Tuesday, February 3, 2009

4 & 5 February 1955 "Literature,Leftovers, Bacon fat, Cake and Fabric"

First off, I want to thank everyone for all the wonderful comments. I love how we are creating a place to chat and discuss these things which we all really have a passion for, thank you so much.

Now, for news today, I think I will talk a bit about some books of the time.

I was pleased to recall that one of my favorite writers, Flannery O'Conner, published in the 1950's and 60s. I have read all of her work, but am re-reading the two I would have had available. The first is Wise Blood, a novel that came out in 1953. It is part of, (or perhaps the beginning of?) The Southern Gothic style. This novel, much like other O'Conner works, can either be read as straight out entertainment, or as a sort of philosophical text leaving the reader to resolve the opposing views of reality portrayed in its characters. I really recommend her reading to anyone who has not tried it. All of her characters and incidents are set in her native south, and I am as much a 'Northerner' as you can get!, but her stories and characters really are a pleasure to read. She addresses racism, religion, and the human condition in such a brutaly honest way, you can't help but be moved by them.

This book of O'Connors came out this year (1955) and is a great collection of short stories. I think she is probably one of the best short story writers I have ever encountered (man or woman). She manages to evoke a novels worth of feeling, passion, disgust, anger, sadness, and joy in a few paragraphs. If you have never read her, here is a link to one of the stories in this collection. It is called, "Good Country People" http://www.geocities.com/cyber_explorer99/oconnorgoodcountry.html

Now, another book published this year (1955) of note, is Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov. It, however, was published in Paris only. It would not make it to america until 1958 and obviously it's controversial main characters obsession with pre-pubescent girls is the reason for this. A film adaptation to this will be made in 1962 by Stanley Kubrick and was greatly sensored. Lolita was played in the film by a then 14 year old actress, Sue Lyon. An interesting fact I found out, is that the main character Humbert Humberts first love Annabel Leigh, is named after Poe's poem Annabel Lee as well as Hubert Huberts name alluding to the other Poe poem, William Wilson which is about the Wilson's being haunted by his doppelganger.
Here is a snippet of the Poe poem Annabel Lee:
''I was a child and she was a child,
''In this kingdom by the sea;
''But we loved with a love that was more than love-
''I and my Annabel Lee-
One can see little bits here and there of the changing times. I am constantly amazed by the growing and changing things occuring here in 1955. Amongst the happy plastic people we always picture for this decade, we see the ruffling of the feathers of the great bird of change getting ready to take wing. I think, as many of you must feel, that with that flight was lost many honest and simple things which we, as humans, find ourselves longing for. Courtesy, trust, love of the fellow man, love of home and family even fashion and formality. I see that we, none of us, want to return to a time of segregation and distrust, but there is a certain element of dress which leads to courtesy and kindness that seems to be lacking from our modern world. Maybe I am just, as so many before me have, romanticising the past, but I KNOW that when I make sure I look 'done' before leaving the house I get a different response from people (mostly positive) and that I, in turn, am more positive. With my increasing interest in my home as a place of comfort and style and my skills in the kitchen, I find myself wanting to know my neighbors and get involved in my community. To share these things. This is really something new to me. It somehow seems to be magically linked with these other things which can seem superficial: your wardrobe, your homes decor, your cooking skills.
This, of course, could be only an instance specific to myself, but I wonder, if others were to follow suit, how long before they would find themselves changing into the patterns of the past? I know that with my family and friends when we are gathered together at a table with linen napkins nicely set with homemade multicourse meal, we act differntly. And I don't mean formal or uncomfortable, but we converse more. We aren't plopped down with pizza boxes in front of the tv, but are having great conversations and even, without their knowing it for I watch them, my friends and family are just adapting to the setting. Napkins find themselves on laps, mouths are wiped before glasses touched to them, without any comment, just naturally occuring. And it is not as if we are play acting some great fluffy tea party, but just enjoying ourselves in a way that feels very 'grown up'. It's funny because I have always thought my generation was the generation that would never grow up, but now that I sort of feel I am doing so, I really like it. Of course, I say this while I am 'pretending to live in the past'. But, maybe my generation, and the other generations of today, have that childlike quality to play at somthing until they see it is, in fact, good to be a grown up. To care about others as well as yourself. To want to help out those less fortunate. To welcome a neighbor to the area not caring if they think you are 'cool' or not. I want to be responsible for others and kind.( I put the grocery carriage back at the front of the store to save the young boys trips to the parking lots.) But, I find myself doing it naturally and then noting to myself that I am more courteous and conscientious. It is not forced!

