Monday, November 30, 2015

The Funnies - None of the Vices (1919)

"Your wife doesn't smoke, eh? None of the vices?"
"No, she only drinks and swears."
April 1919, Life Magazine

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Holy WTF!

I spend a lot of time looking for seasonal ads and articles to feature on the blog. Like most anyone who is into blogging finds themselves spending time asking the "what next" question and that question sometimes leads you into strange and disturbing places. Such was the fall of 2015 which led me to the ad below.

It's an ad for a Textron, a company which is still in existence today. They started out with textiles and since have diversified, owning properties such as Bell Helicopter. Back in the 40's when this ad ran in Life Magazine they were happy to pimp synthetic pajamas and underwear. At least I assume that was the intention of  what has become known as the ad.

Let's dive in a little, and I'll let the margins run wild so that you get the full effect. Just let it soak in for a few moments...

Nothing like a little homoerotic log-pulling to sell PJ's. Most of the time I chalk the squiggly feeling that comes from some of these ads to the times. There are plenty of sexist, racist, and elitist ads which are truly cringe worthy, but this is something different. A dreamland log-ride must be a euphemism somewhere.

Meanwhile the centaur-deer women are looking on and giggling. Yes, I said centaur deer women. There they are, clad in nothing but antlers and garland. By the way, for those of you who aren't familiar with deer, it's only the fellows who've got the antlers. The rules may be different for half human magical creatures, one can never really be sure about these things. I'm only guessing that Textron consulted the appropriate magic tomes.

The artist is an Austrian by the name of Fredrick "Fritz" Siebel. Fritz came to the US in 1936, fleeing growing unrest at the urging of his Grandmother. He struggled to save his family from Hitler's Nazi forces, but was unsuccessful and they perished at the hands of the Nazis. He went to work for Paramount Pictures where he worked producing movie posters from a New York theater on Broadway.

In 1938 he entered a poster contest sponsored by the Devoe and Reynolds Painting Company and judged by Eleanor Roosevelt. The aim of the contest was to promote the importance of protecting the country's security in the face of escalating foreign tensions, and his winning entry Someone Talked was displayed in Radio City and used by the Office of War Information (a predecessor of the OSS).

Fritz would return to Europe as a member of the United States Army where he served from 1941 - 1943. Thereafter he went on to be an illustrator creating magazine covers and ads for Jello and Joy Detergent as well as (apparently) Textron. He'd later illustrate children's books, hopefully without log rides or centauresses.

So, there you have it, a trip down the weird turnpike.

Happy National French Toast Day!

I'm pretty sure some of the observances I find really only exist on the internet. I mean, National French Toast Day? Sure, I like French toast, but should it have its own day? I guess, if you're a toast-head and feel strongly enough to march on the Bastille for your right to soak bread in milk and eggs, we'll today is your day.

What's potentially the first ever recipe for French toast actually appeared in the Roman collection of recipes. Apicius. Searching You can find a 2009 translation of the work on Project Gutenberg and within its digital pages you'll find a recipe for Aliter Dulcia which loosely translates to "otherwise sweet" (at least to the best I can determine). If you're interested in cooking a 5th century version of French Toast, here's how:

Break (slice) fine white bread, crust removed, into rather large pieces which soak in milk (and beaten eggs). Fry in oil. Cover with honey and serve.

Like most early recipes, this one is short on methods and measurements. There's no micromanaging the amount of time you soak the bread, no instructions on how thick to slice the bread, nothing saying you should only use artisan oil crushed from the pits of olives from a mysterious village in Southern Umbria. We've been a culture of perfect, of Martha Stewart judgmentalism, where nothing's worth doing if it's not nearly flipping impossible and worthy of Instragram bragging rights. Anyway, if you want a more modern recipe, check out this one from the French Cook Book for American Families, by Xavier Raskin, published in 1922:

Friday, November 27, 2015

Thanksgiving Dinner - The Aftermath

Whether too much turkey or the Black Friday blues, there's one cure.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving!

