weekend. Bah-da-da-dah daaaa… can you hear it?! Click on the old radio above or in the right margin and you’ll be magically transported back to the 20th century where you’ll hear a range of music from the 1920’s -1960’s via the Vintage Kitchen playlist on Spotify.

The playlist is called Sunny Side Up because it is a peppy collection – the first in a series of vintage playlists curated for different moods of the day.  Sunny Side Up features fun classics from these faces…

Clockwise starting from top left: Louis Armstrong, The DeCastro Sisters, Rosemary Clooney, Perry Como, The Chordettes, Harry James & His Orchestra, Etta James, Elvis, Frank Sinatra, The Andrews Sisters, Eddie Condon and Ella Fitzgerald.

and covers a mix from genres including ragtime, big band, blues and orchestral.  Spotify gives you two options as far as listening goes – you can sign up using their player or you can download the playlist to your device and listen wherever you like.

One of the most favorite songs in the collection includes this one recorded in 1944 by the Andrews Sisters…

More playlists will be debuting soon so stay tuned. In the meantime, if you have any favorites that would be a fun addition to Sunny Side Up please post your request in the comments below and we’ll add it to the playlist.

Happy weekend!

 

10 Vintage Kitchen Trends of 1956

Hotpoint Mobile Dishwasher, 1956

1956 was quite a year for iconic pop-culture. Elvis was singing about his blue suede shoes, Norma Jean officially changed her name to Marilyn, the Yankees won the World Series,  Bob Barker stepped out onto his first televised game show set and Grace Kelly married a real-life prince.

On the home front, the mid-1950’s kitchen was also going through some equally exciting and interesting design improvements in the convenience department. With more than 35% of women working outside the home by 1956 multi-tasking became “the” trend of new innovations promising both ease of use and the ability to conquer more than one job at a time. Some of these inventions were a bit quirky (like the oven insert that roasted meat like toast), some paved the way for modern mainstays that we use regularly today (the automatic Redi-Baker) and some (the mobile dishwasher) could totally make a comeback in our modern mini-home craze.

In today’s post we are heading back to the pastel wonderland of 1956 and all the mechanical marvels that hit the mid-century kitchen market with a flurry of magical appeal. Let’s look…

1. The Mobile Dishwasher

Hotpoint Mobile Dishwasher, 1956

Part cutting board, part dishwasher and all on rollers, this totally functional piece of kitchen equipment was meant to be wheeled around from prep counter to table and then back to the sink offering kitchen cleaner-uppers the ability to cut out some extra steps by loading dirty dishes right from the kitchen table. The new mid-1950’s concept of front loading baskets left room for a chopping board on top which was the ideal helper for any kitchen too tight on counter space. By throwing a cloth over the whole thing this handy appliance could even turn into a rolling hors d’oeuvres cart or impromptu bar area for entertaining, fulfilling three jobs in one – dishwasher, sous chef and butler. Completely functional, this seems like a piece of the vintage past that could definitely come gallivanting back into our world today, especially for city dwellers and tiny house lovers.

2. Separate Fridge and Freezer Units

Crosley Presents their Fresh and Frozen Food Centers with Shelveador Twins

About the width of a standard contemporary bookcase, the 1956 Shelvador (shelf-in-a-door!)  Fresh and Frozen Food Center Twins by Crosley had the ability to hold up to 450 lbs of food and contain fresh and frozen assorted perishables in two completely separate unattached units. One for cold products, one for frozen products. Pitched as the “most convenient food-keeping service ever designed,” owning Shelvador Twins meant less frequent trips to the supermarket thanks to their large storage capacity. It also meant more creative kitchen design.  Offering two units for room balance and a series of mix and match colors opened up  of bevy of options in the decorating department. Crosley’s were a matter of  convenience and creativity.

3. Ultra-Organized Food Bins

Crosley was the company that first pioneered the idea of installing functional storage compartments in the doors of refrigerators and freezers back in the 1930’s, but their idea was so practical that all the major food storage manufacturers immediately began incorporating the compartment concept into their own designs as well.

In order to set everyone apart, individuality came to the design teams of all these manufacturers in the form of  unique arrangements within the compartmentalized cold cabinet. When the 1956 version of the Fabulous Foodarama by Kelvinator was unveiled it was the ultimate organizer’s dream. Offering a bevy of bins, boxes, trays and baskets it was like the Taj-Mahal of efficient food-keeping systems focusing on the nitty gritty details of good design.

