Friday, April 28, 2017

Everything New is Old Again: The Moscow Mule

Ah hipster, un-originality is thy name. The latest blast from the past to grace the drink menus of every bar and restaurant I've visited in the last three months is the Moscow Mule. Sure, it gets twisted and "reinvented' with rum or whiskey or artisan, hand-crafted tiddlywink juice from South Jub-Jub, but we all know under the frill and garnishes it's the same drink dressed up in funny clothing.

The first Moscow Mule was concocted in 1941 and served in the Cock and Bull Restaurant in LA. It's origin is most likely as described in a 2007 Wall Street Journal interview with Cock and Bull bartender Wes Price, "I just wanted to clean out the basement, I was trying to clear out dead stock..." Necessity, mother of invention and cocktails! As for the copper mugs, well signs point to John G. Martin who traveled the US promoting Smirnoff vodka and the Moscow Mule with specialty copper mugs. Since then the vessel has become the traditional container for the mule.

The ad to the left is from a May 1950 issue of Life Magazine and falls neatly into Martin's promotional tour. I'm assuming the "Gold Coast" mentioned in the ad copy references California and not Guinea Africa, but advertising never has had much to do with truth. The recipe very specially points you to Smirnoff and the Cock and Bull's house brand of Ginger Beer, though no copper mugs are specified (though Mr. Mule is holding one).

So, next time you're settling down in your retro pop-up commando food crafting hot spot and you pick up the bed pan ironically turned menu and see a handcrafted Haitian Mule...remember, you're not a special snowflake after all.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Kienzle Uhren - A Clock from the Past

If you’ve read any of my blog posts, you’ll know I do a lot of living in the past. Not socially - I’m not dressing up in a mourning coat and going to tea parties, but I do wear the good old rose-tinted glasses when viewing some parts parts of history and I live in a house filled with antiques, which brings me to the subject of this post.

I’ve always had a love of clocks. I think it started with the funky flip-card clock my mother bought at a garage sale. I remember sitting in my room and watching the small, spinning second wheel in anticipation of the next card falling. From there my horological obsession progressed to the grandfather clock that sat in my brother dining room house and spread out to just about every antique clock I’ve ever met which means it’s no surprise I’ve started collecting my clocks of my own.

My collection began about twenty years ago with a little Sessions mantle clock that I bought at a property sale. It’s a simple camel-backed clock that sits in our hallway and still bongs out the passing hours. Next came a cathedral Kenmore (yes as in washing machines) early electric clock. It’s old enough that the motor has to be hand-started when the power goes out. And the latest addition is the real reason I’m writing today.

I’ve been looking for a nice wall clock with some presence for a while and recently I found a promising one in an online auction. I put in a bid and lo and behold, we had a new addition to our family. After a few weeks and negotiating the minor rapids of shipping fragile antiques across state lines, a huge and heavy box arrived and we unpacked the long anticipated delivery.

In the auction the clock was simply listed as an “Antique German Wall Clock” and described as “working when left house”, however there’s always a risk when buying sight unseen. The clock arrived not only not working, but with the minute hand lodged between the glass and wood of the front case so that it couldn’t be opened. It didn’t take long to realize that the movement had shifted, sliding upward during shipping and jamming the hand. I managed to open the case without tearing a hand off the movement and discovered I had a project on my hands.

A case clock essentially consists of an exterior housing (the case) which contains and protects the mechanics of the clock (the movement) and dial. The movement is either mounted to the case or it sits on a shelf which may or may not be removable. In my clock this shelf had been replaced sometime in the past with a relatively flimsy piece of what looked like paneling. This had broken in half and subsequently been shoddily repaired which had, either prior to or during shipping, the repair had given way. Closer inspection also revealed that the hammers which strike the chimes had been badly bent, probably when the movement slid up inside the case. Relatively simple repairs (I hope).

My first move was to remove the movement from the case and detach it from the shelf, easy enough. I then made a preliminary effort to straighten the hammers, something I’m sure I’ll need to make adjustments to align the hammers with the chime bars once I remount the movement and put it back into the case. In the meantime I thought I’d do some research on the clock itself.
Often a clock will have the maker’s mark on the face of the dial, however mine only contained the words “Made in Germany”. I removed the movement to replace the shelf, so I checked the back and found a mark - a clock face with wings. A little internet wizardry revealed that this is the mark of the Kienzle Clock Company. Kienzle was founded in 1822 by Johannes Schenker and by the 1890’s had branches in Milan, Paris, and London. They started producing pendulum wall clocks, but eventually branched out into watches and alarm clocks and, by 1900, they were making time clocks. The company was innovative, adopting the “American Method” of making clocks with standardized parts and producing some of the first European wristwatches. Near the end of the thirties, Kienzle produced two of its most iconic clocks: the Zodiac and the World Time Clock, designs that reflected the Art Deco principles of streamlined, geometric design. But there’s always a problem when looking into the history of German products - World War II and the Nazis.

