I once handed my card to a pastry chef from Durham.
"Paleo-culinary ethnography?" She laughed and walked away.
Paleo-culinary ethnography is what I call American food before it became fashionable – before the Food Network and even before Julia Child. I do try to take it seriously. I do own a dozen or so cookbooks that are older that I am. And I do stick my proboscis into them trying to excavate something interesting in order to turn back the clock. And in spite (or despite) of the levity I generate in the professional foodie community, I will endeavor to persevere.
Nosing about one of my 29 (wink, wink) year old mother's cookbooks, I happened on a recipe for Koenigsberger klopps – Swedish meatballs. This household has a fetish for nearly all things Swedish – both a Volvo and a Saab in the garage, a bottle of Absolut in the freezer, and Dux to sleep in upstairs – and this Pre-Eisenhower recipe works well steamed potatoes and green beans.
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1 pound ground pork
- ½ half of a large onion, grated
- 5 egg whites, well beaten
- 1/3 to ½ cup breadcrumbs
- Sal, pepper, and nutmeg to taste
- 3 cups water
- ½ onion grated
- 4 bay leaves
- 1 tablespoon of sugar
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- 1 tablespoon of peppercorns
- 1 tablespoon of allspice berries
- ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon flour
- 5 egg yolks, beaten
- 1 lemon sliced
- 1 tablespoon capers
Looking back at this recipe, it's easy to see why people of that generation didn't live all that long. A nice meal like this, topped off with an unfiltered Lucky Strike, is not exactly the way to make it to triple digits. Still, it does spin the clock backwards offering a glimpse of what America was like when life was simpler and we weren't so jaded; a time when men wore hats, women wore dresses and the world in general and the dinner plate in high relief specific didn't seem so dangerous.