AMERICAN FOOD & DRINKS TO GO – 1950s style

Eating on the run, and the rise of convenience-food outlets, seemed to become part of the American way of life after the Second World War. Being a baby boomer, as well as part of a family that did a lot of travelling around the continental United States, I grew up in the midst of these places. Some of my earliest memories are connected to restaurants and menus, laminex and soda fountains, so here’s some of the history of a childhood, enshrined in what would come to be known as “fast food” – the diet of a nation.  For those that are adventurous enough to want to try out the flovours of those times, I am including recipes – the first one being for a drink that my mother loved and used to talk about as if it was something she used to enjoy when she was a girl in the 1920s. I s’pose it probably goes back at least that far. It’s called “a Black Cow”. 

THE BLACK COW

Ingredients 

1 1/2 tablespoons Hot Chocolate Sauce, at room temperature (if you must, you may substitute store-bought syrup)
About 1 1/4 cups root beer
2 scoops vanilla ice cream

Want it? Click it.

Directions
1. Drizzle the chocolate sauce or syrup into the bottom of a large ice cream soda or pint glass. Add half of the root beer and mix well with a long spoon.

2. Add 1 scoop of ice cream, then top off the glass with the remaining root beer. Traditionally, the remaining scoop of ice cream is balanced on the rim of the glass—press it down firmly so it doesn’t plop into the table or swan dive into the float—although you could just plunk it in the root beer.

Variation: Brown Cow
Substitute cola for the root beer.

Convenience food is a genre –  it’s not enough that it readily available at the side of the road, or that it can be supplied in a hurry. It also has to be convenient in terms of the ease with which you eat it. This means food that is highly portable and doesn’t require much in the way of silverware, dishes or crockery.

One of the great inventions that took the American hotdog and transformed into something that you’d find almost anywhere, including most country and state fairs, was “the Pronto Pup”.

Known to millions as “the hotdog on a stick” the Pronto Pup did to meat what Popsicles did to ice cream – they turned the hotdog into something that required nothing but a hand and a mouth – no paper wrapper, no cardboard or paper napkins required, just dunk it into ketchup or mustard or both, and off you go.  Hailing from Rockaway Beach New York, in the late 1930s, “the weiner dun in a bun” soon became a hot favorite at state fairs and expositions. 

Since the 1940s, Pronto Pup stands have used a chain-driven, semi-automated frying machine. 

Here’s how to make ’em yourself:

Dry off the hot dogs with a paper towel.
Stick popsicle sticks in the hot dogs

1 1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup cornmeal
4 Tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 eggs
3/4 cup milk

Mix all the dry ingredients, then add eggs and milk. Mix till lump free. Dip dogs into the batter to coat.
Deep fry in hot fat When light brown, remove

I cut the hot dogs in half to make little dogs for when the kids were little. If you don’t have popsicle sticks don’t worry about it, make them without them.

I use to save popsicle sticks just to make corn dogs.

Pronto Pups

1 c. corn meal
1 c. flour
2 Tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp.salt
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 c. milk
2 Tbsp. melted shortening
1 lb. wieners

Mix cornmeal with flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add egg and milk; blend in shortening. Mix well. Dip wieners in batter. Fry in deep fat. 

The connection of fast food and fat food goes hand-in-hand. Fried foods are quick and taste good – never mind their unhealthiness. This has certainly been the case with the every popular doughnut. Today Krispie Creme reigns supreme, at least in Australia, but once upon a time the premiere donut, at least in Central Texas, was the Spudnut.

The name conjures up something that is connected to potatoes, and that is the secret of their success. Started in 1940 by Al and Bob Pelton of Salt Lake City, they developed their famous recipe whilst searching for a kind of doughnut that was not heavy or greasy and was easy to digest. After throwing away many batches of less-than-thrilling products, they struck on winning formula that used mashed potatoes. When they later invented a dry Spudnut mix, the sky was the limit! By mid-1948, there were more than 200 stores in more than 30 states. A franchise, which included equipment and floor plans, cost $1,750 (in cities with a population under 10,000, a bit more for those in larger cities).

While (to the best of our knowledge) the Pelton Spudnut Corporation no longer exists, 37 Spudnut stores continue to operate across the U.S. These operations have had to tweak the original recipe a bit because the Pelton’s dry Spudnut mix is no longer available. And, many of the remaining, dedicated Spudnut gastronomes have done a fine job!  So, include a Spudnut shop stop in your vacation travel plans.

