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Retro food. What does it mean to you ?


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Yes what a walk down Memory Lane. Dockhl, we're close in age and lots of this is familiar to me, too. I haven't thought about Harvey Wallbangers in years. Whiskey Sours and Screwdrivers are drinks that fall in the same category for me. I do make individual Beef Wellington's every once in a while these days though.

Jolly Time Popcorn... Jiffy Pop! Wasn't that the disposable pan that you rubbed/shook on the burner and it swelled all up?

Also from the retro lineup, shrimp cocktail, Steak Diane, and a few others make appearances in our house.

I think the funniest story attached to a retro dessert is when my husband and I made Baked Alaska a few years ago (the first and only time). We didn't look at it closely before putting it together, and we made a Baked Alaska that had 24 servings, for the two of us!

Oysters Rockefeller, Clams Casino, Lobster Thermidor, oh and there was another lobster dish when I was a kid that I always associated with Lobster Thermidor and I can't think of it's name... That is going to nag at me until I remember.

Life is short; eat the cheese course first.

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When I was a little girl and visited my grandmother in Lincoln, NE, we would lunch at the downtown Miller & Paine (a department store) and she'd always have chicken ala king.

Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"
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And then there is Cocquille St Jacques.  I've still got the shells around here somewhere.

yeah--that brings up escargot--I think I still have the little dishes for them and the shell holders.

Rumaki, yes, delicious--I did a 50s party a few years ago and served rumaki, vichyssoise, caesar salad, and a big chocolate cake for dessert--everyone loved the food--yes, I know, caesar salad is everywhere, but I made a "real" one--I think the recipe was from Joy of Cooking.

Another retro pleasure is iceberg lettuce--it is so crispy--a nice wedge of this with a buttermilk dressing.

Another salad--this just reminded me--my mother made spinach salad with a warm sweet and sour bacon dressing--I have to find out how she made that.

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Chicken (a la) Kiev? I remember having this for lazy Sunday dinner, with crusty bread or rice (I am Indian after all) to mop up the garlic butter...it was always such a struggle to distribute the garlic butter throughout all the rice that Mum would pile on the plate.

Interestingly, this is still a popular menu item in 'Continental' restaurants in Calcutta, where my parents grew up. If any of you ever find yourself there, the vast majority of the retro foods that have been mentioned on this thread (Lobster Thermidor et al) are mainstays to this day in all such restaurants.

Chicken Cordon Bleu was another one. And Chicken Tetrazzini. Creamy, cheesy stuff seems to feature quite highly.

My tuppence worth.

Raj

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I miss the Eastern European-Jewish foods of my childhood in the 1960's.

My mother hated this kind of cooking--she found her best cuisine when Hunanese and Szechuan cooking came into favor in the 1970's--but my best friend's mother knew how to dish up kasha varnishkes, stuffed derma (the thought of which sends some people gagging from the room), stuffed chicken neck.

My father loved an odd Ukrainian dish called Kottyetin--patties of ground beef mixed with spices and bread crumbs, the hotter the better and served very, very well-done.

I also miss the way we used to eat steak at home, always with sour pickles sliced and eaten bite-for-bite.

It seems very unlikely that the starchy, vegetable-light, cholesterol-heavy cooking of the shtetl will ever come back in this country...

Also, I used to love the fare at kosher "dairy" restaurants.

Kosher food gets a bad reputation because the trend is towards kosher fakes of trafe dishes--and fake shrimp, fake bacon, fake pork fred rice are never going to be pleasant things.

Take it on its own terms, and kosher can be wonderful. Like chilled soups with sour cream, or rich cottage cheese with fresh fruit, or smoked and spiced fish with creamy accompaniment.

Again, the fat--the calories--it's outrageous! My people have outgrown the need for such things. But I truly miss them.

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Oysters Rockefeller, Clams Casino, anything with some sort of cheesy/creamy sauce, Chicken Cordon Bleu, broccoli smothered in cheese sauce, shrimp cocktail, shrimp scampi.

-Sounds awfully rich!

-It is! That's why I serve it with ice cream to cut the sweetness!

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...

It seems very unlikely that the starchy, vegetable-light, cholesterol-heavy cooking of the shtetl will ever come back in this country...

Also, I used to love the fare at kosher "dairy" restaurants.

Kosher food gets a bad reputation because the trend is towards kosher fakes of trafe  dishes--and fake shrimp, fake bacon, fake pork fred rice are never going to be pleasant things.

