Thursday, October 21, 2010

21 October 1956 “Cooking Pork Chops and Investing in the 1950’s”

Even though I am now going to be answering reader questions on Sundays, I thought there were two good comments on last post. So, for today’s post, I want to include them.
The first is from an Apronite who hails from Canada:
I have an off topic question, do you have an easy recipe for blade pork chops or butt pork chops.<<
I often cook them as my grandmother did in the 50`s with great results and the help of lipton onion soup mix :) They always turn out tender, but I would like another simple way to do them.......I never fry my food, and bake everything in the oven when I cook, as my mom did.
mamie1 Well, first off, pork chops are very 1950’s. In fact the current president (Dwight Eisenhower) wife, Mamie was known to say, “Ike runs the country, and I turn the pork chops”.
I cook my chops both on the stove and in the oven. Usually when I bake my chops I either stuff them or at least have a stuffing of sorts over them in a covered pan to hold their moisture.
Let’s look at the pork chop. This image from my 55 Fannie Farmer cookbook shows us where the chop comes from.porkdiagram (click to view full size) Many people think of pork chops as being equivalent to the consistency of shoe leather. This stems largely from the fact that we were told for many years, including the 1950’s, too overcook it due to possible disease. As you can see in the diagram they say “All pork cuts require long cooking”. That is actually not true. I have a friend who recently did a ServeSafe class for her job. We now realize that pork should be tender and can be pink and doesn’t need to reach an internal temperature of any greater than 145 F. Sometimes to be safe, I might go as high as 160 F, but once you taste the sweet juicy flavor of a pink chop you will never go back.
Here is the instructions from that same Fannie Farmer book for chops: porkchoprecipes1
Here are two pork chop recipes from my General Foods Cookbook. porkchoprecipes2
I often cook my chops on the stove top. My way is very easy. This is easier, I think, if you use a cast iron pan, as the heat is retained. I simply season my chops on both sides with salt, pepper, (sometimes pepper corns), Coriander, and bit of sugar. Get your pan to a medium to hot heat range. Once the pan is hot, I add my fat. I often use bacon fat, which I save from my breakfasts. I suggest you use a fat that smokes at higher temps, such as bacon fat or olive oil. In the 50’s it would have been bacon fat, but today grape seed oil, peanut oil, those also don’t smoke until a higher temperature. While unrefined canola oil and sunflower and safflower smoke at around 250 F. I have a list of oils and the temperature at which they heat up on the COOKING page. If you go there, scroll down you will see it. (Simply click on it and it should enlarge. I finally found what I was doing wrong to not allow pop ups to work).
Now, pop the chops in the pan, don’t let them touch. I only give it maybe 2-5 minutes per side. You want it to look lovely and brown, then flip it and use the same amount of time and then put a lit on, turn off the heat and let it sit for 5 minutes. A cast iron pan will hold the heat and continue to cook when it is off the flame. If it is stainless steel, just turn the flame very low and cover for about 5 minutes. That is honestly as long as it can take. It is very simple and so juicy.
A meat thermometer is really good to have to test your meats. I use mine for roasts and birds all the time, but for something thin like a steak or a chop, I just use my finger. There is an old finger test to help you learn what raw to over cooked meat feels like. If you touch the fleshy bit of your hand below your thumb, with your hand relaxed, it is what raw meat feels like. Now, touch your thumb and your pinky and touch the same spot, that is Well done, and as you go through your fingers to thumb until you reach your index (that being rare feeling) you can learn to touch the doneness of food. The more ‘in there’ you are with your food the better, I have found.
I literally barely boiled water before 1955 and now find myself rather comfortable in the kitchen. The act of being a part of the food, touching and tasting and seasoning as you go, is really an integral part to being a homemaker, I feel. I often associate the kitchen with the art studio and one finds, in art as well, that the more in touch with the creation, often the better the result. This seems to be the same with food.
I have used the above baked recipes for my chops, only I really reduce the cooking time. If the chop is stuffed, it should bake a bit longer, but again, we must think of pork more like beef and less like chicken. Don’t over cook it.