Kienzle’s hands aren’t clean when it comes to committing atrocities against the peoples of Europe. During the war they manufactured wrist and pocket watches for the Wehrmacht and Luftwaffe as well as chronograph 8-day clocks for use in Messerschmitt and Heinkel aircraft. Their factories employed slave labor from Poland and other conquered areas, meaning any watch or clock produced between 1933 and 1945 probably was produced by labor drawn from concentration camps and its cogs are likely oiled with the blood of oppressed people. You can probably understand my relief at finding the trademark on my clock dated its production to sometime in the 1890’s.

Kienzle survived the war, going on to produce dashboard clocks for Rolls-Royce and Bentley as well as some of the first self-winding, solar, and quartz clocks. In 1997 Kienzle was taken over by Highway Holdings Group, but it returned to Germany five years later as Kienzle AG. Where it used to have offices around the world, it now employs just 450 workers in Hamburg where it originally began.

So, now I embark on repairing the old 120 year-old ticker. With luck she’ll keep good time for another 100 years, marking minutes long after everyone’s forgotten my name. I’ll keep you updated on her progress.

The Funnies: Chasing Wild Cats (1920)

The work of William Donahey from a 1920's issue of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, It also appeared in Cartoons Magazine's May 1920 issue. His characters dead, empty eyes remind me of Harold Gray, the artist who gave the world Little Orphan Annie. Donahey would achieve fame for his Teeny Weenies strip which would run for 2100 strips and see merchandising as dolls, decals, clothing, handkerchiefs, and tins. He even had the mites shilling Monarch Foods and Reid-Murdoch.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Everything New is Old Again: Oxtail Soup

Being an avid watcher of cooking television, I've noticed some of the more hipster oriented shows have been venerating a certain bovine dish. To be fair, they're not claiming it's new; on the contrary they're hailing it as a classic, but if you're like me the hype eventually begins to get on your nerves. So here's to the tardy end of the ox - the tail - and the soup it becomes.

To be honest, ox tail soup probably has existed since before mankind domesticated cattle. I'm sure hunter-gatherers were figuring out ways to use the last part of the water buffalo to pass through the door, after all those were the days of waste not want not. However, the oldest recipe I could find for Ox Tail Soup dated back to 1896, the same year Fannie Farmer published her famous and still in print cookbook. The Handbook of Substance Stores: for the Use of the Army of the United States was published by the US War Department in the age of westward expansion and gold fever and was intended as a guide for stocking the strings of forts that enforced America's emanate domain. As you'd expect from a government publication, the instructions on how to make good ox tail soup is less than clear:

As you can tell, the intent was more how to purchase ox tail soup than to make it. I have to admit, though, that the lack of a detailed recipe is nothing new to anyone who pours over old cookbooks. It seems there was a time when a "cookbook" was less an instruction manual on how to cook certain dishes than a list of hints and tips intended to guide an already seasoned and schooled cook to success with their dishes. Note that the recipe above talks about the proper consistency, the amount of bones found in the ox tail, and the fattiness of the soup, but doesn't get specific about ingredients or amounts.

At about the same time the US Army was producing its field guide for stocking the larder a little company from New Jersey was getting its act together. Fruit vendor Joseph Campbell and ice box manufacturer Abraham Anderson banded together to form the Joseph A. Campbell Preserve Company - a catchy name, isn't it? In  1897 the company hired Dr. John Dorrance who would invent the process which would make Campbell's fortune - condensed soup. In 1904, with an advertising blitz which introduced the pudgy, be-freckled Campbell's Soup Kids, the company's full line of 21 different soups were introduced to the public - including ox tail soup.

As with any company that has been around for over a hundred years, offerings change as the tastes of the public change and somewhere in the dusty bins of time, Campbell's Ox Tail Soup was shelved. I doubt that the hipster rediscovery of this culinary artifact will bring about a reintroduction, the trends of the twenty-something generation are too fleeting and the moment a big corporation catches on the fad has jumped the proverbial ox cart. None the less, an interesting trip down memory lane...I wonder if mock turtle soup will catch on next?

Monday, April 17, 2017

The Funnies - Heaven (1914)

"Before you come in you might just leave your parcel with the rest of the rubbish."
Life Magazine, March 1914

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Monday, April 10, 2017

Monday, April 3, 2017

The Funnies - Garden Pest (1914)

Come here! Quick! There's a stegosaurus scratching up the garden!
Life Magazine, March 1914