With more restaurants revisiting heirloom and retro recipes, I decided to take a romp through Restaurant Hospitality’s past. I started with the 1929 archives of our forerunner, American Restaurant magazine. That year, the publication was celebrating its 10th anniversary.
First of all, I can tell you that customers had a different mindset back then. The February 1929 issue suggested that restaurant slogans were the “business-catching method of the 20th century.” Examples included, “The Pyramid—Where Food is Piled High and Prices Topple Low.” Today, promoting piles of low-priced food wouldn’t exactly be a big winner . . . or would it?
Global cuisine coverage highlighted dishes from Vienna, Paris, Romania, Russia and Havana. Yesterday’s seasonal menu ideas might hold present-day appeal, as long as customers can relate to the 1920s sensibility. The spring vegetable plate lunch came with a rhubarb roll for dessert. Summer recipes featured grab-and-go box lunch ideas to help restaurants capture tourist business. Suggestions included a pea, cheese and pickle salad. Given the present-day popularity of seasonal produce, artisan cheeses and house-made pickles, the recipes show promise.
Bread was a business-builder in the restaurants of yesteryear, but it lacked today’s global influences of flatbread, tortillas and pita. California Rolls (not to be confused with the sushi version) were billed as a “trade-puller.” These iced yeast rolls had peeled orange slices baked into them, and were promoted as salad accompaniments.
The roll instructions sound easy: Roll the dough to ½” thickness and cut into 3” circles with a cookie cutter. Place a section of orange on each dough circle and fold, pressing edges firmly. Let rise and bake in a 350°F oven for 10 minutes. When slightly cool, top the rolls with icing made with orange juice, grated orange rind and powdered sugar.
If you’re interested, as I am, in retro recipes, check out the 1929 foodservice recipes for Rhubarb Roll and the Pea, Cheese and Pickle Salad. Both include food costs from the era. And, because those California Rolls inspired me, I can’t resist throwing in a bread poem.
Bread and Promises
Flour, water and salt
then dough stirs alive
in your hands
rises to your needs
breathes with mystery and
emanates sweet grapey scent
like a stranger, waiting in your kitchen
A retro recipe from the pages of Restaurant Hospitality’s forerunner, American Restaurant magazine, May 1929. Yield: 80 servings, 1” slice of roll per serving. The 1929 cost per serving was 4.5 cents.
4 lb. flour
½ cup baking powder
1¼ lb. fat
1 Tbsp. salt
1 cup sugar
10 lb. rhubarb
2½ lb. sugar
as needed, milk (enough to make a soft dough)
Mix as you would for baking powder biscuits. Divide into 5 equal parts by weight. Roll into rectangular sheets, cover closely with diced rhubarb and sprinkle liberally with sugar. Roll up and bake the rhubarb roll in a 325°F oven for about 30 minutes. Slice in 1-inch slices and serve with rhubarb sauce poured over it.
Pea, Cheese and Pickle Salad
A retro recipe from the pages of Restaurant Hospitality’s forerunner, American Restaurant magazine, June 1929. Yield: 35 servings. The 1929 cost per serving was 10 cents.
6 qt. peas
3 lb. cheese
1 qt. sweet pickles
2 qt. dressing (mayonnaise)
¼ cup salt
as needed for garnish, paprika and pickle slices
Drain peas. Cut cheese and pickles into small cubes. Combine all and add salt and salad dressing. Fill cups and garnish with paprika and a slice or two of pickle. Chill before serving.
Gail Bellamy is the executive food & beverage editor of Restaurant Hospitality. She is the author of five books and is an accomplished poet who often writes about her love of food.