Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Leisure and Economy from Westinghouse!

 How to Cook Better Meals Easier with Your Westinghouse Electric Range (Westinghouse Electric & Manufacturing Company, 1940) is definitely a book written for a country just coming out of the Great Depression. (Maybe the thrifty homemakers of the '40s would be proud of me that I paid exactly the cover price-- fifty cents-- that they did! Of course, inflation means that they paid the equivalent of a little over $9, so I got a great deal!)

Families fortunate enough to have a range might have had to save up quite a bit to buy it, so the book has lots of hints about saving electricity, instructing readers to quickly bring foods to a boil over high heat, then turn it down to simmer, which uses "75% less electricity than ordinary 'Low' heat." In addition, "On many short time cooking processes, it is possible to turn the switch to 'Off'' and continue the cooking for a period of ten to twenty minutes."

Of course, the money-saving theme followed through in the recipes as well. At first, I though Variety Pie might be a way to use up variety meats.

I guess, technically, it could be if there was leftover tongue or heart to send through the food chopper and mix with a can of vegetable soup to make a casserole. Variety Pie really, though, is a way to use up any leftover meat and bread crumbs, and "Combining two or three kinds of leftover meat is easy and makes a dish that the family will want to have again and again." Apparently, the variety is supposed to be the draw. (Maybe that's something to keep in mind as we all stick to cooking from our pantries for a while!)

Of course, there are casseroles like the Supper Medley from the cover:

It's a meaty spaghetti, with the ever-present addition of a can of peas. I will never understand how people could throw canned peas in everything!

If you want both fruit and veg with the meat, the Veal Chops with Fruit and Vegetables is one way to do it:

Again with the canned peas and tomatoes, this time with added apricots! (But, hey, if you need a pantry meal... well, this technically is one. Yay.)

One of the stove's real selling points was the Economy Cooker, which was kind of like a cylindrical slow-cooker built into the stove in place of one of the burners. It extended down into the oven cavity and foods would be stacked inside and cooked for hours. It's so well insulated that the booklet claims "A complete meal may be cooked for as little as one cent."

While the book offers a half-dozen full meal recipes to be cooked in the economy cooker, I was of course drawn to the vegetarian offering (for Catholics on Friday and the extremely rare '40s vegetarians).

Nothing quite like "dinner" being an enormous pile of steamed vegetables (Potatoes! Onions! Cauliflower! Beets! Carrots! Green peas or lima beans!) to make me see why vegetarianism was not a particularly popular option at the time. At least if the meal was made with frozen vegetables, they might be perked up with a package of melted Velveeta.

The book is designed for farmers with industrial-size families, too. The oven meals section really illustrates this:

Looking at the recommended oven setup for Oven Meal No. 23 sort of reminds me of loading food into the oven in the college cafeteria when I was a student worker. We had big pans like those that could go straight from the oven into the steam table.

And what is Oven Meal No. 23?

Pork Chops with Soup, Steamed Potatoes, Steamed Beets, and Apple Crisp Delight-- enough of each for eight "ordinary" servings or six "very generous" servings. I'm glad I didn't have to calculate whether the field hands required ordinary servings or very generous ones!

Since it's from Westinghouse, the book ends with a lovely advertisement for all the other conveniences the company can offer.

The washer looks like a bulky robot from an alien race in a '50s movie, like It Came from Outer Space to Wash Our Clothes More Efficiently than a Washboard. I'm not even sure I fully understand what the ironer is (but I make a point of never understanding much about housework).

The coffee maker looks like it could be Tom Servo's friend.

And of course, the big spenders could get refrigerators and dishwashers to go with their spiffy electric ranges, then lead "a life of leisure and contentment" forever after.


I will never be as happy as the women in their all-electric kitchens seemed to be in the '40s. Of course, the real women were rarely as happy as the ones in the ads either, but you know how the rubes used to fall for ads about how technology will make their lives so much better.

Anyway, I'm off to ask Alexa to turn off the living room light 17 times before it finally understands and turns off the goddamn light, because that's so much more modern and convenient than, you know, turning off the lights with a switch the old fashioned way.


  1. Hmmm, canned peas were sold out at Aldi's the other day. Apparently people are still eating them (don't ask me why). It was quite an education about what people did and did not like. Per the grocery store shelves, pickled beets were the least popular canned veggie, followed by canned mushrooms, and a few dejected cans of stewed tomatoes. I cannot say that I was sad to see that there were no canned peas.

    1. I wouldn't go for canned beets either! I've got a bit of a soft spot for canned mushrooms in the right context, though.