Here's hoping in a world of uncertainty you find yourselves with friends, family, comfort, and peace on this Thanksgiving day.

Singing for Thanksgiving Dinner - Every Night I Bring Her Frankfurter Sandwiches (1920?)

Ah, hot dog! Sandwiches for Thanksgiving! Reminds me of my twenties when I'd gather with a bunch of the other misfits to have what we called "The Lost Boys Thanksgiving". Dinner then consisted of anything you could get at a convenience store supplemented with fast food. Ah for the fortitude of years past.

Thanksgiving Dinner - Cloverbloom Turkey

Some of you may have just got up to begin the annual, November turkey ritual. Stumbling to the kitchen to put the bird in the roasting pan and pre-heat the oven. A few foggy-headed fiddlings with salting and peppering and then a somnambulistic slog back to bed and a few more hours of blessed sleep before the onslaught to turkey zero-hour truly begins. By the time you rise, the house already has started to smell like Thanksgiving - that warm, baking bird aroma that hangs in the air in spite of the fact the bird's still frozen to its core.

At one time Armour was a player in all things meat. They sold steaks, they sold poultry, and they sold potted meat product. If it was meat, Armour sold it somewhere and that included the centerpiece of the Turkey Day feast. As I look at this ad, I can't help by think how time's turned up our expectations both in presentation and quantity.

Today no poulterer worth their salt would dare advertise a bird that hadn't been brined, glazed, smothered in exotic spices and citrus, professionally photographed, and PhotoShopped to the point it bore no resemblance to its former self. It's a byproduct of the 24 hour Food Network cycle. Now a simple roasted turkey can't really be simple, it's got to be spiced, or plumped, or boozed, or deep fried, or whatever before it can be considered a success.

The second thing I noticed is how small  the bird in the ad seems. I mean it looks practically chicken-like there on its simple platter with cranberry tartlets and a few wilted greens for a garnish. According to the Atlantic, in 2013 the average weight of the American thanksgiving turkey passed 30lbs, big enough to eclipse the platter and encroach on the peas in Armour's paltry poultry picture. I'd be surprised if the bird shown in the 1947 ad weighed in at more than ten pounds after being stuffed. Then again, the average American probably weighed a third as much back in 1947 what with the Great Depression and four years of war rationing their dinner choices.

All of that said, what will I be doing today? Getting up at the crack of dawn to set thirty pounds of turkey flesh in the oven. I just have to decide whether I want to do Wild Turkey Honey-Glazed or Five Spice Rubbed.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Thanksgiving Dinner - Another Helping of Jello

Kate Smith holding a cup of Jello like it just might explode at any moment. Yes, please eat cow hooves, now I'll go back to my caviar. Kate had a radio hour program from 1937 through 1945, but I doubt she ate any Jello during that time.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Thanksgiving Dinner - Kraft Caramel Sauce

Can't have ice cream without fudge or caramel sauce! 1957 ad for Kraft's desert offerings looks like it could be an ad for motor oil. Ah the fifties.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Thanksgiving Dinner - Ann Page Mayonnaise and Salad Dressing

I can't be sure, but I believe Ann Page was the A&P store brand of mayonnaise and salad dressing back in the 1950's. I find ads for it, all associated with the store chain, but nothing about it outside A&P. Obviously it was the discount brand, but still.

The photography is typical 50's, it makes even the most appetizing look disgusting. I do find it interesting that this is an ad for both mayonnaise and salad dressing, but every recipe suggestion is for salad dressing alone. Anyway, good for the leftovers that'll be piling up after the holiday! You don't want a turkey on rye without the mayo, that just wouldn't be right.

