Monday, January 31, 2011

31 January 1956 “ Desk Set and Floating Island”

desksetposter This year I am excited to re-watch (well for 1957 me it will be the ‘first viewing’) of the Tracy and Hepburn movie “The Desk Set”.
I adore this movie for many reasons. The first being the simple pairing of two of my favorite actors, Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn. The duo were a real life pair and I can truly see them together. The grounded ‘average man’ quality of Tracy just fits the New England Blue-blood eccentricities of Hepburn.
Secondly, this movie really touches a major issue, the computer. Though done in a very Hollywood comedy way, Amorak (the computer) is threatening to take over the lives of the research department of which Hepburn is the head. Throw in a fun love triangle and you have a wonderful movie.
The sad moment for me, when I watch this movie, is that the 21st century me always points out, “Well, it’s all fun and laughs, but honestly those jobs, that very department really won’t exist in a few decades. I can do as much research in 10 minutes on my computer as it would have taken those girls a week of reference material and phone calls”. But, what can one do, the computer certainly came and has not left us anytime soon.
This movie is definitely worth a watch and if you would like to watch it now, simply click on the “APRON TV” button on the side panel and it will take you to my YouTube channel. There click on classic movies, Desk set is there in its entirety. Enjoy.
Now, a very small inconsequential moment in this movie that I love is that in one scene Tracy and Hepburn eat a ‘Floating Island’. The first time I saw this movie I wondered, ‘what on earth is floating island’? Since then, of course, I have found countless versions of this recipe in my cookbooks and magazines.
Here is the section of the movie where they talk about the floating islands. It is at exactly 5:29 on the little counter if you want to forward ahead to the actual dessert. It has little to do with the plot, but I often find moments, such as the beginning of this clip when he is in the kitchen, fascinating. Because being a time traveler one wants to get things right, so to see a kitchen set up and used, it makes a Vintage Gal’s heart go pitter patter. I adore the copper saucepans on the wall and have my own small collection started back in 1955. They do not come cheap but are perfect for certain things. For example, a copper bowl is one of the best bowls to use to make stiff egg whites as one would need in a dessert like ‘floating island’. As to why a copper bowl is better and easier to use, I found this explanation helpful and scientific:
The bowl you use makes a difference when you are whipping egg whites. Copper bowls produce a yellowish, creamy foam that is harder to overbeat that the foam produced using glass or stainless steel bowls. When you whisk egg whites in a copper bowl, some copper ions migrate from the bowl into the egg whites. The copper ions form a yellow complex with one of the proteins in eggs, conalbumin. The conalbumin-copper complex is more stable than the conalbumin alone, so egg whites whipped in a copper bowl are less likely to denature (unfold).
A floating island is basically meringues made from egg whites floating on a custard made with those eggs yolks. There are many varieties out there. My 1950’s Better Home and Gardens has a recipe for a Strawberry Floating Island.floatingisland2As does the Betty Crocker Picture Cookbook. This also has the basic floating island recipe as well.floatingisland1
And just for fun, to share a vintage show you may not have heard of, “My Miss Brooks” that involves some cooking and kitchen antics. This show ran also as a radio program on CBS from 48 to 57. It was adapted for TV and in 1956 (last year) was made into a film of the same name.
Here is the first part of the episode. To watch the rest just go to the APRON TV under classic TV. Enjoy!
And here is the movie trailer for the 1956 Feature Film: 
Happy Homemaking.
 Search The Apron Revolution