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Sunday, October 5, 2014

Will the Real Prudence Penny Please Stand?

You know things are pretty harried around here when I didn’t even realize my blogoversary was right around the corner the last time we “met.” But, indeed it was! That’s right you “guys” on October 1, 2007, with my very first post title Come To a Kettledrum I ventured into the virtual world of the blogosphere! This is where I’m suppose to say “and I never looked back,” lol…Fact is, I’ve often looked back…It’s the “nature of the beast” I suppose when you are trying to chronologically sort a multitude of celebrations involving food.

I’m not going to drag you back in time to that very first post. It wasn’t very good. As a matter of fact, it may just be the shortest post I ever did, lol…In it I introduced my new visitors to the premise of what this blog was meant to convey in the long term. It went something like this:

Curious as to what a Kettledrum? is?

During the 1800's and early 1900's an afternoon tea party was quite popular in England. It was often referred to as a kettledrum. The word, is actually a pun. Kettle, refers to the tea kettle or teapot. Drum was a term used for a party. A reference to a Kettledrum is noted in the book titled Manners and Social Usages by Mrs. John Sherwood. An online reference can be found at the Library of Congress.

A true kettledrum was a party where tea was served, usually in a private home, it was always an afternoon tea. Finger sandwiches, cakes, pastries and perhaps some fruit would be served along with pots of tea. American society literally borrowed the term from the English and sometimes delighted their guests by serving the tea on a drumhead. At times, a hostess would even go as far as having a tiny drum handy to beat at intervals.

The progenitor of the cocktail party, a relatively inexpensive method of paying off a great many social debts all at once, was the afternoon tea party, which was called in the 1870's and for several decades after that a kettledrum. All one needed to provide one's guests was sandwiches as thin as tissue paper and as dainty as lace doilies and tea.(The American Heritage Cookbook p.290)

The Ladies Lunch and afternoon Kettle-Drum are social and graceful modern improvements. Marion Harland Common Sense In The Household revised ed. 1880 p. 146

At Months of Edible Celebrations, a Kettledrum is a place where we will mingle, share daily delectables, delicacies, morsels and perhaps a few cookbooks sans souci. So grab yourself a cup of tea and enjoy…

I didn’t have any “nibbles” that first post. It would be quite a while before I would get my first:) That’s just fine though. Just look at us now!!! I truly feel this blog, and all of the people who visit it, and their blogs are extraordinary. Honestly I do. I visit a lot of websites in my travels and not very many of them have the kind of camaraderie that we share. It’s really quite special and I thank you all:)

We’ve had an assortment of parties and give-aways on my blogoversary. Do you remember the Mad Hatter Pasta Party we had for National Pasta Month? And what about that Pizza Party we had one year? There are so many monthly celebrations on top of all the other “red letter days” in the month of October, it’s difficult to keep track. If you want a quick run down, I did do a post about October celebrations last year.

In the mean time, since it is my blogoversary after all, I’d like to take another slice of Cookbook Month! That’s right, you must remember, October is National Cookbook Month and through the years we have usually celebrated with a cookbook give-away. Not this year I’m afraid. You see, I just can’t bring myself to have a give-away unless I can include every single person who visits this blog. Unfortunately, one of the winners of last year’s give-away still has not gotten her prize! That’s right, Powell books is off my good list forever! I have since tried to remedy the situation and she should be getting her prize any day. However, until I can find a better and safer way, cookbook giveaways are on hold…

That doesn’t mean we can’t still celebrate cookbooks. This picture above is just a small collage of some of my cookbooks. The picture on the top left is a bunch of cookbooks I bought just yesterday at a yard sale. Rather than go through them all, I just bought them all. There were 6 big boxes!!! There were some really cool books in wonderful condition in those boxes but, I’ll have to share them with you another day. If not, I’ll never get to Our Man In The Kitchen. I do want to mention one more thing about those pictures above. The one in the bottom right, you see the binders? Each one of those binders is labeled by month. In them I have tons of advertising booklets and leaflets that coincide with the celebrations for that particular month. October isn’t there. Right now it is on the floor. I’m trying to stuff it closed but it is just too full. Every time I try to close the binder it reminds me of how I use to flop on the bed and tuck my tummy in to fit into my tight, tight jeans, lol…Boy oh boy, are those days gone:) I may just need to give October two binders!!!

As for Hyman Goldberg, the author of Our Man In The Kitchen, I think it best to first introduce him from the inside cover of the dust jacket. By the way, this book was published in 1964, is a first edition and is in near perfect condition. Can you tell how proud I am of the “baby?”

Did you see the sentence that reads; ”A few years ago he was unmasked by several widely-read magazines as the author of the famous Prudence Penny cookery column? Hold that thought!

Some of you may remember another post I did a while back titled Betty Hits the Waves. In that post I reminded not only myself but many of you readers, (that post is one of my most popular posts ever!) about the “invisible” Betty Crocker or, shall I say it a different way. Betty was the figment of some creative advertising imagination. And a very good one I might add, the waves in her case were the radio air waves:) Well, meet Prudence Penny.

You see, the name Prudence Penny has belonged to a slew of people through the years. People from all walks of life; mostly women but a few men too. What really gets me about these celestial advertising so and soes is how they manage to do things like “hitting the waves” or in Prudence Penny’s case becoming a star in a movie. Take a look at this Penny Wisdom movie short which won an Academy Award in 1938 for Best Short Subject. It’s pretty funny. Watch for the poor puppy:) (remember to wiggle your toes while you’re watching:)

In this movie, “Prudence Penny” is played by actress Leona A. Malek but Prudence Penny was “played” by many people in “real” life. Prudence Penny was actually a copyright name cooked up by newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst shortly after WWI. We learn more from Our Man In The Kitchen.

