The Way We Cooked

I recently came across this newspaper recipe in an old cookbook. It must be from the early 1970’s and tells an awful lot about the way we, New Zealand, cooked forty-odd years ago. This recipe is what my Mother’s generation cooked and reflects a view of food, and society, that is fortunately long gone.

Where to start? Obviously the title reveals the sexism of the time with the use of the word housewife. Back then this wouldn’t have seemed that strange at all although there were signs of the feminism to be found. Note in the second paragraph the nod to prudence and thriftiness by sating you can use cheaper cuts of meat. Can’t have the busy housewife over-spending the budget hubby darling so thoughtfully has provided her to run the household!

recipe for chicken casserole.

A real time-saver for the busy housewife!

I love how that you can impress guests by adding sour cream and cooking wine. Not the good stuff you might drink, although New Zealand wine in the 1970’s was decidedly average at best. Anyone remember those wine classics of 1970’s New Zealand, Bakano or Cresta Dore? And let us not dwell on that abomination of sickly sweet wine knows as Cold Duck – or cold chuck as we used to say.

The last sentence of the introductory section is knockout blow. You see, you can use just about any type of meat or offal in this recipe! Who knew? What about the notion of different ingredients working together to enhance the taste of a dish? Rosemary works well with lamb or potatoes for example and for many ham and pineapple are a combination. But this recipe is suggesting that any meat or offal will work just as well as any other. Mutton anyone? Or maybe lambs fry? I’ll stick to chicken thank you.

Note the recipe requires butter for frying. None of this fancy olive oil stuff. In those days if you wanted olive oil you went to the chemist, (yes, you read that right) and purchased a 100ml bottle for olive oil that was sold essentially as medicine. And using butter was almost an act of patriotic solidarity with our farmers.

And then we have the tin of crushed pineapple. Let’s hope you haven’t decided to use some sheep kidneys as your main ingredient. Pineapple and kidneys. Unimaginable really.

This is the way we cooked back in the day. Food in New Zealand, and wine, are now light years away from the day when recipes like this made the newspapers and magazines. Nowadays you will find recipes for ‘Chicken, bacon, cranberry & brie burger’, or ‘Spiced vegetable fritters’.

So, please let’s not talk about the good ol’ days.

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Golden Globe Awards 2015: Best Quote

Hard to go past this!

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Fortepan: Hungarian Shepherds

Fortepan image of Hungarian shepherds

Hungarian shepherds on the puszta looking after their Mangalica pigs.

This is perhaps the archetypal image of the Hungarian shepherd on the great Hungarian Plain known as the puszta. The puszta and its shepherds are a recurring theme in Hungarian mythology where the skills and attributes of the shepherds seem to encompass the true values of rural Hungarian life. They seem to echo the nomadic herdsmen of the original Hungarians who entered the Carpathian Basin some time in the late 10th century. The two shepherds seen here (or perhaps it would be more accurate to describe them as swine herdsmen) in this 1940 photo are looking after their Mangalista pigs and have that earthy ruggedness of the typical shepherd. Note both are carrying the traditional Hungarian bullwhip (karikás ostor in Hungarian) as well as wearing traditional hats. But their clothes look “well worn” – note the stitched piece on the jacket of the man on the left, suggesting that they are poor shepherds indeed. Nonetheless this photo could only have been taken in Hungary on the puszta and it is that strong sense of place that gives this photo its power.

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Fortepan Images: Hospitality

Hospitality, 1968. Photo: Fortepan

Hospitality, 1968. Photo: Fortepan

The picture was taken in 1968, location unknown. The jug and small cups look like they are drinking pálinka, or fruit brandy. Given how they are all dressed in full winter clothes, it must have been pretty cold inside.

I like the smiles of the two women in this photo. They seem to be enjoying the slightly flirtatious nature of the conversation.

But of course it is the older man in the far left that really draws the eye. He is staring at the camera with an almost menacing absence of any joy in his face. It is a cold hard stare. Clearly his flirtation days are well and truly gone. You wonder why he is there. At least he has taken his hat off inside! There is an unhappiness about him in contrast to the smiling women.

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Fortepan Images: The Man on Belgrád rakpárt

Fortepan is Hungarian online photo archive site. It contains over four thousand photos that remain uncollected from the the Hungarian photo processing factory called Fortepan located in Vác, Hungary.  These images represent 20th century Hungarian life in a way that, if any, formal collections can.  Each week I will feature one image and describe what I see

No 17. Belgrád rakpárt [Embarkment] looking towards Elizabeth Bridge, 1944. FOTO:FORTEPAN / Dr. Károly Ember

No 17. Belgrád rakpárt [Embarkment] looking towards Elizabeth Bridge, 1944. FOTO:FORTEPAN / Dr. Károly Ember

The first one shows a man looking towards the camera, smiling.  Nothing odd about that at all.  But there is a clear story here beyond the picture itself. The key is date, 1944. Not only the date, but the time of year.  It is clearly early spring. The trees in the background are not yet in bud and the man is dressed for the cold. The sky has that deep, clear blue of early spring too. 1944 was one of the most tumultuous years in  20th Century Hungarian history. In short order, the Germans, Hungary’s ally, took over the country in March of that year and within six months some 600,000 Hungarian Jews were murdered in the Holocaust. In October the Fascist Arrow Cross seized power and for a few short months wrecked further havoc and destruction on Budapest, especially its Jewish citizens. Towards the end of that fateful year the Battle of Budapest had begun when Soviet troops met fierce German and Hungarian resistance. By February 1945 when the battle was won, Budapest  had been laid waste and was utterly destroyed.  

All this was yet to happen when this photo was taken.  What became of this man we will never know.  You can see three men in black uniforms in the right-hand background. Are they Police or military? There is a poster on the left-hand side advertising a dance event. These good times would shortly end.

In 2014 I spent a month in the apartment at No 17 Belgrád rakpárt on the third floor overlooking the Danube.  The distinctive iron gates on the left-hand side of the photo remain and there is still an advertising stand too advertising music events. Some things never change.  As I left the apartment each day in the hot July sun I would think of this man in his thick, black winter coat and the tragedy that was about to unfold on his beautiful city.

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