WNYC: Blazing Maize – Mrs. Gannon’s Tamale Pie, 1947


One more little gem from around the web: I wrote this post for WNYC (New York Public Radio) about Frances Foley Gannon, a LaGuardia era public figure who held sway over the city’s public markets and the five-borough’s dinner tables.

“Good morning, Housewives!”

Every morning at 8:25 AM, long after mothers had ushered their children off to school and begun the laborious task of housework, “Mrs. Gannon” chirped her greeting over the radio. Cheerful but firm, the Deputy Commissioner of Markets gave menu-planning advice to “the biggest collection of hungry people ever gathered in one small spot —New York City.”

You can read the full article, as well as get her recipe for Tamale pie, here.

pie3Tamale pie: a crowd pleaser.

The Battle Creek Diet, Day 5

Breakfast: Kellogg’s Corn Flakes, Baked Apples, Whole Wheat Gem.

I figured there was no more appropriate way to end my week of Kellogg’s food than with a bowl brimming full of Corn Flakes. Kellogg and his brother, W.K. Kellogg, are the ones who the invented the technique for crisping rice and corn into Breakfast cereal, and thereby creating a whole new industry.

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I pared and cored two apples and then, because I wasn’t paying careful attention to the directions, sliced them up as well. They should be baked whole. I put the slices in a baking dish and squeezed a little lemon over top. I used brown sugar in my syrup.

I baked the apples at 450 for about 30 minutes, let them cool, then scooped them out into a bowl. I drizzled them with cream and ate them up, although I think this dish could have been greatly improved with a pat of butter and a sprinkle of cinnamon.

Dinner: Corn Roast and Baked Sweet Potato.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get to have lunch today. I out and about in the middle of the day and well, it just didn’t happen. So I had an early dinner instead.

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The corn roast was quite good, I would say the best dinner entree I’ve had all week. I halved this recipe and used frozen corn; it was moist and tender when it came out of the oven, so I decided not to serve it with a sauce. It was similar to corn pudding, and I easily devoured the whole dish. However, I don’t think I’ll be serving it at my final dinner party: although i liked this dish the best, Rice a la Carolina was the most interesting, and the most appropriate to the time period.

The baked sweet potato was also an A+.

Corn Roast. It looked exactly the same several hours later.

Eating Like a Tenement Family: Day 4

Fried Polenta!

Breakfast: Fried Polenta and Scalded Milk

Instead on Ms. Corson’s suggested breakfast of Rice Panada, I decided to save a little money by frying up slices of polenta left over from last night’s dinner. This preparation is another suggested meal in Fifteen Cent Dinners, so I’m not straying too far from the path here.

I sliced the cold polenta about 1/2in-1 in thick, and fried them in a skillet with 1 tablespoon hot butter (.15 cents). The edges were crispy and buttery, although a little plain. It could have used some cheese or maple syrup.

Cost: .40 cents

A couple hours later, I was in the shower, and got woozy. Then nauseous. And I had to sit down until the feeling passed.

Now, I want to point out that I’m a videographer by trade, and my work is largely sedentary. Long hours of editing require me to sit on my butt all day. So if I feel woozy on this diet, I cannot imagine how a full-grown male, working 12-15 hour shifts rolling barrels at the Fulton Fish Market would fair.

Lunch: Salt Pot-au-Feu

“Salt Pot-au-feu-Put one and a half pounds of Salt pork (cost eighteen cents,) in three quarts of cold water; bring it slowly to a boil. and skim it well; when it has boiled fifteen minutes, put in with it a two or three cent head of cabbage…and boil both steadily for half an hour…”

After the shower incident, I decided it was time to make lunch. I had not yet had a chance to go to the grocery store, so I had to substitute the salt pork with 3 slices of bacon (about .90 cents) I let them brown up in a pan, then threw half an onion (.05 cents) into the rendered fat. I let it cooked about five more minutes, then added 1/4 of a white cabbage (.33 cents), salt, pepper, and about 2 tablespoons of cider vinegar (about .02 cents). I covered it over with water and let the whole mess boil for 15 minutes. I choked down about half. I saved the broth for supper and tomorrow’s breakfast.

