May 12, 2010

Chun King Oriental Cookery

Remember when cooking Chinese food at home meant La Choy or Chun King? These were the brands most commonly found on the shelves of your grocery store aisle.

A young man from Minnesota named Jeno Paulucci started the company called Chun King in 1947. According to this article, the name Chun King "was his idea of a Chinese-sounding city". His initial $2,500 investment made him a fortune when he sold his company to R.J. Reynolds in 1967 for $63,000,000. (Isn't that an impressive increase in zeros?)

American Oriental Cookery - Quick and Easy (1962, 36 pp.) was one of the promotional recipe booklets published to help market his products. At the time of publication the company offered 21 different canned products and 14 frozen products.

I can't say that that either the photography of the finished recipes or the recipes themselves do anything to increase my appetite. But perhaps things were different in 1962. I was too young at that time to be influenced by this sort of advertising.

I do remember my father eating the canned Chow Mein, but then his tastes have always run toward the unusual (Vienna sausages were another favorite of his). I don't recall ever even visiting a Chinese restaurant until I was well into my teens and choosing my own places to dine with my friends.

The booklet actually advertises three different brand name products: Chun King, Mazola Corn Oil and Argo Corn Starch.

I'm not sure which two dishes are displayed on the rear cover, but neither of them look particularly appetizing.

There's a convenient index in the back where the recipes are listed by category. Here you can see the variety of recipes (including desserts) that are included in the booklet. The chapter titles are more imaginative: Appetizers for the Cocktail Hour, Ways with Eggs, Entrees with Oriental Flavor, For Brunch or Lunch, Feminine Hospitality, Family Dinner Menu, For Men Only, Teen-Age Bill of Fare, Salads and Salad Dressings, International Dishes American Style, Vegetable Dishes with Oriental Flavor, Dishes for Lent and Entrees for Gourmets.

This is a listing of the different Chun King products available in 1962.

The booklet was published by Consolidated Book Publishers, Inc. Notice how similar the cookbook style is to the Culinary Arts cookbooks. These recipes are from the Interntional Dishes American Style section.

The best part of this old booklet for me was the fact that I found it with the original mailing envelope. I love that old Chun King mailing label. It looks like it came off of a gummed pad and it's hand addressed rather than typed. The postmark indicates that it was mailed on February 25, 1966 from Duluth, Minnesota. The return mailing address is The Chun King Corporation, P.O. Box 206, 5020 Roosevelt Street, Duluth, 1, Minnesota. The postmark message says "The Royalty of Nationality Convenience Foods". It was sent via Third Class Mail and cost six cents.


At 12:02 PM CDT, Blogger T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types said...

Kathy - I would agree with you about how appetizing these photos would be considered, but it certainly is an interesting glimpse into our culinary past!

At 5:37 PM CDT, Blogger Donna said...

Up until I had dinner at a friend's house and they ordered take-out Chinese, my experience had been limited to La Choy chow mein. With the crunchy noodles, until my mother decided it was cheaper to make rice --Uncle Ben's, every grain separate. I had some La Choy chow mein recently, for old time's sake, and it wasn't that bad but oh, so salty.

At 2:15 AM CDT, Blogger Rochelle R. said...

Looks like a fun book. The cakes and cookies section seems long considering the subject matter. The South African Meat dish sounds a lot like South African bobotie. It surprises me that it would be in a vintage booklet.

At 9:09 AM CDT, Blogger Kathy said...

T.W. - I'm even amazed at how some of the photos in my 80s regular cookbooks look much like these. In hindsight, they're dull and not much more appealing. but I love them anyway!

Donna - We had Uncle Ben's at our house too. We had a lovely new Asian supermarket open up not too long ago that's not too many miles (only about 30) from us. I love the choices. Also, funny you should write, I was just having major cravings for some of the deli salads and other things at the West Point Market in Akron the day before you wrote. I can't find anyplace in Houston that gets them seasoned so nicely (they all need garlic or something...)

Rochelle - I found some South African Chicken Salad at a new deli (for me) the other day--seasoning with turmeric and saffron surely gave it a different flavor.

At 10:50 AM CDT, Blogger ~~louise~~ said...

What a GREAT find Kathy. Not so much for the recipes although, as T.W. mentions, "an interesting glimpse into our culinary past." For me, I could put the recipes on the back burner simply for that envelope!!! So cool...

Thanks for sharing...Did I mention, It sure is nice to "see" you!!!


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