Bacon, eggs and juice went into the Breakfast Bar section on the upper right side of the door. Waxed papers went into a non-refrigerated dispenser located in the freezer, ice cream got its own gallon-sized compartment specially regulated to keep it at the ideal consistency and bananas flew off the counter and into a room temperature bin just below the freezer papers. Separate spaces for vegetables, cheese, canned fruit and ice cube trays were all designated as well making the Foodarama distinct in its ability to put that there and this here.

4. Toaster-Like Cooking Devices

Gibson, who manufactured air conditioners, refrigerators freezers and electric ranges had a wonderful marketing team (or perhaps it was the design team) that came up with all sorts of colorful names to call the unique details of their stove-tops and ovens. The Thermatic Kookall, the Tel-O-Matic Light Source and the Verti-Broiler are just three examples that dazzled potential range buyers but mostly they were glitzy names for ordinary features that other popular ranges came with too.  Until the exclusive Gibson Verti-Brolier was born.

Inspired by the close heating elements of the common, everyday toaster the Verti-Broiler turned the meat industry on its side (literally) buy taking the same directional cooking concept as a slice of bread but exchanging it with a slice of beef. With the pronounced ability “to seal in savory juices in seconds” this proposed method was supposed to cut cooking time in half making it a helpful necessity for busy working men and women. In a future post we are going to experiment with this cooking method (steak on the vertical)  to see what happens. Stay tuned for more on that this summer.

5. Linen-Like Paper Napkins

It may seem a bit difficult nowadays to get excited about a paper napkin – but in 1956 they were indeed a source of novelty among meal planners. By giving women a plausible, non-guilty excuse for setting aside their traditional cloth napkins, these paper cousins eliminated the need for excess laundering and large linen closets. Thanks to the 1956 invention of the Scotkin – Scott Paper Company’s introduction of the super strong and absorbent 2-ply paper napkin, these elegant yet disposable damask designed napkins boosted all the beauty of linen without all the upkeep.  No more washing, starching, and ironing needed with a Scotkin – just use and toss out. They were available in two sizes – dinner and family and were destined to become an ever-useful staple paving the way for similar products still on the market today.

6. Washable Wall Canvas

Wall-Tex Washable Wall Canvas

The Columbus Coated Fabrics Corporation began introducing washable wall canvases in the early 1950’s but by 1956 they were hitting their stride and gaining such popularity that dozens of new designs were being unveiled each year under the Wall-Tex brand. Prized for their easy ability to wipe off grease, dirt and drawings (as seen above!) this durable wallpaper-like covering sped up housecleaning and allowed for a somewhat more relaxed atmosphere when it came to looking after the messy effects of energetic kids, pets and cooks.  Hung with paste just like traditional wallpaper, Wall-Tex canvases were baked with a layer of plasti-chrome that produced smooth, easy-to-clean surfaces ideal for kitchens,  bathrooms and play areas. Columbus Coated Fabrics Corporation and the Wall-Tex brand went out of business in 2001 but recently peel and stick wallpaper has come back into fashion again so perhaps we will head down the highway of washable wall canvases yet again.

8. Under the Sink Storage

Kitchen cabinetry first debuted in the 1930’s, and was improving by functionality and appearance with each decade. If you wanted to keep pace with all the latest interior design trends in 1956 you would have most definitely upgraded your kitchen sink. Out went the old leggy farmhouse trough style…

…and in came the organized cabinets and drawers…

Popular Youngstown brand (the leader in mid-century cabinetry) hid the plumbing, added sleek steel drainboards, a garbage disposal and pull out drawers and shelving. Deluxe models even included two sinks, pull out cutting boards and a cutlery drawer transforming the ordinary sink into an extraordinary piece of furniture.

9. Mini Tabletop Ovens

A pre-cursor to our counter-top toaster ovens, the Knapp-Monarch Automatic Electric Redi-Baker was the mini oven you needed to bake small portions right at the kitchen table. As a cost-saving device you no longer needed to heat up the big main kitchen oven in order to enjoy single serving items like breakfast sausages or biscuits, and as a convenience measure you could tote it anywhere around the house as long as you had an available electric outlet. This essentially took baking out of the kitchen and into other rooms of your choosing or even to the patio. While a great idea at the time, the Redi-Baker was in competition with a lot of other emerging small appliances eventually becoming overshadowed by bigger, more well known brands.  It was out of the market altogether within the decade.