Sometimes I will make a quick stuffing from leftover cornbread crumbs or bread crumbs and wrap the meat around it and toothpick it and pop it in the oven, covered and seasoned in a bit of water for about 20 minutes. I like to take the top off for the last five to crisp up the stuffing, as we like it that way.
Not sure if that helps. And please, others share your pork chop secrets with us!
The second comment I thought we could address today comes from hotpinksky35 who wrote:
One thing I've noticed about finance in the 50's is that as far as investing goes their seemed to be much more emphasis on savings bonds and life insurance in the mainstream media. Not much on mutual funds (and I know they had them back then) Maybe it was a product of the times. The rates on bonds couldn't have been high. Maybe they just had whole life insurance back then which is touted more as a financial investment than term life insurance is. Did they have term life insurance back then? With moms not working as much, maybe there was a greater perceived need for life insurance.

Is the lack of emphasis on mutual funds, stocks, currencies etc back then really a reflection of the growth of the financial services industry over the past 50 years especially with the growth of 401k plans? Personally after Enron and Goldman Sachs etc fiascos I've come to the conclusion that much of the financial services industry the mutual fund companies brokerage houses magazines Jim Cramer tv networks are all a bunch of hooey... They are selling most of the public a bill of goods and most don't take the time to learn about investing. I think you can make more money investing in stocks in the long term than you can keeping it in a savings account. But I think the financial services industry is trying to convince the public they can all become overnight millionaries by doing some $4 trades on etrade. Blah dont get me started.

I think with regards to investing we were better off in the 50s with defined pension plans savings bonds and life insurance. Most people don't know enough about investing to really grow their accounts in their 401K the way they should. I didn't until recently. I have taken the initiative to learn and my returns have improved significantly. Most people aren't going to take the time to learn the way I have.
womenwithpurses In 1952 only  6.5 million Americans owned common stock (about 4.2% of the U.S. population). Many people were still aware of and frightened by the market crash in 1929. So, many people in the 1950’s on average, shied away from stocks.It actually took until 1954 before the Dow Jones Industrial Average exceeded the peak in 1929.
It was more complicated and expensive to invest in the 1950’s as well. One didn’t merely go onto an e-comerce/investment site and buy up some shares. This, however, had many advantaged to today’s investing. I think many of us today merely see it as another item to purchase. And, as we are a purchasing people, if you make it easy, we will come!
A very interesting item I discovered today while researching this idea, was the Glass-Steagall Act which was passed in 1933. This act made it illegal for commercial banks to collaborating with full-service brokerage firms or participate in investment banking activities. In 1933, the country was in the depths of a Depression caused by the financial crisis of the stock markets. The very concept of trading and the ‘get rich quick’ mania, that many people still assume was just a part of the ‘American Dream’ was actually born out of such trading in the 1920’s. It’s result, we now see. So, the act was made.
Now, what I find very interesting and what I am always pointing out here is that we don’t seem to want to look to our past. We, as a people, have a very short term memory and it seems to get shorter all the time. We, ourselves, recently suffered a very bad financial problem owing very much to stocks and investments and brokerage and banking. And, it will be interesting for you to know that the Glass-Steagall act was dismantled in 1999! It then became possible for commercial banks and brokerage firms to intermingle and what we once considered ‘good solid banks’ really just became another leveraging money making risk institution. If you want to read more about the Glass-Seagull act go HERE.
The cost to individual to invest, then was higher. Fixed commissions were the norm, meaning what one had to pay their broker to handle the transaction between your choice, money and final stock, was rather set in stone. No competitive online pricing nor no brokerage fee deals. The technology of the day, as well, made such instant transactions non existent. Overseas investing, at this point, was almost not there. One could say, however, that the time it took and the limited information and the need of a trained professional made one less likely to part with their money.
And actually, mutual funds were not available until the very late 50’s and into the 60’s as we know them today. And certainly not something the average middle class American would even know about.  In fact what was to become Mutual Funds were only an idea in a Princeton grads thesis paper in the early 50’s. He went on to form and manage the now largest fund, Vanguard 500.
By the end of the 1960s, there were approximately 270 funds with $48 billion in assets. The first retail index fund, First Index Investment Trust, was formed in 1976 and headed by John Bogle, who conceptualized many of the key tenets of the industry in his 1951 senior thesis at Princeton University. It is now called the Vanguard 500 Index Fund and is one of the world's largest mutual funds, with more than $100 billion in assets.
