Tuesday, June 4, 2019

The Land of Giant Kitchen Things

Leafing through old cookbooks and vintage ephemera is one of my favorite ways to while away an afternoon. In particular, I love the illustrations and how they depict the fashions and housewares of an era as well as the style of book designers at the time.

A few months ago I was given a cache of old promotional cookbooks via my local Buy Nothing website and am still savoring them because I'm not quite ready to send them on their way to the next person fond of vintage things. There's always some new gem to discover in them!

This time, I noticed an inordinate fondness for Outsized Kitchen Appliances and Other Objects. Check it out:

It's 1947, and a phalanx of women stand before a behemoth of a Sunbeam Mixmaster. The One Mixmaster to rule them all! According to a price list in this promotional booklet, a Mixmaster with juicier will set you back $37.50. 

Accessories include many items that modern cooks might buy for today's mixers as well as a few I've never seen advertised for my Kitchen-Aid, such as a bean slicer, a pea sheller, and a butter churner.  And the Mixmaster, according to this booklet, attempts tasks I'd never have thought of using a mixer for: polishing and buffing silverware and sharpening knives.

The recipes include many perfectly decent-sounding meals as well as a few oddities, such as Macaroni Creole Loaf and one of those midcentury mainstrays, the Carrot Gelatin Salad.

Just think of the gigantic turkey you could roast in the monumental 1949 Montag! Why, it's so enormous, this little lady will need an extension ladder to reach the top and another one to reach the controls. I think this range is the real explanation behind the extinction of the Elephant Bird. 

The price of $289.75 shows that it was certainly a big investment at the time. You can get a perfectly decent range used at that price today. Granted, it won't be the size of a house like this one, but you'll probably be able to actually get it into your kitchen. No recipes for you--this was from a tattered bit of newspaper stuck in one of the booklets.

No date on this sales brochure, but it appears to be from the early 1950s, and the Mixmaster has certainly shrunk in size, though it is certainly ginormous compared to the puny household mixers of today. It's at least half the height of this woman, and she appears to be using it as a washing machine for bedsheets and laughing wickedly about it.

No recipes in the brochure, but you can flip through its pages and marvel at ordering a mixer in pink, yellow, turqoise, white, or chrome; buying a toaster that boasts "extra-high toast lift"; and delight in owning a hand mixer with "exclusive  thumb-tip beater ejector."

Appliances weren't the only supersized things in olden times. You could also catch fish that would feed a family for a year. But you probably had to buy a freezer the size of a city block to contain it.

It's 1963 now, baby, and we've got some groovy recipes for you in this Fleischmann's Yeast and Gold Medal Flour booklet. Why, you can make loaves of bread the size of your torso! (Together with the piscine wonder in the previous image, it's a veritable miracle of loaves and fishes.) 

In keeping with the pop psychology of the times, the breads in this booklet are no ordinary breads--they're Ego Batter Breads. They can't possibly go wrong! I'm OK, you're OK, the bread's OK! But to keep up that spirit of rebellion, you can always flip to the middle and make a Riot of Rolls, and then fast-forward to the end to whip up a batch of Gossipy Sweet Buns.

OK, there is nothing peculiarly outsized on this booklet's cover, but I do think the title is wrong. I don't think it's at all clever to pour a stream of spices into the food you're mixing up without watching what you're doing. This book should be called "How Not to Use Spices."

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