The Funnies - No Turkey (1915)

"No, children, father finds he can't go out after turkey to-day."
Life Magazine, November 4, 1915

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Thanksgiving Dinner - Heinz 57

We've already met Hunt's so how about the other Ketchup king, Heinz? This 1938 ad features, I believe, Norman Bates mother before what we'll call "the incident". She looks less like she's inviting us to enjoy a helping from her terrine of soup than threatening us with dire consequences lest we meet her demands.

Note the center, bottom image? Canned puddings. Apparently popular, though that doesn't explain why you'd dress in black and set fire to them. Probably why they're not sold anymore.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Thanksgiving Dinner - Pumpkin Pie!

I didn't know Dinah Shore had a position on the presence of pumpkin pie on the Thanksgiving table. One thing is clear, she's not aware pumpkin is squash, but we're getting into the weeds here because what the spokeswoman for Birds Eye is trying to do is sell you on the idea you can make your pumpkin pie with plain old yellow squash. Never tried it and I'm pretty sure I never will. I do dig the lecherous cat, though.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Thanksgiving Dinner - Planters Nuts

Planters, a part of every holiday I can remember. In the early years it was mainly Spanish Peanuts, the kind with the papery, red skins still attached. Later we had mixed nuts and cashews, the cashews never lasted and the mixed nuts always were whittled down to nothing but Brazil nuts by the end of the evening. Too bad I didn't learn to like those until big family holiday gatherings were a thing of the past. I guess we don't always grow into ourselves in time, do we?

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Thanksgiving Dinner - Libby's

In the 1920's there was a craze for ads like this one from Libby's. They shill a product in the guise of life advice. Life could be so much easier, stylish, and classy if you'd only use the product and in just such a way...a way that requires three additional products from the company. Not sure about any of these recipes, I don't really see any usable instructions and I can't say I'm in the mood to try Mince-Meat Priscilla or Columbus Canape!

The Funnies - Special Edition: National Smokeout Day

Out of the Mouths of Babes
"Oh darn it. I've forgotten my cigarettes."
Never mind, Auntie; have one of mine."
Life Magazine, 1922

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Thanksgiving Dinner - The Borden's Cheese Board

I have to say if an anthropomorphic Elsie offered me a selection from her cheese tray, I'd have to think twice. Borden's was splitting the difference between holidays with this ad that aired in November of 1950. They mention "feast" while showing pine boughs and ornaments.

I also noticed the tray down in the lower right corner features Liederkranz cheese. For those of you who don't know, this is the American version of Limburger cheese. It was created in 1891 by by Emil Frey who would go on to create Velveeta, that staple of American cuisine and hardener of arteries all around the world.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Thanksgiving Dinner - Campbell's Soup

Not sure how well a plate of soup would work. A bowl, yes, but a plate...not so much. I'm also not so sure about ads that feature poor ol' Tom Turkey being led to the chopping block. I guess I'm just soft that way.

The bit of ad agency verse over the Campbell Soup Kid reads:

I've done my stunt and in my hunt
I had most lively rambles
I've caught a turk - a good day's work
And also got my Campbell's

Yeah, Wordsworth it ain't.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Thanksgiving Dinner - Pumpkin Pie

A rare three-parter brought to you by Libby's, Pillsbury, The American Dairy Association, and 1950's sexism.

The Funnies - Household Note (1917)

Household Note
To avoid the odor of onions, peel them under water

Sunday, November 15, 2015

59 Pontiac Bonneville, Star Chief, and Catalina

Something bad is happening here. I get the feeling the guy in the Pontiac Catalina just picked up the blond in the passenger seat and they're heading to a seedy motel where something untoward will occur. It'll be the sort of thing that can only be fully told in a film noir feature. Someone will kill someone by the end of the second reel and the bad guy (or girl) will get away, or will they? After all, do any of us ever really get away? Can we really escape our conscience, karma, or fate? No, this all will end in tears...tears fill the dirty gutters of the big city, they mix with the rain and pour down the storm drains and nobody cares.

