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Thursday, January 7, 2010

Introducing: Retro Reads Book Reviews!

One of my New Year's goals is to share some of my favorite things with everyone-starting with "reviewing" some of my favorite vintage housewifery-related readings. Admitedly, these won't be hard-hitting exposes (these books in cue have been on the market for 50 years, more or less!) but tongue-in-cheek walks through a time captured in books or cookbooks. These books are often humorous, full of actual relevant knowledge and always reflect a time and standard that the housewives (or home executives, stay-at-home mom, etc.) of today either loathe or love.

Since one topic on many people's mind at the turn of the year is to lose weight and to get healthy, I decided to start this series with the cookbook that started the Slenderella diet enterprise- the 1957 Slenderella Cookbook by Myra Waldo. Vibrating exercise machines, supliments and even IRS controversary eventually followed but this book actually gives very good, basic, weight loss advice that has relevancy today. There are no gimmicks or strange methodologies-just 3 30-day menu plans divided by caloric intake (1200, 1500, 1800). There are tips on getting your children to eat healthy with you and tips on dining out (don't talk about being on a diet!).

My favorite part of the book? The proper weight chart that lists women's heights while WEARING TWO INCH HEELS! Because I do that daily! The chart, however, is almost identical to one written today. I also found the section on WHY people are more overweight in 1957 than 50 years prior almost identical to those written in 2009 about the 1950's. Apparently, we weren't all that different in our lifestyles (I may not be in a cool car as the graphic above shows, but I do still dream about cake!)

And example of what you would eat (and have to cook!) for on a typical meal in the 1200-calorie menu:

Beef Soup (for children, add rice)

Beef Fricassee (for children, add bread and butter)

Green Peas and Potato Casserole

Cucumber Salad

Orange Whip


Favorite quotes from the book:

"Eggs, in common with champagne, may be served at any stage of the meal-as an appetizer, main dish, salad or in desserts."

(There are 5 versions of deviled eggs alone and an entire chapter devoted to the subject of eggs!)
"A woman kneading bread is a truly beautiful and feminine sight, a sage once remarked, but it has become something of a lost art."
(Isn't it funny that break making was "something of a lost art" in a time that we all think of as the June Cleaver in the kitchen?)
I have actually prepared my family several of the recipes in this book and have found them to be very good. However, the serving sizes are very small (maybe because they are having a multiple course meal!) by today's standards.
I must confess that I have not tried the multiple recipes listed for cow tongue or cow brains....
Please share if you have a favorite vintage cookbook that you love and if you actually use it or relish it on a shelf :)


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