If you click on this image you can read a bit out of my vintage cookbook on mealtime manners.

Well, that is enough philosophizing for today, on to the good stuff!

I found this bit on Leftovers rather interesting in my General Foods Cookbook. I like that it discusses the 'accidental' as well as the 'planned' leftovers. I have to say, in my house they are definitely planned. I am already planning on pancakes this sunday breakfast (though they appear at least one morning a week for my hubby from me) so that sunday dinner can be "Pancake Ham Roll-Ups". Now that we have our Saturday 1950s dinners I am thinking of doing a more casual Sunday dinner for hubby and I and Gussie, of course, as she is often here on Sunday. That way Sunday will truly be a day of 'rest' for all of us.

I noticed the other morning when I had made pancakes that home-made pankcakes made with bacon fat are delicious WITHOUT butter and syrup. I had just made a great heaping batch (I guess I do have 'accidental' leftovers sometimes) of pancakes. And I thought, "this morning no dry toast with my black coffee for me, but dry pancakes!"
I ate two of them dry and they were so good. I could really taste the bacon fat. I know, I know, it sounds like a commercial, "Now, with 30% more Bacon fat...MMMMM, thanks mum, bacon fat.
I can picture it now, the commercial: Two housewives are in a kitchen over a cup of coffee, the husband comes in dressed for work, briefcase in hand, "Thanks darling," he says kissing her cheek, "I could really taste the bacon fat this morning" and off he pops while the friend turns to her and says,
"My husband NEVER notices my bacon fat" and then of course the product with a voice over:, "Franklin Bacon Fat, Let your husband notice your Fat" or something along those lines. But, seriously, they were so good that I didn't need to add the sugar and fatty bacon to it, so I probably had less calories with the bacon fat in the pancakes.

While on my favorite subject, bacon fat, I have to show you my new book I just recieved. I was soo excited. I have this EXACT Osterizer blender. I was happy to find that it is indeed from 1955, if it coincides with this book. This may have even come with it originally, I don't know. But when I saw this recipe I had to laugh and thought, "the blogger friends are gonna love this one!"

Pineapple BACON muffins, how perfect! I mean what COULDN'T they do with the stuff?
I did use a recipe from this book yesterday as it had just come in the mail and I was soo excited I couldn't wait. It was providence as well, as I had just slipped the last piece of pie into hubbys lunch that morning and I knew I needed another dessert before the usual 'sunday cake bake'. So I made this one. I wanted to slice a fresh banana along the outter edges for its decor, but hadn't one ( I was using up old ripe bananas I had previously frozen, see leftovers!)
Here it is sliced to reaveal the guts, which I thought was important. And here is that slice waiting to be eat up, yum! I allow myself one piece of my cakes/pies. I cannot be a good baker/chef without trying my concotions, right? It was rather yummy and the cake itself was a nice mix between a cake texture and a banana bread. I can feel my skills growing as I learn basics of baking. For example, this cake was to have this frosting, also from my new book, but it turned out to be too sweet. I don't like confectioners sugar as a base for icings, I am finding, as it is far too sweet. So, I simply made some 'melted chocolate' which is powdered unsweetened baking chocolate mixed with oil (no, not bacon fat...however, hmmm but that might be another post) which, of course, is not sweet at all. So, when added to this icing it became a rich almost dark chocolate flavor. I also find that leaving these types of frostings to 'set' for an hour or so makes them a dream to ice with . I made the mistake of using this type right away at first only to have a slippery gooey mess. But, again, I probably would have learned this long ago at mothers knee.
It is funny how normal it now seems to have a dessert around. I now approach a cook book like a child who has finally learned to read. All those looming figures and shapes that had once daunted me, now have wavered into focus and I have a voracious appetite (pun inteded, by the bye!) to make up everything and anything I can get my hands on in cookbooks. They have become the fairy stories of my kitchen where I can dive into the pages and bring out my handsome prince. I have kissed the frog and he is, in fact, a brownsugar glazed ham and a fruite compote!

Oh, speaking of ham. I made the best bone in ham the other day! It was not spiral cut, so carving was left to my imagination. A skill I am quickly learning, though I have told my hubby time and again, that carving is a sign of a gentleman, but he just laughs and waits for seconds.