”For six months of my life, I was obliged to laugh with seemingly glee whenever some waggish friend hailed me with cries of, “Hello there, Pru, what’s cooking?” It began when I became the cooking editor of the late, lamentable New York Mirro, and continued through the period when I was the cooking columnist of the New York Journal-American. On both of these newspapers, I hid behind the name of a woman who never lived, although millions of people all over the country really believed that there was a lady, presumably a dear old lady, whose name actually was Prudence Penny.”

If you watched that short above, you met the Smudge family and learned that Mrs. Smudge was in quite a tizzy when her cook suddenly quit and her husband was bringing both his boss and an important client home for dinner. Prudence came to the rescue to many in those days. As a matter of fact, Hearst himself requested her help one year when he wanted to throw what he called a “memorable Halloween party” in 1937. He had someone on his staff ask for her assistance. I found this letter in the Hearst Papers by Taylor Coffman.

The persona of Prudence Penny was spread across the US for over fifty years. She gave lectures, offered household advice, wrote cookbooks and a few even went on to pursue careers in radio which was unheard of in the 20s and 30s. In 1942 while MFK Fisher was having How To Cook A Wolf published, Prudence Penny, I’m not sure which one, came out with Coupon Cookery which is available on line with recipes here. Why were there so many Pennys dispersed across the country? You guessed it, money! It seems that recipes were very expensive to wire by telegraph so Hearst’s solution was to have a Prudence Penny in every large city and she or he reached the masses via weekly cooking columns and later in live radio spots. Some notable Penny’s were Mabelle Burbridge, Norma K. Young, Pauline Patterson, Dorothy Malone, who authored a cookbook titled How Mama Could Cook. Now, look what I found at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer Collection, Museum of History & Industry, in Seattle.

A series of Seattle Post-Intelligencer home economists wrote articles and cookbooks under the name Prudence Penny. From time to time, the newspaper ran photos of the fictitious Ms. Penny as she did her grocery shopping or served a meal to friends. In this photo, taken in 1939, Prudence Penny shops for produce at Seattle's Pike Place Market.

I did find one other gentleman who also worked at the Journal-American under the umbrella of Prudence Penny. His name was Lawton H. Carver. According to his obituary, he was an internationally acclaimed sports and culinary journalist, restaurateur, angling and fly tying expert. He was also an artist.”

In 1951, in the Big Apple, Lawton H. Carver opened the Camillo Restaurant on 2nd Avenue near 44th.  He served Italian food and steaks.  At his Gotham restaurant, Carver had a bulletin board where guests could thumb-tack praise or criticism regarding food or service.  Mrs. Ty Cobb once wrote that Camillo's served "the very best marinara sauce I ever ate in my life".  Pictures of Ted Williams, Phil Rizzuto, and English Channel swimmer, Florence Chadwick, also graced the note board.  Lawton H. Carver sold the Camillo Restaurant in 1957.  He was in sports publicity for several years before opening Lawton Carver's Cafe on 2nd Avenue near the United Nations building.  Carver later was an assistant editor at the Herald Tribune and kitchen editor at the Journal-American were he wrote under the name of Prudence Penny.

Ready for some eats with a side of humor? Our Man In The Kitchen serves up quite a bit of both:) Since next week is National Chestnut Week, I thought we would start with this recipe for Castagne.

Mr. Goldberg had quite the sense of humor. According to a newspaper article I happened upon, “his conversational cooking columns usually began with an amusing anecdote, joke or pun.” Many of the recipes is this book do also. He even had a way of making Mush sound more palatable:)

Apparently we are approaching the eve of St. Faith. I must say, I have heard of the Eve of St. Agnes but never St. Faith. Thankfully, The Old Foodie gives us some insight to this long lost custom but, it seems “Our Man In The Kitchen, Mr. Goldberg, was in the know:)

Like many cookbook authors of the past, there isn’t very much available about Our Man In The Kitchen. According to information I found on wiki for his brother Herschel Goldberg, better known as writer Harry Grey, the family emigrated from Russia in 1905.

In 1912, Goldberg's father became seriously ill and had to be taken to hospital for an operation. During his stay in hospital, his wife, Celia began cooking meals for men in the neighborhood who were saving money to bring their families to America from Europe. When Israel came out of hospital he found that Celia had a flourishing business and Israel started a restaurant. All the children, including Harry and Hyman, helped out.

Mr. Goldberg shares a bit more about his restaurant experience in the introduction to the book:

”I was brought up in restaurants and hotels which my father operated while I was growing up, in New York City and in the country side of upper New York State, and since my father-a former blacksmith, with a temper as powerful as his muscular ability-was always beating up cooks, waiters, and dishwashers, and throwing them off the premises, my two brothers, two sisters, and I, youngest in the family, were continually dragooned into helping out in the kitchen. So I began cooking, in a sort of professional way, at an extremely early age. By the time I was six, I was an expert salad man and chicken-liver-chopper. I have always regarded cooking as a creative art and a great joy.”

Thank you so much for indulging my cookbook celebration today. It was such fun sharing this book with you. Oh, and about that Prudence Penny Cookbook at the top, yes, I do have one of them in my collection. That one was published as a special edition to the American Woman’s Cookbook in 1940.

As I was preparing this post, I realized there are oh so many other books I would like to show you all. I think what I’m going to do for this Cookbook Month is change up Wordless Wednesday a bit and make it a “wordless” cookbook sharing day of sorts. I know there are only four Wednesdays left in the month of October but we’ll see how it goes. Who knows, maybe I’ll carry it on for the rest of the year:) Have a wonderful week everyone. “See” you Wednesday for our first installment of Cookbook Wednesday, lol…Louise:)

Resources
1. Marian Manners, Prudence Penny, the First Celebrity Cooks