I’d like to conclude my celery trilogy by looking at the ngram for celery (the first two parts of the trilogy were about celery on restaurant menus and celery vases). Ngrams show the popularity of a word or phrase throughout time and are especially useful for slang, grammar, and spelling preferences (like ketchup and catsup). An ngram is a blunt tool, of course, since it’s not possible to limit the search to books with a certain subject matter (like cookbooks).
The chart below is the ngram for celery. There are three notable features: a significant rise between 1900 and 1920, a drop between 1940 and the mid-1960s, and another significant rise from the mid-1960s to the early 1980s. The first rise was probably related to authors capitalizing on the popularity of celery in that era, both for eating and growing (at home and commercially). The mid-century decline was likely connected to the post-war interest in processed food and convenience, a place where celery does not fit (except perhaps in canned cream of celery soup). I’d guess that the renewed interest in healthy eating in the 60s and 70s led to celery’s change of fortune (hippies, back to the land, clean eating, etc.). To get the real answers would take a lot more research.
When I typed “celery” into the CC Search box to search a few museums’ public domain collections to illustrate my previous post on celery on restaurant menus, I was expecting one or two results, perhaps a still life. And so I was surprised when the search returned a bunch of objects called “celery vases” from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It turns out that “celery vases” were a thing. And some of them are attractive works in glass or ceramic.
Celery was a popular vegetable in the 1800s and early 1900s — often served as an appetizer with other raw or pickled vegetables. And so the artisans of the era created appropriate dishes to hold the crisp green stalks. (I wonder: are potters and glass makers working feverishly on the ideal plates for avocado toast or bowls for kale salad?)
As time went on, new collections of images appeared and I learned about existing collections, and started to use them as sources of the art for my blog. Eventually, however, my tastes changed slightly and I started being attracted to the ‘vintage’ material in the archives. I liked adding quirky or unusual images to my posts — instead of a picture of a finished dish that I was writing about, I’d include something from an old seed catalog or a fairy tale (as in my post about turnip pickles and turnip greens).
A “Man’s Pie,” it turns out, is a California raisin pie. Here’s some of the copy:
A Man’s Pie
Fresh — delicious. Buy it ready baked.
Just phone to your grocer or bake shop and say, “Send a California Raisin Pie.”
You’ll get the pie that men like best because of its flavor and nourishment.
It’s a man’s pie — and a woman’s, too, for it saves home baking.
I don’t recall ever eating a raisin pie, but it sounds promising — I can imagine some spices, macerating the raisins in brandy or rum, and intense flavor. I made a quick run-through of my baking cookbooks and found only one recipe for raisin pie (in Professional Baking by Wayne Gisslen). Surprisingly, the Pie and Pastry Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum doesn’t have a raisin pie (but does have macerated raisins for another dessert).
I have been making yogurt at home for more than five years, avoiding countless plastic containers and saving a good bit of money. Over that time I have made some improvements to my process, such as switching from 1 quart canning jars to the Luminarc Working Glass (easier to use, easier to clean). To account for these upgrades, I updated my earlier post on yogurt making which you can find here: The Home-Made Yogurt Routine.
While browsing the amazing and often confounding Flickr Commons, I was entranced by a collection of late 19th century book covers from the British Library. The majority of the nearly 900 covers are “pulp novels,” but you’ll also find travel books, text books, and other miscellany. Last month I shared a batch of six vintage book covers, and this post has six more in the image gallery that have interesting art or a lurid title. (Click any one of the images to expand the image and navigate through the collection.)
I recently finished reading Gustavo Arellano’s Taco USA, an interesting combo platter of history, personal stories, and food culture. In his detailed overview of the history and evolution of Mexican food in the U.S.A., Arellano recounts many fascinating stories, like how the first English-language taco recipe got into print, the invention of the frozen margarita machine, and inventions for frying tortillas for tacos. In this post, I’m looking at that last topic, tortilla frying inventions.
In the late 1940s, tacos became a popular food in some parts of the United States. Most tacos back then were hard-shelled, so each day restaurants needed to fry lots of corn tortillas into the taco shape before filling and serving. It was a tedious and sometimes dangerous ordeal for kitchen staff, as Arellano writes in Taco USA:
But preparing the tacos was an arduous task. In the days before fast food, restaurateurs fried each taco shell to order, throwing them into hot oil in a U-shaped form held together by a toothpick. To properly fry them, cooks had to poke around the cooking oil with their fingers or clumsily use utensils to ensure that each side achieved an ideal crispiness, then take out the finished product without scalding themselves.
Naturally, restaurateurs, cooks and inventors tried to find a better way. And some even went through the lengthy process of filing for a patent on their invention.
In this post, a look at two distinctive fruit crate labels.
“Don’t Worry” Apples Fruit Crate Label
I doubt that “Don’t Worry” brand apples would be a successful brand today. It’s easy for me to come up with a bushel of worrisome questions when choosing your food. Organic? Local? What pesticides? Imported? In season? By buying the trendy Honeycrisp, am I dooming heirloom varieties? Do they still use alar? Or how about the use of arsenic and lead as pesticides (in the distant past)?
As a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, I find this label exciting. Sure, the proportions of Sather Tower aren’t quite right, and the artist removed tower’s surroundings to put it in a pasture, but it’s advertising, not a documentary. Reading the label, however, brings slightly different feelings: “Below U.S. Standard…Not High Grade.” Perhaps whoever decided that Berkeley apricots would be “not high grade” was a Stanford graduate? (As far as I know, Berkeley never had commercial apricot orchards, or any other large scale agricultural endeavors. There were famous apricot orchards at the southern end of San Francisco Bay in Santa Clara County.)