Cost: $1.30

Supper: Lentils Stewed in Stock

I cooked 1/2 cup of lentils (.27 cents) according to the package directions, using the stock left over from lunch as the cooking water. I ate about half of them, before feeling full and uninterested. Simultaneously, I still feel hungry. I also allowed myself one slice of bread (.07 cents).

The cider that I added to the broth at lunch gave the stock a really weird taste. I’m not saving it for breakfast tomorrow.

Cost: .34 cents

I also had an extra cup of milk (.25 cents) and an apple (.33 cents)

Total Cost: $2.04
Approximate Calories Consumed: 796
Running Total: $8.06- $8.60

Eating Like a Tenement Family: Day 3

Stewed Tripe.

Breakfast: Toasted Bread and Scalded Milk

Pretty much as it sounds, because nothing wakes me up in the morning like warm milk. Although, I presume they’re boiling all of their milk because pasteurization wasn’t around yet, and there was a contaminated milk crisis in New York City.

Cost: .32 cents

Lunch: Stewed Tripe

Like most middle-class Americans, I’ve had very little experience with offal. Our affluence has afforded us the luxury to ignore organ meats in favor of the succulent muscles of our animal friends. But not today!

“Stewed Tripe.-Cut in small pieces one pound of tripe. (cost eightcents,) half a quart each of potatoes and onions, (cost of both five cent) and put them in layers in a pot, seasoning them with one table-spoonful of salt, and one level teaspoonful of pepper; mix quarter of a pound of flour with water, gradually using three pints of water, and pour it over the stew: (the flour and seasoning will cost two cents) put the pot over the fire and boil if gently for an hour and a half.”

I have had tripe (cow stomach) once before, in a Philadelphia Pepper Pot stew, and it was like springy, tasteless chicken.

I told myself to stop being a baby and went to wash the tripe (.48 cents). Just the feel of it was enough to turn my stomach–like used Kleenex soaked in baby oil. I prepared the tripe using these instructions. I’m assuming its so important to wash and sterilize it because of the risk of digestive tract bacteria; germ theory was probably not something a Tenement family would be familiar with.

It smelled like a fish tank when it was boiling. Or like a cat pooped in a sandbox.

When I was slicing up the tripe, I wasn’t sure if it would be best to go with small pieces, that might melt away into the broth, or larger pieces I could pick out if I wanted. I decided to go small, and also cut up two medium potatoes (.34 cents) and half of an onion (.05 cents). I added the onion to my pot first, to let it get a little color, then the tripe, and lastly the potatoes. I added a little salt and ground pepper.

I had saved the water in which I had boiled the macaroni the night before. Corson recommends drinking the starchy water for breakfast; while I wasn’t up for that, I couldn’t let all those nutrients go to waste. I whisked in 1/4 cup of flour and poured it in my soup pot. I brought the mix to a boil, then turned it down and let it simmer for 30 mins, until the potatoes were tender. It thickened considerably, but still maintaned that fish tank smell.

In the end, I am a big puss. I could handle one bite of the gummy organ meat; It really had some flavor that I associate with contaminated water. I ate out the potatoes, trying to taste them as little as possible.

Cost: .87 cents

Supper: Polenta

“This favorite Itallian dish is closely related to the hasty pudding of New England, and the mush of the South. “

After this afternoon, I was relieved to have something unchallenging for dinner. Polenta is easy and about one of the cheapest foods you can make, costing about .05 a serving. It can be made with water, milk, or leftover stock; and is improved by the addition of onions or cheese.

I made a third of this recipe for polenta. I ate half, and stored the rest away in the fridge for tomorrow. It was great.

Cost: .32 cents

Also had my daily apple and lemon half.

Total Cost: 1.96
Approximate Calories Consumed: 800

Running Total: 6.02-6.56