Thursday, August 26, 2010

Ladies Invited

I was reading through a November, 1955 Gourmet and ran across this ad for Gourmet's Guest Club. This is actually an ad for a credit card offered to Gourmet subscribers. This was way back in the Diner's Club days. But what I find most interesting about this ad is that it is directed toward the "lady executive" who might feel uncomfortable, or more likely, her male luncheon guest might feel uncomfortable, with the woman paying. As it says in the ad, "No money on the table, no battling over the check."

This is particularly interesting because as I read through all these old restaurant ads it becomes clear that many restaurants restricted the hours in which women could dine. For example, The St. Regis on Fifth Avenue has an ad that reads, "ladies are invited after 4 o'clock." This says to me that ladies are definitely NOT invited before 4. So what do you think is going on there during lunchtime? Pissing contests? Dancing girls? No, I think what's going on there is business and drinks. Okay, and maybe cussing, but the point is that the whole idea is exclusionary and presented a real hurdle to business women.

When I first moved to Chicago I worked at the Chicago Sports Bar and Grill, a real shithole in the financial district of the Loop. I think they hired me because I was white. The place was right out of an old movie, electricians and contractors came in for lunch and drank until we closed at 8. Cops ate free and there was this one cop who, in uniform, would do this joke which involved him HANDING ME HIS GUN! and then dropping his pants. Once in a while this group of men in suits came in before we opened, like at 9:30 or something. I wasn't allowed to speak to them unless they spoke to me first. They gave me a 20 every time I brought them a round. As you can imagine, very lucrative. Anyway, there was this geezer who came in all the time and drank his lunch and told me about the good ole' days when the Berghoff (contentiously Chicago's oldest restaurant) had a men's only bar and women had to have their cocktails at a booth. That is, of course, until "those feminists ruined it."

So I was really impressed by this ad that came out almost 50 years before my tenure at The Chicago Sports Bar and Grill and how forward thinking they were, how sensitive to the difficulties of the needs of female executives. And it was an untapped market, of course. American Express bought them out, which I still think of as the credit card of the businessman.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Cooking with--Soda Pop!

I don't usually re-blog, but over at Mostly Forbidden Zone (Thanks Nick!) they posted a link to a blog called and everything else too. Folks who read 250 Potato Possibilities will be interested in the collection of cookbooklets that feature cooking with soda pop. You might remember that we briefly visited this idea with guest blogger Stephanie (Pulled Pork, March 2009) who wrote of the "Secret Southern Ingredient," Coke, which now after reading this blog seems a little middle-of-the-road. (No offense, Steph.)

Pictured here from Cookin' With Dr Pepper is a pot roast made with Dr Pepper. Although according to their website, no prunes are harmed in the production of Dr Pepper, it's that pruney base flavor that has given Dr Pepper the reputation for being prune-derived. Or maybe it's that vaguely medicinal "Doctor" in the title. For last winter's Culinary Arts Institute Dinner, I made pot roast with prunes and it was super yummy, and come to find out from America's Test Kitchen, also based on a traditional German Jewish dish. So I guess this means pot roast with Dr Pepper is a natural, right?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

You Know It's Summer...

My friends Patty and Sarah had a fabulous party last Sunday. The sun was out, there were lots of friends, writers, wine. I was expecting a good time so I made what has come to be my signature summer party dish, Pigs in Blankets. The first time I made these had to be more than ten years ago. I thought it would be fun so I bought tons of hot dogs and spent the day rolling and baking. When I got to the party someone made a crack about my dish, something about it's nutritional quality. But I'll tell you, by the end of the day, there wasn't a single Pig in Blanket left.

For those of you who haven't made these before, they are just hot dogs wrapped in "crescent roll" dough. Following the rule that smaller things are always cuter and taste better is what makes these party dogs so popular. Cut the hot dogs in half and also halve the crescent roll triangles. This yields two-bite size piggies and they are ever so cute. I always make a meat dog and a veggie dog. Serve with a big dish of yellow mustard.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Secret Recipe (Shhhh)

Last time I was in Everett, my mom and I took a trip to the supermarket. We were getting pantry items and something for dinner. My mom offered to make her fabulous crock-pot pot roast and I can't tell you how excited I was. I love pot roast.

Anyway, my mom told me the story of her awesome dish came to be. Seems she used to work with this fellow who made an amazing pot roast. He'd bring it to all the office luncheons. His co-workers loved it so much, they begged for the recipe, but he would never give it to them. Turns out it was an old family secret. On his last day, my mom got him to give it up. And finally I got my mom to give up his recipe, but only after I swore that I wouldn't tell and especially not post it on my blog.

So we get to the store to get our "secret ingredient" and what do we see when we pull the box of Lipton onion soup mix from the shelf? Right there on the front of the box: "Great for Slow Cookers" with a recipe for pot roast on the back. So here's the recipe, sprinkle onion soup over the pot roast. Way to keep a family "secret."