Thanksgiving Dinner - Kraft Singles

More flavor than what? Who knew Kraft used to offer five flavors of pasteurized cheese slices? I have to wonder what the nut sweet variety tasted like. Something tells me it wasn't nuts. I also can't imagine serving fruit tarts with Kraft Singles cutouts as decorations.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Thanksgiving Dinner - Lima Beans

I can't imagine any kid calling Lima beans "the swellest".

Friday, November 13, 2015

Thanksgiving Dinner - Soup

Usually I wouldn't choose a Campbell's ad as part of the turkey day buffet, but this one struck me both because it features mushroom soup which seems to be the key element of every green bean casserole I've ever eaten and the model for the mother reminds me of a friend. Interesting that the "soup for lunch" includes a grilled cheese sandwich and pudding with whipped cream topping. Kind of defeats the whole soup for lunch thing, doesn't it?

The unstated reason that mother is away in this ad is the war effort. Rosie the riveter meant the kids sometimes were left to fend for themselves. Nice that the kids kept up the stereotypes while mom was away. They always were thoughtful that way.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Thanksgiving Dinner - Creme Yvette Pancakes

I'm not sure the name "French Pancake Yvette" is very fitting when the Creme Yvette is just used as a substitute for syrup, but I guess it could be a struggle to find a non-cocktail application for the violet flavored liquor. According to the maker's website, Creme Yvette's history begins in the late 19th century. As the ad indicates, it was produced by the Sheffield Company out of Connecticut. Cocktail culture has brought the art nouveau-era back from extinction and it's now produced by the Cooper Spirits Company out of France.

I'm not sure if I'll be trying the pancake recipe for Thanksgiving breakfast, but I'm definitely going to do a version of the Cream Cups French Style. More once I've given it a go.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Extra Helping - Nestles Fighting Chocolate

An extra helping of chocolate on this Veteran's Day. Nestles ad from the mid-forties promoting the caloric content of chocolate. There's something you won't see today! Now we have to invent flavonoids to justify wolfing down a candy bar, but back in the 1940's they were good with "it's got lots of calories!"

Happy Veteran's Day

Thanksgiving Dinner - Raisin Pie

Sun Maid is a brand that you'll still see in supermarkets and lunchboxes today, but it got its start in 1873. I've had them on salads and eaten them by the handful, but I've never had Puffed Raisin Pie. Maybe something to try this Thanksgiving?

I'm not sure how many men the raisin maid had, but apparently they all love pie.

The Funnies - Special Edition: Happy Armistice Day

"Do ye favor this here soldiers' bonus?"
"Well, it's like this: if I sh'd fall into the crick and you'd pull me out so'st I wouldn't drown, and I'd offer ye a dollar and a half with ten per cent off fer cash, wot'd ye think o' me?"
Life Magazine, 1922

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

French Lick in 1944

Sometimes insomnia leads you to interesting discoveries. Tonight, after several hours of fruitless pillow surfing I dug into the Life Magazine archives to while away the midnight hours and I came across a 1944 article about the French Lick spa, what we currently call the West Baden Hotel. Back in the days of World War II, French Lick was slowly passing into obscurity. It'd been a Midwestern hot spot during the Jazz Age, but by black '44 the "It Girls" who'd rouged their knees and caught the midday train from West Baden to the Kentucky Derby had joined the varicose vein club and were more interested in Pluto Springs' purported ability to maintain regularity than catching the eye of the fellows.

Even the staff looks a bit past prime. Hard eyed fellows who looked like they belonged at the sort of sanitarium where the guests aren't allowed to leave whenever they want. It wouldn't be long until the statue of Pluto would be gone from the entryway and the state would be looking for someone to take on the tremendous job of maintaining the hotel and its sprawling grounds.

