Meet my new friend, Meta

That’s Meta Given, author of the two-volume Modern Encyclopedia of Cooking: A modern cook book, complete in every detail, brings the latest developments in home economics into your kitchen for a simpler, better and richer life (J. G. Ferguson and Associates, 1949).

Kind of a tall order for a cookbook, but Meta takes it seriously.  Consider the first of her “creeds”:

The Meal Planner’s Creed

The health of my family is in my care; therefore –

I will spare no effort in planning meals containing the right kinds of food in the right amounts.

Spending the food dollar to get the most for it is my job; therefore –

I will choose foods from a wide variety, variously priced to save money without sacrificing health.

My family’s enjoyment of food is my responsibility; therefore –

I will increase their pleasure by preparing a variety of dishes attractive in color and form and pleasing in flavor and texture.

My family’s health, security, and pleasure depend on my skill in planning meals; therefore –

I will treat my job with the respect due it.

Yeah, so.  This is one of those home economics / food science books that rapturously presents food prep with a slightly unnerving fervor.  Not that I don’t think it’s important – not least because it really does get boring eating the same basic recipes over and over again.  But, it’s also a bit tough to take when it’s coming from an era when home-making was the only career that the vast majority of women were allowed to pursue.  (Unless they happened to be poor or not white, in which case they often got the joy of working lousy jobs for less pay than men, plus all the home-making.)

Still.  You can still find similar sentiments in mainstream food-related media these days, though it’s more likely to be wrapped up in the self-fulfillment hyperbole than the important responsibility type.  This is where reading critically comes in, along with not holding a book’s historical context against it.  In fact, you can read it with a little thrill of satisfaction that this isn’t all you have to look forward to in life, every time one of these slogans drifts by.

One of the things I like about this book is that it offers a whole year of proposed recipes, three meals a day.  Not that everything it proposes looks like a good idea.  On the first page alone, we’ve definitely skipped the Pineapple Cabbage Date Salad and the Stuffed Beef Heart.  The inclusion of dessert at both lunch and dinner is not happening either, alas!  But the wide array of suggestions is inspiring all by itself.

The book – well, and the relatively large amount of spare time that I have at the moment – inspired me to buy an eggplant the other day, and then to actually make something with it before it spoiled.  Here’s what I made:

Fried Eggplant
A medium-sized eggplant (1 1/2 lb.) will serve 5 persons.  (True.)  Wash and cut in slices about 3/4-inch thick.  Peel each slice and sprinkle with salt.  Dip the slices into a mixture of 1 beaten egg and 1/4 cup milk (I had a bunch left over); then coat well with sifted dry bread crumbs; or coat with flour. (I used flour with some pepper and oregano.  On reflection, matzah meal or corn meal might have been a good choice, too.)  Melt 1/4 cup fat (bacon drippings, or half butter and half shortening) (olive oil all the way in my kitchen) in a large skillet; lay the eggplant slices in the melted fat, and cook over moderate heat until golden brown on both sides and thoroughly tender, about 4 to 6 minutes.  (My flour mixture didn’t adhere well and gave them a patchy look.)  When well done, eggplant should be very tender all through.  Serve immediately either plain, or with Tomato (p. 1382), or Onion (p. 1381) sauce.  5 servings.

Eggplant, it turns out – yes, I’d never eaten eggplant before – is a bit spongy in texture and rather bland.  No doubt bacon fat would have added flavor that olive oil just doesn’t have; the pepper and oregano didn’t add much, so I poured on some marinara sauce.

It was not popular with the guys, and my own enthusiasm only extended to a bit less than two slices.  At some point I may try a recipe that has a lot more flavoring in it, but so far eggplant is not likely to make a regular appearance on our menu.

Still with me?  Just remember: When You Think of NIACIN Think of These: Meat, Fish, and Poultry – Cereal Products – Vegetables – Fruit and Nuts.

One thought on “Meet my new friend, Meta

  1. Pingback: Meta Makes Me Sift Bread Crumbs | History Live!

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