Now, I am sure to any vegetarians out there, this must look a horror, but I am rather proud of it. I liked that when I purchased this you could see the actual skin of the pig. I mean, there is no sense is sugar coating meat (well, except in actually putting sugar on it, it's yummy!) this is a dead animal. Rather it is all trussed up in cellophane in the store or not it was an animal and I like to know that. Somehow it feels more real or almost as if I am being more honest to the animal that died for me to eat it. Anyhoo, I had to score the skin after cooking the joint for 45 minutes, as my book instructed me, and then put in whole cloves, which I did and it was quite fun. I then basted it with brown sugar (and syrup I told you I am an New Englander, I will put syrup on anything given the chance!) It was soo tender and juicy and wonderful.
I have saved the bone with most of the unusable fat and meat and skin and that will make a wonderful pot of peasoup, which I am excited about. Yes, I admit it, I am EXCITED about an old bone in my icebox covered in fat and skin, it's a sickness with me, these leftovers. It is like the challange of the kitchen. Really the very core of homemaking seems to be challange: The personal and physical challange to shape and make a world in which to dwell. It's a wonder more housewives don't have a God-complex, as we stir and cut and sew our world around us making our own little realities of food and clothes and decor. It is like being a magician, a scientist, an artist, hostess, decorator, and a conjurer. Ta-dah! I lift my satin cape and behold a table set for a king!

Now, onto some design. I just got this wonderful vintage fabric. I love alot of the modern ATOMIC styles of the 1950s, but my house, for the most part, does not really call out for an overall modern design, nor would it fit my personality. I love antiques and old things, always have and would have done so if this actually were 1955. However, there are 'modern 1950s' fabrics that go along with decorating styles then called "Early American" and "Early New England". This fabric fits that category. I like that it depicts 'early american' images, but in a very pop art sort of way.
There were even furniture lines by Ethan Allen and such who came out with Early American lines that expressed a desire for the simplisity and natural wood structures of the past but often with a modern turn and sensibility. I have, myself, actual antiques and I like to mix new pieces, so my new infatuation is to mix in these 1950's "early american" pieces.
This is one such piece I picked up at a sale the other day. It has the lines and it expresses a 'queen anne' style chair, but in a very modern way. It is lower. The wings on the side are in wood rather than upholstered and there is a low skirt to emphasize its porportions to the floor. I think this will mix rather nicely in my living room which is being turned into my library. Although I love the vintage fabric which is now on it, in blues and browns, I may reupholster it in a vintage nautical print or perhpas a solid color.
This photo sort of illustrates the direction I mean to take in this room: The sailing model, the blue and white sofa, the quilted pillow.( I think the blue ticking fabric on the sofa goes rather nicely with the vintage fabric, don't you?) The fabric is most likely going to become curtains and some throw pillows. There are also pillows quitled in the soft blue I love and I will use this color throughout the house.
I live near the ocean. Sailing is and has been a part of our lives. We live in New England and I feel the decor should reflect that. I am hoping to draw together the things I love and have with 'new 1950's things' and remake the house. This is an antique hooked rug (which is quite large and fills most of the floor) and has the color scheme I want in this room. The blue white red with browns and just hints of green. I belive using a harmonizing color scheme through your entire home makes it more cohesive. I will be using blue, red, yellow in various shades through the house. While in the kitchen it will be soft robins egg blue, butter yellow and true red, in this room it will be the cranberry red of New England, the deeper blues of the sea and the yellow will become the golden brown of wood and accents. Etc.
I would also like to show that though we often think of 1950's decor as all sharp modern angles and curvilinear forms in primary colors, that was only a portion of what was happening. Many people still decorated with antiques and other styles. I am going to, for the fun of it, create a swanky lounge/rumpus room/bar in our finished basement that will hi-light more of the modern furniture and fun shapes of the 1950s. I think this is appropriate to my home and way of life. I will enjoy tea and cakes in a room decorated with antiques and early americans and just as well an old fashioned or a martini in the swank lounge dancing to records and such. What do you think of my color scheme idea for the living room/library?

Sometimes I feel a bit of a fraud using my camera and computer, but honestly I could never really share all of this with any of you if I did not. If this were actually 1955 I would be sharing it with the neighbors and bridgeclub and the coffee klatch. But, all of you have become my cyber-coffee klatch. We sit around the virtual kitchen table swapping ideas, recipes, woes, and happiness. It is quite nice and shows that we still long for such a spot. A little corner to sip our coffee, nibble our home-made goodies and just gab! Thank you for joining my coffee klatch.

3 February 1955 "Robots, Retro Dye, Cakes, Cards, and Crazy Neighbor"

Not much news here in 1955, but here are some interesting things, none-the-less:
Here is an advertisment showing a new personal movie camera format. Looks like widescreen to me.

