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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