Monday, February 23, 2009

REPOST OF :23 February 1955 "France, French Cakes, Radio Interviews, and Pie Blues"

For some reason the other day Blogger was acting up. I had a few people say they had tried to comment on this blog and it didn't work and then I found it had just dissapeared from my blog and then found it now in my edit posts. So, I am going to repost it now. I am working on my blog for today (26 February 1955) but thought I should put this one back at so it is in the mix again. I wonder, did anyone else have any weird issues with Blogger the other day?

Edgar Faure forms French government. Prior to this France had been lead by Pierre Mende's France ( a consistent opponent of French colonialism) from 1950 to 54. France was becoming hopelessly embroiled in major colonial conflicts: the First Indochina War (1946-54 in Present day Vietnam) and the Algerian War of Independence. When French forces were defeated by the Vietnamese Communists at Dien Bien Phu in June 1954, the government of Joseph Laniel resigned, and Mendès France formed a government. Among his ministers was the young François Mitterrand. This government fell today to Faure. Faure was a leader of the more conservative wing of the party, opposing the party's left (that had been under Pierre Mendès-France.)

I never really understood all that had been going on in Vietnam. Even our involvment seemed odd and only relegated to pop culture almost. We can see how the turmoil and war in that area is leading up to, unfortuately, pull us into it. Again, I wonder, had we not gone into Vietnam, would the large divide between the 'youth culture' and the 'established adult culture' have happened? It really lead, on a cultural level, to the 'hippy' ideal of breaking away from the standard. Which, when you think of it, is really funny. The norm they were breaking away from had only just been established by their parents after WWII. The new ideal of the family etc, it is too bad they replaced it with ultimately selfishness and mistrust. I wonder, is our new radical movement of change not burning bras and haveing love ins, but putting on girdles and making a happy home life? One can never tell.

Oh, as an aside a movie I loved ( but cannot watch again this year) was Indochine, a french film about this time period and their french colony. I believe it was made in the 1980s.

This isn't really 1955 specific, but Hairball had a blog which mentioned King cakes and I hadn't any idea what they were. I now see what they are and thought it would be interesting to show the difference between the american King cake and the French version (as they are a Catholic country and their cake is used at similiar time.)The French cake is called gateau des Rois. This is a good example, I think, of the American 'over the top' or overdone aspect. I am not saying it in a negative way only pointing out how many of our countries customs are adapted from the countries in which our forebears originally came with a fun over the top twist! Both versions have a toy hidden inside. (in the U.S. version a baby which is suppose to represent Jesus and in the French version it can be anything from a movie star to cartoon character. They used to be made of porcelin, the figurines, I guess they are rather collectible now.) The French version goes, whomever finds the figurine gets to wear an accompanying crown and be the king of the day and then provide the next cake.

This makes me think of my own Anglo-philed New England Xmas cake, Plum Pudding, where in is hidden a thimble, a coin and a ring. Whomever finds each of these is blessed with creativity, money and a new marriage for the coming year. We, in our family, also use the xmas crackers that have a crown in them, confetti, a fortune and a toy, which we have at xmas eve dinner. I believe this is also an English tradition. I love that our country is such a lovely amalgamation of such much tradition!

In my last post anonymous mentioned how zip codes did not exist in 1950s, which I knew, but didn't think about when trying to date my vintage zipper. I did find out that the idea for zip code was actually invented in 1944 by Robert Moon ( the father of the zip code) when he was the postal inspector.He was responsible for the first three digits of the zip code. But not until July 1 1963 were zip codes mandatory and by 1967 they had invented Mr. Zip to get people to use it. Many were reluctant at first. Interesting stuff, I think. I think they stopped using the image in mid 1980's and I have a faint memory of seeing this image at the post as a child. Do any of you remember him?

I also want to tell everyone that I was approached to do an interview about my project for an Australian morning drive program. I did it last night via phone. I have no idea how it will turn out. I do know that my voice was still a little hoarse from my cold. I don't know if I will ever be able to hear the program. They did give me a link to their radio stations web site I guess I should have paid more attention to the name of the morning show when it was going to be aired etc, but still waiting to hear back. They interviewed me last night, but I think it will be edited and broadcast later. If I can find out specifics I will let everyone know as I was hoping at least one Australian reader could somehow access it for me. I think it was funny that they wanted to interview me.

Now, I had wanted to show you the pic of my chocolate pie I made last night. I had not made it when I posted the recipe. I am going to try again, but had a little bit of a mix up. I followed the recipe and felt rather proud of my self, whisking in a double boiler, then pouring some of the hot mixture onto a beaten egg and then back into the mix. When it was all mixed and ready to be set, I tasted it. EWWW! Salty. My Housewife radar had gone up when I was adding the salt the recipe which called for 1 1/2 Tsp of salt. That seemed a lot! I should have listened to myself, as it was far too salty. So, to rememdy it I added more sugar, alot more until it tasted good and then popped it into the freezer to set. Twenty minutes later, it was still chocolate soup. SO, back to the double boiler, more milk and some cornstarch, hoping that would do it, still nothing. "Ah, ha!" I thought, I have unflavored gelatin in the pantry. (Any self-respecting 1955 housewife would, you know.) That goes in and I stir it and pop it in the freezer, again, to cool.
Still nothing. So, I figure, well I will try just heating it on the stove without the double boiler. I learned the importance of a few things last night.
1. double boiler is imperative when dealing with anything heating milk
2. the chemistry of baking is often an exact science, know what you are doing before you mess with it. I mean I could have turned into a Dr. Jeckyll Mrs. Hyde scenario!
3. Taste as you go when you bake and cook

4. Patience is a viture especially with baking.

After heating it directly on the stove it burned so quickly! It tasted, as Gussie put it, "like a blackened marshmallow at a campfire."
I left it and my shame on the counter over night; unable to even deal with throwing out all that brown goo.
This morning I got up to do my usual routine and you will never guess. Yes, nice and set. I couldn't believe it. Had I just left well enough alone and not tried heating it, but poured it in its soup-like state into the shell, we would have been greeted with a lovely pie this morning. Oh, well. I can't get all straight A's at Home University, now can I?

At least I can still reuse the shell and the delicioius almond flavored whipped cream I made for the top. It is often a crap shoot in that kitchen. I really do feel like a mad scientist about 60% of the time.

I am going to close with this image in one of my cookbooks. Look at this spread! That green blob is actually a ham in a special glaze. I think maybe my pie failure has made me a little loco, or maybe it was tasting its burnt chocolatey insanity, but now I somehow want to make up for it and try at least some of this menu for this saturday. Also, what used to seem weird and ugly to me in these books is starting to look beautiful and interesting. It is funny how tastes can change when subjected to a different visual vernacular. I wonder what I won't be suspending in gelatin by the end of this year?

Until tomorrow, have a great home-making day!
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