10. Built-in Big Pots

In the traditional place of four burners on a stove-top Frigidaire Electric Ranges introduced a new concept in cooking equipment with their 1956 unveiling of the Imperial Range… a built in Thermizer. Essentially it was like a big pot sunk into the stove that could be used to boil, roast, fry or slow-cook an assorted number of dishes from soups and sauces to pot roast, dumplings, desserts,  and even popcorn. With a removable 6 quart pot that fit inside the well of the Thermizer  you could even use it to sterilize canning jars, steam vegetables and bake small pies or individual sized desserts.  A true novelty in the productivity department, it helped cut down on the expense of heating large ovens for small projects while also giving home cooks the ability to prepare and pre-plan large meals effortlessly.

Italian designer Mossimo Vignelli (1931-2014) believed that good design was a language not a style. It is easy to forget that all the bells and whistles on what we consider to be normal kitchen equipment (fridge, freezer, stove, dishwasher, sink, cabinets, etc.) first started out as novelties and innovations. They were all experiments destined to stick or stink.

We’ve come a long way from the caveman days of cooking over open fires in the wild but in the 61 years that have passed between 1956 and today it is interesting to note that we are still requiring the the same sets of demands from our ideal kitchens – time saving shortcuts, multi-tasking equipment and maximum storage.  We are still a society juggling time. We are still a society talking about the most effective ways to produce a product and fulfill a specific need. And ultimately we are still trying to sort out our most efficient eating and cooking habits. Mossimo is right.  The good bones of functional kitchen design began to form fifty years ago but the conversation isn’t over yet and the language is still being translated.  Everyday ahead gets us one smidge closer to improving the landscape we learned about yesterday.

Would you like to see any of these vintage kitchen trends embrace our modern spaces today? If so, post a comment below!

In the meantime, cheers to past designers who  made their marks and to future innovators who sustain them!

Celebrations Big and Small and Lucky!

Happy Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Welcome to The Vintage Kitchen and the new re-design of the blog! Today is definitely a cause for celebration around here both for the festive holiday and for the bevy of changes occurring around this place.  Nothing says celebration more than a glass of sparkly champagne, so we are kicking off the first official post from The Vintage Kitchen with an old Irish cocktail featuring champagne and Guinness and we are serving up a recipe that stems from this  17th century castle in Ireland…

Adare Manor County Limerick, Ireland

Before we dive into dinner you’ll have noticed that there is a bright new look here on the blog which officially launches The Vintage Kitchen. While Ms. Jeannie is away on her extended travels (read more about that here) everything has been switched over to the Vintage Kitchen including all social media platforms, so if you have followed Ms. Jeannie in the past on pinterest, instagram and twitter you’ll still be connected to the same account – it just has a different user name now. A few more changes will be unfolding here on the blog in the weeks to come including a dedicated spot for correspondence from Ms. Jeannie while she is away. So stay tuned in that department.

The vintage Black Velvet – the spritzer for beer drinkers!

In the meantime, we are popping corks and pouring a rich dark drink that was popular on the British mid-century cocktail scene.  Named the Black Velvet, it is a half and half combination of Guinness beer and extra dry champagne.

guinness_champagnecocktail

The combination of the two flavors tastes like a smooth, creamy, light and airy molasses which is lovely if you fall into the camp of people who think that Guinness is too heavy a beverage on its own.  If you are enjoying this cocktail on the home front and therefore not having it on tap from the pub, you’ll see the fun retro artwork on the Guinness cans. This one features a toucan and is an image snippet from one of their early 20th century advertising campaigns back in the day when everyone thoroughly believed that Guinness was good for you.

This was the whole picture of the original campaign. So cute!

There is no doubt that the interior of Adare Manor has seen it’s fair share of Guinness drinkers. Perhaps visitors have even enjoyed a Black Velvet or two while strolling among the grounds. The country castle that makes up Adare Manor was originally part of the Earls of Dunraven lineage and managed to stay in the family from the 17th century through 1986. When expenses and upkeep got to be too much for family members to shoulder it was sold to a hotelier who turned the former home into a luxurious beacon of upscale tourism.

Like The Vintage Kitchen, Adare Manor is currently undergoing a transformation in the forms of upgrades and remodels, which is why a dinner menu from a former executive chef at this hallowed estate seemed so fitting for the launch of our first official Vintage Kitchen post. From way down in the belly of this beautiful building comes an outside of the box St. Patrick’s Day menu that eliminates the crock-pot and brisket and sets aside the cabbage for a light and lively springtime meal that looks at traditional Irish ingredients in a nontraditional way.

Smoked Salmon and Goat Cheese Roulade with Champagne-Chive Dressing

On the menu tonight it is Smoked Salmon and Goat Cheese Roulade with Spring Greens and a Champagne-Chive Dressing.