Take it on its own terms, and kosher can be wonderful. Like chilled soups with sour cream, or rich cottage cheese with fresh fruit, or smoked and spiced fish with creamy accompaniment.

Again, the fat--the calories--it's outrageous! My people have outgrown the need for such things. But I truly miss them.

Or Blintzes.... yum.

Interestingly, there are a whole host of similar dishes in Austrian cooking called "Mehlspeisen" or "meals cooked with flour". They encompass dumplings, noodles, crepes, etc. that don't have meat but will have sugar, fruit, nuts, poppyseeds or quark/farmer's cheese. I don't know if these are considered retro in Austria now but I suspect so. They were a mainstay during times when meat was scarce to the tune of having meat once a week. I loved it when my Mom made Kaiserschmarren, Palatschinken or Plum Dumplings for dinner. She would usually make them when my Dad travelled for business and we would eat them with a fruit compote. (I still make them from time to time.)

edited to add: Great first post, Anewman102, and welcome to eGullet.

Edited by ludja (log)

"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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There seems to be some sort of trend here - that retro food = comfort food, particularly the food of childhood and "home"??

Happy Feasting

Janet (a.k.a The Old Foodie)

My Blog "The Old Foodie" gives you a short food history story each weekday day, always with a historic recipe, and sometimes a historic menu.

My email address is: theoldfoodie@fastmail.fm

Anything is bearable if you can make a story out of it. N. Scott Momaday

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There seems to be some sort of trend here - that retro food = comfort food, particularly the food of childhood and "home"??

Yeah, pretty much... but for me, if not more than the food of "home", it's the food of dining out as a kid with my parents, and the classics that were popular on the menus at that time.

Life is short; eat the cheese course first.

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I dont know if this qualifies, but man when the Fry Daddy first came out we fried everything! And was happy to do it! Fondue was all the rage, it made a bit of a come back, I saw one of the fondue pots in the store the other day. BooBerry cereal, bazooka joe bubble gum that came in a toothpaste like squeeze tube, wax lips at Holloween. (My hubby and I have been racking our brains here but neither of our families was much into parties and food...I am kind sad about that too, I would love to try some of the classics)

Boy that was a trip down memory lane....

"I eat fat back, because bacon is too lean"

-overheard from a 105 year old man

"The only time to eat diet food is while waiting for the steak to cook" - Julia Child

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Jolly Time Popcorn...  Jiffy Pop!  Wasn't that the disposable pan that you rubbed/shook on the burner and it swelled all up?

YES!

another lobster dish when I was a kid that I always associated with Lobster Thermidor and I can't think of it's name...  That is going to nag at me until I remember.

you are gonna love me tonight when you can SLEEP~ :biggrin:

Lobster Newburg.............

sherry, yum !

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Yes, that is it! Lobster Newburg... Wow. There was one restaurant where I was always undecided between the Lobster Thermidor and the Lobster Newburg. I was proud of myself at my young age for knowing the difference, LOL.

Ahhh yes good night and sweet dreams.

Life is short; eat the cheese course first.

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There seems to be some sort of trend here - that retro food = comfort food, particularly the food of childhood and "home"??

Perhaps it's anything our grandparents used to make. :smile:

A lot of the things I see on this thread are exactly what I'd have suggested, and they all seem to be the ingredients for fancy sit-down dinners when I was young.

Cocktails with canapes on trays, beef wellington, potatoes anna, french green beans with mushrooms, baked Alaska.

The cocktails had to be whiskey based with a cherry (was it whiskey sours I used to steal the liquor soaked cherry from?), and everyone smoking, too.

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Ohh, real blintzes...I don't know where I could taste such things nowadays.

I love Audtrian cooking. Visited Vienna as a young girl and thought the fruit jams, baked goods, etc. etc. were just heaven.

Now I eat at Cafe Sabarsky in Manhattan when I can--a modern rarification of cosmopolitan Viennese cuisine. And I read Joseph Wechsler. Such a different voice from today's food writers, but fascinating.

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Ohh, real blintzes...I don't know where I could taste such things nowadays.

I love Audtrian cooking. Visited Vienna as a young girl and thought the fruit jams, baked goods, etc. etc. were just heaven.

Now I eat at Cafe Sabarsky in Manhattan when I can--a modern rarification of cosmopolitan Viennese cuisine. And I read Joseph Wechsler. Such a different voice from today's food writers, but fascinating.

I like Cafe Sabarsky as well; it does have the real atmosphere of a Viennese coffeeshop and the pastries and cakes are good as well.

