Noir Fest and Dinner: Out of the Past (November 1947)

This week’s movie is Out of the Past. The female lead, Jane Greer, was unfamiliar to me. She has one of those faces that are so, so lovely and perfect that if you’re me you forget them instantly. I much prefer someone slightly unusual looking, like Barbara Stanwyck.

I looked Greer up, and bango bingo, there she was in Twin Peaks. I didn’t think she was great in Out of the Past, but I think she was perfectly matched as Norma Jennings’ mother: wide-eyed, glib, and with slight undertones of psychosis underneath, like Norma and Annie. That’s just my reading though.

Kirk Douglas and his many clefts and dimples smarmed his way through each scene. But, sadly, not chewing quite as much scenery as he did in Lust for Life, which has to be one of my top ten movies. In addition to the extremely photogenic cast, it was also shot well and just interesting to look at.

UK title, after the original novel

Look at the cartoon of Mitchum! He looks like a Looney Tunes gangster.

Foodwise, this is a fun week. I got my mitts on the actual real-deal Gourmet Magazine, fully bound and gathering dust downtown. I was giddy, or perhaps it was the offgassing of decaying old journal pages.

This is the Thanksgiving issue for 1947, and it contains recipes for turkey, stuffing, holiday snacks, and side dishes as you might expect. The template was already in place for modern holiday magazines.

Doesn’t that turkey look..uh…look at the time!

I love this cover artist. It’s hard to tell in my terrible reproduction, but he had a real way with crystal objects, which show up on his covers repeatedly: goblets, flagons, decanters. Also notice how the salt cellar lurches towards us to show us its innards while the (sweating?) turkey is shown almost from the side. I have always maintained that perspective is for jerks. Also that crystal “bone” propping up the knife? WHAT IS THAT CALLED? HOW QUICKLY CAN I GET ONE???

I should confess I am not at all familiar with Gourmet Magazine as an entity. I never subscribed or picked it up. I am very aware of Gourmet‘s last editor, Ruth Reichl, and have read some of her memoirs. I understand that this was a big deal, important magazine. Since I started cooking in the 1990s, however, what caught my eye was impossible looking things on the cover of Martha Stewart Living, so that was my manual of choice.

I’m a little surprised I never jumped into it, actually. When I was a kid I used to collect old magazines that I would find at flea markets, like Life. I always thought I would make Important Feminist Collages with them, or at least frame some of the ads, but I could never bear to cut them up. I put them on my coffee table, as if it was June 12, 1961 at my house or something.

With that preamble out of the way, I should jump in to the amazing year 1947, a year before Ruth Reichl was born. The ad sections were full of gift ideas, including regional specialties from all around the country, such as Grade A syrup for Vermont, and nuts from California.

God it’s so true

There was also the theme of what I think of as the “angry wife” running through this issue. I’ve only reproduced one cartoon that shows it, but there were multiple cartoons featuring angry women and their hapless spouses.

Here’s your fucking toast asshole

I mentioned this to my majordomo of cocktails, John Smythe, and he expressed surprise that this was present.

“I would think the audience for a cooking magazine in the 1940s would be women,” he said. “It seems weird to have a bunch of sexist comics throughout it.”

I would think so too, but after looking at several issues, it was so upscale and aimed at food geeks (which were at one time known as “epicures”), who obviously had money to spend. These aren’t articles about how to bang out a meal and get it on the table in less than an hour, how to reduce your grocery budget–in short this is no Good Housekeeping. I didn’t count, but there seemed to be an equal number of men and women contributors via the letters section (“Sugar and Spice”) and in the recipe requests section (“You Asked for It”). The letters often started off with statements such as “My wife/husband and I loved the recipe for fricasseed coswallop and would like to know if we could substitute…,” which leads me to think that being an epicurean was often a hobby that was shared between spouses, much like today.

However, someone would need to fund such a lifestyle that involved the possibility of traveling on your appetite, procuring exotic, expensive ingredients that were often available only via mail order at the time, and I am guessing that someone would probably be a man.

I choose to pretend that this is what hotdogs in a bathtub used to be called. If he dumps you, call me bae

I opined to John Smythe that we also shouldn’t underestimate the role of internalized sexism. I wish I would have said it that elegantly, though. What I said was something like, “You know how shit is all fucked up around women and they think it’s all normal?” There was lots of handwaving too. Quick, someone get me a TED talk.

There were some bright spots, though. I have no beef with this. I love to see some ladies getting their gimlets on. Fallen arches, AMIRITE, ladies?

The standout in this issue for me was a folksy article by a Colonel S.P. Meek (“Aided and Abetted by Edna Noble Meek”) on what amounted to a recipe for barbecue and another for roasted duck, which included a lot of chuckle-ly anecdotes and asides from his wife, including one about intimidating the barbecue recipe out of an African American cook, whose dialogue is written in what is supposed to be Mississipi dialect.