Capitalizing on all things seasonal, this recipe is great for this time of year because it features chives, spring lettuce and scallions all which are now in season at the farmers market.  A little note about prep time:  while this recipe is fairly easy to make and contains basic easy-to-find ingredients, the roulade requires seven hours of refrigeration time before cooking so you may want to get this recipe ready in the morning if you want to plan on having it for dinner. That being said, the finished dish is well worth the wait and all that extra fridge time.

We’ll start with the roulade recipe since that takes the most time to prepare…

Smoked Salmon and Goat Cheese Roulade  (serves 6)

2 tablespoons butter

2 large white skinned potatoes, peeled and very thinly sliced

4 ounces goat cheese

4 ounces thinly sliced smoked salmon

In a medium saute pan heat one teaspoon butter over medium heat and saute the potatoes (turning regularly with a fork so they don’t burn) until tender but not browned (about 2-3 minutes).  Note: You’ll see as you are cooking the potatoes that they will go from white to translucent. When you can see your fork tines underneath the potato slice that is when you know they are ready to be removed from the heat.  Place cooked potatoes on a sheet of parchment paper to cool.

Cooked potato slices.

Continue working in batches adding more butter by the teaspoonful when needed until you all potatoes are cooked.

When all the potatoes have cooled to room temperature, lay them out on a new sheet of parchment paper in a square shape with slices slightly overlapping.

Cheese on top of potatoes.

Next add the goat cheese on top of the potatoes – spreading it in a layer all over the potatoes. Note: this is much easier if your goat cheese is also at room temperature. A frosting knife works well for this task or your fingers!

On top of the cheese place the layer of smoked salmon slices.

Salmon on top of cheese.

Using the edge of the parchment paper as a guide, carefully roll up the potato cheese salmon mixture to form a log. Twist the edge of the parchment and stick the whole roll in the fridge for 7 hours.

This is what the roulade roll will look like once you unwrap it from its 7 hour rest in the fridge.

While the roulade is in the fridge, make the dressing for the salad, it can sit for as long as you like before serving…

Champagne Chive Dressing

Champagne Chive Dressing

2 tablespoons champagne

3 tablespoons olive oil

Minced fresh chives to taste

1 scallion, sliced

A pinch of sugar (I used organic cane sugar )

Sea salt and fresh pepper to taste

6 handfuls of mixed baby greens

In a small bowl whisk all the ingredients together except the baby greens. Set aside the dressing and the greens until just before serving the roulades.

After the seven hour rest in the fridge, remove the roulade roll and unwrap it. It should feel very cold and firm. Cut the roulade into one inch thick slices . Heat a saute pan over medium high heat and add a half teaspoon of butter to coat the pan.

Warm up the roulade!

Quickly saute the slices until crisp and bubbling brown on both sides (about 3-4 minutes). Remove the pan from the heat. Toss the dressing with the spring greens and place a handful of salad on each plate. Top with roulade slices and a dash of salt and pepper and serve immediately.

Smoked Salmon and Goat Cheese Roulade with Champagne Chive Dressing

Keep the festive atmosphere going by indulging in a glass of champagne with your dinner and you’ll discover a nice savory sweet pairing of subtle spring flavors here. Both the roulade and the baby greens offer a satisfying crunch but if you’d like to include some fresh crusty bread with your meal that would also be delicious. Next time, you make this you could even experiment with other ingredients like replacing the smoked salmon with thinly shaved corned beef brisket or ham and replacing the goat cheese with blue cheese or baby swiss. The possibility for extra creativity when it comes to this Irish dinner is vast and varied, which makes it endlessly interesting.

Cheers to a most celebratory St. Patrick’s Day night, dear readers! May you laugh as much as you breathe and love as much as you live.

 

Bon Voyage Ms. Jeannie!

bonvoyage1

The passport is out. The suitcase is filling up. Ms Jeannie is getting ready to embark on an extended trip.

Caught up in a sleuthing adventure that will take her around the world Ms. Jeannie will be wearing her best detective hat as she scours big cities and small towns for clues to one giant mystery of history. It is not certain how long she’ll be gone or what exactly she is working on, but it will be a long while before she returns and depending on her location she might not always be able to stay in touch regularly.

In the interim while she is away, there will be a new (to you) name and face managing the vintage landscape and holding down the history fort that has been the world of Ms. Jeannie Ology for the past five years. Hello, dear readers, my name is Katherine! While you may not have known me by name all these years, you have known me by words as the voice behind Ms. Jeannie, the writer of this blog and the interpreter of the muse that is MJO.  As you all know by now Ms. Jeannie prides herself on  keeping a bit of anonymity regarding her identity. And in working with her for all these years now, my identity has also been somewhat mysterious too. But now that Ms. Jeannie is off on her own, an independent traveler out on the oceans of discovery, I too, am embarking on a new adventure myself.

