May 31, 2006

Rather Sweet with Splenda

I've written here before about my fondness of the small Hill Country town of Fredericksburg, Texas. Unfortunately, there will be no lovely Fredericksburg peaches this year. Ninety-five percent of this year's area peach crop was zapped out by Mother Nature. Visitors will still find peaches, but they'll be from other parts of Texas and states farther east.

So, no homemade Fredericksburg peach ice cream for us this year.

All is not lost, however, as there are still plenty of other good things to eat. Long before you could find a Grand Slam anywhere in the vicinity, my favorite things to have for breakfast were fresh cinnamon rolls and German pancakes.

The owner/chef of one of the local eateries, Rebecca Rather, has a cookbook called The Pastry Queen: Royally Good Recipes from the Texas Hill Country's Rather Sweet Bakery & Cafe that I'm also quite fond of. It's a beautiful cookbook that has not only delicious recipes but wonderful photography of the food and the bakery. Reading through the text you can get a sense of what it's like there even if you're a million miles away.

There are recipes for breakfast foods, pies, desserts, cakes, cookies and some for lunch and dinner. Many of them are served in the bakery and cafe. Some have names as big as Texas: Jailhouse Potato Cinnamon Rolls, Texas Big Hairs Lemon-Lime Meringue Tarts, Mexican Chocolate-Fudge Pecan Cake, Turbo-Charged Brownies with Praline Topping and All-Sold-Out Chicken Pot Pies. You can get hungry just looking at the pictures: Kolaches, Fourth of JulyFried Pies, Hill Country Peach Cobbler, Texas Pralines, Rather Rich Corn Muffins and Texas Tortilla Soup.

I prepared one of the recipes, Apple-Smoked Bacon and Cheddar Scones, to show you here, then promptly forgot to take the picture. Oh well, they're gone now. But, trust me, they were good.

It's just a great regional cookbook.

I must warn you that these recipes are for real food with real ingredients--nothing low-fat or low-sugar here.

So despite the fact that Rebecca wrote this wonderful cookbook full of recipes for dishes that dieters only dream about, she still managed to snag a spot in SPLENDA'S Great Chefs, Great Cities recipe series.

She created a collection of kid-friendly, reduced-sugar party recipes using SPLENDA Sugar Blend for Baking and SPLENDA No Calorie Sweetener. The four recipes: Splendid in Pink Birthday Cake, Peanut Butter Cupcakes with Marshmallow Cream Icing, Watermelon Lemon Sorbet and Peach Frozen Yogurt can be found on the Splenda website.

May 19, 2006

Rumford Baking Powder Recipe Bulletins

The Rumford Company published a series of small recipe Bulletins that were used as advertising premiums for their baking powder.

In his book, A Guide to Collecting Cookbooks, Colonel Bob Allen lists five booklets in this series and he shows the publication dates as 1919, along with the information that they were all 16 pages in length:

Rumford Company Department of Home Economics - Dainty Desserts
Rumford Company Department of Home Economics - Left-Overs
Rumford Company Department of Home Economics - Good Breads
Rumford Company Department of Home Economics - Meat Substitutes
Rumford Company Department of Home Economics - Salads

So far, in looking through my own collection and also consulting other sources, I haven't been able to locate any of these booklets that actually show the 1919 date. I have located others with the same or similar titles, but they aren't dated. So I don't know if the booklets he mentions actually showed the date or if he used other resources not mentioned that positively confirmed those publishing dates.

The stapled booklets that I have are simple in design, being printed entirely in black and white with no illustrations other than the Count Rumford cameo logo on the front and rear covers. They are 16 pages in length and measure approximely 4 x 5-3/4 inches in size.

I have shown the Salads Bulletin (W-79) in the photo here.

Sometimes it's fun to try and determine the publishing date on a booklet that doesn't provide one.

In 1912 the company name was changed from The Rumford Chemical Works to The Rumford Company. Their Department of Home Economics was also established that same year. Since this booklet was published by The Rumford Company Home Economics Department, we know that it could not be dated before 1912.

Information from other Rumford cookbooks and product advertising shows that the baking powder was often distributed in one-pound and half-pound containers. According to Colonel Allen, the company discontinued the one-pound container and began packaging the baking powder in 12-ounce containers sometime during the late 1920's. He also states that "each pound can of baking powder had a Rumford company card inside and when the housewife saved some of these cards they could be sent to the company for premiums."

Salads is obviously one of these premiums as indicated by the offer on the rear page of the booklet:

(Your Choice FREE)

Send us one card found in the one pound or 12 ounce can of Rumford Baking Powder, and we will mail you either of the following Bulletins:

Good Breads
Meat Substitutes
Cakes and Cookies
Delicious Drinks and Dainty Desserts

If you wish additional number of Bulletins, enclose in an envelope a card for each desired, and mail to:
The Rumford Company
Providence, R.I.

So the following discrepancies pose more questions than answers as to whether or not this booklet was from the 1919 series or from a later printing.

  • The mention of both one-pound cans and 12-ounce cans. Could this booklet have been printed during the transition period?