Eventually a group of Jesuits from Chicago took over the hotel and its grounds. Sometime in the fifties they poured concrete into the springs rather than maintain them, but even with the help of God they couldn't keep the place up. Today all that remains of their attempt is a tiny Jesuit graveyard on the property. It'd take a multi-millionaire with an eye for historic preservation to bring the hotel back to something like it's original glory. I guess money goes where angels can't afford to tread.

Anyway, it was nice to see the place as it used to be - even if it wasn't at its prime. A glimpse of a simpler time whose days were numbered back when this article ran. An ocean away the children or grandchildren of these folks probably were fighting the Nazis or the Japanese. The Grim Reaper was sitting on the veranda, rocking in one of the hotel's famed rocking chairs, and waiting to sweep all of this aside. Time waits for no one and nothing.

Thanksgiving Dinner - More Mince Meat

There's something wrong about cows shilling mince meat, but I did like the tagline "How much do parents owe their children?" Apparently Borden's Elsie the Cow had a fractious family life we never knew about. Every time I see one of these ads, I think about the Honeymooners - and that's probably not an accident.

Monday, November 9, 2015

The Funnies - Land of Make Believe (1917)

The Road to the Land of Make Believe

Thanksgiving Dinner - Mince Meat Pie

Many times I've heard about mince meat pie, but I never really knew what it was. Now that I do, I don't think I want to know any more. Nothing like a nice fruit pie that includes chopped beef and suet. Yep, I said suet, the same stuff you put in your bird feeder. The first place I'm reducing the amount of fat I eat during the Thanksgiving season is cutting out suet.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Thanksgiving Dinner - Ballantine Ale

Back in the day the extended family's Thanksgiving dinner never included Ballantine, the beer of choice was something like Budweiser or Hamm's - probably the reason it took me forty years to learn to like beer. What attracted me to this 1943 Ballantine ad wasn't the beer, it actually was the "Car of the Future" the featured couple is swooning over. I want to reach back through time to tell them plastic cars aren't such a great thing. Trust me, go with steel and chrome, you'll be much happier.

Thanksgiving Dinner - Meat Pie

Okay, so it's not technically a food ad, but it does have a budget-saver recipe. Hey, what more could you ask? Besides, I omitted a contribution to the holiday groaning board yesterday so I owe you a double-dose.

This ad ran in 1942, the dark days of World War II when Thanksgiving meant being glad the boys had finally broken out of El Alamein and the Rommel and the Nazis were in retreat. On the home front mom was welding bomber fuselages while dad was carrying a rifle and rationing was in full swing so the big Turkey Day dinner wasn't all that big.

Hundreds of Victory recipes were printed in magazines and newspapers, all promising to stretch a dollar and put a hot, healthy meal on the table with as little effort as possible. Hence the Budget-Saver Meat Pie! Basically meatloaf topped with mashed potatoes. Nothing says "victory" like mashed potatoes.

But, maybe I'm missing the point here. You see, today we're in the midst of our own war. We've been in the midst of it for almost two decades now and the only thing on the horizon seems to be escalation as all the Middle East unravels and the Russians start putting their toe in to test the temperature. All the while we're still fixated on football, food, and the fakery of reality television. We don't share the pains of war, not even in the slightest, so why should we care to avoid it? It's become something that happens over there and involves a bunch of poor kids and immigrants in uniform. Nothing the privileged classes should worry about, we just have another helping of lotus and sleep on while others bleed.

So, maybe this Thanksgiving we should omit the turkey. Maybe this year we should send it to the troops or the impoverished or the refugees who've lost everything to conflict and hatred. Maybe we should set an empty platter in the center of the table, warmed for the day when we can truly be thankful that the war has ended and the families who've been torn apart by these conflicts can sit together around their own tables in their own homes.

(A Little Over) 1000 Posts!

A belated celebration of 1000 posts on The Gentleman from Indiana. In the years I've been working on this blog it's matured from stilted prattle about writing to inane selections from old publications, old ads, and occasional prattle about writing. Here's to another 1000 posts and years more fun rummaging through the archives!

