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June 28, 2007 / Tony

An old-school cooking show

Cooking Terms

Yes, this clip is funny but strangely intriguing.  I guess cooks in the 1950’s also didn’t know what basic cooking terms meant (see this post).  I also must say that I don’t 100% agree with their definitions of certain cooking terms. 

ADDED:  Where does one even begin unpacking this little nugget from the 1950’s.  It seems to capture every negative and positive stereotype from that era.  Obviously, a feminist critique of it would be suitably scathing.  The wife is portrayed as a bumbling idiot whose sole purpose in life after marriage is to create an idyllic home life for her husband.  So much so that she makes a cake for her spouse for lunch.  Who does that???!!!!  Also interesting was the fact that the narrator was male while the person demonstrating proper cooking techniques was female.  Is it all women who need cooking advice from this benevolent narrator?  Also, what’s the deal with the narrator saying, “even Margie” all the time.  Is she really that stupid?  And nice marital advice, your husband’s first day of work after the honeymoon and you are already encouraged to cover up your mistatkes in the kitchen.  Yeah, let’s start keeping secrets early in the marriage-one can’t start that too soon.

But, politics aside, let’s talk about the food.  This clip purported to explain a number of cooking terms and it did: cream, stir, beat, fold, boil, soft-ball stage, knead, stew, simmer, braise, dredge, brown, roast, bake, sear, marinate, scald, white sauce, and jelly making.  Whew, that’s quite a few cooking concepts to explain in 10 minutes. 

What struck me was how poorly all the food looked.  The cake was a little lopsided and the frosting was so messy.  The braised meats looked like astronaut food.  I know some of this has to do with the camera and film quality but considering their cooking methods, I’m not surprised.  It brings to mind a book by James Lileks, The Gallery of Regrettable Food (buy here).  You won’t believe how poorly food from the 1950’s looked and the ghastly recipes.

I also was struck by the recipe for Scalloped Cauliflower.  Why the milk was scalded is beyond me and the incorporation of the milk into the roux (a term the movie did not choose to explain-that’s the fat and flour mixture) was guaranteed to create a lumpy sauce.  The cook in the clip didn’t even use a whisk!  (Perhaps those did not exist in America then, I suppose, but how do you manage without a whisk?)  Plus, I love how the narrator calls for cheese but does not specify what kind of cheese.  The whole thing is just so high-flown that the instructions are almost unusuable.  No one as idiotic as Margie would be able to make any of those dishes just because she had seen this video.  There’s just not enough detail in the clip to provide any sort of real cooking advice. 

Finally, I am mystified as to their distinction between the terms braise and stew.  Apparently, braising requires a dredge in flour while stewing does not.  That distinction just doesn’t do it for me.  I am also similarly mystified by their description of marinating.  The instruction is to saturate the food you mean to marinade.  I found that to be a rather curious term to use becuase, to me, saturation means a lot of liquid in proportion to the amount of food.  In fact, there is so much liquid so as to make sure that the food is unable to absord any more liquid.  Seems like a poor way to make vegetables-I imagine soggy, over-flavored veggies.  Uggghhh. 

ADDED:  I forgot that Mr. Lileks has some very regrettable food on his website here.  Check it out; both for the pictures and the commentary. 



Leave a Comment
  1. jessie s / Jun 29 2007 6:54 pm

    i have some old cookbooks that are hilarious to look through for the same reason – the food looks TERRIBLE!

  2. mom / Jun 29 2007 7:47 pm

    You know, now that you mentioned it, I don’t think I EVER saw my mom using a whisk! She used a table fork to do her roux, and of course always a wooden spoon (cracked and discolored!) Wish I had that spoon, but it probably wore out from all the uses. She taught me the ‘crackle’ method of syrups and jellies and making frostings. Haven’t done that in awhile. Anyway, it was pleasureable to view! And I DO love my Pampered Chef whisk!

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