The article is called “I Like Good Food” because apparently the editor was struggling for a unifying theme in this grab bag of wtf, and possibly because, “I Am an Entitled Old Cracker” was taken up in the previous month’s issue.

The Colonel, who is no Calvin Trillin, speaks:

The barbecue is to Southern California what the fried clam is to New England, the tamale to Texas, and the hot dog to Coney Island. I wondered at the alleged superfluity of good barbecue cooks, and in the interests of gastronomy I made of martyr of my stomach and stopped at sixty-five barbecue stands in the course of twenty miles of driving and sampled the product. Some were bad and some were worse, but patience was finally rewarded. At a little place near Montecito, I found food that started the tears of recollection flowing and I sought the cook that I might weep on his neck.

[Spoiler alert: Colonel Meek did kind of the opposite of neck-weeping next.]

“Git away from me, white man,” said the Ethiopian brother when I attempted to carry out my program of rejoicing. [Good instincts.] “Ah ain’t done nothing the sheriff wants me fur.”

“Son of Ham,” I demanded. “Ah you from Miss’sippi?”

He recognized the accent.

“Boss, Ah is. Cap’n, howdy suh. Admur’l, ohduhs from yo’all is ohduhs. Guv’ner, what does yo’all want?”

“Boy,” I said solemnly, “I’m the Representative of the United Amalgamated Pure Food and Correct Cooking League of the World and Adjacent Universes. In fact, I’m the Lord High Grand Exalted and Otherwise Prominent Gazinkus for Southern California. My orders are that you tell me how to cook that barbecue.”

“Bobbycue, Gin’ral? Yessuh, Senatuh, Ah’ll shuah tell y’all.”

We have it all, really. A (God I hope) fictionalized African American man who addresses the Colonel by a thesaurus’s worth of honorifics, is afraid the authorities want him, and can be hornswoggled by a high falutin’ made up title. Not to mention the illustration.

At this point I am thinking, in between bouts of nausea, “GOURMET. Pull the other one, it has bells on.” Looks like SP Meek was a real dude though, a hack writer who obtained a degree in Mississippi but didn’t really grow up there.

There was also a Turkish recipe–obtained from a real Turk! Just like the real barbecue when he happened to find a Southern transplant barbecue cook in Southern California. Despite all of this busted-ass, Walter Mitty-esque creative license, I found his recipe for wild duck a la Bordeaux interesting (obtained from a gen-yoo-ine Frenchman!) and I settled on that as my entree for this week.


Wild Duck a la Bordeaux
Cauliflower Gourmet
Sweet Potato Balls

Spiced Nuts

Blood ‘n Sand


Dinner was kind of a mixed success, as usual, when I am at the helm. I have never met a recipe I won’t run off the road.

I buy my ducks at a dodgy Asian market near me. Not all Asian markets are dodgy, especially in Seattle, but this one assuredly is. It’s funny, because a million years ago when I first moved here, it was the nicest, hoity-toitiest supermarket in the city. This is well before the rise of Whole Paycheck. I look at the scuffed and cracked tiles on the floor, stained with streaks of something being dragged across them, and I think about how I used to buy fancy candy to sneak into a movie here. Or wine. And now, head-on duck.

A terrible vanitas to non-delight you

[Smaller child, walking past disembodied duck head on counter: “IS THAT A DUCK HEAD THAT IS SO COOL.”

Larger child, returning from school and walking past disembodied duck head on counter: “IS THAT A DUCK HEAD EWWWW.”]

I also picked up a couple of frozen rabbits for next week’s dinner. I couldn’t find them right away because the freezer they used to be kept in was broken and walled off with a display of Mexican cookies (more red flags for this market really). I waited at the meat counter and was behind a guy who was impatiently yelling about the fact that he was in a hurry as the meat cutters intermittently popped in and out of the back room.

Finally it was my turn, and the impatient guy was having some huge slab of halal meat cut down.

“Do you still have rabbit?” I asked a meat cutter.

“No, but we have dog. HA HA HA.”

Me: :|

Impatient Guy followed us over to the rabbits’ new home (in a fish case, why did I not figure that out myself) and said, “Rabbit! What do you do with that? Barbecue?”

“You can poach it in wine, broth, and herbs. It’s very tender with a delicate flavor.” He looked a little surprised to hear this answer come out of a disheveled woman with out of control hair that looked like fuzz on a traumatized coconut, a hoodie, and pants with paint stains, I think. Maybe he expected me to say “YEEHAW I AM BBQ’in WITH MY HUSBROTHER.” My point is that I did look like white trash yesterday (if the Ugg fits).


