Pot-pourri

This is a triptych of culinary and beer historical items I’ve been gathering. Rather than do discrete studies, I’ll discuss the items together with a summary indication of my interest.

Wartime Wine and Oyster Tasting

The first is a 1943 news photo of a New York Wine and Food Society tasting at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, wines with oysters.

I knew the Society had held wine and food events during World War II, indeed wrote about some of them, but not specifically about wartime wine and oyster tastings. The New York Public Library’s digitized menu archive includes a half-dozen or more menus for wine-and-oyster events held by the Society in the 1940s and early ’50s.

1943 is not included but the menus followed an established format. The one for 1944, see here, would have been very similar to the 1943 one. The events were held each January it appears, perhaps a post-Christmas indulgence that went light on the type of drink and food served.

 

 

The menus featured an illustrated, scholarly introduction to Long Island oyster culture followed by an extensive list of wines and a few beers. As expected, the wines are mostly American with a few fetched further afield, from neutral countries or other places outside the classic wine regions of France, Germany, and Italy.

The beers are Irish Guinness, likely Foreign Extra Stout which had featured in the Society’s beer tastings of the time, Burke Stout made on Long Island (Burke’s was bought out by Guinness about this time, it had been established by a long-time Guinness agency), Carta Blanca lager from Mexico, and Baltimore’s high-end National Premium. (The link explains a recent revival of the brand).

The 1943 image is part of a photo-spread, about half of which is war related. In one corner is a shot of U.S. Marines slogging through Guadalcanal, but sports, fashion, and nature items also appeared.

The epicures are of a certain age, which makes sense for the context, and serious-looking. I’m not sure if the editor was suggesting disrespect by gourmets for the war effort, or meant simply to highlight multifarious life during wartime.

The 1944 menu featured Trenton Oyster Crackers as a classic accompaniment to the bivalves. The cracker was long regarded as “the” cracker for oysters and had originated before the Civil War. Production continued in the original form until quite recently it seems. Philadelphia Inquirer coverage by Allison Steele about a year ago updates matters to that time, see here.

A Regional Cuisine for Quebec, 1957

A 1957 story in Quebec’s Francophone press, Le Clairon Maskoutan in Saint-Hyacinthe (on page 9, page neuf) reported remarks of a French food authority, M. Jean Hallaure, on the Québécois food heritage. He was clearly familiar with Quebec and other centres in North America, e.g. New York.

He proposed that Quebec vaunt its traditional repertoire as a regional cuisine to support a profitable tourist trade.

He suggested lightening the dishes where necessary, giving the example of the famous meat pie, the tourtière. No doubt he had seen seen similar initiatives in the French regions, and quite correctly thought Quebec apt for the treatment.

He was ahead of his time, forecasting not just the regional (French and other) food interest that continues unabated since the 1970s, but also in a way the impact of nouvelle cuisine over the same period.

In the result Quebec did develop a distinct culinary and restaurant culture, centred in Montreal and Quebec with some regional reach as well. This occurred in the last 15-20 years.

But it wasn’t to be based on traditional Quebec cuisine. This had an influence to be sure but the cuisine that emerged was a heterogenous one, centered around influential restaurants and their chefs – eclectic, often with personalized results. Joe Beef and other names will be known to initiates.

Scattered through the 1957 newspaper are atmospheric ads for some old-time Canadian ales as well: Dow is there, and Molson. Oland’s Schooner (lager) even makes an appearance; who would have thought?

British Pints a la 1956

Last, we have a 1956 poster from Britain’s main beer industry lobby, today called the British Beer and Pub Association. It’s a great example of generic advertising. The group carries on bigger and better than ever, among a number of newer industry associations (SIBA, The Craft Beer Society).

The image is sourced from Jay Brooks’ excellent Brookston Beer Bulletin, see here. Note his comments linking the campaign to a similar, contemporary initiative in the United States, which he has chronicled at length.

I like the poster for its clear, colour renditions of classic British “pints” of the 1950s: we see dark mild ale alternating with pale ale aka bitter, and a lone “half” of brown ale. Its solo status probably reflected its relative market position.

The colour of the pale ale may be noted, fairly light, not really the “brown bitter” of today.

In the 1950s bitter and pale ale were often still a lighter or pale gold, carrying forward a 19th century tradition.* Of course today colour is all over the map for U.K. pale ale, given too the influence of craft brewing. But it is fair to say I think that modern English bitter and pale ale are on average darker than as shown above.

Today beer industry associations lobby on many fronts, taxation usually foremost, but also, say, road safety. Pushing beer as the ideal drink is far down or in fact off the list. The health lobbies are too strong today for that type of campaign.

“Best Long Drink” was preceded by the better-known “Beer is Best” series, which lasted some 20 years. It started in the mid-1930s, vaulted the war, and continued until Long Drink began.

I don’t think Long Drink did as well as Beer is Best, in part due to changing times, but also the term seems somewhat awkward, even for the time. I don’t think it caught on in quite the way “Best is Best” had.

Note: Source of each image above is identified and linked in the text. All intellectual property therein belongs solely to the lawful owner, as applicable. Used for educational and research purposes. All feedback welcomed.

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*Not an invariable one of course, as we know from Bass Pale Ale which was more a rusty orange.