Re: the food writer, do you mean Joseph Wechsberg of "Blue Trout and Black Truffles" fame or someone else? Wechsberg's writing is indeed special and from another era.

Edited by ludja (log)

"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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French Onion Soup with the croutons in the earthen bowl with the handle. And lots of gooey white cheese!

Jellied Salads, Tuna Casserole, Sweet and Sour Meatballs. Casseroles of any kind.

My mother used to make Tomato Aspic Salad with Shrimp Dressing and recently I started to make it. I put more Tobasco Sauce in the jelly in and combined creme fraiche with large cooked shrimp for the dressing. It was a hit at an artists potluck dinner.

Edited by pumkin (log)
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Here's something so retro it's nouvelle: Lobscouse and Spotted Dog

And pretty damned tasty, too. I could eat lobscouse or one of its variations every week and not grow bored.

This whole love/hate thing would be a lot easier if it was just hate.

Bring me your finest food, stuffed with your second finest!

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Wow! An overwhelming number of these retro dishes were our take-out bestsellers I was managing a gourmet food store last year. And we almost always did shrimp cocktail or some variation when catering. People adore it!!

I don't know the name of the retro food I most remember (this was during the 70s). Grind ham in a hand crank meat grinder, then mix with mayo, pimentos, pickles(?), and orange cheese. Spread on crackers or use in sandwiches. I remember making this with my mom regularly and we usually had a tub of this meat spread in our fridge. I loved it, although it sounds ghastly now. Guess I better find out from mom what this actually was.

Julie Layne

"...a good little eater."

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How many people make vegetable terrines these days?

Eat kiwi fruit?

Make focaccia?

Whip up a chocolate mousse?

Use their copy of The Silver Palate Cookbook?*

* * *

As a nation, the United States gets more of my respect these days for the range of so-called ethnic or foreign cuisines that people outside those traditions prepare, buy or eat. It took a lot of blondes to make salsa more popular than ketchup, opinions of bottled vs. fresh product and the ambiguity of the word "salsa" aside.

Yet, one thing that annoys me sometimes, or simply perplexes me at others, is the idea of the food trend. The notion of "retro" food is tied to the fact that things go in and out of style.

For example, bleudauvergne might pipe up and say that she's in the middle of layering leek greens over a mold and there's a pile of orange, red, yellow, white and green vegetables on the counter to go into the terrine.

A resident of Milan would be amused to see osso buco mentioned as a retro dish. It's made all the time.

Same with focaccia, a relatively flat raised bread, dimpled and oil-slickened that appeared in pages of cooking magazines and on tables in Iowa back in the eighties through part of the nineties until somehow ciabatta became the new focaccia. Focaccia is just a fact of life throughout much of Italy and, I dearly hope, always will be.

* * *

Something else that puzzles me is how food becomes retro even when there is no evidence that it's slipped out of style and made a come-back.

Take macaroni and cheese. That's a little easier to gauge because it's also comfort food, associated with youth by generations that don't cook as much as their grandmothers did, including celebs who hang out in fashionable LA restaurants that become famous for their Fabulous versions of crusty mac & cheese.

Then there's meatloaf. Families never stop making it at home, but it's suddenly got the aura of sleek Art Deco chrome and Diner cache draped over it like so many strips of bacon.

Same with the Shepherd's Pie at this little place (that used to be?) close to Harvard Square. The Brit side of my family makes it year round year after year. Staple.

All three examples that I've given are comfort foods, but there might be other categories.

* * *

Another matter has to do with health. I remember a conversation back in the 80s when Anastashia declared, "Who eats bacon anymore?" Two of us dressed her down, of course, but I do know that I bought far less back then than I do now when it is, for the most part, free of sodium nitrates. (No sneers, please. I know what you are going to say.) So for me, bacon is retro.

*I haven't touched that book in years, yet it is a touchstone for the foods that were fashionable in its time (1980s). I don't think it's as dated as Craig Claiborne's NYT cookbook where some of the recipes (vichyssoise, salmon mousse, casseroles recommended for dinner parties) do smell faintly of tarragon and mothballs, but I turn to that quite frequently for basic information, a few core recipes and general good sense.

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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Cake made with liquor...they also made a popular cocktail with the booze and o.j. Yellow stuff...what is the name??? Big ad campaign with recipies for all sorts of things you could put it in.

Are you thinking of Galliano and Harvey Wallbangers?

Thank You! Yes! Mom loved those things.

And I make focaccia...gotta do something with all that rosemary.

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