I don’t seem to seek out old time refrigerator recipe cookbooks; they just find me. I’m developing a nice little collection. Recently my grandmother passed away at the age of 94, and one of her cookbooks was a 1927 General Electric cookbook, “Electric Refrigerator Recipes and Menus.” It must have been something she acquired second hand — she’d have been a bit young to use it much when it was first printed (not to mention I think she was away at boarding school and not doing much of her own cooking at that time.)
The cookbook is a little more sophisticated than some of the other refrigerator recipe books from this era. I decided to give a try to a tasty sounding recipe called “Pears Frozen with Ginger Ale.” Despite the title, the pears are not really frozen — merely chilled — and while the pears are evidently supposed to be the star of the dish, the actual composition is more of what we’d call a salad — unless you want to omit the lettuce. As it goes: -
Pears Frozen with Ginger Ale
Place pears in nests of lettuce leaves, fill center with Preserved ginger, chopped, or with chopped nuts, or with cream cheese, and serve with Mayonnaise dressing, Or omit lettuce and serve with whipped cream.
I used the lettuce (iceberg) and chopped nuts (walnuts) variation. How did it taste? Well… to anyone who’d eat it I would say, I hope you like mayonnaise, because that seemed to be the most flavorful element of this salad. The ginger ale coating on the pears didn’t really seem to shine through very much. It was just a kind of mayonnaisey walnut mixture for the most part. Pity.
I think for a modern palate perhaps instead of preserved ginger OR nuts OR cream cheese, the salad might seem better if it were made with all three. Also it seems like maybe if the mayonnaise were mixed with the ginger ale into a dressing it might play a little better – any of the ginger ale’s flavor really is quite covered up in the recipe as given. Alternately, using fresh pears instead of canned, and cooking them in the ginger ale might come out a little nicer and perhaps show a stronger flavor. Fresh fruit wasn’t always easy to get in the 1920s, by my understanding, so that’s probably the only reason canned pears were specified over fresh.
Frappéd Ginger Ale
Since I had quite a bit of ginger ale left over from this experiment, I tried another Refrigerator Recipe (from the chapter entitled “Frozen Delicacies to Tempt the Invalid”). This one is pretty simple. You freeze and periodically stir ginger ale till you get an icy mash, like a primitive version of a slushy. It is pretty hard to mess up – as long as the ginger ale is acceptable tasting to start with, so will be the final result. It took a lot longer to freeze than the book indicated – it said ice should begin to form within 15 minutes and the mixture would be ready in about 40 minutes. It took me almost an hour to even get ice forming.
Again, the taste of this is merely that of the ginger ale used; the texture is pretty much all that’s been changed. All in all, it’s felt by those who know that the cookery of the 1920s tends to be rather bland by today’s standards, and these experiments certainly agree with that conclusion. So much for ‘food like Grandma used to make’!
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