Hubby was telling me he saw a book about robotic technology today (2009) and that the view of robots in japan are of friendlier and often heroic figures. Yet, in U.S. sci-fi etc they often are viewed as attackers/outsiders or turning against their creators. It is a funny and interesting view of our two cultures. I wonder if it is because our own young country has always had a class system in flux we? We have not had thousands of years of servant/master situations to allow us to build up an idea of a friendly and happy servant. Afterall our own country was based on upheaval and turning against those who once helped us, so perhaps we expect it of our machines? And our ideas of Freedom are often tied up with uprising and power struggle. I mean we founded our contry by leaving behind a country that told us what to do. We then were aided by a people who we helped somewhat then turned on them. We brought in people to be our slaves and they had to gain their freedom through war. So, it follows I suppose, that we just assume or friendly robot servants and soldiers will rise up against us, I mean we did it, right?
I thought this was in interesting view of robots from the UK. This is from a 1953 magazine showing yoy how to build this friendly turtle robot that apparently entertains your child. Good thing it isn't an American Robot Turtle, or it might turn on poor little sally there.

Robby the robot from Forbidden Planet, one of my favorite scifi movies, though it does not come out until 1956.

It seems even aliens are out to get us, as seen in the 1950 movie "The Day the Earth Stood Still" Also quite good and meant to be one of the early classics of the genre. Although in this case (and perhaps in the case of the robots) we do have to realize the horror of WWII. Outsiders coming onto your soil to destroy you was not that far fetched. The artwork from the Science Fiction world is all quite interesting and rather telling. It certainly, in a more representational way, shows the country and the worlds fears in Post War times. The 'High Art' was doing similiar things in its very abstraction. The denial and upheaval of old ways. A distrust of what had been. But, I digress...

Today I recieved these little darlings in the mail (thanks ebay). This will coincide with my sewing/dress making. I want to get some good sturdy white cotton for dresses and dye the fabric. I can't imagaine a more vintage finished product. They will definitely be Authenitc colors. I was excited, too, by the colors, my favorites Blue and Browns. I will post before and after results of the fabric and of course the eventual dresses made from them. Perhaps I will use some of the left over fabric for curtain ties or pillow accents in one of the room redecorating. If it works out, I will hunt out more of these. It is wonderful how ebay is really a sort of time-machine department store. And think of all the lovely things that would have ended up in landfills can now grace the shelves of such crazy people as myself! Don't you love the graphics? In 1955 money the .20 cent box would have cost $1.57. That is cheaper than the RIT I can still buy at my local grocery store. Again, cheap clothes at Old Navy have made making clothes not as cheap, but in so doing have made generations of people skill-less and helped China to continue to be horrors to their own people. But, I won't get into politics, not now anyway.

Here is another 'new' treat I just received from a friend. It was sitting idle on her shelf, but I can tell you this little book will get a good going over by me! I think I am going to attempt to bake every one of the cakes in this book (it is like a little 40 page pamphlet). This will be the first one and this Sundays cake. Doesn't it look scrumptious!

I found this wonderful old anniversary card that I just adore and had to share with you. When I first looked at it I thought how appropriate to my year! I love that her 'crazy new dish' she tries out is some odd vegetable medly. I know I definitely might sometimes seem like that sad little woman with the yellow dress, though it is less complaining and more "Guess what I did today? I ironed all your shirts!" Of course the novelty has not yet worn off. My hats have certainly never cost $50.00 ( or actually $392.00), but the sweet sentiment at the end definitely tugged at my housewife heart strings.

One last thing I found of interest today in one of my old cookbooks was this entry. It was bittersweet. I am not sure what it is like where any of you live, but around here, neighbors do not drop by and welcome the newcomer. This concept, in fact, seems so foreign to me it might as well be a recipe for prune whip to take on the next Lunar Landing.
However, we have a new house going up on some land sold one house over from us. We have been watching its progress for the past months and when I saw this it hit me. WHY NOT? What is stopping me from throwing together a cake or a casserole and 'popping by'?
I can see it now: There I am tottering up the bumby unfinished drive in my heels. My full skirt swinging with the effort of my casserole dish. My hat, gloves and fur trimmed coat, bright as a new penny. Hair done and lipsticked. What would I look? Who can know? Do any of you think I should give it a try? It could be high summer before it is liveable and anyone has moved in so I could even invite them to a barbque. If you had just built a new house in a neighborhood and this nutcase carrying a casserole in heels and full skirt showed up, would you talk to her? Would you even answer the door, or hide behind the sofa wondering if you had moved into a bad episode of the Twilight Zone?
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