  • The list on the back of this booklet also includes an additional title, Cakes and Cookies, which was not mentioned in Colonel Allen's book.

  • The words (and presumably, the recipes) "Delicious Drinks" have been added to the Dainty Desserts. Did Colonel Allen leave those words off or were they added in a later edition?
If anyone knows the answer to these questions, I'd love to hear from you so I could find out for sure.

May 18, 2006

The Prince of Pastas

I think The Prince Treasury of Italian Recipes (undated, 49 pages) is a particularly nice advertising cookbook because it contains several period illustrations of the Prince family brand of Italian cooking products. It also includes 49 recipes featuring the Prince products as the primary ingredient.

Judging by the illustrations, I would say the book was probably published sometime during the 1960's. Joseph Pellegrino is shown as the company President on the inside cover which fits into this time frame. His son, Joseph P. Pellegrino II, succeeded him as a corporate officer in 1971, so the booklet was probably published before that change.

The Prince brand got its start as the Prince Macaroni Manufacturing Co. in Boston's north end in 1912. The company name was changed to The Prince Co. in 1939 when it moved to Lowell, Massachusetts. In 1941, Guiseppe Pellegrino, one of the partners in the Roman Macaroni Co. in Brooklyn, NY (this company belonged to his father-in-law), acquired controlling interest in Prince. After becoming one of the largest pasta mills in the United States, the Pellegrino family sold the company to Borden, Inc. in 1987.

In 2001, New World Pasta acquired several pasta companies, among which was the Prince brand that was still owned by Borden. Today Prince Pasta is one of the brands currently owned by New World Pasta.

The Prince brand wasn't all pasta, tomatoes and cheese. They completed their product line with a custom-baked collection of butter cookies. Prince Butter Cookies were packed in decorator tins and boxes, in one, two, and three-pound assortments. The cookies came in fruit-filled, chocolate dipped, jelly-topped, and nut-studded varieties. They also had a line of reduced-calorie cookies that were made without sugar, available in fifteen varieties.


4 oz. Prince Medium Egg Noodles
2 eggs, well beaten
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup sugar
3 tbsp. flour
2 cups cottage cheese
1/2 cup light cream
2 tbsp. lemon juice
2 tsp. grated lemon rind
1/4 tsp. salt

Cook Noodles in 1-1/2 quarts salted water for about 6 minutes or until tender. Drain, and place in a buttered 9-inch spring-form pan. Mix together all other ingredients and pour over Noodles. Bake at 325 degrees F for about 1 hour or until firm. Chill well before serving.

Serves 8-10

May 17, 2006

Roadfood Adventures with the Sterns

I spent an enjoyable couple of hours this evening at the Akron-Summit County Library listening to Jane and Michael Stern speak about some of their culinary adventures. What a treat!

Had I not been on the road myself, and at home in Houston (where it would be a sure bet that I would have had to fight traffic to get across town to wherever they might have been), I probably wouldn't have gone to the trouble. Had that been so, I would have lost out on a great evening.

In case you aren't familiar with the Sterns, they are the Roadfood people; the couple who have been traveling the U.S. since the early 1970's writing about the regional food of America and the best places to find it.

To date, they've authored 40 books and they're on the road now promoting their latest, Two for the Road. Unlike the Roadfood guides or some of their other non-guide titles, this one is more of a culinary memoir where they share some of their experiences of traveling the backroads and byways while doing their, ahem...job. Many of these stories are not appropriate for the guides, so they share some of them in this new book. Thirty years of continual eating out--you know there has to be plenty of stories. I imagine they could fill several volumes with their tales.

Unlike many prolfic authors, their books are still worth buying. There's no sign of boredom on their part, or of writing that you get the feeling has just been hammered out to fulfill a contractual obligation. They still seem to like what they do.

I had recently read Jane's book, Ambulance Girl, and then saw the movie starring Kathy Bates. This is the story of how she came to be an EMT with the volunteer fire department in their Connecticut town. This was a rare instance where I enjoyed both the book AND the movie, (it doesn't happen often that both are good, it's usually one or the other) and so I was glad to have the opportunity to see them in person.

I was not disappointed in either of them. They were friendly and personable, and at ease with the audience. The venue, the Main Libary Auditorium, was just the right size for this sort of thing. Lots nicer than standing around the Barnes and Noble with all the distractions there.

Jane had a cane (she's awaiting knee surgery at the end of the month) and Michael carried her somewhat oversize bag for her. Thoughtful husband. A large bag, she later explained, is necessary due to the number of meals they eat per day, and their relunctance to leave food on the table. Restaurant owners evidently take offense if they don't clean their plates.

They further gain my admiration when I learn that they were smart enough to invent this dream job--eating out and traveling for a living, out of necessity--after their Yale graduate studies, they couldn't find jobs in the same location.

It was interesting to hear their recommendations on the signs of a good place to eat. If a restaurant claims to be "Home of" something, then it's usually pretty good. Places with mottos or slogans also ranked high, as did places that had huge cows and pigs on top of the buildings. Large ads in the Yellow Pages = bad; tiny ads = good. Some of the best places have no ads or signs at all.