So, it seems that the beginning of the 1950’s still saw very conservative attitudes toward investing. But, as the decade comes to a close we see a change. In 1954, the NYSE announced its monthly investment plan program, which allowed investors to invest as little as $40 per month.  This was really the precursor to the mutual fund concept and was used later by them. $40 dollars in today’s money would be roughly $280.00 something middle and lower middle class families may have had trouble finding. Particularly our Terre Haute family who saves a small weekly allotment.
This great little film does a good job explaining the late 1950’s new idea of investing. It will not come out until next year, 1957.(As an aside, this video and all others I will include in my posts can now also be found on my youtube channel. I have a page on the site specifically for that HERE.)
I think when you consider the ticker tape and the need to literally push paper and make calls to buy stocks, and therefore the time between your desire to own a share and your actually buying it, make stock ownership rather a turtle’s pace endeavor compared to  today’s instant digital world.
I also think we can see again how since that time we have been fed the very concept of the product. The idea of buying and we as consumers is vastly different from the 1950’s. It was beginning then, surely, but today it is easy to spend and most people have no idea what they spend even in one day, let alone a year.
Before 1955, I had little idea of money spent. I knew roughly what we hand and when to pay bills and all that. Yet, it was nothing for me to go out, almost daily, and buy here and there with my Debit card (another new invention created to make us mindless spenders). And, I cannot say how much the credit and debit card hurts the small business. I was once a business owner and the amount of fees I paid for every transaction was criminal. When you buy something from a small business and pay with debit/credit the owner has to take his profit from what is left after his/her cost of the product and then the percentage that goes to the credit/debit company. Another example of the commercial bank acting differently. And, another reason to use cash especially when supporting local business. Large concerns such as Wal-Mart and their ilk pay almost nothing and in some cases literally nothing to process these fees. So, the increased use and advertising for the convenience of them only drives another nail into small business and the middle class way of life.
And, really, that is what it comes down to with investing: convenience and ease. We are always sold on how much ‘better’ it is to have things “FAST AND NOW”. If a thing is done quicker and we get things faster that is better, we are told. Yet, what happens when we make haste? That is right, Waste. The old adage holds true. There is little time to think about what we are spending, how we should be saving, or where our money is even going when we can go online click a button and magically buy things. Hop down town with the gals, coffee, drinks, no problem plastic solves it. When really many of us have little idea what we are spending our money on. And, this in my opinion, is how the modern armchair investor works. It’s easy and ‘lower cost’ so why not do it? Yet, many people lost not only their nest egg, but in some cases as in 401K they felt safely invested for their retirement literally gone.
I heard a story of a man who was a driver for an electric company. When that company was bought out by Enron his 401K retirement plan was shifted to Enron stocks. He didn’t know as he merely paid out each week to his retirement. When Enron fell, the locked out small investors while the top few percent took millions out. This fellow had 300,000 dollars in his retirement and was close to retirement age. When they unfroze it after the crash, he was left with $1200.00! That’s not 12 thousand but 12 hundred. That is why when people say they are against caps or regulation saying it isn’t part of the free trade, they are only being lied to. It merely allows a free reign for large companies to do as they wish. And these regulations we saw fit to put in place, such as the Glass-Steagall Act, are simply wiped out and the general public has no idea. I think the 1950’s was simpler in what was going on so one had time to be more aware of what was happening in their world. Today we seem happy to forget our yesterday’s, why bother?
So, the continual lesson learned from the 1950’s: Pay attention and think before you act and plan plan plan and Be aware of  your world and  your wallet. Act with rational thought and consideration not  childish heated whims or anger. I wish we could get a 1950’s school teacher to come in and teach basic manners to many of our ‘news channels’ and the Government at large.
**As an addendum, I just want to add that from now on every post will subsequently be placed into the new site. So, today this site can be accessed again under the COOKING PAGE as well as the 1950’s PAGE. This way you can see how the site will build up with my information. And, every friday, I shall begin placing all old posts info accordingly. I am hoping this will lead to a very useful and easy to navigate site full of Vintage information. Thanks again for you patience with that.
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