The original Spudnut Recipe:

Ingredients
■1 3/4 cup scalded milk
■1/3 cup of butter
■1/3 cup granulated sugar
■1/4 teaspoon salt
■1 (.25 ounce) envelope active dry yeast
■1/4 cup warm water
■2 eggs, beaten (large) (Tip: Make sure they are not cold)
■4 cups sifted Potato flour (make sure it is sifted)
■1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (optional)
■1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
■oil for deep frying – vegetable oil not peanut oil…
■2 cups confectioners’ sugar
■6 tablespoons milk

Chocolate glaze:

1/3 cup butter
2 cups icing sugar
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
4-6 tbsp. hot water
4-oz milk chocolate or semi-sweet chocolate chips

Method: [ Chefs use the term method as to saying instructions]:

The original Spudnut Recipe:

Ingredients
■1 3/4 cup scalded milk
■1/3 cup of butter
■1/3 cup granulated sugar
■1/4 teaspoon salt
■1 (.25 ounce) envelope active dry yeast
■1/4 cup warm water
■2 eggs, beaten (large) (Tip: Make sure they are not cold)
■4 cups sifted Potato flour (make sure it is sifted)
■1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (optional)
■1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
■oil for deep frying – vegetable oil not peanut oil…
■2 cups confectioners’ sugar
■6 tablespoons milk

Chocolate glaze:

1/3 cup butter
2 cups icing sugar
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
4-6 tbsp. hot water
4-oz milk chocolate or semi-sweet chocolate chips

Method: [ Chefs use the term method as to saying instructions]:
(Directions)

1.In a medium bowl, stir together the scalded milk, sugar, butter and salt. Set aside to cool until tepid.

2.( *In separate bowl) Stir nutmeg and cinnamon into the Potato flour – mix with your hands ( wash hands first please) Set aside for now.

3.In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast in warm water or better yet – ( Big Tip :use fast rising yeast that you can mix directly into the flour mixture – much easier then worrying about killing your yeast)

4.Tip: Use a teaspoon more than the yeast recipe says ( rises better)

5.If using regular yeast : In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast in warm water. Let the yeast rise for ten minutes and then Stir into the milk. Add eggs and Mix well.

6.Begin to incorporate a half a cup of flour mixture at a time (Tip : Use a mixer with dough hook). *Make sure the potato flour is mixed in before adding more flour. It should look like a white slurry ( white liquid *smooth) But you are not finished yet…keep reading…

7.Keep gradually adding the flour and let your mixer mix for six minutes ( It should look like a sticky dough by the end of the six minutes) If not – add a little pastry flour. Potato flour is a very tricky substance to work with…

8. *Big Tip : Make sure you add the flour mixture to the liquid mixture – not the other way around – or you will have a big mess and become very frustated. Mix each portion of flour into liquid before adding more.

9.Let rest for ten minutes on the counter.

10.Flour the surface of your table you are working on ( wood works so much better) Remove the flour mixture onto the floured surface and knead for 3 to 4 minutes.

11.Roll out (cut out) into doughnut (spudnut)form with your favorite cutter. Cover with teacloth and let rise for a good 30 minutes.

12.Tip: I have used my oven for it to rise better – you can place in the oven between 150F -200F . It will rise so much better than in a cold atmosphere…

13.While you are waiting for the spudnuts to rise … get the oil ready but do not turn it on until the Spudnuts have finished rising…

14.Heat one inch of oil in a deep heavy frying pan to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Fry Spudnuts a couple at a time otherwise your fryer oil will cool off.

15. Cook on each side until golden brown, then remove to drain on paper towels. Glaze while warm, or just sprinkle with sugar.

16.To make the glaze, stir together the confectioners’ sugar and 6 tablespoons milk until smooth. Dip warm donuts into glaze, and set aside to cool.

17. Dip the spudnuts into cream glaze set on rack. You can use chocolate glaze as well as cream glaze.

(ABOVE) Dairy Queen in Grafton, West Virginia

Dairy Queen is synonymous with fast food, predating all the Maccas, Roy Rogers, Wendys  and other outlets by decades. It all started on August 4, 1938, in Kankakee, Illinois when a father and son took their soft frozen dairy product to Sherb Noble, a good friend and customer, who agreed to run an “all you can eat” trial sale at his walk-in ice cream store. Within two hours, he dished out more than 1,600 servings of the new dessert.

Back then, food franchising was all but unheard of, but the new product’s potential made it a natural for such a system. When the United States entered World War II in December 1941, there were less than 10 Dairy Queen stores. However shortly after the war, the system took off at a pace virtually unrivaled before or since. With only 100 stores in 1947, it grew to 1,446 in 1950 and then to 2,600 in 1955. Today, the Dairy Queen system is one of the largest fast food systems in the world with more than 5,900 restaurants in the United States, Canada and 20 foreign countries.

But what of so many of the unsung, passed over and relatively unsuccessful establishments and recipes that have graced the appetites of the American masses. Some have had regional success, and some have floundred and fallen. Here’s a quick list of some that never quite made the grade, but might be remembered and might still enjoy some relative success in parts of the country. One I remember from my early teens as the Giant Orange or Big Orange roadside stands that you’d see alongside the byways of California after the war.

Try one of the specialties of these places – an orange float, composed of a cuple scoops of vanilla ice cream and ice cold, fresh-sqeezed orange juice. For a real wham-bang taste, substitute Orange sorbet for the vanilla ice cream. Wow!

Cheese curds? ‘Nough said.

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About stonekingseminars

Poet, screenwriter, producer, mentor
This entry was posted in Places to eat, Recipes. Bookmark the permalink.

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