Beer (& More) In Food

Beer: The Condiment With An Attitude!

Food Recipes of the Repeal Era and Beyond, Part IV

Posted by Bob Skilnik on September 20, 2007

Editor’s Note: Before reading this installment to Beer & Food: An American History, keep in mind that these recipes represent the beginning of the American brewing industry’s pairing and use of beer in food. Up until the post-Prohibition era, most written instances of beer used in food were merely attempts to reconcile what to do with spoiled and stale beer.

As you look through the upcoming segments with their food recipes, keep this thought in mind; many contemporary food recipes reflect an evolution of food preparation. Switch an ingredient or two, maybe add a foodstuff that no one ever heard of 15 or 20 years ago and you’re working with a newer interpretation of an old standard.

If you want to catch-up before reading Part IV, here are links to

Part I     Part II      Part III    

More info about Beer & Food: An American History by me, Bob Skilnik (with a foreword by Jim Koch from The Boston Beer Co) here.

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With the war winding down, brewers continued their public relations campaign to keep beer in the kitchen, or better yet, simply in the home. The publishing firm of Frederic H. Girnau Creations of Minneapolis, Minnesota, took an approach similar to the pre-Prohibition Mendelsohn recipe books. By utilizing a couple of different culinary themes, Girnau helped promote various regional breweries with his collection of hefty-sized booklets—Famous International Themes, 300 New Ways of Making Delicious Sandwiches, the Sandwich Book of All Nations, Tried and Tested Cookie Recipes, Fish and Sea-Food Cookery, How to Prepare Wild Game & Fowl, Madame Chiang’s Chinese Cook Book (with the helpful hint that the recipes were “Translated in English”), Housewives Home Canning Methods, and lastly, How to Cook with Beer.

 

With ads for various competing brews placed between the same stock recipes in each booklet, cooks could learn the intricacies of preparing Chicago Style Chow Mein Noodles, Calf’s Head Stew, Tutti-Frutti Sandwiches, Potato Doughnuts, and obvious regional delights such as Bear Northern Style, Roast Raccoon, or Porcupine—probably all an acquired taste—and that old beer drinkers’ favorite, at least in publisher Girnau’s mind, Striped Bass Pudding.

 

While it’s amusing for city-slickers to look back at many of these dishes and laugh, there’s a lot of colonial-era frugality still involved here, all the more obvious when one considers the strong rural landscape that continued to exist in the U.S. in the ’40s. The philosophy of waste not, want not continued.

 

Although the food recipes were the same, two of Girnau’s How to Cook with Beer booklets displayed an interesting contrast in how the American Brewing Company of Miami, Florida, and the Minneapolis-based Gluek Brewing Company decided to handle the introduction to the sixty-four-page recipe collection template. A.B.C. President Louis F. Garrard took the customary approach of most brewers, using the book template format that Girnau provided. Garrard pointed out “…the importance of beer as a delicious cooking ingredient,” noting the importance of including beer in food recipes “…has been lost to our generation.” Garrard’s answer to this generational gap, of course, was to start including the use of the brewery’s Regal Premium Beer in the recipes provided.

 

The introduction to the Gluek Brewing Company’s recipe booklet, however, took a different approach, giving President and Chairman Edward V. Lahey of the United Brewers Industrial Foundation a forum to lay out the economic and social benefits of beer, all cooking aside. Of course, the Gluek booklet was also sprinkled with plugs for its Gluek beer, “The beer that speaks for itself.” A sample of Lahey’s introduction follows:

 

The brewing industry is a national asset in that it contributes importantly to the economic and social welfare of this country.

 

BEER ranks the top as a revenue source, contributing at the rate of about $700,000,000 annually in federal, state and local taxes. Since beer was re-legalized on April 7, 1933—after 13 years of Prohibition—combined revenues to public treasuries have exceeded ten billion dollars.

 

Beer, however, extends its economic benefits not only to public treasuries but also to many allied industries—agriculture, manufacturers of brewing equipment and machinery, bottles, cans, kegs, etc., and to the employment ranks, paying out about $300,000,000 annually in wages and salaries.

 

Socially, beer has served not only as a wholesome refreshment and adjunct to gracious living, but has been an aid to moderation and temperance. Military authorities have acclaimed beer also as a morale builder and as a factor in making the American Army, during World War II, the soberest in history.

 

Although the introductions to the brewers’ respective cookbooks varied in their focus, the intent was the same. Twentieth century beer had made it through the grain restrictions of the First World War, the blood-splattered years of bootlegging and Prohibition; had stumbled into American homes with the beginnings of Repeal; helped the troops to victory on two fronts, and was now ready to guide the nation through the post-war boom. It was time to really push beer into American homes and American lives. The Gluek and the American Brewing Company booklets touched on beer’s use as a flavor builder and food  seasoning. The real message, however, was clear; beer belonged not merely in the kitchen. Beer belonged in the home, whether it was included in food or not.

 

COMING SOON: PART V

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