Curator's Corner Blog

Tag Archives: cooking

That’s a Mouthful.. or 500…

Sometimes “serves 4” isn’t enough. Take the recipes in these two cookbooks, for instance.

The Cook's Recipe Manual for Navy, ARmy, Air Force, etc.; 2012.012.003 Collection of Historical Museum at Fort Missoula; 1943.

The Cook’s Recipe Manual for Navy, Army, Air Force, etc.; 2012.012.003 Collection of Historical Museum at Fort Missoula; 1943.

The Cook’s Recipe Manual for Navy, Army, Air Force, Munitions Plants, Camps, and Schools specializes in recipes for large groups – think cafeteria large. It was published during the war, when camps were cropping up as men and women joined the military, and the publishers assumed that some of these camp canteens would not necessarily be run by those experienced with meal preparation on such a vast scale. The book includes all sorts of helpful tips on making the most of every ingredient and how to vary the menu so soldiers or workers wouldn’t be eating canned peaches and oatmeal every single morning. Here, the book informs how many pounds of meat you can pull from each side of beef:

From The Cook's Recipe Manual, 2012.012.003. Collection of HSWM.

From The Cook’s Recipe Manual, 2012.012.003. Collection of HMFM.

You can understand how a commercial kitchen might need to serve 100 people, but imagine the kind of party where you’d need to serve 2,000, and imagine cooking it all in huge kettles outdoors. Here’s how The Southern Cookbook: 322 Old Dixie RecipesĀ suggests you make the traditional Kentucky stew “burgoo”:

Collection HMFM - 2011.056.011AB

Collection HMFM – 2011.056.011AB

Who’s the lucky guy who gets to peel those two tons of potatoes?!

We’re always tickled to see these recipes for unimaginable quantities of food. Why not publish a recipe that serves fewer, and assume your readers will scale up if they need 1,200 gallons? We can only guess that no self-respecting host would bother with a burgoo unless he was hosting the whole town. Bon Appetit!

The Modern Miracle of the Electric Toaster

Downton Abbey fans might remember a humorous moment early in this season, when Mrs. Hughes, the head housekeeper, brings home an electric toaster. She plugs the contraption into a socket in her room and proceeds to happily burn her first piece of bread in the pursuit of toast.

Mrs. Hughes Toaster gif


Carson, the head butler, distrusts this electric toaster as much as he distrusted the telephone when it first came to Downton, but the electric toaster provided a convenience that was part of the modern era. A pamphlet in the collection of the Historical Museum at Fort Missoula describes how one could make toast right at the breakfast table instead of standing over the stove — “Crisp hot toast made before your eyes. On the dining room table — or where there is an electric light outlet — just as you like it.”

This advertisement for the GE Radiant Toaster was printed sometime between 1908 and 1917, just as the first successful electric toasters were coming onto the market. Missoulians may have been as excited as Mrs. Hughes about trying these new contraptions, and after 1908, they had ready access to the electricity necessary to power the devices, too.

While electricity had been in Missoula since the late 19th century, it took the construction of the Milltown (formerly Clark) Dam in 1905-08 to provide the city with reliable power for its street cars, street lights and, of course, toasters.

The toasters in the Historical Museum at Fort Missoula’s collection date from the 1920s and 30s, when most urban homes had reliable power and many different companies were manufacturing toasters for home use.

Though the design has changed, the mechanism for toasting bread has remained remarkably consistent over the years. Electric current heats coils of metal wire, which turn your bread a toasty brown (while “not drying it hard as a bone,” as the Radiant Toaster ad boasted).

For most of the ‘teens and ’20s, electric toasters looked like this:

Place the bread in the little door, close, then toast until done. This is the Marion Giant Flipflop, called such because you “flipflopped” the bread once one side was toasted to get the other side done. These models don’t appear to have an on/off switch – you had to unplug the machine to turn it off – which must have made life more interesting!