Since it wasn’t a wild duck and was super fatty, I decided I didn’t need to cover the duck as the recipe called for. We’ve been having issues with grease smoke in the house from roasting birds, so I made a little foil drip catcher that would let grease go in but not back up. This meant basting was out, so I soaked the dook in the spiced wine for about 45 minutes before it went in the oven. I funneled the spiced wine back into the bottle and poured it over the duck every so often while cooking in lieu of a baste.

I did more of a chicken roast with it (higher heat than called for). It was nice, but I wish I would have cooked it even higher so the fat would have rendered better. But it was a lovely rosy color, and I hear you lose some of that when you cook it high.

I got a little flame effect while serving, and I regret adding the lime juice to the brandy before pouring. Oh well! I am looking forward to using the ducky leftovers. I am thinking soup with duck egg and buckwheat noodles.

The sides were actually my favorite, particularly the Cauliflower Gourmet.

And it gave me an excuse to buy tarragon vinegar. YESSS


I went to talk to P. like this and casually asked him a question, which he halfway answered before triple taking on my lumpy jugs. Twas awesome.

Once removed from shirt, soaked in a solution of vinegar and saltwater, and cooked, cauliflower gourmet called for a bagna cauda sauce to be poured over the whole boiled heads. I have never served cauliflower whole, but it wasn’t as unwieldy as I thought it might be, and “made a nice presentation” as Beeton would say.

The sweet potato balls were unremarkable, and reminded me a lot of Victorian potato rissoles. I didn’t want to get gluten-free bread crumbs, or make them, so I minced cashews and tossed in some coconut flour. I took this inspiration from a former-favorite of mine, peanut-crusted chicken.

Drab to look at, but it worked somewhat well. The drawback was that the cashew bits didn’t cling as I thought they would, since I did not use an egg dip as for rissoles. The balls had less of a structure than they should have, but were also less heavy and gluey as the rissoles always were. The coconut flour browned nicely, though. I would do this coating again with an egg dip.

I finished them off in the oven because I knew the sweet potato had gotten so cool that the frying wouldn’t totally warm them through. Instead of butter and cream, I used about 1/2 cup of my own kefir. Why not go with lower lactose, I figure.

Pan fried and ready to go in the oven.

After they came out, they were quite soft. But good!

The dessert was my favorite kind, which is to say, premade. In all my days of candying things, I have not seen a recipe that called for dipping the nuts into the egg whites in a strainer. How did I miss this small piece of cooking brilliance?

Scooping the nuts out of the sugar was a different story. All of a sudden I was like, ARGH, catboxy!

Another outstanding thing about the spiced nuts was the fact that they contained SO. MUCH. CLOVE. I am a HUGE fan of clove. When I was a kid I ate clove candy and gum, and graduated to clove cigarettes (sigh) and I will often just chew on a bud if I’m hanging around the house. The recipe calls for many other baking spices, but it is a TABLESPOON of clove to 2 cups of sugar. Holy shit! If you bake, you know that most recipes call for a much more moderate quarter teaspoon or so. It is a background flavor that adds all that “mmm mmm there is a cozy food blanket in my mouth and now I have something to live for this winter and it is apple tart.” These nuts were more like KICK YOU IN THE FACE gingerbread.

I am told that clove was often used as a numbing agent in dentistry in the mid-century and for that reason many older people hate it. So this recipe surprises me a little. A+, will totes make again. I had so much extra sugar and egg wash that I made almost an extra cup of walnuts, because I knew I would not save the mixture. Oh, I also consulted with my My First Cookbook and did them on 300F for 40 minutes instead of 250F for 2.5 hours because that seemed a bit overkill.

I didn’t get a final picture and then I sent the leftovers home with my sister for her boyfriend, but trust that they looked less catboxy when they came out. I spent some time keeping them broken up as they cooled because I WAI crowded the cookie sheet and they wanted to cleave together.

So, the cocktail. I almost arm-pumped when I found this letter. I LOVE THIS DRINK. Thank you, Gourmet Chaos gods.

TOO BAD IT WAS KIND OF TERRIBLE. I really think it was our fault since we went with Luxardo, which was the cherry liqueur we had on hand. P’s feeling was that we should have something like Cherry Heering, so it wasn’t just predominantly ORANGE and SCOTCH and SWEET. Looks like others agree. I was interested to see, also at this link, that the drink was created for the premier of the movie, Blood and Sand [1922]. The name makes more sense now, but also the fact that it’s hung on. Cocktail people love silly names like “corpse reviver.”

Blood and sands are scotch, orange juice, cherry brandy, and sweet vermouth. I love all of those things (with perhaps the exception of sweet vermouth, yuckth). It was not undrinkable, but I wouldn’t want one like that again. We switched to wine pretty quickly.

Thank you 1947! It was fun to visit you!