May 10, 2011

Now You're Cooking with Gas!

Are you familiar with that expression?  I don't know if it's Pittsburgh-ese or if it's known more widely; if it isn't familiar - it means you are really on a roll, going strong. The United Gas Improvement Company (great name!) seemed to think that consumers needed a little help cooking with gas on their new "Gold Star" ranges, so they created "The New Gas Cookbook." The preface tells us, "To earn the Gold Star, each range must be proved better, in at least 28 ways." What is the significance of 28? And how is it proved? These questions must remain unanswered, but we are assured, "Only the finest of ranges, regardless of maker, earn the Gold Star of proven quality. It's your assurance that you are getting the most modern range that money can buy...a range that will stay easier to cook with...year after helpful year." I would like to have a range that will miraculously "stay modern" and one that will be "helpful". I'm trying to picture a range of 1961 vintage that has remained modern....nope. A helpful range...nope. Ah, well, ambitions yet to be achieved.

Yes, I'll get to the recipe in a moment, but first I want you to see the cookbook cover, with all it's iconic touches:
 First, of course, are the dinner-time pearls Mom wears with her turtleneck, and the jumper which is cinched tightly at her 22" waist. Second, the double wall oven, set into a stacked stone fireplace. Third, children who dress for dinner and who are eating separately from the adults.  And it raises some questions.  Why such teethy smiles? Why is Mom going to set Suzie's soup down on the canape tray? What is that in the middle of the canape tray? And last, but certainly not least, why do they have a lamppost in the next room?

Surpringly, with a few exceptions (Prune Pudding, Beef Liver en Casserole, Date-topped Cake, and our featured recipes), this is actually a pretty good little cookbook. It was a real bargain in it's time, too - 10 cents for 150 pages of recipes and cooking tips.

Today's feature recipe sounds, at first, like normal fare.  To understand the frightening aspect of this food, you need to visualize the final product - chunks of cheese scattered throughout an omelet, topped with marmalade or jelly. Why couldn't they stop right before the marmalade or jelly part? Or leave out the onion and cheese?  Maybe they were going for that elusive balance of sweet and savory.  In that case, I think that the balance continues to elude them.


4 eggs, beaten
1 TBS. grated onion
1/3 cup flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 lb. sharp cheese

Combine first 6 ingredients. Add cheese cut into 1/4" cubes. Pour 1/4 cup amounts of mixture on hot greased griddle; brown well, turning once. Serve with marmalade or jelly. Makes 8 3-inch cakes.

The New Gas Cookbook, United Gas Improvement Company, Milliken Publishing, 1961

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