“A Calendar of Dinners” Revisited

More recipes from "A Calendar..."

  Hidden far back on a shelf in my kitchen, I discovered a destroyed cookbook. The pieces that remained were sealed in a zip-lock bag. It first belonged to my great-grandmother, Clara Hughes Richardson, otherwise known as “Mud,” who was into healthy living and cooking; following  the advice of Gaylord Hauser and Edgar Cayce. Over the years, the book worked its way through the family down to me. After doing a little research, I discovered that I was the owner of the original Crisco bible – “A Calendar of Dinners” – featuring 615 recipes. It was written by Marion Harris Neil for Proctor and Gamble and printed in 1913.
  History of this “new grease” (originally named “Krispo”) and the excitement associated with it was detailed in the book’s beginning. One paragraph entitled, “A Need Anticipated,” documents the desperation in the U.S. for an alternative fat. Crisco, being a pure “vegetable oil”  was the answer!  

  “Great foresight was shown in the making of Crisco,” they said.
  “The quality, as well as the quantity,” of lard was diminishing steadily in the face of a growing population. Prices were rising. “The high-cost-of-living” was an oft-repeated phrase. Also, our country was outgrowing its supply of butter. What was needed, therefore, was not a substitute, but something better than these fats, some product which not only would accomplish as much in cookery, but a great deal more.”  

  “Cooking revolves around three primary fats.”  They listed:

“Butter     Lard     Crisco”  

  In the chapter “The Story of Crisco,” its manufacture was described in detail, telling of the ultra-sterile machines that blended the product, which “was never touched by a human hand.”  

   “A Woman Can Throw Out More with a Teaspoon than a Man Can Bring Home in a Wagon”  

  Brief, “Interesting Facts” were listed, among them being Crisco’s appeal to hospitals for its health benefits, its use in home economics classes, how it had become a favorite for hikers, as well as being a must in every Kosher kitchen. It was a big hit on ocean liners! 

  Crisco, sold only by net weight, came in a can that was treasured by housewives for canning fruits and vegetables.  

  And then there were the recipes…oh, the recipes.  

  The back of the book gives a years’ worth of dinner menus – all featuring at least one Crisco inspired selection. To honor today (and today should be honored) I’m passing along October 2nd’s dish of the day. It is a dessert:  

Orange Pie  

*Orange Pie – Line pie tin with Crisco pastry. Beat yolks of 3 eggs with 1 cup sugar til light; add 1 tablespoon cornstarch, 2/3 cup milk, grated rind and strained juice of 1 orange. Place in double boiler and stir til it thickens, then pour on to crust and bake 30 minutes. Cover top with meringue made with whites of eggs and sweetened with 3 tablespoons sugar and flavored with 1 teaspoon orange extract. Place in oven to brown.  

Plain Crisco Pastry  

1 1/2 cupfuls flour                                                               1/2 teaspoonful salt
   1/2 cupful Crisco                                                                      Cold water  

  Sift  flour and salt and cut Crisco into flour with knife until finely divided. Finger tips may be used to finish blending materials. Add gradually sufficient water to make stiff paste. Water should be added sparingly and mixed with knife through dry ingredients. Form lightly and quickly with hand into dough; roll out on slightly floured board, about one-quarter inch thick. Use light motion in handling rolling-pin, and roll from center outward.
  Sufficient for one small pie.  

  Orange Pie is one of the recipes that has a big “X” scribbled to the side, indicating that it was one of Mud’s favorites. When Halloween rolls around, and you’re trying to think of an orange-colored dessert other than pumpkin pie, maybe this deserves consideration. But then again, maybe not.  

  Unlike the original formula, which was primarily hydrogenated cottonseed oil,  Crisco today is produced by Smucker’s and is trans-fat free. While still not exactly a health food, it is far better than it was.

  …and if anyone can figure out the statement about the teaspoon and the wagon, please be kind enough to let me know. 



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