Sparkling Vintage Fiction. Among other things.

31 Days of Summer, Day 29: A Motor Picnic

picnic-3We’ve met Bettina before, from the 1917 book A Thousand Ways to Please a Husband, in which newlywed Bettina learns to cook and keep house for herself and her husband, Bob. In this excerpt,

“Hello, Bettina; this is Bob. What are you having for dinner tonight?”

“It’s all in the oven! Why?”

“Couldn’t you manage to make a picnic supper of it? One of the men at the office has invited us to go motoring tonight with him and his wife, and of course, I said we’d be delighted. They’re boarding, poor things, and I asked if we couldn’t bring the supper. He seemed glad to have me suggest it. I suppose he hasn’t had any home cooking for months. Do you suppose you could manage the lunch? How about it?”

“Why, let me think. How soon must we start?”

“We’ll be there in an hour or a little less. Don’t bother about it–get anything you happen to have.”

“It’s fine to go, dear. Of course I’ll be ready. Good-bye!”

Bettina’s brain was busy. There was a veal loaf baking in the oven while, on the table, a fresh loaf of Boston brown bread stood cooling. Her potatoes were cooked already for creaming, and although old potatoes would have been better for the purpose, she might make a salad of them. As she hastily put on some eggs to hard-cook, she inspected her ice box. Yes, those cold green beans, left from last night’s dinner, would be good in the salad. What else? “It needs something to give it character,” she reflected. “A little canned pimiento–and, yes–a few of the pickles in that jar.”

Of course, she had salad dressing–she was never without it. Sandwiches? The brown bread would be too fresh and soft for sandwiches, but she could keep it hot, and take some butter along. “I’m glad it is cool today. We’ll need hot coffee in the thermos bottle, and I can make it a warm supper–except for the salad.”

“How lucky it is that I made those Spanish buns! And the bananas that were to have been sliced for dessert, I can just take along whole.”

When Bettina heard the auto horn, and then Bob’s voice, she was putting on her hat.

“Well, Betty, could you manage it?”

“Yes, indeed, dear. Everything is ready. The thermos bottle has coffee in it, piping hot; the lunch basket over there is packed with the warm things wrapped tight, and that pail with the burlap over it is a temporary ice box. It holds a piece of ice, and beside it is the cream for the coffee and the potato salad. It is cool today, but I thought it best to pack them that way.”

“You are the best little housekeeper in this town,” said Bob as he kissed her. “I don’t believe anyone else could have managed a picnic supper on such short notice. Come on out and meet Mr. and Mrs. Dixon. May I tell them that they have a fine spread coming?”

“Don’t you dare, sir. It’s a very ordinary kind of a supper and even you are apt to be disappointed.”

But he wasn’t.

Bettina’s picnic supper that cool day consisted of:

Warm Veal Loaf
Cold Potato Salad
Fresh Brown Bread
Butter
Spanish Buns
Bananas
Hot Coffee

Bettina’s Boston Brown Bread (six portions)

1 cup rye or graham flour
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup white flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons soda
3/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup sugar
1-1/2 cup sour milk or 1-1/4 cup sweet milk (if sweet milk is used, 1 T. vinegar to 1-1/4 c, milk will sour the milk)
2/3 cup raisins

Mix and sift dry ingredients, add molasses, liquid, and raisins. Fill well-buttered moulds (sic) two-thirds full, butter the top of the mould, and steam three and one-half hours. Remove from moulds and place in an oven to dry ten minutes before serving. Baking powder cans, melon moulds, lard pails or any attractively shaped tin cans may be used as a mould. Two methods of steaming [may be] used: (a) Regular steamer, in which the mould is placed over a pan of boiling water. Buttered papers may be tied firmly over the tops of  uncovered moulds, or  (b) Steaming in boiling water. The mould is placed on a small article in the bottom of a pan of boiling water. This enables the water to circulate around the mould. Care must be observed in keeping the kettle two-thirds full of boiling water all the time of cooking.

(From A Thousand Ways to Please a Husband by Louise Bennett Weaver and Helen Cowles LeCron.)

Newsletter
Twitter!
Facebook!
Amazon