Note: At our house, we have a method too. We usually avoid any place whose sign says "Family Restaurant". This may have something to do with the fact that we were forced to eat every meal at our local Family Restaurant for way too many months while we were without a stove during renovation of our kitchen. Still, more often than not, we never like the food we find at these places. For us, a major dilemma occurs when we are driving around a strange town late at night looking for something to eat and we're forced to choose between Mickey D's and the 24 hour Fill-in-the-Blank Family Restaruant. Sometimes it's better to stay hungry.

Fun to hear was how Michael has always taken pictures of the plates of food that he's been served. Easy and not very noticeable with today's digital cameras, not so easy and more than a bit of a curiosity back when he used a big camera and brought his own lighting.

In the beginning they had lofty goals: they once belived that they would review all of the restaurants in America. That goal was modified early on to include only those on the backroads.

(A lofty goal similar to my own misguided plan of the past which was to own all of the food company cookbooks. This, too, has proven more difficult than previously anticipated, but I haven't given up yet.)

They have observed that despite the chain restaurants of Generica, the small mom-and-pop-type restaurants have not died out as they once thought they might, but that their numbers are, indeeed, growing and in no danger of extinction.

And then there are the things you find out about folks that you would never even think of.

Barbecue joints and all-you-can-eat fish houses aren't the only places they visit while on the road. They also visit prison gift shops. Michael stood up and proudly displayed his hitched horse hair belt purchased from one of these places. They shared a humorous story about a visit to Leavenworth Penitentiary. Jane seemed visibly crestfallen when someone in the audience informed her there was a gift shop in the Ohio State Reformatory (located less than an hour away) and she realized their schedule didn't allow time for a visit.

The first book I read of theirs was not one of the guides, but a cookbook--Square Meals, which I acquired back in 1984. It's attraction to me then (and still) was that in the text they referred to the advertising cookbooks that I like so much. I can't quite remember if this was my first cookbook about comfort food, but if not, it was certainly close to the first. Many of the recipes contained in this book didn't particularly call for using brand name ingredients, but a lot of the old food company recipe booklets are mentioned.

In 2000, a revised edition of Square Meals was published. This updated edition includes many additional photographs. The same topics and themes are covered in both editions: Ladies Lunch, Lunch Counter Cooking, Sunday Dinner, Nursery Food, Victory Dinner and The Cuisine of Suburbia.

Another benefit to the evening: I got a great lead on a little cafe here in town that I hadn't even heard of.

May 11, 2006

Willing Water

Reddy-Kilowatt has a cousin of sorts. His name is Willing Water, a.k.a. "Willie". While Reddy was pushing electricity, Willie was busy with the water customers.

He was created in the late 1940s by the American Water Works Association (AWWA) as an advertising character for use by member water utilities in their public relations campaigns. The cartoon icon was used extensively during the 1950s and 1960s. Gradually, his popularity faded and the icon was retired by the AWWA during the 1980s.

Retired or not, many water utilities today still use Willie, particularly in educational material for children.

How "Willing Water" Cooks (1966, 24 pp) is one example of how the character was used in some of the promotional material. It's a recipe booklet that was published by the AWWA, and in this particular case, it was used by the Public Water Department of the City of Akron, which is prominently featured on the rear cover.

There are several recipes, hints for using water in cooking and food preparation, and a short section on camping. Barbara A. Nicholas, a food editor for the San Jose Mercury-Sun, compiled the recipes and hints for this booklet.

It was possible for Willie to look slightly different at times, depending on where he was used. This was because the utilities were allowed to redraw him in different poses as long as they preserved his character. At the left is how Willing Water looks inside this cookbooklet.

Besides the recipes one would expect to find in a cookbooklet, there are several pages devoted to the great service that the water utility is providing to the public. Willie really piles it on in this case--the following is just from the first page:

"I am Willing Water, your obedient servant. Can you imagine living without me?..So many people take water for granted, just like the air they breathe, that I have to keep reminding them all the time, just how important I am....When you serve your family these tantalizing foods, remember your friend, Willing Water, and the folks who bring him to you--the people responsible for your dependable water service, 24 hours a day."

As a totally coincidental aside: the City of Akron water department could use some positive PR these days. Their water has tasted and smelled absolutely vile for the last several months. They claim it's safe to drink, but this frequent visitor is not convinced.

Maybe they should see about rehiring Willing Water.

Here's a recipe from the Camping section that I thought was cute:


Add WATER all at once to biscuit mix, stirring with stick into a soft dough. Dust hands generously with biscuit mix to prevent sticking and pick up a small piece of dough. Roll between the palms of your hands to shape into a strip about the size of your little finger, 4 or 5 inches long. Heat a peeled green stick over the fire (willow is good for this). Wind a strip of dough spirally around the stick, pinching tightly at each end to hold in onto the stick. Bake over hot coals, turning to bake evenly. With a good bed of coals, the bread will bake in just a few minutes and slip easily off the stick. Serve with jam or butter.