Like Ms. Jeannie, I have a passion for all things vintage but there is one particular area that holds a high level of fascination – the kitchen.  When Ms. Jeannie was battening down the proverbial hatches, covering the furniture and boarding up the windows in preparation for her long trip aboard she left one room of her vintage house open and untouched – the kitchen. Ms. Jeannie and I have spent a lot of happy and fulfilling time in the vintage kitchen, as you have read about so many times here on the blog.  So when Ms. Jeannie announced her plans for departure, the evolution of the blog seemed to naturally reveal itself.  Our vintage world dear readers is getting  a bit more specialized.

You’ll remember in 2015, we went through a narrowing of the vintage lens once before with a focus on vintage books. That distinction led to an unexpected yet completely enthralling love of vintage cookbooks which then led to our new found specialty and the future subject of our blog. With that being said, Ms. Jeannie and I are very pleased to welcome you to our new focus…

vintagekitchen_logo

The Vintage Kitchen – where history comes to eat!  This direction, although new, will still be quite similar to the same types of writing approaches we have taken in the past.  I’ll  be discussing all the various components that make up the vintage kitchen from cooking techniques and recipes, to interior design and decoration, to music and art and all things that food has inspired. There will still be interviews and movie nights, cookbooks and countdowns, field trips and travel getaways, gardening posts and fashion pieces to work with but from here on out things will all be connected and centered around that one food-centric room in the house that everyone has loved for centuries. And there will be postcards.  Sent from any and all available ports of call, Ms. Jeannie promises to pop in and say hello from time to time with tidbits about her travels, hopefully some photographs and if time permits her possibly even some lengthy letters.

The store (coming very soon!) is being stocked as we speak with a curated collection of vintage kitchen-themed treasures including original art and handmade objects refurbished from antique materials. So while it may seem like things are changing in a big way, they really aren’t changing that much – just narrowing the focus a little bit more.

Stylistically the blog will be evolving over the next month and you’ll see changes in appearance that reflect the new theme as well as  the launch of a new storefront. There will be a special page just for Ms. Jeannie’s far-flung correspondence and there will be a much more easy to navigate recipe section that allows for simplified ingredient searches and printable pages.  There are future plans too for some really innovative and interactive components, should Ms. Jeannie’s travels extend for years, but each new element will be unveiled one at a time to ensure a smooth transition.

I hope dear readers that you’ll be as excited as we are about this new direction and that you’ll continue to keep in touch. If there are any topics that  interest you regarding the vintage kitchen  please post a message below and I will be happy to dive right into discovering some interesting stories surrounding your suggestions.

In the meantime, please join me in sending Ms. Jeannie off on her travels with best of luck wishes. Maybe she’ll be popping up in your neck of the woods on her sleuthing adventure. You never know where our mysterious Ms. Jeannie might land. Keep your eyes peeled for a woman in an orange headscarf and cat eye sunglasses.

 

Cheers to Year Five and the New Direction It’s Inspired!

flowerfive

Today spirits are soaring in the land of Ms. Jeannie as we celebrate the fifth year birthday of the blog. Can you believe it dear readers? Five years! A major accomplishment for a perpetual on-the-goer like Ms. Jeannie, it feels like both a whirlwind and also a very long, slow dance around the tree of fulfillment.

When the blog was born on February 27th, 2012 there was no clear cut plan or outline as to what would be discussed post by post, month by month, year by year other than a some-what vague determination to bring forgotten stories of the past to light once again.  There was never even any inkling of assurance that the blog would stick around and make it to a one year birthday and then a two year birthday and then a three. But now over 225 posts and over 900 readers later this blog has traveled around the world wrapping up centuries of history into one tidy bundle. There have been interviews and cooking experiments, nature walks and road trips, books and movies, art and fashion and the sale of over 1000 antiques all dissected and discussed through the lens of history here on the blog. We’ve learned a lot in five years!

In covering such a wide variety of topics a narrower focus has come into view, and a new passion has been ignited, which means a very big (BIG!) change is coming to the land of Ms. Jeannie. It’s an evolution of the most exciting proportions and a realization that would have never come about had these past five years of experience not existed. Stay tuned over the course of this next week to learn about the all-new adventures ahead!

And as always thank you (THANK YOU!) dear readers for traveling through history alongside Ms. Jeannie. Your enthusiasm and your engagement have kept the flames of curiosity fed for all these years. Cheers to you!