Friday, November 6, 2015

Thanksgiving Dinner - Del Monte

We've had raisin pie, now Almond Peach and Rosy Pear, both of which sound better than a pie made of raisins!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Thanksgiving Dinner - Jello

Jello, bane of school lunches, wiggly wrong on the dinner table, it's hard to imagine gelatin as a special treat during the holidays as General Foods would have you believe in this 1945 ad. Then there are the flavor combinations, harbingers of the horrifying aspics that would show up in the 1950's. Ever envision combining cinnamon toast with chocolate pudding? How about butterscotch and peppermint candy?

To me, the most interesting part of this ad is the little statement down in the lower left corner. "When the sugar shortage eases..." In 1945, even with the war at its end, rationing hadn't stopped. The American consumer was waiting for the salad years, waiting for the time when the world's larder would reopen and everyone could have Jello pudding.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Thanksgiving Dinner - Pass the Peas

Peas always were a staple on my grandparents' Thanksgiving table. Somewhere between the turkey, stuffing, dumplings, mashed potatoes, and casseroles there'd always be a little dish of peas quietly minding their own business. They kind of filled the space between dishes, like some kind of table decoration or a dish of obligation. I'm sure someone ate them, either that or they wound up in a stew concocted of leftovers that got served all the way through the New Year.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Thanksgiving - Brer Rabbit Black Strap Molasses

For me, molasses means one thing - gingerbread. One of the first traditions I created for myself was baking gingerbread once the weather turned cold. With frost arriving early this year, that set the opening of gingerbread season in mid-October. The thought brings the spicy scent of baking loaves to mind.

The Funnies - Election Day Bonus (1920)

"Get together, you poor simps, and do something. I'm sick of both of you."

Life Magazine, January 1, 1920

I guess some things never change. Funny how we tend to think we're the first generation with politicians who'd rather behave like two-year-olds than adults.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Thanksgiving Dinner - Hunts Catsup

Ketchup or catsup? My first instinct when writing the word is to use catsup, and I can't really tell you why. Both words mean the same thing, a spicy/sweet sauce made from ripe tomatoes, so what's the difference? Well, when you get right down to it, there really aren't any.

Both ketchup and catsup trace their origin to the mangling of a Chinese term for fish sauce: ke-tsiap. As the condiment migrated through southeast Asia it's name was localized and when 17th century English sailors took to the sauce, the name was further anglicized to compensate for sounds that simply didn't work for the Anglo palate. In the 1800's you could point to the fact that British English speakers were more likely to use the "ketchup" spelling while American English speakers most commonly used "catsup".

Those of you who are fans of Mad Men may have seen the episode featuring a fake sales pitch to Heinz promoting changing the spelling to ketchup in order to differentiate the product in the eyes of US consumers. While that meeting was fictional, according to a Slate interview:

"Henry John Heinz first brought his product to market as “Heinz Tomato Catsup,” but changed the spelling early on to distinguish it from competitors. Del Monte did not switch spellings until 1988, after it became clear that ketchup was the spelling of choice for American consumers. Hunt’s switched the name of their product from catsup to ketchup significantly earlier."

So, at least according to the sources I can find, if you say "ketchup" is right you've got corporate America behind you. If you choose "catsup", well you're an old school rebel and here's to you!

Shopping for Thanksgiving's Bounty with DuPont

Cellophane was invented in 1900, thirty-some years before this ad ran for DuPont's version of the plastic. Now the sexism (and bad poetry) along with the Hermie the Dentist Elf heads are about all that stand out. Cellophane no longer is the plastic of choice for wrapping most food products and we've sank deeper into petro-chemical culture. No doubt we'll all be purchasing dozens of plastic-wrapped ingredients this Thanksgiving season, from turkey to potatoes.

The Funnies - No Accident (1904)

"But, brothers, this is no accident. It's the regular thing with us."
Life Magazine, November 1904