Saturday, January 19, 2013

An Abundance of Crisco

Edna Marietta McNaughton Shanower as a young woman, circa 1910.
I met my great-grandmother Edna Marietta McNaughton Shanower (1891-1964) when I was a baby, but I don't remember her. She died in a car accident about six months after I was born.

In 1923 she entered a newspaper contest for the best menu. She won the contest and the newspaper printed her prize-winning menu, as follows:
Cleveland Plain Dealer, November 27, 1923

Contest First Prize Wins the Writer $5

Our family consists of father, a superintendent of service stations, who is driving every day; four boys, 11, 8, 6 and 2, and myself.

It is lovely to have girls, but mothers with boys just give them a chance to help while young and find they love to help fix things they like and often at the table they say, I helped make that dish.

We use lots of fruit, fresh and canned.

(Ralston’s) Cereal with Top Milk
Toast, Butter
Broiled Bacon
Cereal Cookies
Milk for Children

Cream of Tomato Soup
(Mueller’s) Spaghetti with Cheese Top
With Grape Nuts
Brown Bread and Butter
Apple Sauce With Cranberries
Milk for Children.

Chicken en Casserole
Mashed Potatoes
Cabbage and Celery Salad
Bread and Butter
Quince Jelly
Cinnamon Cake
Milk for Boys

Cereal Cookies.
Cream together 1 ½ cups sugar, 2-3 cup crisco, add 1 teaspoon vanilla, 1 beaten egg, 1 cup milk. Mix together 1 cup rolled oats, ½ cup grape nuts, add to creamed mixture and add flour of consistency to drop from a spoon.

Apple Sauce With Cranberries.
Make apple sauce as usual. Cook and sweeten the cranberries. To 4 cups of apple sauce use 1 cup of cranberries. It is a lovely color.

Chicken en Casserole.
When ready to cook chicken put frying pan on stove with 2 tablespoons of butter and 2 of lard. Roll the pieces of chicken in flour, which is salted, and fry a nice brown. Put into casserole with 1 onion, a little more salt, a little pepper and cover 2-3 with water. Let cook in hot oven for two hours. Other vegetables may be added if liked.

Cinnamon Cake.
Take 1 egg, 1 cup granulated sugar, 3-4 cup crisco, beat well together, add 1 tablespoon of cinnamon, 1 cup raisins, 1 cup cold coffee, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 2 ½ cups flour sifted last.

Beat well and bake in a shallow pan. Before putting to bake sprinkle liberally with sugar and cinnamon mixed which forms an icing baked.

Bake in a slow oven thirty minutes.

It is better the day after baked.

The “father” Edna refers to in her first sentence was her husband, David Elmer Shanower (1885-1967), my great-grandfather. Their four boys are Malcolm David (1913-1997), Robert Benjamin (1915-1969), my grandfather Stanley Raymond (1917-1987), and Rowland Glen (1921-1973). Still to be born when this menu was published was their fifth boy, Maynard Austin (1925-1944).

Shanower Family, circa 1935. Back: Stanley, Malcolm, Robert, Rowland. Front: Edna, Maynard, David.
There are some curiosities in Edna’s menu. Look at the list of lunch dishes. Does she really mean she served spaghetti with Grape Nuts? That must be an error on someone’s part—either Edna’s error when writing out her contest submission or the newspaper’s typographical error when printing the menu. Right? Or is Grape Nuts sprinkled over spaghetti a delicacy of which I’ve been heretofore unaware?

When I mentioned this menu and its recipes to my father, he was surprised. He never knew his grandmother Edna to use a recipe when cooking or baking. She was basically a stranger to measuring tools, he claims. Yet here are recipes written by her that call for specific amounts of ingredients.

Note in particular the recipes that use Crisco. Her recipe for Cereal Cookies calls for two to three cups of it. The rest of the measured ingredients altogether are only just over a cup more than the amount of Crisco. Now, she doesn’t specify an amount of flour, just “add flour of consistency to drop from a spoon.” That would have to be a lot of flour to balance all that Crisco. I guess “father” and those four boys ate a lot of cookies.

Then the recipe for Cinnamon Cake calls for even more Crisco—three to four cups—but only two and a half cups of flour. How much Crisco were people using in the 1920s?

Maybe because Edna never used measuring tools, she misjudged the measurements when submitting these recipes. But would anyone have misjudged so radically? That’s a lot of Crisco!

I’d think the newspaper would’ve had someone prepare the dishes they were considering for prizes.  Maybe they did, but even I—who am no cook—have to wonder whether this recipe would result in something edible, much less prize-winning.

Was Crisco a big investor in the Cleveland Plain Dealer at the time? Or maybe the Plain Dealer wanted Crisco’s advertising? Who knows? But if anyone tries out these recipes involving an abundance of Crisco—or Grape Nuts on spaghetti—let me know the results in the comments section.

[Addendum, January 23, 2013 - As David has pointed out in the comments section and a friend pointed out on Facebook, the 2-3 and 3-4 in Edna's recipes ought to read instead 2/3 and 3/4. For some reason, whoever set the type for the newspaper page used hyphens rather than slashes. Mystery solved. However, why there's a "with" before Grape Nuts is still open to possible solutions.]

1 comment:

  1. What we have here is not so much an abundance of Crisco as much as a lack of slashes! The two measurements are respectively 2/3 cup and 3/4 cup Crisco. The typesetter probably had no slashes and thus no way to make a proper fraction.